‘The Voice’ Quarterfinals: Let’s Twist Again

Chris Mann performs on The Voice (NBC)

There are a lot of ways to describe “The Voice.” A thrill a minute. An uplifting experience. Blake Shelton and Adam Levine’s audition tape for a buddy cop film. The one word that probably never would have applied, however, is “Zen.” Until tonight. Which is when it became all about being Zen, about not looking to the past or the future but just being in the moment. Two specific moments, actually – otherwise know as Instant Eliminations.

It’s not surprising that the show would try to come up with more twists in order to keep things fresh. That’s part of the reason the series is so much fun. This latest twist was pretzel worthy, though. For the first time this far into the game, the coaches had to get rid of someone from their team without any help from America, and without a day to think about it. The coaches made it clear they didn’t like the notion of booting people on the spot (actually, Cee Lo Green seemed legitimately bewildered by the whole idea….maybe going to rehearsal would be a good idea after all). Blake and Christina Aguilera reluctantly had to operate purely on instinct for the first time since they decided whether or not to turn their chairs in the blind auditions.

And the result? The biggest shocks in the albeit brief history of the show – Jesse Campbell and Jordis Unga were sent packing. So now, in honor of this instinctual approach, I will do the rest of this blog in the same fashion. It’s all about my instant impressions of everything I saw or heard.

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Christina Eliminates Jesse

It’s really difficult to see anything on TV that’s truly surprising. Killers on cop shows are always the people you most least suspect. Characters who have their identity mistaken in sit-com plots always end up straightening things out. But watching Christina tell Jesse he was done….I was completely shocked. I had no idea that was coming. And inside the soundstage where “The Voice” is shot, the collective audience gasp sounded louder than any of the music all night. Of course, in hindsight, there were probably some hints in what Christina was saying just before her elimination announcement.

She rambled on and on, seemingly as a way to stall while she made up her mind. Her soliloquy including something about some members of her team being easier to coach than others, as well as being more open to new ideas. As a calm but decidedly dejected Jesse worked through those words after the show, he explained that, “Maybe she was thinking that she would be able to develop the other three more. I don’t know. I haven’t had a chance to speak with her yet, and I don’t know when I will.”

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Blake Eliminates Jordis

This was so in the moment, I had no idea the moment had even happened. Nor did the team members up onstage. Carson Daly pushed Blake to make his decision immediately, using the same scolding urgency I use to tell my son to stop playing Xbox and do his homework. It never works with him, but Blake took direction much better. He pretty much just blurted out, “Jordis,” and it took a few seconds for it to dawn on her that she was done. “That’s the thing. It was so fast. I didn’t even have time to think. I guess I wasn’t surprised to hear my name because we were all so even tonight, but it was still a shock. My Jedi mind trick didn’t work. I was trying to make Blake say, ‘Carson.’”

RaeLynn Kicks (Rhymes With Bass)

First, I have to admit I’m still surprised at the crowd reaction every week when this teen country queen performs. There’s no scientific measure of this, but I swear she gets the loudest applause of any performer. (That might explain her exuberant confidence after the show, explaining that, “If I was going to go home tonight, I knew I was going home after leaving America with a great performance.”) I can appreciate the confidence but I have to say, I’m still a bit mortified by the way this 17-year-old struts around like she’s an extra in a Def Leppard video. Sure she once again tore the house down, this time with a reliably rowdy version of “She’s Country,” but watching her swivel those hips and even stroke her guitar player’s face at one point….I start thinking once again about how I’ll have to crush my 10-year-old daughter’s dreams of being a singer very soon.

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The Hand Slappers

When each performer goes offstage after their number, they have to run the gauntlet of fans reaching out their hands. I want to know what exactly they want by doing this. A handshake? There’s no time for that. A hand slap?  What’s the point of that? Maybe it’s just the hope that the singers didn’t use hand sanitizer before going onstage, so there’s the chance hand contact could give them a virus from their favorite singer to take home as a souvenir of their visit to “The Voice.”

Jesse’s “Halo”

We’re used to seeing nothing but perfection from Jesse, and his version of this song was a bit less polished than his usual work. I’d use the word “pitch” but honestly, I have no idea what it means. This ever so slight flaw wasn’t the thing I fixated on about his performance, though. Instead, it was the multitude of photos of his daughter that he had flashing on-screen throughout the song. I wasn’t sure if this was schmaltzy overkill, or just practice for the show she’ll put on for her at her high school graduation.

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Jordis: Here Today, Gown Tomorrow

It’s too bad that Jordis is going home. First, I’ll miss her because she may be the most spontaneous, entertaining interviewee of the bunch. And second, I’ll miss her because lately, she really seems to have found her, well, voice. This week may have been her finest moment, showing her versatility by ditching her tough rock chick persona to put on a flowing gown to perform a very soulful, sweet ballad, “A Little Bit Stronger.” Okay, so the tattoos all over her arms didn’t exactly make her look like Cinderella. Unless Cinderella once sang Steppenwolf covers in a biker bar…but still…she’s an incredible singer with very diverse range and hopefully this isn’t the last we’ve heard of her.

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Tattoo, You

So during a commercial break, the warm-up comic found a guy in the audience who had Christina’s name tattooed on the back of his neck. She was impressed, and came over to give him a hug. All I could think of was two things. First, at what point in your life do you become so fixated on someone that you want their name permanently written on your body? And second, I’m soooooooo glad my Debbie Gibson tattoo was applied with using henna.

Ashley’s Big Gift

It wasn’t that long ago that birthday parties for young Ashley De La Rosa meant Chuck E. Cheese or a Bounce House. These days, though, she gets to have her bash in front of millions of people and four appreciative, award-winning musicians. To celebrate her birthday tonight, she gave the audience the gift of another down-and-dirty rock chick performance, doing “Foolish Games.” It didn’t feel like her best performance, with her literally and metaphorically getting swallowed up by all the smoke on stage. And despite the continued praise of all four coaches, she had her doubts about her fate right up until the end. “I was just thinking about if Christina had called my name, what I’d say. I was really just trying to be prepared for that outcome. Although I’m not sure of the odds on if I’d have been able to say it all if she had, though.”

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Erin Reveals Her Secret, And Then I Kind Of Wish She Hadn’t

Erin Willett has probably made the biggest transition of anybody left on the show, going from being “The One Whose Dad Died During the Battle Rounds” to “The One With the Powerhouse Voice Who Could Actually Make It To the Finals.” The way she powered through Adele’s “Set Fire To the Rain” tonight proved just how strong she really is. Which is all well and good. I’m just a bit sorry now that I asked her if she had any pre-show rituals that get her ready for her ever-better performances. “I poop,” she said with a cackle. “You don’t even want to know how real it gets backstage.” She’s apparently not joking because when Lindsey Pavao walks by, Erin yells, “Hey Lindsey! I’m talking about my poop.” And then, just to drive the point home, she adds with a comic flourish that once she’s done on “The Voice,” she could get her first commercial endorsement deal…for Depends. If it’s good enough for Lisa Rinna, it’s good enough for Erin Willett.

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My Daughter’s Favorite Singer Makes Her Happy Once Again

What can I say? My daughter and I are still pulling for the lovely Lindsey in this competition. Sure the pre-performance taped piece made a big deal out of her switching at the last minute from singing a Rhianna medley to performing Katy Perry’s “Part Of Me.” This was no doubt intended to add some drama, to make it seem like there was danger ahead for the one-time coffee house singer/bartender. But once again, she proved she could probably sing the book “Everyone Poops” (just to keep the trend going) and it would sound Grammy-ready.

The only drawback to her performance? Every week, it seems that one of the singers has to keep the shirtless male back-up dancer population of Los Angeles employed and this week, it was Lindsey’s turn to look awkward with them all parading around next to her. She pulled it off just fine, never seeming fazed by it all. Which is also how she felt about the whole Instant Elimination thing when she first heard of it. “You’re already so close to being off this show, I heard this and it’s like, “Yeah, and….?”

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Is It All This Tweet Talk That Has Those Birds So Angry?

A quick question, which I feel like I finally have to ask after watching the umpteenth segment with Christina Millian talking about who and what from the show is “trending on Twitter.” What exactly does that mean? Honestly, I have no idea. It seems like it must be a good thing, but c’mon, how seriously should we take any form of communication known as a “Tweet?”

Lotsa Adam Levine Love

If you ever go to a “Voice” broadcast – and I know a few people, so let me see what I can do for you – you will notice one occurrence more than any other. Not the professionalism of the singers. Not the entertaining banter between the coaches, even when the cameras aren’t rolling. No, what will really stand out is the number of times per minute someone screams out “We love you, Adam!” Levine Love makes Bieber Fever look like a case of the sniffles. Tonight may have been the most extreme case yet, and it’s actually quite nice to see how Adam handles it. Tonight, for instance, he took time to run up to a fan, hug her, dance with her and then sign her t-shirt. As I watched all this, though, a thought kept occurring to me for no reason whatsoever. What if the same mania we have for rock stars carried over into other professions? How cool would it be to go to an accountant’s office one day, hear people screaming, “We love you, Herschel!” and have him sign your dress shirt (as well as allowing you to write off the cost of the shirt as an entertainment expense).

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An A-Paul-ing Turn Of Events
I truly figured that at this point, Jermaine Paul would have absorbed the constant compliments from every coach, anointing him as a lock for one of the final spots on the show. Watching him sing is like watching Michael Jordan play basketball. Every performance is a highlight reel. And not only does he have one of the best voices the show has ever had, he knows how to mix things up stylistically. Tonight’s faithful, powerful version of “Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)” was his slowest yet most intense performance yet. I would understand if he got a little cocky. Still, he admitted after the show that he’s always a nervous wreck before and after sing. Watching what happened to Jesse tonight didn’t help ease his nerves much, either. “We had to watch Christina’s team go through all that first, and it was such a shock! It definitely made me stop and go, ‘Wow!’ while hearing ‘Twilight Zone’ music in the background. Jesse is a great singer and I seeing him eliminated made me more worried than usual. Everything is now a little off-balance for me after that.”

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Chris’ Clothes Call

Once again, Chris Mann proved he’s the Robert Palmer of “The Voice.” Not only does he have the late Brit singer’s smooth stage swagger, he also likes to hire his back-up singers from the same modeling agency. Take away the violins the women were “playing” in tonight’s decent though not mind-blowing version of  “Viva La Vida,” give them guitars instead…and you’ve got an exact replica of any Palmer video from the 1980s. Also, just like the dapper Palmer, clothes certainly do make the Mann. I confess that I’m completely jealous of his seemingly endless collection of nice suits and I can’t sit through any of his performances without feeling woefully underdressed. Most of Chris’ clothes come from his personal collection but tonight, his ruffled black jacket was a Versace loaner, a fact that revealed something his fans could look for in a future performance. “I wish this jacket was mine. Believe me, I’m trying to somehow get an endorsement deal out of this. I have to figure out a way to maybe flash the label during a song. Or work it into the lyrics while I’m singing. I probably should have sung something like, ‘Viva La Versace’ tonight, shouldn’t I?”

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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