The Voice Recap: Eight Too Proud to Beg

amanda brown someone like youThe Voice‘s all-star coaches are, generally speaking, a gentle, encouraging, and decidedly articulate bunch. And if you perused a transcript of their comments from tonight’s telecast, you’d probably think it was business as usual on Season 3 Top 8 performance night.

But tone of voice, facial expression, body language, coded wordplay…sometimes they tell a different story. And with only eight singers left in the competition, the subtext was often as poorly hidden as Christina Aguilera’s décolletage.

There was Xtina herself practically sighing and rolling her eyes while telling the incredible Amanda Brown she’d given “another really dynamic and powerful performance.” (How dare she!) There was Adam Levine admitting Freddie Mercury songs expose all his vocal weaknesses, the subtle implication being that “Somebody to Love” had done the same to Cody Belew. And there was everybody awkwardly hurling potshots at Melanie Martinez’s soon-to-be-ex boyfriend, while not really saying anything about her actual singing. (Hey, Voice judges, did you ever stop and think that the target of your collective, televised disdain is most likely a teenage boy? #TheMoreYouKnow)

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Fret not, though, Top 8 performance night also had plenty of conspicuous craziness, too. Nicholas David revealed he never cuts his beard while his wife is pregnant, and oh, she’s due to have their third child in February. (For the record, Christina Milian is totes okay with the David family not finding out the baby’s gender before it’s delivered. I’m sure they’re all relieved. “Heyyyyy, what’s uuuuup Carson? Trending on Twitter. Oh my God! Sexy side. Sprint lounge. Hashtag!”) Cassadee Pope thinks of Blake Shelton as her crazy uncle. 50 Cent still exists! And Carson Daly gets aroused in the unlikeliest of situations: “I was watching Terry [McDermott] and his wife make out. That’s good TV!”

While you try to get that sound bite out of your ear with a Q-tip, let’s grade the night’s solo performances:

Amanda Brown: Adele’s “Someone Like You” | The phrase “made it your own” has been used so many times on reality singing competitions that it’s as expected and meaningless as “but wait, there’s more!” at the end of an infomercial. And yet that’s exactly what Amanda did with one of the decade’s most omnipresent ballads. By heeding Adam Levine’s advice to kick the song’s ass, to give it a pulsating rock arrangement and a wild, defiant vocal, Amanda conjured up not just a different sound, but also an entirely different set of emotions than Adele. Whereas the original is about the pain and acceptance of true love lost, Amanda’s cover hinted at defiance, perhaps even a hope that the “for me, it isn’t over” might be a two-way street. I loved the little bit of stank Amanda gave to the line “guess she gave you things I couldn’t give to you,” and the boiled bunny angst with which she infused “don’t forget me!” This is no knock on Adele’s original — not at all — because just like with the Sherlock Holmeses of Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr., there’s room to adore ’em both. I just wish Carson had pressed Adam for an explanation when he said how he and his fellow coaches were extra hard on Amanda because they expect so much from her. Um, shouldn’t the bar be set just as high for everyone else in the Top 8? Grade: A

Nicholas David: Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” | There’s no one cooler in the competition than “the spiritual soul singer from Minnesota,” and not just because he can rock pigtails, a leather pimp jacket and plaid pants, but also because he remains calm and poised in the face of Christina Milian’s inanity and tells his fans to “keep it together.” The thing about Nicholas is that his song choices and arrangements are probably never going to be crazy innovative, but he’ll still manage to surprise you just by virtue of his gorgeous tone and absolute pitch perfection. I liked how he put almost a rap-style swag on the phrase “we don’t need to escalate,” and the way he effortlessly reached into his upper register on “father, father.” The man knows the capabilities and outer limits of his voice better than Kim Kardashian knows the number to her publicist. Groovy! Grade: A-

Dez Duron: Justin Bieber’s “U Smile” | If I’m being totally honest, Dez doesn’t have the most distinctive instrument in the history of reality singing competitions, but what he lacks in tone, he makes up for with showmanship and emotional clarity. (Yes, I just said “emotional clarity”; please bear with me.) Too often this season, the coaches have dismissed Dez as the contestant most likely to cause squealing and power-texting among silly teenage girls, but that unfairly overlooks his mastery of the big, fussy Voice stage. The guy is in constant, magnetic motion without ever coming across as frantic or overly rehearsed. Plus, Dez really seems to understand the intent behind the lyrics he’s singing. Where the Bieb’s original “U Smile” came across like a kid playing dress-up, Dez delivered it like a grown-ass man, bringing at the very least a little PG-13 understanding to tehe lyric “Ain’t no way you’re ever gonna get/
Any less than you should.” Plus, I don’t think he hit a single bum note. Grade: A-

Cassadee Pope: Michelle Branch’s “Are You Happy Now” | The staging of Cassadee’s number was a study in excess — all billowing curtains, waves of smoke and wind, and intense strobe lighting — to the point where I started worrying that her wind machine might start pelting her with backstage detritus. But after a somewhat blah opening verse, Cassadee emerged from the summer storm, assumed her spot at the mic stand, and brought home the chorus with the twist of spite she’d promised in her pre-performance package. The former Hey Monday singer has now put together back-to-back weeks of charismatic performances without any major pitch issues, and while I still think her overall body of work pales next to Amanda’s, I can’t say I’ll be apoplectic if she lives up to Cee Lo’s prediction that she (and her quarter million Twitter followers) could “win this thing.” Now if only she could convince the Voice stylists to stop putting her in those stiff short-in-the-front/long-in-the-back dresses… Grade: B+

Melanie Martinez: Alex Clare’s “Too Close” | I appreciate that, at 17, Melanie already has a strong sense of the type of artist she wants to be and that she “Melanie-izes” every song she covers. But her whispery approach is more successful on some tunes (“Toxic,” “Lights,” “Seven Nation Army”) than it is on others (“Hit the Road Jack,” “Bulletproof”). And while “Too Close” had its intriguing moments — the click of the castanets, the foot tambourine, the overall wistful mood — I had to agree with Xtina that ultimately, Melanie’s version didn’t really go anywhere. It was ultimately a nice side salad whereas Alex Clare’s original is a plate of gastronomic drama. Not that a side salad is a terrible thing, mind you. But three or four seasons from now, this won’t be the Melanie performance everyone remembers. Grade: B+

Trevin Hunte: Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All” | I understand that Cee Lo thinks Trevin is at his best when he’s covering power ballads, and he may in fact be correct. But that doesn’t mean that Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All” is the right song choice to transform the teenage contestant into a relevant, radio-ready recording artist. At least not in the year 2012. But telethon-ready vibe aside, Trevin’s rendition had additional problems, too, no matter how overzealously the coaches pimped it. For starters, the tempo was a wee bit rushed, and it seemed like Trevin could never quite latch on, leaving him out of breath and dropping ends of phrases on the verse. Yeah, he hit all his big glory notes, but even those old tricks were somewhat blunted by the presence of a full (and cheesily staged) Gospel choir. Adam droned on about how it doesn’t matter what Trevin sings, that he can master pretty much anything, but that theory was already disproven by Usher’s “Scream,” and I’m not entirely uncertain “Greatest Love” doesn’t represent strike two. Grade: B- C+

Cody Belew: Queen’s “Somebody to Love” | Forgive me for pulling a Blake Shelton, but I don’t have a whole lot to say about Cody’s performance. I did love the combination of black sequined shirt and forest green suit, but everything else felt oddly inauthentic. From the way Cody kicked things off atop a standalone staircase (and flanked by a Gospel choir) to the strained quality of his falsetto to the hammy way he jumped atop the piano to close the number…it felt like an attempt to put his bam-bam magic on steroids, and it proved less enjoyable than anything he’s done all season. Is that crazy of me to say? Am I just being hard on him because, with only eight contestants remaining, he’s clearly the weakest link from a vocal standpoint? Maybe. But with two folks headed home on Tuesday night, I can’t say I’d be devastated if Cody was one of ’em. Grade: B- C+

Terry McDermott: Blake Shelton’s “Over” | I’m a big proponent of contestants going outside their musical comfort zones, but Terry tackling a Blake Shelton country hit was a bit like a freshly shorn poodle trying to pull a sled in the Iditarod: Dude didn’t have the skill set or the preparation to make it work. For starters, the verses were pitched too low for the normally consistent Scottish rocker, and his struggle to hit those notes seemed to stop him from connecting to the lyrics — a fact that was punctuated by his vaguely disconcerted facial expression. Also, has there ever been a more backhanded compliment than Xtina telling Terry he’s “always such a solid vocalist.” Because every budding singer really dreams of being known as “solid.” Grade: C

Group Numbers
Dez, Melanie, Tery and Cassadee: All American Rejects’ “Move Along” | Grade: A Mess!

Amanda, Cody, Trevin, and Nicholas: Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” | Grade: OMG Amanda’s high note!

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

Who were your favorites from The Voice‘s Top 8 performance telecast? Who’s most likely to get booted come Tuesday night? Are you voting for Amanda? If not, WHY NOT? (Sorry, didn’t mean to yell.) Hit the comments with your thoughts!

p.s. No new Reality Check this week, thanks to last week’s Thanksgiving holiday. But we’ll be back with a new video next Monday, scout’s honor!

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. Slatina Whorinova says:

    How can Cody be the weakest from a vocal standpoint when there is still Melanie, whose whole style is heavy-breathe her way through songs, tilt her head to one side and flash and her gap in her teeth?

    • Owen says:

      Word. But at least Mel’s coach is picking songs that showcase her limited though interesting instrument. You could tell Cody, as much as he loved Freddy (or maybe because of it) knew the song was out of his league but is a good boy and did what his coach requested. But was better as an idea than an actuality.

  2. C.J. says:

    Cassadee, Melanie, and Nicholas all made it to the top 10 on itunes so those three are most likely safe. Amanda’s at 18, Terry’s at 22. Cody and Trevin are at 37 and 38. Dez is the only one out of the top 50 at 52.

  3. Becka says:

    Ok…I’ve said it before and I will say it again, while The Voice has the best house band than any other show on TV…They have the worst sound engineers in the business. It is especially evident on the group numbers…which I wish they would just do away with. They are always pretty horrible, though last night’s “any way you want it” by Journey was pretty good, but was plagued with bad mic transitions and ugh..made me want to bash my head against things.

    And the “Move Along” was AWFUL! Not just the sound, but the arrangement!!

    • Alienate says:

      You obviously don’t LISTEN to The X-Factor. Worst sound production in the history of TV.

      • Becka says:

        I don’t watch the X Factor on basis of it’s crappy judging panel. I am so over the cookie cutter pop star crap. There’s very little originality on that show and on American Idol, and I don’t like the audition process where it is seen as funny to see someone really embarrass themselves….Sure The Voice has drama, but it isn’t the schadenfreude of the other shows.

        But such a good band and mostly talented singers deserve a lot better sound engineering!

  4. Julie says:

    Dez gets an A-? Really? Sorry, but Dez is an average singer at best and is BORING. There is nothing current or relevant about his style. He should be singing in some hotel lounge bar somewhere.

    I thought Amanda’s vocal was fine, but she drained toon much of the pain of the song out of it.

    My favorites were Melanie and Nicholas. Neither one of them is going to be a mainstream artist, and neither one of them is likely to be a big star, but they are the most interesting performers of this bunch and they always deliver good performances.

  5. whosays says:

    Random thoughts and replies to what I’ve read above:

    Amanda – Xtina respects Amanda as a singer/vocalist, possibly is even JEALOUS of her. Amanda’s the only female who’s ever been on The Voice who could give Xtina a run for her money in a head-to-head singers competition. This is why she is knocking Amanda the only way she knows how – on her versatility. Amanda is a singer’s singer.

    Nicholas – “The thing about Nicholas is that his song choices and arrangements are probably never going to be crazy innovative”.. Well, give him some modern stuff to sing, to help the audience reimagine him as a modern throwback instead of just a throwback. He could have done Alex Clare better than Melanie (and, like Melanie, without the dubstep). Or how about some James Morrison or Graffitti 6? There are plenty of Brit blue-eyed soul singers right now with recognizable hits from the past 5 years for CeeLo to glom off of for Nicholas.

    Melanie – whoever said The Cranberries… 100 pts to you! Or even Natalie Merchant, Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin, The Cardigans.. lots of tuneful girly voices in ’90s alt rock. Or throw a twist on a Jewel or Fiona song.

  6. Wendy says:

    Damn, all this Christina hate. What the hell? So should every coach there kiss all the contestants’ asses, praise them no matter what, all the time? I’m so sick of Cee Lo, Adam and Blake constantly praising every single performance, no matter how bad it is. Christina is the only one who’s honest and actually criticises sometimes, tells them how they can improve or what they did wrong. Without her, it would just be a boring love-in. So sick of people ragging on women who have negative opinions. Plus, she doesn’t hate on other women. She’s commented just the same towards the guys, if she didn’t like a performance. Guess she doesn’t have that right, because hey, let’s all love everyone. Heaven forbid someone doesn’t like Amanda, or the screechy Cassadee, or the generic Melanie. If Christina says something negative, it’s clearly ONLY because she clearly HATES women, and not beceause those particular three aren’t anything special. Ugh.

    • white lancer says:

      I want more constructive criticism on the show for sure. My problem with Christina is that she made it obvious her criticism had less to do with her actual opinions and more to do with the fact that she doesn’t want to be eliminated. I mean, she seemed half asleep when giving her critique of just about everybody, but she came alive after Dez’s performance as if he were the only one worth listening to. It just came off as pandering and super fake especially since Dez’s performance really wasn’t worth all the enthusiasm.

  7. Tedatbent says:

    Come on Slezak! Dez gets an A-??? Please stop letting L’il Mikey do the thinking. After he exits the show tonight, does Christina leave too? Wishful thinking.

  8. Daisy says:

    Very dissapointing evening compared to last week. Cassadee has seem to won me over. Another fine performance. Loved Amanda, as usual. And Melanie did fine as well (great setting). They should be safe from elimination. But for elimination, it can be anyone. Trevin and Terry seem to have peaked too early. Their magic is gone. I love Cody, but he’s sung better before. And Dez and Nicholas don’t seem to move me.

    I will be very suprised if Team Cee Lo is still with 3 singers in tomorrow.

  9. MamaLis says:

    Ok, I’ve just read through all the comments and it’s clearly a mixed bag in here – literally, across the board. (Though I see a spike PRO Amanda and a spike AGAINST Dez.) Amanda’s song wasn’t my fave last night but she should still be here till the end. As for the Dez hate, Yeesh. Like I’ve said, I enjoy Dez, I enjoy his performances. Not in a “sensuous” Amanda way, and not in an “earthy” Nicholas way, but… I like them.
    I mean, who is Dez “so much worse” than, as some have written? Cody? I don’t think so. The Rocker Dude? Sure he’s got an empirically “better” voice but I still don’t even know his name and he’s just not a stand-out. Trevin? Pitchy, spotty, out of breath Trevin? Dude is talented but after last week, he’s just NOT that consistent at his game.
    So okay, to me Dez is 3rd or 4th Best. He can also work the stage well, which counts for something. I know it’s “The Voice” but if “Performance” wasn’t part of it, they’d all be on a stool in the studio. Maybe it’d be called “Studio Cats.” I’m just saying…
    (Is it my imagination or is Ceelo breaking out the choir like, every week now?)

  10. Mainegirl says:

    I was thinking more that Melanie was breaking up with the guy–not the other way around. Which made the comments about him even more hurtful if that is true.

  11. spuffy says:

    To your ears, a high note, To my ears, a screech worse than any fingernails-meeting-blackboard. Amanda definitely is not The Voice I’d want to hear. Nicholas David really has a beautiful voice and soul to match.

    • FreeHaley says:

      Maybe it depends upon your speakers, headphones amp too? Lots of stuff these days is pretty harsh and bright sounding and I could imagine those notes delivered that way might be harsh sounding on some equipment. I’m using some Senn 600/650 and a good zero Ohm headphone amp.

      Then again maybe you simply don’t like when any singer does that sort of thing whatever it is played back on or even if you heard it live and fully acoustic, fair enough.

  12. Well, that was an interesting episode.
    Christina really looked liked she couldn’t give a Castlemaine XXXX about anyone but the uber bland Dez, and it was highly noticeable that the camera never returned to show her after Trevin performed.
    Wonder if Carson was given a prompt not to ask her any more as her body language was a disgrace.

    I’m also one who wants to see more honesty from the coaches, but there’s a difference between honesty & looking like someone’s dragged you over to the naughty chair in a strop.

    Big fan of Terry, but not sure if Over did him any favours as he frequently sounded shaky.
    Amanda was excellent & Nicholas did one of my favourite songs ever.

    Cody & Melanie should go home, Trevin also did nothing for me – guy always looks knackered when he sings.

    Cassadee continues to be the girl with the cute smile who sounds like an Avril Levigne wannabe, her existing fanbase is what keeps her in.

    Will be interesting to see the results of this one I think.

    • FreeHaley says:

      I wonder if the Blake fanbase is not helping her a ton too (to be fair she did seem a lot better these last two weeks). Nobody, but nobody saw that Jerome win last season but Blake fans seemed to drop a vote bomb.

  13. FreeHaley says:

    Anyone else think Trevin looks like he is 28 not 18?
    Sure doesn’t look like a HS student.

  14. FreeHaley says:

    “And then, you know, then Chris Mann came in fourth last year but he’s gone on to have actually the most commercial sex… suc.. success of anyone coming from the show [from last season]” – haha quote from tonight’s results show

  15. jaxguy says:

    Well the fun is gone. Cody. The chances of Trevin winning I think are slim. Now it’s all about Amanda for me.

  16. Rachel says:

    Thank you for describing Dez as a grown-ass man! They undercut him a lot with the “ladies love Dez” stuff, and so it’s nice to see him continue to prove he’s more than that and really own the stage. He’s growing on me.