Last night's showdown round between the final eight contestants of Season Three of The Voice was intense. With so much in the balance and still some truly middle-of-the-road performances, it seems to be anyone's guess whom America will keep and who will be sent packing tonight. This week's chills-inducing moment came thanks to Amanda Brown, who charted in the Top 10 on iTunes last week. Monday night she did a rocked up version of Adele's "Someone Like You," turning it into a triumphant power ballad. Singing a song that everyone is sick of – and that has been done roughly a dozen times in the last two seasons – was a risk, but Brown's rendition had coach Adam Levine literally slackjawed and #AmandaBrown instantly trended worldwide.
On to the power rankings.
Coach: Cee Lo Green
Team Cee Lo is still standing strong with all three members that it came into the live playoffs with. Cody Belew showed off the high end of his range doing Queen's "Somebody to Love," and though he performed it from atop a piano, his vocals were obscured by the gospel choir accompaniment – a lovely job but perhaps not the sort of thing that will help him stand out from lowest-common-denominator fare such as, say, Dez Duron doing a Bieber song. Trevin Hunte sang Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All," which he reports he has found in this competition by learning to love himself. Not his strongest showing, and certainly one of his most predictable; the extreme close ups during his showy finishes are so tight you can count his fillings. He seems less and less like a candidate for the final four, but it's not over 'til someone weeps while they sing "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going." Nicholas David got a rehearsal-reel visitation from his idol Bill Withers who told him not to get too extreme – it was hard to tell who was more freaked out by the other. David's performance of Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On," where he accompanied himself on a vintage Wurlitzer, lived up to all the bizarre mixed metaphors of praise Cee Lo heaps on him. Every week he seems more and more likely to take this all the way to the finals; he cannot sing a bad note and being a real musician gives him an authenticity and cool no one else in this season has had.
Coach: Adam Levine
Team Adam's remaining two members, Melanie Martinez and Brown, both charted in the Top 10 on iTunes last week, which multiplies their votes by a factor of 10, making it likely that both will get a repeat this week. Martinez's entire performance of Alex Clare's "Too Close" was driven by the breakup she is dealing with but the performance seemed like she might cry mid-song. That basically happens every week, though it became a little harder to buy after she teared up during a White Stripes song with less emotional content. Nevertheless, when Levine offered the post-performance nugget about how great it is doing a performance that makes the person dumping you feel dumb, adding, "and you did that perfectly," Martinez looked like she wanted to rip off her giant bow and hide behind it in shame. One imagines she might pull a serious teen sympathy vote on the basis of her situation. Monday proved that the quality of Brown's performances can now be measured by the degree of disappointment in Xtina's needlessly shade-throwing critiques.
Coach: Blake Shelton
Team Blake's standing this week was buoyed not by frontrunner Cassadee Pope, who returned to blandness with Michelle Branch's "Are You Happy Now?" and smoke cannons, but Terry McDermott who went to his Bono place on Shelton's hit "Only." With Levine's team being so girly this year, there is no one hitting that Coldplay/U2/Peter Gabriel soft spot he normally occupies. Pope seems more than happy to co-operate with the show's mandate for endless contestant tears. In this week's heart-to-heart with her coach, Shelton did the producers a solid by pressing her on whether she had still not heard from her absentee father. Pope waxed dreamy when describing how Shelton has grown from mere coach into something more like an uncle. Later, in her ensemble number ("Move Along," done with thunderous Blue Man Group-style staging), pitted against Martinez, Duron and David, the full blandness of her voice was especially apparent.
Coach: Christina Aguilera
After all her careful picking of diva belters, Aguilera's team comprises lonely ol' Duron and his well-showcased chest hair. Tonight, Team Xtina was all desperate moves. Duron sang a Bieber's "You Smile," a song about kissing. Instead of critiquing the performance, Xtina instead began pleading with America to call, gushing, "You killed it! KILLED IT!" It has become quite apparent that Aguilera is gaming the critiques for her own purposes.
Best example of Xtina always bringing it back home: Telling Melanie Martinez that while her song didn't go anywhere, it "fit her like a glove," and that she loved the pseudo-shack staging and that she was taking notes about how she might like to rip that off for her own tour. LOTUS WORLD TOUR Y'ALL.
Best Cee Lo compliment: Saying Terry McDermott sings in "straight lines," "like a highway," and that he reminds him of Dio.
Best coach dance move: Adam Levine's calisthenics-grade jumping jacks during his show-opening performance with 50 Cent of "My Life."
Most awkward moment of the night: Adam Levine using his his post-Cassadee Pope critique to riff on how he hates the fabled Los Angeles club the Roxy because when Maroon 5 opened for Michelle Branch there years ago they didn't get a dressing room. Pope, ever the careerist, replied nervously with "I LOVE THE ROXY!" to which Adam reiterated that he hates the Roxy and the Roxy is now paying the price. Runner up: Christina Milian, so giddy she seemed drunk up in the Sprint Adjacent Area, going on about Trevin Hunte singing his "little butt off" and "showing his sexy side."