The Voice Recap: Songs in the Key of Yikes!

bryan keithAdam Levine is powerless.

Nope, the hunky Maroon 5 frontman (and American Horror Story star) doesn’t have Atlantic coast property that’s been left damp and electricity-free thanks to Hurricane Sandy — even if he did, dude would have a high-powered generator, no? — but rather, he’s no longer got a say about who’ll stay and who’ll go home on Season 3 of The Voice.

Indeed, Adam may have the ability to hypnotize you with his carefully disheveled facial stubble or leave you daydreaming about what’s beneath the precision-perfect holes in his deeply distressed t-shirts. He could even force one of his proteges to cover “Mambo No. 5.” But no matter how the viewing public leans, he won’t be able to stop the two lowest vote-getters from The Voice‘s Season 3 Top 12 from getting booted during Tuesday night’s results-show telecast.

If I ran NBC — and didn’t care about accusations of vote-counting impropriety — I’d send Team Xtina’s Adriana Louise and Team Blake’s Cassadee Pope to the guillotine during Tuesday night’s show, but of course, a variety of factors will play in to who should and will go home.

Who chose a song that fit his or her particular style of singing? (A: “Not many of these cats!”) Who was able to stay on pitch? Who looked comfortable performing in front of 15 million viewers? Who wasn’t afraid to take some risks? All these questions will come into play on results night, and with that in mind, here’s how I’d rank the Season 3 talent based on their output from Top 12 performance night:

Bryan Keith: Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” | On a night of peculiar, often insane song choices, Bryan got all Katniss Everdeen and hit the bullseye with his choice of Amy Winehouse’s dark and stormy classic. Sure, he took the track in more of a big band direction (and less in the vein of “desperate woman in the alleyway singing up to her lover’s apartment window”) but Bryan’s loaded rasp still brought to life the loss and longing that are so central to the song. Bonus points for not changing up the female pronouns on the chorus (“you go back to her”), which added a layer of intrigue to the central soap opera. Grade: A-

Michaela Paige: Pink’s “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)” | It can’t be easy tackling a chorus in which every fifth word has to be censored (and replaced with a coy “shhh” sign), especially when you’ve been saddled with eyelashes the size of Monarch butterflies. But to my ears, once Michaela maneuvered her way down the steep Voice stairs and onto the main stage, she absolutely nailed Pink’s current radio hit. As Xtina noted, even when Michaela reaches for her upper register, things never get “thin or screechy.” I just hope that the likeable teenager’s leadoff position — combined with the loss of her trademark Mohawk — doesn’t hurt her when it comes to the public vote, making that “I think this might be it for us” refrain all too prescient. Grade: B+

Melanie Martinez: Young the Giant’s “Cough Syrup” | There once was a little girl with a dye job right in the middle of her forehead. And when she was good (like with her delicate rendition of “Cough Syrup’) she had real-world chart potential, her frail-bird tone proving to have some serious power behind it. Melanie’s biggest problem at this point might be her shyness — or is it a carefully contrived “I’m just a bashful cutie” act? — that often leaves her staring at her shoes rather than engaging the audience. Stage presence aside, though, Melanie could last well into the Christmas shopping season if she can continue to find songs that showcase her unique sound while maintaining her pitch in the process. Grade: B+

Amanda Brown: Florence + The Machine’s “Spectrum” | Okay, so “Spectrum” was a little disappointing compared to last week’s epic cover of “Dream On.” But did anyone else feel as though the coaches (even Amanda’s team leader Adam) were grading her on a very tough curve, pointing out her minor imperfections while letting her competitors skate by despite much more significant vocal glitches? I thought Amanda sounded great on the full-throttle wail of the chorus, and brought a great sense of theatricality to the number with her “pose”/”pose”/”face” shenanigans. If she gets booted off one slightly subpar performance, I’m going to flip over my TV stand and disconnect my cable till the new year. (I’m not kidding! Or at least I don’t feel like I am!) Grade: B+

Dez Duron: Lauryn Hill’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” | Dez is not generally one of my favorites this season, but this week turned out to be a perfect storm of the exact right song, the exact right staging, and the exact right head of hair. The end result was a soothing slice of soul that helped make bearable some of the less pleasing holleration that went down later in the episode. Grade: B

Trevin Hunte: Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman” | Another week, another stupifyingly obvious song choice for Trevin. And while there’s no argument that the kid has serious pipes, I’m still not convinced that he or his coach know how to utilize said instrument in a way that feels current or inventive or exciting. (This week, it felt like Trevin was singing a series of glory notes, without any of the world-weariness required to animate Percy Sledge’s decades-old ballad.) It’s almost as if Cee Lo strictly limiting his protege to a playlist of big soul ballads that have been previously covered on Idol, The Voice, or The X Factor, not even bothering to consider something offbeat or upbeat for the soft-spoken teenager. But if none of his fellow coaches is willing to call out Mr. Green for his lack of imagination, what are the chances we’ll see any progress next week? Grade: B-

Nicholas David: Huey Lewis and the News’ “Power of Love” | Speaking of Cee Lo’s trouble with song selection, I’m still scratching my head about his choice of a dated, “lite jazz” arrangement of “Power of Love” for Nicholas. I mean, if Purrfect the Cat’s owner is determined to take the grooviest hippie that ever appeared on a reality singing competition and make him seem totally forgettable, maybe it’s not too early to give Season 4 coaches Shakira or Usher a one-week trial run now? Grade: B-

Cody Belew: Tina Turner’s “The Best” | This wasn’t a terrible vocal from Cody by any stretch of the imagination — although he did go flat at times while trying to be heard above Bandzilla’s machinations — but if I had to make a list of the top 10,000 songs dude could/should cover this season, I don’t think “The Best” would manage to finish at 10,001. I mean, as “One More Try” proved last week, Cody is a soulful crooner at heart. So why saddle him with an ’80s-era, midtempo lite-rock anthem? Is Cee Lo not interested in winning, or simply unaware of how to navigate his singers to victory? Grade: B-

Terry McDermott: Boston’s “More Than a Feeling” | If Blake is going to waste Terry’s talent on another classic rock anthem with a range that’s slightly beyond the Scotsman’s reach, then I’m not going to waste more than a sentence critiquing it. Grade: B-

Cassadee Pope: Kelly Clarkson’s “Behind These Hazel Eyes” | I know, I know, Blake keeps reminding us that America loves Cassadee, and that she’s a total superstar, and that her voice can cure the common cold. And yet once again, here I am wondering what all the fuss is about. The opening verse of “Behind These Hazel Eyes” was flatter than an iPad screen, and on the bridge, the ends of Cassadee’s phrases disappated into nothingness. The second half of the performance was a vast improvement — no doubt Cassadee nailed those tricky high notes — but the parts simply didn’t add up to a satisfying whole. Grade: B-

Sylvia Yacoub: Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” | When Adam mentioned “Leo and the boat” in his critique, you know what he was really thinking was that Sylvia’s performance brought to mind the final scenes of Titanic. Because after her hot mess of a Celine Dion cover, Sylvia’s Voice dreams are water-logged and shivering, adrift in the Atlantic, clinging to a piece of wood and hoping maybe Michaela or Cody will slip off and make a tiny bit of room for her on next week’s show. I suppose Xtina was right that Sylvia made the ballad her own, insomuch that the song became virtually unrecognizable thanks to a tidal wave of sharp and flat notes. If somehow Sylvia survives till next week, here’s hoping she puts a fork in the plan to turn her into a generic pop diva, and instead shifts gears toward the more restrained, piano-playing artiste she hinted at during the Live Playoff rounds. Grade: C-

Adriana Louise: Carrie Underwood’s “Good Girl” | Adriana covering Carrie Underwood was akin to entering a Shetland pony in the Kentucky Derby: It had no business being there, and it resulted in an ugly, last-place finish. I couldn’t believe my ears when Xtina started stammering how Adriana just needed the right song to shine. Girl, you’re her coach! If you don’t like what you’re hearing, there’s no one to blame but yourself! Grade: D+

And now, let me turn things over to you: Who were your favorites from The X Factor‘s Top 12 performance night? Who deserves to go hiome? Hit the comments with your thoughts!

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