After last week's controversial "instant eliminations" of Jesse Campbell and Jordis Unga, this Monday Adam Levine and Cee Lo Green took control, instantly eliminating two of their own players before the night was through. And while Adam's ousting of fan favorite Pip was a little tough to take, his decision was understandable: Pip, a dyed-in-the-wool-bowtie Gleek, had caught flak the last time he'd tried to act like a rocker on a Killers cover, and this week his Keane performance unraveled when he tried to rock it up once again. However, I think Pip's real mistake this week was going onstage sans his signature bowtie. "Where in the hell is the bowtie? That's like me without alcohol!" Blake Shelton complained. You know, Blake had a point there. But anyway, Pip and his bowtie shall be missed.
The less distressing cut was Cee Lo's decision to eliminate boy-bandy Bostonian James Massone. Cee Lo had been responsible for some truly weird decisions this season, notably keeping Erin Martin on the show way longer than she deserved, so I'd feared he might make an instant elimination this week as baffling as that--or even as baffling as Blake's decision last week to keep RaeLynn over Jordis. But this time, Cee Lo did the right thing, keeping his three undeniably strongest singers in the competition. James always came across as one of the nicest and most lovable contestants on the show, but at some point, this nice guy was destined to finish last--and Monday was that night.
Still, I had to agree when Adam griped, "This is a stupid thing, that we have to do this," when he was forced to make his instant-elimination decision. Adam did also point out earlier in the episode, "[The instant elimination] does give us more control, and we like control"--but come on, now. With the Season 2 finale only two weeks away, shouldn't all the control be in America's hands? Viewers like control, too.
Anyway, among the six contestants who continued on to the public voting round, one of the standout performances of the night had to be by Team Adam's Tony Lucca--not necessarily because he was the best singer (that honor was jointly shared by Team Cee Lo's Jamar Rogers and Juliet Simms and Team Adam's Katrina Parker), but because of his amusing song choice. You see, Tony was once in "The Mickey Mouse Club" with Christina Aguilera, but it hasn't seemed like they've remained too chummy since: When Tony first auditioned for "The Voice," Christina didn't even recognize him, and after their fellow "MMC" alum Justin Timberlake tweeted his support for Tony, Christina felt the need to distance herself from Tony and the whole "MMC" tie-in by overly harshly critiquing him during the semifinals. So this week, Tony got his sweet revenge by covering "Baby Hit Me One More Time" by Xtina's longtime rival since their "MMC" days, the one and only Britney Spears. It was a genius move.
Yes, Christina forgot Tony's name during her critique this Monday (it sounded like she called him "Tuna"--perhaps that was NBC's subliminal cross-promotion of "The Office"?), but even she grudgingly appreciated Tony's sly humor. "Let's get Britney Spears on the stage and have a real 'Mickey Mouse Club' reunion," she quipped sarcastically. "We'll get Justin out here. It'll be fun." It's doubtful that that'll happen, since rumor has it Britney's about to sign on to "The Voice's" rival show, "The X Factor" (on which she'll reportedly out-earn Xtina by $6 million--oh, snap!). But if Tony does make it to the finale, I think producer Mark Burnett should try very, very hard to make that "MMC" reunion a reality--and get JC Chasez involved, too!
But Tony may not make it to that finale after all, because Team Adam and Team Cee Lo are the two strongest crews this "Voice" season, and he therefore faces some very fierce competition. It'll take a lot more than subversive Britney covers to help him stay in the game. Here's who Tony will be up against as the show moves on...
TEAM CEE LO:
Jamar Rogers - At first I was less than thrilled that my beloved Jamar was singing first, in the kiss-of-death spot, AND that he was lamely covering Bon Jovi. But hey, Jermaine Paul did the same thing a couple weeks ago, and he advanced to the next round. And besides, it turned out that Jamar was THE perfect performer to kick off Monday's show. This was another hot powerhouse vocal from the rock 'n' soul belter, and this time, Cee Lo's laid-on-thick gimmickry (towers of virtual stereo speakers, Durbin-worthy pyro flames) complemented, rather than distracted from, the talent on the stage. "I wanna pause for a moment and listen to the love," gushed Cee Lo, as he let the audience uncontrollably roar for Jamar, and Jamar got all choked up and thumped his chest with his fist. It was a poignant moment for a man who'd battled drug addiction, HIV, and "American Idol" rejection during his rough life, and who had just celebrated the 30th birthday he once never thought he'd reach. "You truly sang that like it was your life on the line, and that's what I loved about it," said Christina. "You're not even on my team, and you're one of my favorites in the competition." Jamar is definitely one of my favorites, too.
Cheesa - Taking on Whitney's "I Have Nothing" was no easy feat for Cheesa (I always think singing-competition contestants should stay the heck away from the Whitney/Celine/Mariah holy diva trinity), but for the most part she pulled it off. There were some pitch issues--sometimes the song sounded too big even for Cheesa's mighty big voice--but much of the time, the ballad allowed her to stay in her vocal sweet spot. (Some songs absolutely do not work with Cheesa's lower register, and she ends up sounding like Satchmo. Not this time.) "I have to applaud you for some courage! That is a beloved song. Those are huge shoes to fill," said fellow diva Christina. Then Cee Lo declared, "I think it's time to be advocating for power female vocalists, not this Auto-Tuned Tinkerbell thing! I'm talking about that from-the-gut, childbearing, woman thang!" You know, once in while, silly Cee Lo actually makes some sense on this show.
Juliet Simms - However, the "woman thang" I was really feeling this evening was rocker Juliet's bizarrely awesome, awesomely bizarre performance of "Cryin'" by Aerosmith. This rock 'n' roll peacock spread her wings, literally, looking sort of like The-Crow-meets-Victoria's-Secret-fashion-show in her resplendent black plumage, then she ended her performance in a shower of feathers that basically looked like the fallout from the coolest pillow fight ever. Yes, sometimes she did get a little too shouty and growly--she definitely should temper that on future episodes. But there WILL be future episodes for Juliet, because there's little doubt that she'll be moving on to the top eight finals after delivering another total-rock-star performance like this. And maybe Blake's comment that her performance reminded him of "last fall's duck season" will even help Juliet corner the conservative vote!
Katrina Parker - Okay, this was Katrina's breakthrough moment. I'd admired her ever since her first audition, but tonight was the night when she went from being simply a nice girl-next-door with a nice voice to being a STAR. After only making it onto Adam's team as a last-chance performance pick, Katrina really needed to bring it this week to stay in the game, and trust me, it was brought. I got "goosies," as a certain other reality show judge might say. Belting out Christina Perri's "Jar Of Hearts," Katrina gave such a gorgeous performance that Adam closed his eyes during most of it, just to savor the sweet, sweet sound of her creamy vocals. I only hope that he opened his eyes long enough to notice that Katrina also looked gorgeous. "I'm so proud. You were not one of my favorites on my team in the very beginning, but you have one of THE best voices now. You've evolved so much," raved Adam. "Everyone says 'Adele' and whatever, but everybody when they first come out is compared to someone," said Christina. "I say you are Katrina Parker, and you own that!" Oh, Katrina owned it, all right.
Mathai - This young lady stunned me with her "Ordinary People" performance two weeks ago, a performance that made her one of the few Season 2 girls to actually get voted through to the quarterfinals by America. But this week, her rendition of Nelly Furtado's "I'm Like A Bird," while still very good, didn't impress me quite as much. Mathai's natural charisma still oozed from every one of her near-invisible pores, but her voice somehow wasn't nearly as wow-worthy. Christina blamed this on Adam forcing Mathai to do the Furtado tune, chastising Adam with, "It's inappropriate for [your team members] to go along with a song they don't believe in." Fellow coach Blake blamed Mathai's less-than-perfect performance on the acrobat onstage, grumbling, "I could have done without Captain America swinging around." (And Christina further, rightfully, blasted Adam when he revealed that the "sketchy dude" suspended from aerial silks hadn't been his idea, telling him: "You've gotta be involved in your own production, Adam!") I don't think it was the acrobat that was the problem, however: It was indeed the song choice. Either way, it seemed like Adam failed Mathai a little bit--or that he was perhaps deliberately setting her up to fail.
So now, it is prediction time. On Tuesday, one contestant per team will be automatically voted through to the top eight by America, and another contestant per team will be advanced by their respective coaches. I predict that for Team Adam, Tony Lucca will be America's pick (he's extremely popular, and male contestants seem to be scoring more votes in general than females this year), while Katrina Parker will be Adam's save. For Team Cee Lo, it's a tougher call, but I think Jamar's moving back story and past "Idol" fanbase will give him the edge over the weirder and wilder Juliet, making him the top vote-getter; Juliet, of course, will be Cee Lo's pick. Unless Cee Lo starts making cockamamie decisions again...
But I'll tell you the best decision Cee Lo made this Monday: the decision to reunite his seminal group Goodie Mob on the show. Would a moment this cool ever happen on "American Idol"? I think not. Clearly the real winner of "The Voice" Season 2 is anyone who witnessed this spectacular comeback performance: