‘The Voice’ Quarterfinals Recap, Pt 1: Xtina & Blake Blow It

Last week, viewers were outraged when two of "American Idol's" supposed frontrunners, Jessica Sanchez and Joshua Ledet, were up for elimination, with Jessica almost going home before the judges saved her. But in that case, the viewers had no one to blame but themselves: It was the public vote that had determined that controversial outcome. However, this Monday on "Idol's" rival show, "The Voice," the public didn't even get the chance to vote, and the judges weren't doing any saving. In this case, the judges and producers, not viewers, were to blame.

So at the top of Monday's "Voice" quarterfinals episode, host Carson Daly announced that some cockamamie new rule had been invented on the fly, one that dictated that the judges whose teams were competing this week, Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton, would each be forced to instantly eliminate a contestant. Why? Who knows? Producer Mark Burnett can do what he wants, I guess. Maybe he was ripping a page from "Idol" producer Nigel Lythgoe's playbook by trying to create a "shocker" that'd get everyone talking. But if so, this was a tactic that will probably backfire on him. The judges acted all upset about this new rule, but they just came across as villains--and they probably weren't nearly as upset as viewers were--when they eventually cut two of the show's most promising talents: Jesse Campbell and Jordis Unga.

I'd thought Jordis, despite her surprising lack of votes in the semifinals, was really growing in the competition, and I'd always thought that Jesse had a shot at winning the entire show. So I really think Christina and Blake made massive mistakes with these choices, and I imagine many other "Voice" viewers are similarly riled up right now--especially by Blake's decision to keep the mushmouthed and growly RaeLynn over the undeniably more gifted Jordis. (Christina admittedly faced a tougher decision, although I still think she should have let Ashley De La Rosa go instead of Jesse.)

Perhaps Christina and Blake had some sort of secret strategy in mind. Since their remaining six contestants will still be up for the public vote this week, the judges might have wanted to ensure that their favorites got through by preemptively eliminating those favorites' biggest threats. (For instance, maybe Christina cut Jesse to ensure that Chris Mann and Lindsey Pavao would get all the votes instead.) But Christina--after what was such a babbling and rambling deliberation, Carson was acting like "The X Factor's" Steve Jones trying to hurry her up--just said something about going with her gut and choosing the most versatile singers. Blake simply went with the previous public vote, although we'll never know if Jordis would have gotten more votes this week if the public had been permitted to decide her fate. Regardless, I think at such a late stage in the competition, with the finale only three weeks away, this decision should have been America's to make.

Both Jordis and Jesse took the news very hard. Single dad Jesse had just dedicated his performance of Beyonce's "Halo" to his young daughter, who was sitting in the studio audience, and he looked positively crushed. And Jordis, who'd already suffered many setbacks in her career (a loss on "Rock Star: INXS," an Epic Records album that got shelved), had just optimistically declared, "I think it's gonna work for me this time!" Watching these two get the boot was like watching some bully drop-kick a pair of defenseless puppies. Maybe worse.

Le sigh. At least Christina still has three very strong team members--Lindsey Pavao, Ashley De La Rosa, and Chris Mann--and Blake has two real contenders, Erin Willett and Jermaine Paul. (RaeLynn is another story.) Like I said, these six contestants will be up for the public vote this week, so here's a recap of their quarterfinals performances, so you can make an informed vote and right Christina and Blake's wrongs...



- I still don't get RaeLynn. Okay, so she's country. The tune Blake picked for her this week--um, Jason Aldean's "She's Country"--was some sort of statement song, I guess. And she is a totally fun and fearless performer, even if she is fun and fearless in a drunken-bachelorette-karaoke-party sort of way. But she can't sing that well. Even Blake advised her to "not make it all about the growl," and then she growled her way through "She's Country" anyway, so aggressively that she probably scared Cee Lo Green's poor cat. I admit that she's got a certain spunk and star quality about her, but this show IS called "The Voice," and RaeLynn is just not at the same vocal level as Jermaine or Erin. (Or Jordis!) However, all of the judges slobberingly praised RaeLynn's performance, for some reason. (Christina said it inspired her to sing country, although we all know if Xtina ever went country, she'd sound way better than this.) And Blake proclaimed, "This is the most proud moment I've had this season for anybody on my team!" But, yeah...I really don't get RaeLynn, sorry. Next.

Erin Willett

- I'm not so sure it was the greatest idea for Erin to sing Adele's "Set Fire To The Rain." (Seriously, when is the singing-show Adele moratorium proposed by "Idol's" Jimmy Iovine and "The X Factor's" Simon Cowell going to go into effect?) But as Blake told Erin, "If there's someone in this show that can do an Adele song, you can do it." Erin does have a big, booming voice, perhaps one of the strongest of this season. However, I agreed with Adam Levine's comments about her phrasing--something didn't quite work during this performance. "The phrasing was a little bit off for me; the pitch was great, but maybe work on phrasing a bit more," Adam advised tactfully. But if Erin can get that sorted, she may be unstoppable.

Jermaine Paul

- I've found Jermaine to be inconsistent (I hated his audition, loved him in the Battle Rounds, then hated his semifinals Bon Jovi cover), but this week was another good week for him. Phil Collins' "Against All Odds" is another overdone song that I think should be forever banned from all singing competitions, but Jermaine sweetly dedicated the ballad to his family and did a good job with it. "Whatever Blake has thrown at you, you've really nailed it," said Christina. "You gave the song soul--and Phil Collins has got an awful lot of soul for a white guy!" said Cee Lo. "We all have those moments when we say, 'Oh my gosh, that was a turning point in my life.' I think you'll look back on tonight [and think that]," said Blake. Only Adam dished out any criticism at all, but even he was positive, pointing out, "I think maybe you over-embellished a tiny bit, but you didn't need to, because you have such a great voice." I agreed--sometimes Jermaine does get a little too shouty--but I think this was strong enough to advance him to the next round.


Ashley De La Rosa

- This season's ultimate dark horse, Ashley has given some out-of-nowhere great performances that have catapulted her from fodder contestant to real contender. But I don't think her rendition of Jewel's "Foolish Games" this week was one of those performances. Sometimes she seemed to be trying way too hard, and then other times, she just weakly whispered; the performance was unfocused and a bit of a mess. But the judges all loved it. "It started out kind of low, but then when you got on your feet, it was great," said Cee Lo. "I think you are the biggest surprise, at least for me. I think earlier on I hadn't seen what Christina saw initially. You were an amazing choice for her," said Adam. "I think the smartest decision that's been made this season was Christina saving you," said Blake. "Each week you're just growing by leaps and bounds, and I am so excited about your potential," raved coach Christina. I do agree that Ashley has potential, but I still question Xtina's decision to keep Ashley over Jesse. I guess we'll see if Ashley reaches her potential, if this underdog actually gets voted through over her two very strong teammates.

Lindsey Pavao

- Lindsey had originally planned to do a medley of Rihanna's "S&M" and "We Found Love," which I think actually would have been awesome. Come on, Lindsey's creepy-cool vibe on a song about whips and chains? Just imagine! But at the last minute, Lindsey chose to instead sing "Part Of Me," my personal least favorite Katy Perry single (and a song that, oddly, Cee Lo admitted he doesn't even know). And she was styled to basically look like a Katy clone. Oh well. Lindsey still did her thing--vocally, she was certainly no Katy copycat--and after this performance, she still remains my favorite contestant on "The Voice" this year. This was definitely the most original performance of the night, the only performance featuring a radical reworking of a song, with its eerily slowed-to-a-crawl pace and even more eerie shirtless microphone caddies. "I've been noticing that the staging is becoming increasingly elaborate, and that's right up my alley," said Cee Lo in the understatement of the season. Blake and Adam pointed out some pitch problems, but they still both loved Lindsey, with Blake even saying, "I'm already a fan, and I think that's what happening across the country right now. You get the pass no matter what." But I don't think Lindsey will coast to the top eight on popularity alone. This was a great performance, and it earned her a spot in the next round.

Chris Mann

- Chris got perhaps the best song choice of the night, Coldplay's "Viva La Vida." While the song is strongly associated in many fans' minds with the distinctive vocals of another Chris M., quirky Chris Martin, who sounds NOTHING like Chris Mann, the dramatic and orchestral anthem really translated well to Mann's "popera" style. Adam thought this performance was "odd," but I thought everything about it just totally worked, from the string accompaniment to Chris's elegant tuxedo'd image to, of course, his voice. I imagine this'll get downloaded on iTunes a lot this week.

So now it is prediction time. Assuming that angry "Voice" viewers don't boycott the show entirely after Monday's shocking cuts, it seems obvious that they would vote Team Xtina's Lindsey and Chris and Team Blake's Erin and Jermaine through to the next round. But who knows what could happen? Maybe voters will make some terrible decisions as well, and we will get yet another shocker on Tuesday's live results show. All I know is now, with my girl Jordis gone, if my other girl Lindsey goes this week too, I may really consider boycotting "The Voice" myself.

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