VOICE OVER: Singers Enter the Live Playoffs, AKA: 'Serious Olympics'
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by Sally Henry
Remember, remember the fifth of November… The Live Playoffs on NBC's The Voice are off and running as of tonight! Singers from Teams Adam Levine and Blake Shelton braved the stage and the wild crowd to pursue their dreams. Adam said, "It's like a more serious Olympics." With his diverse team, Adam loves the fact that his mentees are all what can only be described as unique. A confident Blake said, "I see another victory in my future." In the Live Playoffs, all five of the contestants from each team perform, and this time, it's up to America to decide who gets to stay and who goes home. Two from each team advance, and the coaches also get to save one of their team members.
If you missed any episodes of the Blind Auditions, Battle Rounds, or Knockouts on The Voice, or need to get a reminder on exactly who is still in the show, click here to read the past recaps!
Adam Levine said of his team, "I have a wonderful team that I can't wait to share with these other three. Now it's up to them to outshine each other." Tonight, Christina Aguilera, Blake, Adam, and Carson Daly couldn't stop making jabs at CeeLo's rather interesting getup (really, it was crazy. Check it out here) as well as constantly bringing up the fact that Blake just won Entertainer of the Year. All of this combined made for a very fun first live night on The Voice. The night opened by all of the contestants joining to sing an awesome number, giving everyone a glimpse of the talent about to come in the next two hours.
Adam's 17-year-old Joselyn Rivera, whom he stole in the Battle Rounds from Team Christina, kicked off the Playoffs. Going into the performance, Adam said, "She sings with proficiency and just needs to connect with her audience." She sang Demi Lovato's "Give Your Heart a Break," in a hot pink dress, with a lock of her dark hair colored the same shade as her dress. She held that stage with enormous amounts of confidence, but she did sound pitchy and out of breath throughout the performance. A beaming coach Adam told her, "I can't tell you how proud I am sitting here. And seeing you, you did an incredible job. You killed it. You listened to what I had to say, and you still did your own thing. You really thrive in this stage environment."
Blake's Scottish rocker Terry MacDermott sang one of the top three performances of the night. Truthfully, it had to do with the fact that not only was his song choice perfect for him, but it is one of the most classic rock songs of all time: "Don't Stop Believing." Blake liked the fact that Terry was making this song "Cool and current now." However, Terry admitted that, "This song is more of a vocal challenge. The world is on my shoulders stepping in on this performance. I have to succeed." He only had to speak the first five words, "Just a small town girl…" for the audience to completely erupt and get chills, which of course continued throughout the whole song. He ended it in the definitive way the kids on Glee did, singing a simple, "Don't stop!" The coaches primarily used the word "effortless" to describe how this performance sounded. All of them assured him that they were his fans. His coach Blake came out with another classic Shelton quip, "I want America to know that- when you start voting tonight- that when God was passing out the ability to rock, he gave Terry just a little bit more."
Melanie Martinez of Team Adam- the one with the half-blonde/half-black hair (with gold and black clothes to match), sang her own jazzed up arrangement of "Hit the Road Jack." Adam voiced what everyone was thinking, "There's nobody like her on my team," and even suggested, "She could be a frontrunner on my team. She does this song in a very interesting way, and I think people are going to freak out." Melanie said, "This song is very sassy, so I'm trying to find some sassiness." This girl delivered a surprisingly better performance than she did during the earlier rounds this season. Her voice had more support, and she definitely sounded more coached while still keeping her style. After Christina tactfully expressed that she wasn't really a fan of the arrangement, Adam told Melanie, "I didn't find myself comparing it to the original version, because it was so different than the original. You did it exactly the way we practiced. As far as artistry is concerned- I was totally mesmerized, and I wasn't thinking of technical things. I'm so proud of you."
"Liz Davis is as country as mud. It's been my dream all along to bring a country star to the finals. This could be the big break for her," said Blake of his next mentee. Liz, the only country artist in the competition, sang "Independence Day." This girl just has a plain old clear, beautiful voice. As the American Idol judges used to often say, this girl has "raw, natural talent." CeeLo gave her high praise for this timely American piece, "It was a wonderful performance, and it made me proud to be an American… Where at least I know I'm free." Although, the other coaches seemed to want to tell him, "But not to free to dress like that, CeeLo!" But seriously, Blake got real with his girl, "There's a lot on the line for me because I'm the country guy sitting here, and you're the only country artist in this thing. I want to thank you for proving me right. I know that you are the right country artist to bring into the live rounds."
Hey Monday's former lead singer, Cassadee Pope, of Team Blake, won him over with Payphone last week. Tonight, her song choice was impeccable. She sang Avril Lavigne's hit, "My Happy Ending." Blake cautioned her not to do crazy tune variations, because it would likely bother a lot of people. "My goal is to have this be the best performance yet, and show people that I have what it takes to make it solo," Cassadee resolved. During her performance, it seemed like the moving around and rocking out to the audience were interfering with her voice, but when she was concentrating, she was great. And unlike so many tune variations, hers were not superfluous or annoying, but they were minor enough that they worked. Everyone liked her emotion, specifically as opposed to the original which is a pretty disconnected performance. Adam reminded her that he was bitter that she turned him down as coach multiple times, and her coach Blake predicted, "Adam's gonna have plenty of time to figure out who the real Cassadee Pope is, because you're gonna be around for a long time. You are the pop rock chick, and if you ever had any doubts about being a solo artist, you're clearly one of the fan favorites on this show. And guess who makes the decisions from here on out? It's the fans!"
Team Adam's Bryan Keith, son of a Grammy-winner, sang "Iris." Adam was very proud of this guy, saying, "He's playing so much to his strength with this song. He has a very high register; that's very amazing." He sounded amazing, but very like the original. Let's just say, the audience enjoyed this performance so much, that the first coach to critique (Blake) couldn't even talk because these fans were screaming so much. As always, Adam's immense praise was very simplistic, "I had to do very little as your coach. The way you perform is so inviting; it's impossible to teach someone to be that way. It's effortless. Those low notes were hard. That wasn't perfect, but it doesn't matter, because the soul was just locked into this crowd."
Known for her crazy awesome Mohawk hairstyle, 16-year-old Michaela Paige of Team Blake is the youngest performer on this show. She sang the Neon Trees favorite, "Everybody Talks." Blake encouraged her, "This is back to you just being who you are. Your age doesn't matter. You're as good as any of these other people on this show." As so many tonight who performed before her, this was a great song choice. Overall, she kept it pretty under control, while clearly having a blast and being herself in every way from outfit to performance. The coaches said it was the best performance of the night so far. Adam told her, "You really surprised me today. This is the best performance you've done on the show. The attitude you displayed- you had the best performance at the most important time." The fans in the audience clearly thought so too.
Julio Cesar Castello of Team Blake sang a Spanish song, "El Re." "He still wants people to know who he is as an artist, and where he comes from," Blake explained. He further advised this Spanish singer that he was performing for an English-speaking audience, "Most people who are gonna be watching this and voting have no idea that this is about heartache. Think about the saddest thing that's happened to you. You gotta figure out how to still make a connection." Christina particularly had lots of praise to heap on this guy, and Blake said he connected to the audience- despite the language barrier.
Adam straight up said, "Loren Allred has been the biggest surprise. She made it out of a battle round I wasn't sure she was gonna get out of." She affirmed what Adam said, "I've stayed under the radar, and this song has a lot of sass to it. I need to make dropping out of school worth it." Adam also reminded her to keep that un-safe, sultry vibe, with "All Around the World." After another amazing performance from Loren, who really came totally out of nowhere last week, Adam simply said, "I loved this choice. It was an incredibly good job. When you got up high towards the end, I want to hear more. Next time, I want to hear more of that, because it's so good!"
The last singer of the night was the highly-anticipated Team Adam steal, Amanda Brown. "Amanda is a powerful singer, a powerful person. She's like me. She's so comfortable and confident," Adam said. "This is an iconic song. It'll probably be the most iconic classic rock song tonight. She's gonna have to show her prowess and her range." This girl is definitely crowd favorite material, what with her fun, quirky, adorable, but mostly just very real personality. Not to mention her incredible pipes. Tackling "Dream On," Amanda just knocked this out of the park. Adam had a great time, playing the air drums in his seat, smiling from ear to ear, eating it all up, and showing with everything he had that he was so proud of his girl. And the whole time, it was clear that everyone was thinking, "Ok, yeah she's great, but is she going to go for the ridiculously high falsetto 'dream on!' portion?" Absolutely she did. She not only attempted it, but, in a word, she killed it, receiving a standing ovation from her coach. Throughout the whole thing, it seemed like nothing could top Terry's "Don't Stop Believing," but sweet little Amanda did. She received vast amounts of applause and ridiculously loud cheering from the audience, now made up of die-hard Amanda Brown fans. Her coach told her, "I think if it wasn't already evident that this by far wasn't the best actual performance of the night- You totally obliterated any notion that you could only do one thing. You were a rock star in a rock band that sounded like it was the first time."
The Live Playoffs are where the show really gets interesting and more enjoyable. So here are my top five, or "Ginge's Favorites:" Amanda Brown, Terry MacDermott, Loren Allred, Cassadee Pope, and Michaela Paige. What do you think? Do you concur?
Tune in not Tuesday, but Wednesday at 8/7c on NBC, to see Team Christina and Team CeeLo's singers bring it. Then on Thursday, find out who gets passed through to next week!
Visit www.nbc.com/the-voice/artists/ to view the full list of Season 3 contestants (those eliminated and those still in the competition) plus their stories, videos, and more. You can download your favorites from tonight's performances at www.iTunes.com/thevoice, or watch them on The Voice's YouTube channel: www.Youtube.com/NBCthevoice. Keep up with The Voice through the week and during the show on Twitter: @NBCTheVoice, #TheVoice.