After Adam Levine and Cee Lo Green slashed their teams in half on Monday night's "Voice" Knockout Rounds, on Tuesday it was time for Blake Shelton and Christina Aguilera to do similar damage with their teams. For two hours, Team Xtina and Team Blake's contestants sang songs of their own choosing in last-ditch and sometimes desperate efforts to convince their coaches that they deserved to advance to next week's live rounds, and by the evening's end, we knew the full list of 20 singers (five contestants from each of the four teams) who'd made it through.
Were they the right 20? Well, yes and no. And in the case of Blake's final choice...a big, whopping, all-caps, italicized NO.
But we'll get to that controversy in a few paragraphs. Here's what went down in the second round of Knockouts:
Devyn DeLoera vs. Laura Vivas
Who? Poor Laura never got ANY screentime this season, so she seemed doomed from the start. I wondered if Christina even knew who she was. But the Latin firecracker really did give it a good effort, wiggling and shimmying through her feisty and fun cover of Marc Anthony's "I Need To Know" until bug-eyed Cee Lo Green looked like he was about to have a corazon attack. But unfortunately for Laura, Cee Lo wasn't the one making the decision here--and Christina clearly favored Devyn. I thought Devyn seemed very pageanty--very "American Idol" circa Season 2, actually--singing Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing" while rocking a Rebecca Gayheart perm. I did have to give Devyn some props for her ambitious song choice, but in the end, I enjoyed Laura's performance so much more. (Cee Lo even said it was one of the best performances of the season. I'm not sure about that, but it was solid.) But c'mon, we all knew this script was already written. Christina had an agenda here, and Laura was so not part of that agenda. Devyn prevailed, of course. Adios, Laura.
ADVANCING TO THE LIVE SHOWS: Devyn
Adriana Louise vs. Celica Westbrook
This one also seemed pretty predictable, since Celica's Battle Round was not shown in full, while the "Voice" cameras have caressed every angle of Adriana's model-perfect face since she first appeared on the show. But Christina did make the right choice this time around when she picked Adriana. Adriana's performance of Kelly Clarkson's "Already Gone" was great, and Celica had reason to look worried as she sat on her probably-very-uncomfortable onstage stool, observing Adriana at uncomfortably close range. When Celica sang second, she bizarrely went with Justin Bieber's "Never Say Never" (to quote "Idol's" Mariah Carey, whyyyyyyyy?), not exactly a great vocal showcase for anyone. The result was underwhelming and just kind of weird. And soon, Celica was saying never--to her chances on "The Voice." Because Adriana won, of course.
Alessandra Guercio vs. Dez Duron
This certainly was one of the weirder and more mismatched pairings on the night, but Dez basically won my support the minute he announced that he was going to sing Lionel Richie's "Stuck On You." It was a cheesy song, yes, but one that mostly worked with his soulful vibe. Plus, who doesn't like some old-skool Lionel Richie? No one, that's who. Anyway, Alessandra's song choice, Rihanna's "Take A Bow," didn't work nearly as well--she was really pushing and overcooking the song, and she kind of lost me right away with her forced fake laugh in the first verse. (Lame.) And so, soon it was time for Alessandra to take a bow--and leave the stage for good. Because Christina, surprisingly, made yet another sound decision (so unlike her!), and went with Dez. I have a feeling America will be stuck on this guy, and that he'll go far.
Chevonne vs. De'Borah
Okay, this one got me where it hurts. These uni-monikered mavericks were definitely two of my favorite Team Xtina members, and I knew I'd be sad to see either of them go. Why can't there be Steals in the Knockout Rounds? Why were these girls pitted against each other in the first place? But while Chevonne's cover of Generation X's "Dancing With Myself" was a total hoot--crazy and kooky, but in a good way--it was De'Borah's emotional rendition of the Fray's "You Found Me" that really wowed. De'Borah's performance wasn't about gimmickry and novelty, just pure heart and pure vocals. Chevonne looked absolutely petrified, knowing in her gut that she'd soon be dancing with herself--as opposed to dancing with Christina--because there was no way she would survive this sing-off. I will miss Chevonne, as she would have been a fun and fierce presence on the live shows--but De'Borah, arguably the overall strongest contestant on Christina's team, deserved this victory. And it may not be De'Borah's last victory on this show, either.
Aquile vs. Sylvia Yacoub
Once I realized that Aquile and Sylvia were the last two singers facing off on Team Xtina, I immediately thought to myself, "Well, I'll eat Christina's sparkly circular hat if Aquile doesn't make it through." Sylvia sure came out fighting--gutsily covering Christina's "Fighter," actually--and she did well, except for a few shrill ouchy notes at the end. But Aquile's song choice, Bruno Mars's "Grenade," was an absolutely perfect fit. He just seemed like a star. And he sang NO ouchy notes. That's why I was sooo shocked when Christina picked...Sylvia! I guess it helped that Sylvia sucked up to her coach with her song choice. Sigh. I should have known that Christina would not be able to get through an entire episode without making at least one silly decision. And now I have to eat her damn hat...
Gracia Harrison vs. Liz Davis
Blake revealed his (not entirely unwise) strategy of going with only one country singer this season, in order to not split the vote. But which of these two country girls had the best chance of winning? Initially, I would have thought it'd be spunky yodeler Gracia, a sort RaeLynn-with-talent, but then I was disappointed with her sedate song choice, a countrified version of Aerosmith's ballad "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing." Snooze. I so wish she'd done Liz's song, "Gunpowder & Lead," instead. Blake was "confused" by Gracia's song choice as well, seeing it as a sign that the young singer hadn't quite learned to define herself as an artist. But that being said, I was put off by Liz's hoochie-ish performance--the feral growling, the leather hotpants, the whole Coyote Ugly vibe of it all. (I'm sure Cee Lo dug it, though.) Still, ultimately, Blake picked Liz due to her "maturity." Ahem. But Liz, a veteran of Nashville and "P. Diddy's Starmaker," probably did deserve it just a little more.
Rudy Parris vs. Terry McDermott
I had to give Rudy the longhaired grandpa-rocker props for having the pure gumption to cover Chris Brown's very youthful (and very non-rockin') "Forever." Yes, "Forever." I figured if he could pull this off, he'd be one to watch in this competition. And you know, he sort of turned it into a Desmond Child power ballad, like something from Rock Of Ages, and it wasn't bad. But then shaggy Scottish rocker Terry belted out Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed," and I was amazed. It may have been more of an obvious song choice, but it was THE ideal fit for his voice and his vibe, and it was the kind of song that really got the crowd going. (Adam Levine was gushing, "I love this song!" the moment he heard the ballad's first few piano notes.) Even Rudy was rocking out to Terry's performance as he sat on his stool. Eventually it all came down to song choice, and Rudy's risk didn't pay off, as Blake picked Terry. Rudy really should have known that singing anything by Chris Brown would generate some bad karma.
Collin McLoughlin vs. Michaela Paige
This was even more of a mismatch than Alessandra vs. Dez; the dumbfounded look on 16-year-old Hot Topic postergrrrl Michaela's heavily painted face, when she found out she was going up against mellow ex-NYU grad student Collin, mirrored the shocked expression on my own face. This was no contest, as far as I was concerned. Collin's song choice was beyond predictable (the Script's "Breakeven," zzzzzzzz), and he brought nothing new or exciting to the song--unless you consider missing one of the big falsetto notes at the end putting a "new twist" on the tune. Michaela, on the other hand, belted out Pat Benatar's "Love Is A Battlefield" and practically broke into the '80s video's iconic pimp-fighting choreography midway through. So awesome. Michaela certainly conquered the "Voice" battlefield with this performance, and Blake thankfully picked her in the end. Time for Collin to call the NYU registrar's office and find out if he can be reinstated for next semester.
MarissaAnn vs. Julio Cesar Castillo
Again with the Bieber covers! Well, at least Julio took a risk this time, after auditioning with a rather obvious song choice, "La Bamba," and then getting assigned Miami Sound Machine's "Conga" in the Battle Rounds. Would he be able to convincingly Latin-i-fy Justin Bieber's "Somebody To Love"? Well, kind of. He seemed more current than ever before, I'll give him that. For the first time, I saw how he could fit into today's pop market. But then...MarissaAnn sang "Lady Marmalade," seemingly harnessing the vocal power of Pink, Christina, and Mya. This little lady just nailed it--and she sang French almost as well as Julio sings Spanish! I bet Christina was regretting letting this girl go. Then again, Christina has made a lot of decisions on this show that she should regret. But then Blake made a decision he should regret too: He picked Julio instead. Really? Blake said this was because he had "more invested" in Julio, which means he basically admitted that he made this decision for personal reasons, not necessarily because Julio was the superior singer here. Usually I admire Blake's loyalty to his contestants, but this was just a bad call.
Suzanna Choffel vs. Cassadee Pope
Cassadee, the former frontwoman of failed emo band Hey Monday, performed a cover of Maroon 5's "Payphone" that was just okay. She kind of payphoned it in, really. Suzanna, meanwhile, came out in a Studio 54 onesie looking like Alison Goldfrapp. I bet you can already guess which girl I was rooting for. Actually, I was rooting for Suzanna from the get-go (along with Melanie Martinez and Caitlin Michele, she was one of my three favorite girls this season)--and Suzanna's cover of Bob Marley's "Could You Be Loved" didn't change my mind about her, even if the chillaxed song wasn't the best showcase for her lovely vocal chops. But Blake apparently isn't a big Marley fan, or a fan of metallic disco jumpsuits, or a fan of great singers, because he picked Cassadee instead. ARGH. After losing my girl Caitlin on Monday, this blow was almost too much for me to take.
So there you have it. Judging from the final teams of five, Blake and Christina have really sabotaged their chances, while Team Cee Lo has established itself as the team to beat. But you know, all it'll take is one great singer to win this whole thing, and all four coaches have at least one team member capable of doing just that. Below are my personal team rankings, from my favorite to least favorite team, with the individual contestants ranked within each list. Come back next Monday for the first live competitive show (finally!), and see if these rankings change once the contestants perform for higher stakes than ever before.
Team Cee Lo
Julio Cesar Castillo
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