As ‘The Voice’ Goes Live, Do We Already Have a Frontrunner?

Tessanne Chin (NBC)

And we’re live! “Finally,” said Carson Daly. And we’ve got five live hours of “The Voice” this week, as the Top 20 artists compete in the semi-finals. What’s in store? Well, the semi-finals elimination usually come down to some unique formula, whereby coaches select 2, subtract 1, times 3, divided by 2 to the 3rd power, minus 6.573. But in the midst of all that, we get the power to vote, which may or may not have something to do with who advances to the Top 12.

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In the ultimate bro-fight, Team Adam faced off against Team Blake. Although I don’t think that means anything, since the eliminations will probably remain within teams for now. Of course, don’t ask any of us laypeople to actually explain how the rules of this show work, as they change from week to week anyway, depending on whether the AC works or if some superfluous Twitterer is watching over everything from a magical Sprint skybox.

Other things to know about semi-finals:

– Seriously, Carson is now staffing the skybox and telling us how to Tweet. Wonder if he got a raise with all they are saving by not employing Christina Milian to literally do nothing twice each episode.

– None of the elaborate set pieces we get in later rounds, like porch swings and wagon wheels, appear here. But we do get a new trim haircut from Adam Levine, and some upgraded outfits from most of the judges. Carson does diss Blake Shelton for dressing like a lumberjack. But Cee Lo Green more than makes up for it in his disco ball hoodie.

– Since this is the first live show this season for the judges, and the first in a year for Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo, they’re all a little out of practice about keeping their comments concise and understandable. Cee Lo offered his usual bizarre sage wisdom. Christina rambled almost unintelligibly. Xtina reading back the notes on her giant white pad after Nic Hawk’s every-part performance of “Blurred Lines”: How did you keep up? That was a lot of things. You were rapping and moving. What else did I say? Singing. There was some singing in there, right?” No way is this show ending on time.

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– The coaches were also across-the-board nice in their commentary, as per usual.

Christina’s especially batty commentary tonight might be a result from her show-opening performance with Flo Rida of their adaptation of “Feeling Good,” which is called “How I Feel.” I imagine Christina had one of those dream moments where you walk out on stage in front of thousands of people and discover you aren’t wearing any pants.

Ultimately only three from each team will move on after this week. Among them will undoubtedly be the first two performers of the night.

First up in competition was Shelbie Z., the former pageant girl turned groomer of pageant girls. Shebie’s had a good run so far, and is the front-runner among blonde country girls. Plus, she can shake her booty. Somewhere between the non-live and the live shows, Shelbie got married, and even walked down the aisle to a Blake Shelton song. Way to suck up to your coach. She’s picks Reba McEntire’s “Fancy” which is one of the best angry country lady songs ever. And this girl was made for angry country. Cee Lo tells her she is “consistently charismatic.” Adam says something clicks when she performs. Blake says she sounds like she’s already established.

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Apple Store guy James Wolpert is Adam’s first entry of the night. We learn that he was in an a cappella group called Soundbytes, you know, just to drive the point home that he likes computers and is a nerd. Adam gives him Joni Mitchell’s “Case of You,” a brilliant selection that begs the question, why isn’t there more Joni Mitchell on these shows? He’s on his guitar, and it’s like the first time I really hear him. It’s tender, a little bleety, though his voice is also strong on his belted notes. Total win for James. Cee Lo’s words of wisdom: “Your energy is an irony that is very attractive and undeniable.”

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It was a good night for guys on guitars, surprise surprise. Team Blake’s Cole Vosbury continued his awesome coffeehouse streak by loosely strumming his way through “Maggie May.” And Blake’s Austin Jenckes also finally stood out, with Black Crowes’ “She Talks to Angels.” It was good enough to make Adam want to be his friend: He invited the scooter-riding Austin to join him and Carson on a Harley ride. And Will Champlin just got so into his piano performance of OneRepublic’s “Secrets.” His coach (both former and current) said it was a performance of a lifetime.

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“The Voice” has always been a better platform for the singer-songwriter types than the performers who want to be to be crowd-rousing pop stars. You have Nic Hawk, in his leopard jacket, running out of breath while running all over the stage in “Blurred Lines”; and Grey barely hitting any notes in Paramore’s “Still Into You.” Also among bum performances was Preston Pohl, who was flat on B.o.B.’s “Nothin’ On You.” His rasp is starting to get annoying, too. I just want him to clear his throat.

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Torch singers are the other category besides singer-songwriters to fare pretty well on this show, and Tessanne Chin, in the pimp spot, took her place as a front-runner with Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers to Cross.” So powerful, and also so professional. Coach Adam Levine tells her she has a “golden soul.” “In my opinion, vocally, it does not get better than what you just did.”


– Carson calls Will Champlin “Will Champion” during his phone number announcement. Subliminal messaging?

– Once and for all, Cee Lo answers the age-old question: Which is the best music competition show? Shocker: “The Voice” wins. “We have the best coaches, the best crew, and the best talent of any music television reality show,” Cee Lo says. “Period.”

– Best commentary of the night came from Blake to Nic Hawk: “I can’t think of another element besides boobs that you could have thrown into that.”

All in all, pretty good first live show! Based on performance alone, I think Team Blake will have to say goodbye to Nic Hawk and Ray Boudreaux, who was so forgettable on his “swamp pop” performance of Marc Broussard’s “Home,” that I just now realized I left him out of this recap. And Team Adam should lose Grey and Preston Pohl. Those are my predictions, but check back Thursday to find out what happens. And tomorrow, for Team Cee Lo and Team Xtina.

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

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