Welcome to Song Choice 101 – a.k.a. last night's performances on The Voice. While Blake Shelton is still the best song selector, even he faltered as the top 10 took the stage (see: Austin Jenckes). A few of the other teams' singers – James Wolpert, Jacquie Lee, Tessanne Chin – even looked downright concerned after finishing their songs, because their coaches threw them curveballs.
If the showrunners are going for an "anyone's game" kind of season, they got one, as the contestants shook up the leaderboard once again (assuming the iTunes songs chart reflects the way viewers are voting). Matthew Schuler, who last week replaced Wolpert as the chart frontrunner, was overtaken by Cole Vosbury. However, no one cracked the iTunes top 10 this week – and it all comes back to song choice. While some risks paid off, others did not.
And there was no better example of the pitfalls than on Cee Lo Green's team, which is down to just two artists.
On the bright side was Caroline Pennell, who seemingly ticked off Cee Loby picking her own song, "Leaving on a Jet Plane." The classic John Denver tune was a far cry from her rendition of Avicii's "Wake Me Up!" last week. And thank God, because that mismatched EDM mess, which Cee Lo picked, was a near-disaster for Caroline. But this week she was back on track – no thanks to her coach.
Though the song fell right in her wheelhouse, Cee Lo really couldn't muster anything but backhanded compliments. "Nothing makes me happier than for you to be happy," he rambled. "I'm pleased about letting go and allowing you to lead yourself . . . but at one point the song seemed like it was going to overpower you. But this was just as good as any other time you sang." Were you feeling proud of yourself there for a second, Caroline? Hang in there, 'cause we're pretty sure you'll have the last laugh as the final person standing on Team Cee Lo
It certainly won't be fellow teammate Kat Robichaud, who barely skirted elimination last week after being saved by America in a live Twitter vote. Cee Lo loves Kat because she's odd and obnoxious and over the top – the polar opposite of Caroline. But what Cee Lo doesn't understand is that America doesn't usually get behind that kind of artist, so it seems highly likely that Kat will get the boot this week.
While it's painful to even mention the two in the same sentence, Kat's performance of Pat Benatar's "We Belong" came across as if she was desperately trying to channel indie-rock heroine Amanda Palmer. Wearing a gothic, cabaret-style dress with her hair braided around her head, she barely tickled the piano before dancing dramatically around it, even winding up on top of it. Despite all the glitz, glamour, smoke and mirrors, though, the main ingredient was missing: vocal chops. She just didn't sound that good. But, of course, Cee Lo was thrilled: "That was exhilarating for me. I think we did everything right. It's immortal." Until America pulls the plug, that is.
Will Champlin pulled off a better piano performance with the little-known "Love Me Again" by John Newman. At first it seemed like a potential disaster waiting to happen, in that coach Adam Levine came across as more concerned with "breaking the song" than showcasing Will's skills. But Will's performance was a great example of how an unknown song can work in a contestant's favor. And when he stood on the piano in a red velvet jacket with flames licking up behind him, it didn't seem forced.
But Team Blake's Vosbury landed the biggest coup of the night, with a rendition of Mr. Big's "To Be With You" that made him the iTunes leader for the week. While it was a good fit for his gravelly voice, we're not sure we're buying Blake's take on the idea that Cole propelled himself to "ladies' man" status. But, hey, maybe the Duck Dynasty guys get a lot more action than expected.
Aside from that, though, everyone else was hit or miss. Team Blake's Jenckes once again completely missed the iTunes top 100 with the Outfield's "Your Love." But that didn't stop him from sailing through last week. Now the question is, can lightening strike twice? And Ray Boudreaux's version of Ray LaMontagne's "You Are the Best Thing" was overpowered by horns and a kitchen-sink feel.
Meanwhile, Christina Aguilera gave 16-year-old Lee an odd arrangement of Zedd's "Clarity" that didn't really showcase her powerhouse vocals, leaving the other coaches scratching their heads. "It was so different to hear a broken-down version of you. I hope next week you get back to doing some Aretha Franklin or something," Blake said. And Schuler's take on Labrinth's "Beneath Your Beautiful" fell flat, especially compared to last week's soaring "Hallelujah," since it also didn't showcase his range.
Adam also made some questionable choices, giving Chin the far-reaching "If I Were Your Woman" by Gladys Knight and the Pips, a song that left her scrunching up her face at the vocal strain it put her through. Also looking upset was Wolpert, who is currently a man without a niche, having been given songs all over the map this season. This time it was Harry Nilsson's "Without You" that left him screechy.
Tonight, two more get kicked off – and, really, it's anyone's game at this point.
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