"Everyone's just so different," Adam Levine says at one point on last night's episode of The Voice. "I love the fact that everybody on this show right now is so unique. Any one of you guys, if given the right thing, can reign victorious." Okay, "reign victorious" is perhaps an overly biblical way of putting it, but dude has a point. There's not much stylistic overlap between the final eight, and it's just about anybody's game.
Before we get into the competition, however, I think it's time we play a little game called Oh My God, Why Are You Wearing That?™ Christina Aguilera is rocking a black tiara tonight like a Disney movie villain, and eye shadow as thick as football intimidation facepaint. Oh my God, why are you wearing that? Cee Lo's shirt has a picture of Purrfect the Cat in the shape of a heart. Can this be life? When he's training his contestants, Adam is wearing a hooded poncho made from the skin of a thousand hemp hacky sacks captured at Burning Man. What is even happening?
Onto the game itself. Tony Lucca is on deck first with the soul revival number "How You Like Me Now?" by the Heavy. Before the song, Adam boasts about last week's Britney Spears cover as though it were The White Album. If you ask me, though, Tony's performance this week is ten times better. You don't need any backstory to appreciate the way he throws himself into this tune. "I don't know that song, but I'm glad I don't, because yours is probably the version I'd prefer," Blake says. Christina mentions that she does know the song because she optioned it for one of her contestants, which makes her sound like the kid in kindergarten who pouts, "I was gonna say that!" after another kid gives the correct answer first.
When you think of stirring tributes and torch songs, you probably think of David Guetta and Usher, right? Okay, the good news is that Erin Willet somehow turned that unlikely pair's slinky club tune "Without You" into a heartfelt tribute to her deceased father, and she had the grace not to mention so herself. The song was a risk, but it left her sounding as raw, emotional and strong as ever. Xtina and Cee Lo are both fans, and Blake goes even further, saying, "I'd give anything to have one-tenth of the talent you have."
The last time Chris Mann performed, America may have chosen to save him afterward, but several of the judges wished to hear the opera singer sing opera again. So back by popular demand, here's Chris this week, vibrato-ing some "Ave Maria" for the true believers. It sounds very, um, operatic, and also beautiful. Look, it's obvious the guy is super talented, but at this point we're looking for who is going to win the whole thing. Bottom line: It will not be an opera singer.
"Jamar had a few suggestions that seemed peculiar," Cee Lo says, pre-performance, about Mr. Rogers' take on "If You Don't Know Me By Now." The contestant says he wants to do a 2012 version of the song, with elements of electronica, which is probably what made Cee Lo squirm. The coach ends up impressed with the results, though, as are the other judges, even if the performance is a bit of a comedown after last week's fiery Bon Jovi rager. "That is the most laid-back I've seen you up there," Blake says, and although he means it as a compliment, the statement serves as a justified indictment of Cee Lo's song choice. Xtina says she liked the song so much it made her want to get up on stage and sing too, which is her version of a compliment. Do Xtina and Blake need to go back and retake their classes at Compliments Academy?
In addition to the contestants' official songs tonight, there are two team cross-pollinations. First, Teams Adam and Cee Lo combine to sing "All These Things That I've Done." It's no surprise that Juliet Simms sounds awesome on this Killers song, but I don't think anyone would have expected how out of place Katrina Parker sounds here. Later, Teams Xtina and Blake join forces on a disco-lite "Edge of Glory," while a seizure-strobe supernova explodes in the background. Erin Willett and Jermaine Paul sound impressive.
Speaking of Jermaine Paul, his wife confesses that when she first heard his voice, he was trying to put the moves on her. Considering the number of children the two have together (four), it's safe to say those moves worked. Tonight Blake bequeaths Jermaine the Journey jam "Open Arms," and it sounds completely remade. The former background singer for Alicia Keys holds each note a long time, wringing them dry, and the crowd goes nuts for him. "You murdered that song," Xtina says afterward. "You put the Jermaine on it." She even throws in a "Team Blake" briefly, but realizes that's a step too far, and sharply back-pedals. Adam simply congratulates Jermaine on no longer being a background singer.
As if to make up for her lackluster vocals on the group song, Katrina Parker kills the Fugees' "Killing Me Softly." The crowd loses its mind at the very first line of the song, and then thankfully tapers off a little so we can hear better. It's amazing how she doesn't really do anything different tonight, yet her voice is able to encompass both Adele and Lauren Hill. "I've honestly, truly, fallen in love with you," Xtina says. She also can't resist urging Adam and America to consider Katrina over Tony Lucca. She really doesn't care for Tony Lucca.
"I signed up to be Xtina's last person standing, and that's what I'm here to do," Lindsey Pavao says before her performance. Hopefully her lovely version of Bon Iver's "Skinny Love" won't leave her as Xtina's penultimate person standing. This is Lindsey's first chance to play an instrument on stage. She gently strums her guitar before a half-circle of people gathered around her like a campfire jamboree, which Xtina later refers to as a "coffee shop setting" for some reason. "I don't really know about skinny love, I'm more into big love," Cee Lo says, because of course he does. Xtina tells Lindsey how much she loves her and goes up on stage to give her a goofy-sweet hug.
Juliet Simms closes out the show again, probably because nobody should have to go on after her. Her song this week is an inspired choice: "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" by James Brown. "My battle in rock music is that it's saturated with men," Juliet says before the performance. If you ask me, Juliet could stand shoulder to shoulder vocally with any man in rock, even without the giant pointy shoulder pads she stole from Lady Gaga's wardrobe tonight. She sings her heart out like she always does here, this time backed by an entire string section. The applause goes on for a full minute at least. "You killed that song. You murdered it!" Cee Lo says, clearly awed. Leave it to Xtina to bring the conversation back to herself, however. "You took me back to the Grammys when I sang that song," she says. The moral of tonight's episode: if you have thunder, Christina Aguilera will steal it.
Tonight: The judges will be grading their contestants, combined with the audience votes somehow, to determine who will be going on. Only four will make it. But who? (Besides Juliet, duh.)
Last episode: Everyone Gets a Trophy!