The Voice Recap: Best Episode Ever? [Updated]

cassadee pope“This may be the best episode of The Voice we’ve ever had,” Blake Shelton said tonight, in that homespun drawl of his that never seems anything less than genuine. And try as I might, I’m not sure I can find a way to disagree with him.

Sure, I could poke fun at the show’s enthusiastic-to-the-point-of-frenzied audience. (Is everyone in the studio required to pound a can of Red Bull, or maybe Red! Hyena!, in between every performance?). Or I could mock the crazy hyperbole of the “gold stars for everyone!” coaches. (Did Cee Lo really tell Nicholas David that his voice made him feel like “a child in the presence of my creator”?) I could even quibble with NBC’s decision to bring in guest mentors for the sole purpose of hyping Jennifer Hudson’s role in Season 2 of Smash (of course, if I did, I’d have to worry about my Gay Card getting revoked.)

PHOTOS | The Voice Leaderboard: Ranking the Top 10

So instead, I’ll just rise to my feet and give The Voice‘s Season 3 finalists the slow clap they deserve. Indeed, there wasn’t a full-fledged disaster at any point during the Top 10 performance telecast, and the very best numbers could’ve easily fit in during Sunday night’s American Music Awards. Yeah, I said it, and I’m not under the influence of a berry-flavored energy drink.

Let’s get to the grades for the Top 10, shall we? But before we do, a game of “Word Salad” with Christina Milian: “Our boy and our girl Blaketina, they’re performing on the show with live!” Um, okay then…

Amanda Brown: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals’ “Stars” | “That performance is the way I want to be introduced to that song,” said Blake, who along with Christina, admitted to never before having heard “Stars.” (That makes three of us.) But that’s the beauty of Amanda Brown: She eschews standard-operating reality-competition covers — not to mention the conventions of what pop radio expects from a black female artist — and takes things in an infinitely more interesting direction. The fact that she’s note perfect, incredibly nuanced, and as powerful as tropical-storm winds, ranks her as my favorite Voice contestant ever. Grade: A

Cassadee Pope: Miranda Lambert’s “Over You” | Regular TVLine readers know I’ve been throwing pebbles as Cassadee’s bandwagon all season, but I climbed aboard it at least for the duration of her haunting rendition of “Over You.” For the first time this season, the former Hey Monday singer nailed every note like an Army sharpshooter playing Duck Hunt at the county fair, and better still, she infused the tune with honest, aching emotion. Do I wish the cameras hadn’t spent half the performance in an over-Cassadee’s-shoulder shot of her mentor Blake, resting his head on his hand and gazing wistfully up at the stage? Um, yeah. Because while it was touching that the country star allowed Cassadee to cover a song he’d cowritten about the loss of his brother, putting the focus (literally) on him took focus off what his protégé was doing. At the end of the day, the performance worked because of Cassadee’s interpretive powers, not because of Blake’s personal connection to the material. Grade: A

Dez Duron: Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” | This was an ambitious number for Dez — and not just because Adam Lambert and Melanie Amaro have turned in devastating versions on Idol and X Factor respectively in recent years. Sure, the dashing former football player has had some solid moments in Season 3, but nothing from his oeuvre suggested he’d be able to slay a dragon the size of this big, jazzy ditty. And yet for the second straight week, Dez served notice that he can’t merely be dismissed as a pretty face — no matter how many times the coaches or Christina Milian undermine his credibility with their “ladies love Dez” remarks. Bringing a powerful physicality to the performance, Dez tamed “Feeling Good” with outstretched arms and punches to the air — barely breaking a sweat as he scaled the high notes. Grade: A-

Bryan Keith: Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” | There’s something a little sleepy about Bryan’s delivery, an almost inebriated languidness that recounts smoke-filled, basement jazz clubs rendered in black and white. And that made “New York State of Mind” a perfect song choice, especially with the appealing way the dude’s voice begins to shred when he reaches the ends of certain lines. I’ll admit I had absolutely no clue what Cee Lo and Adam were talking about when they droned on about how one needs to “have a pair” to properly interpret the song — Billy Joel ain’t exactly White Zombie — and now I’m just left hoping the strange sidebar didn’t distract viewers from picking up their phones and voting. Grade: A-

Nicholas David: Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me” | Xtina declared that Nicholas’ smooth, rich tone is like chicken soup for her soul, and I can’t disagree. That home-cooked warmth infuses every part of his persona, too, from the loss of control of his left leg while he sat at the keyboards right down to his declaration of “holy buckets!” when he first saw J.Hud was going to be part of his mentoring session. If I had one complaint, though, I felt like the choice of “Lean on Me” — with a full Gospel choir from start to finish — was the slightest bit pedestrian. I’d love to hear Nicholas cover something more off-kilter (how about some Gnarls Barkley or Franz Ferdinand or even Macy Gray?). Grade: B+

Melanie Martinez: The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” | I’m not entirely sure why, but the judges never really come out and give Melanie full credit for the fact that she always goes beyond serving up good karaoke to a mass audience. And considering she’s the youngest person in the competition, that’s pretty heady stuff. To my ears, “Seven Nation Army” wasn’t quite as emotionally potent as last week’s “Cough Syrup,” but the plinky arrangement was an incredibly cool approach to a song that’s typically full of rumbly aggression. The kid’s magic is oftentimes found in the tension she manages to build with her voice, that innate ability to whisper when you’re expecting a scream, but I can’t say I disagreed with Adam and Xtina, who respectively wanted to hear the bomb go off and for Melanie to “jump off the cliff.” Indeed, just like peanut butter needs jam, vocal restraint usually goes down easier with a few bars of reckless abandon. Grade: B

Terry McDermott: Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69” | I can’t criticize Terry’s vocal this week — dude packs enough power to blow a bank vault door off its hinges — but I do wonder why his mentor is content to leave him stranded at the corner of Classic Rock and Lite FM, or why he never pushes Terry to switch up an arrangement or scale back his performances to something more sparse and intimate. Instead, the only thing “new” about Terry’s set this week was seeing him climb halfway up the stairs for some staged interaction with his guitarist. That might be enough to make him a Top 6 or Top 8 finisher, but the old dog will have to do more than catch a frisbee if he wants to inherit Jermaine Paul’s crown and sash. Grade: B

Sylvia Yacoub: Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” | “You have to sing it in tune or game over.” That warning from Xtina’s mentor Ron Fair hung heavy in the air during Sylvia’s performance. Because while she probably hit eight out of every 10 notes on the square, it was the remaining 15 or 20 percent of the time where her voice got pushed to the point of uncomfortable, where she seemed to be clinging to notes for dear life rather than effortlessly delivering them. And that obvious strain made it feel like Sylvia was merely trying to survive “Girl on Fire” rather than conquer it, which is probably not the best way to win over voters. (Side note: Props to Carson Daly for calling Sylvia a “pre-law” student; because the whole pre-performance package talking about the 19-year-old giving up law school for The Voice rang crazy false — unless of course she’s a Doogie Howser type who completed her Bachelor’s degree at 17.) Grade: B-

Cody Belew: Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” | Jennifer Hudson pretty much summed it up during rehearsals when she noted Cody’s personality was more memorable than his vocal. And she hadn’t even gotten the full effect of seeing the Arkansas cowboy’s son decked out in an insane one-sleeved leather jacket with tons of fringe and zippers doing Beyonce’s patented “uh-oh, uh-oh, uh-oh, oh-no-no” dance. Strangely, though, Cody eschewed most of the fast and furious wordplay on the chorus and bridge, choosing instead to riff over the top with some middling ad-libs that were often drowned out by the wall of sound coming from the band and backup singers behind him. Was it arguably the most amusing performance of the night? Sure. But the show is called “The Voice,” and seeing how “Bam Bam” hasn’t showcased his since his George Michael cover on Top 20 night, he might be in trouble during Tuesday’s results show. Grade: C+

Trevin Hunte: Usher’s “Scream” | Ahh, how this fairytale might’ve ended more happily if Cee Lo had spent less time trying to dissuade Trevin from going uptempo — and let’s be honest, after five straight Big Bombast Ballads, the kid was long overdue — and more time trying to find a more suitable dance track than “Scream.” Heck, I’d have been content it if Mr. Green had at least guided Trevin past the “acid washed denim with leather sleeves” rack and toward an outfit that wasn’t so aggressively unflattering. But left to his own devices, Trevin flopped around the stage as tragically as a tuna on a dock, going sharp more often than a Ginsu assembly line, all while sporting a bewildered expression that conveyed little of the celebratory spirit J.Hud had been pushing toward. The crowd went crazy anyway, leaving Cee Lo to make the cryptic remark that “apparently it paid off,” but if Mr. Hunte survives to Top 8 week, it’ll be on the basis of his prior efforts, not from what screeched through the TV speakers this Monday night. Grade: C+

And with that, let me turn things over to you:

Who were your favorites from The Voice‘s Top 10 performance telecast? Who’s most likely to get booted come Tuesday night? Hit the comments with your thoughts!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Karmen says:

    Cassadee’s fanbase is crazy. She reached no 1 on iTunes chart. Since iTunes sales will be accumulated in finals, now she has a very high chance of winning The Voice. I’m guessing that Cody and Sylvia will be eliminated.

  2. Chuck Finley (AJ) says:

    If you go by iTunes Trevin is gone.

  3. Chuck Finley (AJ) says:

    After watching all of last night performances, it is Cassadee’s show to lose. I think Amanda is pretty good as well, but she has no built in fanbase to win.

    • Chuck Finley (AJ) says:

      Oh and I really thought I wouldn’t like Nicholas, but he was great and rounds out my top three. Trevin seriously blew it and showed people why he should not win.

  4. Chris says:

    All the contestants are talented without a doubt.

    Entertainment Execution (thank you for the spice) – Cody
    Embodiment of song – Amanda
    Natural Pro (aka the man with the voice) – Nicholas
    Deeply Artistic and Sweet (and seriously needs to let the hair down) – Melanie
    Pure Rocker – Terry
    Overly Hyped (probably should stick with country tunes) – Cassadee
    Boring – Sylvia
    Wrong Song Choice (seriously lost in translation) – Trevin
    Nothing Special (would prefer to see the rocker side he claims to be…there is some personality in there) – Bryan
    Don’t Get It (nice smile) – Dez

    “See ya later” category if I had to wager a guess: Sylvia, Trevin, and Melanie

  5. igoreli says:

    Right now on iTunes in Top 100

    1. Over You (The Voice Performance) – Cassadee Pope
    11. Seven Nation Army (The Voice Performance) – Melanie Martinez
    14. Stars (The Voice Performance) – Amanda Brown
    17. Lean On Me (The Voice Performance) – Nicholas David
    29. Feeling Good (The Voice Performance) – Dez Duron
    66. Summer of ’69 (The Voice Performance) – Terry McDermott
    82. New York State of Mind (The Voice Performance) – Bryan Keith
    86. Not Over You (The Voice Performance) – Cassadee Pope

  6. Julio says:

    Look, I like Cody. He’s gonna have a career after this. He’s the show’s Adam Lambert. But he’s done. The performance just wasn’t that strong.

    Terry remains overrated and this was another off performance by him. They’re the two I’d send home this week. But I imagine Terry is safe for another week.

    Sylvia had a better week, but she’s probably going home.

    Trevyn was not as bad as some here are making out, and man, was I glad to see him step outside his box.

    Cassadee gave her best performance yet and I’m warming to her.

    I’ve yet to see the appeal of Dez or Brian, who are talented and likeable enough, but neither of whom holds a candle to some of the singers that have already gone home. That said, this was definitely Dez’s strongest performance yet. Maybe it’s just that I have a pair, and thus am not swayed by any attraction. At all.

    My top three this week, though, was Amanda, Nicholas and Melanie. All great, all unique, all captivating.

  7. Rod says:

    Success on a show like this comes down to song choice. Cassadee picked the right song which is why she is doing well on iTunes. Trevin did not which is why his sales are lowest. I think Sylvia and Trevin will go home with Cody in the bottom 3. His showy and fun performance gives him more votes rather than sales but he does need a strong song next week if he stays. At this point, I think the top 4 will be Amanda, Cassadee, Dez, and Nicholas.

  8. Julio says:

    BTW, votes close now. And Cassadee is currently No. 1 on iTunes, meaning her downloads count x10. She’s definitely safe. Where the top 10 on rank iTunes;’ Top 100 at the close of voting:

    1. Cassadee Pope.
    13. Melanie Martinez.
    15. Amanda Brown
    17. Nicholas David.
    26. Dez Duron.
    56. Terry McDermott.
    67. Brian Keith.
    70. Cassadee’s “Not Over You,” ranking above three of this week’s competitors…
    95. Sylvia Yacoub.
    98. Amanda’s “Dream On,” above two of this week’s competitors.

    Trevyn Hunt and Cody Belew did not chart on the Top 100. If voting also reflects that, Team Cee-Lo is down to one.

  9. Julio says:

    Also noteworthy: Amanda’s “Stars” is No. 15. The Grace Potter original … is No. 23.

    • jd says:

      I’m surprised xtina didn’t know who Grace Potter was – Blake said he hadn’t heard the song before. Guess most Voice viewers didn’t know Grace Potter either.

  10. Jessica says:

    I thought last night’s show was fantastic! Look I like Cody, but not when he does songs like ‘Crazy In Love’. I loved when he did ‘Jolene’ and my favorite performance of his was George Michael’s ‘One More Try’. IMO, he needs to stick with those types of performances. This was the first time I have loved a performance by Cassadee! It was great! Loved Amanda like always! Melanie was good and I’ve never been a huge fan of hers either. All in all, mostly everyone was average to excellent last night. Really enjoyed watching it! I think Sylvia and Cody will go home.

  11. davey says:

    Ugh if Cassadee wins this thing I’ll scream. She belongs on some show on the CW or ABC Family.

  12. NinaMarie says:

    Overall a great night of performances. Cassadee was hands down the best for me. Amanda, Nick, and Dez were also great. Melanie and Terry were okay but both of them need to step out of their comfort zones more. I want to hear Terry sing something other than classic rock for once, he’s such a great singer but I’m getting bored listening to him do similar songs every week. I loved Melanie last week, but she didn’t give enough power for this song. Sylvia wasn’t that strong but she doesn’t deserve to go home yet IMO. Trevin and Cody were both hot messes. I’ll have to rewatch on YouTube later but it seemed like Cody complete forgot about the vocals. I hated it. Trevin couldn’t keep up with the faster tempo and I think he’s really overrated anyway. Bryan was forgettable and he just doesn’t do anything for me ever since the live shows started. I wouldn’t mind seeing him go. I think it will be Cody and Sylvia going home but it’s really hard to guess.

    • FreeHaley says:

      I wonder if Melanie is capable of giving something more power when needed. I’m starting to think not. I think she is just a pure tone type singer who does her breathy style. If it captivates you then I guess it is good, if it doesn’t quite captivate you then you are left wanting her being able to do at least just a bit more vocally. I did like her this week more than in the past few weeks, although Im still not crazy sold on her at all, as some are. This week she did have some captivating bits again at least. I would have liked her to also have been able to really bring it on a couple parts though too, but not bad this week.

      I’d almost say she was fake too in a calculated non-calculated hipster crossed with oh gosh oh my oh gee sort of way although one of the contestants already booted off says she is actually sweet and nice and genuine in how she performs so I guess she is real and I’m probably off-base.

  13. spongebob says:

    1. Amanda
    2. Dez
    3. Cassadee
    4. Sylvia
    5. Terry
    6. Bryan
    7. Nicholas
    8. Melanie
    9. Trevin
    10. Cody

  14. All I want is for Cody to make it through one more week so he can sing a Scissor Sisters song. I WANT THIS. Life, make it happen!

  15. JW says:

    MUCH more restraint in the productions this year than last. Loving it. Maybe they’re trying to distance themselves from the mess over at The X Factor, which is a very smart move. This was a tremendous week, a Top 10 that may have beaten just about any Top 10 in any vocal competition to date.

  16. Kiki says:

    If it really is about the voice maybe all the coaches should follow Adam’s lead and trust their contestants can blow the doors off lesser-known songs like Amanda did.

  17. Leela says:

    Have to disagree with you, Michael, and with almost every poster here. I LOVED Cody – he showed real talent on stage, he gave a “performance” instead of “just singing” (yes, I know it’s called “The Voice” but I can’t imagine most of these contestants putting on any kind of show). I would love to go to a Cody concert. The rest I can see performing in a coffee house.

    • dmpenry says:

      I am with you Leela! The goal in life is to be happy and guess whose performance made me smile from ear to ear, yup.. Cody.

  18. Tara d says:

    Am I the only one not feeling Bryan? I think he is quite mediocre, and his song choices are soooo lame. Its weird cause i think he looks edgy and cool, but then he has no rhythm and puts me to sleep.
    Last night i was so confused as to whether the coaches were actually listening to Trevin, because he sounded so horrible that my husband who was in the other room came in to see who was butchering that awful usher song. I told him that he wouldnt get called out for the mess…and i was right. Dude is just not as good as they think he is and he sure as hell aint no joshua ladet.he needs to go. But he wont.

    • Dan says:

      I totally agree about Bryan; I don’t get his appeal. Yes, he can carry a tune, but he can only sing in one key. It all sounds the same. As far as Trevin, he did tank last night, but I think he has an amazing voice – remember, he has never had singing lessons and is only eighteen. He has a huge upside.

  19. allie08 says:

    Loved last night’s show but I don’t understand the love for terry. Seems like a sweet guy and he has a nice voice but maybe I’d like him better if he sang something from this century? But he’ll stay tonight. Trevin was terrible last night. But my guess is either Sylvia or Cody will be going home.

  20. white lancer says:

    Dez at #3? DEZ? Methinks Slezak fell for the whole ‘complete package’ garbage they’ve been throwing at us. Yes, Dez looked like a star during his performance, but there was absolutely NOTHING special about his vocals at all. He’s pretty decent at hitting the notes, but his voice is extremely generic and I couldn’t help hearing his performance and thinking how much better it would sound with someone else singing it. His voice has little range and no real texture to it–he’s a pretty boy singing average karaoke every time. Sadly, that means he’ll probably be the most successful of the group.

    I don’t think this was the best night of the Voice ever or even very close. We had one standout performance–Amanda’s–but Dez (with the possible exception of last week) is always below average, and Sylvia, Trevin, and Cody all stumbled this week. Terry, as much as I want to love him, really just does the same thing every week, and Bryan’s not much better (but at least he’s getting a handle on his pitch issues). Nicholas was solid, and Cassadee…this wasn’t my favorite from her, although it was far from bad. It wasn’t a bad night overall by any means, but it was really more solid than spectacular.

    • white lancer says:

      Forgot to mention Melanie, who delivered one of her best performances overall IMO. Which only makes me more infuriated that she’s probably going home in favor of Dez freaking Duron.

  21. Davey says:

    Feeling Good was written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley for the Broadway show The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd. Nina Simone did a cover of the song. She didn’t write it.

  22. Lois Benton says:

    Dez D shouldn’t have survived the Battle Rounds, Michael! And “Feeling Good” stunk, big time. I couldn’t even finish watching it. After about 40 seconds, I began to feel ill. Where’s De’Borah when you need her? She’s the only one of Christina’s team I thought should or could win, or that I would vote for. Melanie rose again, and she would have too, I believe. And Blake’s opportunity to win this season left the building when he dumped the wonderful Gracia, the only country star I ever wanted to win a reality show competition. While Trevin’s got quite an instrument, he may be leaving tonight. Contestants who use the currently popular pop gesture of hands resting near genitals while singing tend to get eliminated soon thereafter. And while I love Cody, his singing isn’t all it should be at this point. If two are going home tonight, and they probably are, Dez and Cody should be the ones. I don’t like Sylvia or Cassadee much; they bore me to death and just aren’t allthat, but too many men are in the game at this point.

  23. Brian says:

    Do yourself a favor and discover Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. “Stars” is just one of many great songs on their newest CD.

  24. K says:

    I’m out on Mondays, so I always just download Amanda’s song and then watch the show Tuesday mornings. When I saw “Stars” on iTunes, I got excited… “She’s doing Les Mis?” Alas, no. And if we’re going by iTunes sales, Ceelo’s going to lose both Trevin AND Cody. Egads.

  25. TiaGata says:

    I hate this show I FF through the majority of each song only listening to Amanda fully. I watch it for entertainment because nothing else is on that pleases me but I …have never liked the outcome. The song choices are extremely boring

  26. Starting to wonder if I have some kind of psychic power, as I successfully predicted one trick pony Melanie Martinez’ cover of Seven Nation Army would be all one level throughout.
    Absolutely terrible.
    Still think Cassadee sounds like a poor Avril Levigne copycat, and the choice to have a choir with Nicholas was a bad one.

    Dez surprised me bigtime, but Amanda continues to be my pick for the crown, even after the stumble last week with the poor choice of Florence & the Machine.

    One major gripe – why is it this season there is practically no negative comments or criticism?
    Did the higher ups send out a directive after “Tony Lucca-Gate” last season?

  27. Daisy says:

    Hands down best Voice live show ever. I have no clue who’s going home.

    I never liked Cassedee, but she killed that song. Very impressive and emotional. And whole Team Adam rocked. I hope they all stay.

  28. Rachel says:

    New York State of Mind was so great, and so appropriate for him (both in topic and in timing). I think you guys are reading a little too much into the “having a pair” comments. For one thing, they weren’t the main point of the coaches critiques, and for another, it’s a common phrase these days, and while its sexist, the people who use it often don’t mean to imply women can’t pull something like it off.

  29. Dan says:

    My favorites have always been Terry, Nicholas, Trevin and Amanda, but of those four only Amanda and Nicholas really brought it. “Stars” was brilliant, and Nick has a wonderfully soulful voice. Terry was solid, but “Summer of ’69” was not an inspired choice. And while Trevin has an incredible talent, that was a bomb last night.

    Cassadee absolutely won me over with “Over You.” Awesome performance. Speaking of performance, Cody, who I thought should have left last week instead of Michaela Paige, had a great and very enjoyable performance…but the song doesn’t hold up without the show.

    Sylvia and Dez were very good, but not spectacular. And while I think Melanie is so cool and unique, she doesn’thave the vocal range to be this far into the competition. Finally, I don’t know what Brian is doing here – he certainly can carry a tune, but he has the same tone in everything he sings, and like Melanie he has a limited range.

    So my ranking for the night would be:

    1. Cassadee
    2. Amanda
    3. Nicholas
    4. Terry
    5. Sylvia
    6. Cody
    7. Dez
    8. Melanie
    9. Brian
    10. Trevin

  30. FreeHaley says:

    Wow, elimination results surprise….

  31. HaleyMusic says:

    I call BS on Michael giving Brian a high grade. His sleepy, emotionless, lazy delivery is the same style he hates on female American Idol contestants. I remember when he reviewed Thia Megia’s cover of “Daniel.” He grudgingly admitted that she delivered a pretty vocal but just had to add “What’s the point?” The point, Michael, is that she was a 15-yr old girl trying her damndest to cover an Elton John song, just like all the other contestants. For you to admit that she delivered a pretty vocal is all that really matters, regardless of how you personally feel about a contestant. Anyway, I do love Brian and his songs are the only ones I buy, I just had to call BS on Michael’s BS. End of rant.