‘The Voice’ Recap: The Top 10 Look to Stay Alive

Matthew Schuler (NBC)

Ahh, “moments,” those storied, ineffable memories that are created from time to time on TV music competitions, when someone just nails a song so wonderfully it actually sounds like it could have been his or her own. Everybody wants to have a moment, but not everyone gets one—especially when they’re trying too hard.

That’s exactly what happened on tonight’s episode of “The Voice.” Each of the Top 10 actively sought a moment—usually a stripped down performance of a big song, or a slow build from small start to dramatic ending. The coaches had also set out toward that goal for their contestants. But few accomplished it.

Tessanne Chin just about made it there with a vocally crazy, dynamic performance of Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “If I Were Your Woman.” Will Champlin and Ray Boudreaux, too, somewhat stood out from their previous work.

Also, the set design team was back in full force, which certainly didn’t help lend authenticity to the performances. Let’s see: “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Someone’s actual thought process was, “Hmm, should we maybe have an LED screen with an animated jet plane flying by, right when Caroline Pennell says those words?” “Why yes, self, how ingenious! You’re so clever!”

Aforementioned Will Champlin did what he could in a red waiters’ jacket and with fireballs exploding behind him on an upbeat soul song big in Britain, “Love Me Again.” Kat Robichaud, who tried for some Cee Lo-level theatrics on “We Belong” had a backup dance crew of cartwheeling phantoms of the opera. But this is very serious, these “moments”!

Before each performance, each coach had a different approach about what to do with their contestants. Adam Levine met with his teammates’ families, where we learned that Will’s baby is the baldest, cutest thing ever, and James Wolpert’s mom is not yet done making him feel guilty for dropping out of college. Cee Lo Green had a sweet talk with Caroline’s mom, and taught Kat how to dance like you are really tired and leaning against a wall. Christina Aguilera, who seems to have given up high fashion and gone very Gap with solid sweaters and collared shirts underneath, did yoga with her mates. And Blake Shelton had his three guys sit in a room together and give each other compliments, while holding their guitars.

The Awesome
As mentioned, no one was truly shockingly amazing tonight, but Tessanne was definitely the best. She managed to show all of her range on her song, though Christina told her she wanted a little more dimensions, including more Jamaican accent.

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The Pretty Good
Will, and also Ray, who found his musical soul mate in Ray LaMontagne. Adam would have liked to see him checked in a little more, and thought a backing brass band may have distracted him, but overall, Ray seemed to have found a path for himself.

Matthew Schuler is a consistently good performer, and though last week’s “Hallelujah” had some more impactful—dare I say it—moments, tonight’s “Beneath Your Beautiful” was vocally solid, even if the arrangement was a bit too soft-rock.

Jacquie Lee didn’t wow on a stripped down version of “Clarity,” but she’s still Jacquie Lee and a vocal banshee so she’ll always be better than most others. Christina thought it was beautiful and it touched her, and Cee Lo was impressed that she was able to sing without the anger from last week. But with the choir behind her and all, was anyone else just missing Michelle Chamuel’s high-energy squatting version last season?

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On “I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love Tonight,” Austin Jenckes was attempting a “breakout performance,” according to Blake, and I wouldn’t call it that. There were some uncalled-for screams at the end. But the whole slow-build thing did happen, and so he at least reached a goal.

And Cole Vosbury’s pretty voice delivers once again, though not in any particularly memorable way. Further establishing his coffeehouse persona, they stage it with a bunch of backup singers isittign on stools under some dim lighting. He does remind Adam and all of America that Mr. Big’s “To Be With You” needs to be sung more, though.

The Meh
Caroline Pennell insisted on singing “Leaving on a Jet Plane” because she grew up singing it at camp. And cause she’s leaving for college soon. Apparently, on a jet plane. But she doesn’t sing it like it means anything more to her than vanilla ice cream. It’s a weird Ingrid Michaelson arrangement that does the song no favors. Her coach Cee Lo is grimacing and like, Whatever makes you happy…

I don’t get James Wolpert at all. Adam wanted him to strip down Harry Nilsson’s “Without You,” a song that could hardly be more stripped down already. But then it’s apparent he’s actually stripping down the Mariah version. Violently sneezing during a sharknado would be more stripped down than Mariah’s version. So they put him in a suit with half a mic stand and a string orchestra, and he delivers some long big notes slightly off pitch. But pitch doesn’t matter, Christina says, because James sings clean, whatever that means.

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Kat’s dancing, while a valiant effort on Cee Lo’s part, made her distracted and scared-seeming on “We Belong.” I do love though how Cee Lo tells her the song needs a bigger ending, so she should climb up onto the piano. I was expecting like maybe some vocal coaching or an arrangement idea, but no, his advice is to mount a musical instrument. Can I just add that he was wearing legit gray pajamas when he gave her that advice?

Kat landed in the bottom three last week, and she’s probably going back. This week, will America be understanding enough to save her again? I also think Cole and Austin might find themselves alongside her. Check back Tuesday for results.

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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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