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'The Voice' Recap: Adam Levine's Team Starts Strong
Live rounds begin with guy-heavy, guitar-driven night

It's finally time for viewers to have their say on The Voice, as the show went live for the first time this season with the top 20 artists competing for America's vote.

The three-night extravaganza – which culminates with the top 12 being revealed on a special Thursday night episode – began as frenemies Blake Shelton and Adam Levine squared off with their respective teams. And Team Adam came out the clear winner.

Rolling Stone's Complete Coverage of 'The Voice'

While Adam has started off strong in the past, he's often lost his grip by making questionable song choices or creating oddball arrangements for his contestants, handing the competition over to Blake's winning approach. But if The Voice wants to stay compelling, that won't happen this season. Indeed, Team Adam seems to once again be teeming with talent.

While the show has been consistently and unrelentingly pushing Asian Jamaican Tessanne Chin as the one to beat, the iTunes chart the morning after the show said otherwise as a surprising frontrunner emerged: James Wolpert. The self-proclaimed computer nerd, who resembles Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo, cracked the top 10 of the iTunes songs chart with his acoustic version of Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You," giving him a leg up on the competition since each download counts as a vote – and those votes are multiplied by five because he reached the top 10. Despite having what Adam called a "mini-meltdown" during the knockouts when he almost blew his chance in the competition, he "bounced back" with "control and poise." 

Tessanne was a distant second on iTunes, despite being given the coveted "pimp spot" – the very last performance of the night that usually rakes in the most votes and keeps the contestant safe. Her take on "Many Rivers to Cross" by Jimmy Cliff, for whom she used to sing backup, was deemed an "emotional performance" by host Carson Daly long before she even took the stage, so of course there were on-cue tears at the end. "You have a golden soul, a humongous heart and you're wonderful human being, and your talent is mind-boggling," said Adam, slathering on the compliments.

Although she might well be the most gifted singer in the competition, Tessanne could fall victim to the Voice curse: The best singers often slough off midway through the competition because viewers think someone less polished deserves a shot at fame. So, for now, she's a shoo-in, but only time will tell how long she lasts.

With two out of three spots clearly taken going into the next round, Adam's final three contestants – Grey, Will Champlin and Preston Pohl – must be biting their nails right about now, because two of them will get the boot.

Chances are wedding singer Grey will go, since her performance of Paramore's "Still Into You" seemed out of her wheelhouse. "The song was unfamiliar to me, but you breathed life into it" was all Cee Lo could muster for a comment. So it'll probably come down to Will and Preston – and it seems like Adam has a real soft spot for Will, who's the son of Bill Champlin from the group Chicago and who bounced from Team Adam to Team Xtina and then back again. (Plus, did Carson inadvertently call him "Will Champion" at the end of his segment?)

Now, back to Team Blake, which seems to be suffering from a real identity crisis this season (which is needed in order for him to lose for the first time since Season One).

Even though country girl Shelbie Z. is Blake's safety net, it seems like the showrunners are trying to push her out by giving her the very first performance of the night, also known as the "death slot" because it often results in being ousted. Her saving grace here, though, could be that she's the only female on Blake's team, and each coach gets to hand-pick one of the three people making it to the Top 12. So, Shelbie will most likely stick around despite a so-so performance of Reba McEntire's "Fancy" (originally recorded by Bobbie Gentry) because Blake won't want to lead Team Sausage Fest. "If I had been in a coma the last five years and woke up, I'd think that I was watching one of the biggest stars in country music," Blake tellingly gushed.

The only other sure-fire singer of the night on Team Blake was Cole Vosbury, who was stolen from Cee Lo Green during the knockout rounds. With his long hair and comically bushy beard, Cole will appeal to Duck Dynasty fans – not to mention the fact that he has a consistent voice. And here's where Blake's strong suit as a coach comes in: he knows how to pick songs that showcase his contestants' strong points and speak directly to the show's core audience. His choice of "Maggie May" by Rod Stewart was a perfect fit for Cole, helping the singer become the only contestant with two songs in iTunes' top 100 songs.

Assuming those two make it through, that leaves three contestants jockeying for one spot on Team Blake – flamboyant showman Nic Hawk, single dad Ray Boudreaux andburly, bearded singer-songwriter Austin Jenckes. So it was no surprise that they were all lumped together in the middle of the show, as if to purposefully pit them against each other.  

Of them, Nic's probably in the most trouble since his rendition of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" was all over the place. There was rapping and jittery, caffeinated dancing – and a leopard-print jacket to boot. But what wasn't there was vocal chops: "There was some singing in there, right?" Christina Aguilera underhandedly asked.

Tonight, Xtina takes that 'tude with her when she and Cee Lo go head-to-head for America's vote. 

Previous recap: Coaches Steal Back Rejected Contestants


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