“The good news for us is at least our work here is done. We get to just enjoy the rest of the process and have fun,” Adam Levine says near the top of the show. He’s only partly right, however. Yes, the contestants’ fates are about to be in the hands of America, and not the coaches, but that doesn’t mean those coaches don’t have work left to do. Much like Socrates said to his mentee, Plato: “Our work isn’t done until we smite our rivals and also perform a duet together.”
Since two hours ain’t gonna fill itself, each of the final four performs one last big number, parrots one of their coach’s songs back to them, and participates in a duet with said coach. Is that overkill? Yes, it is. But at least the Adam/Christina/Tony three-way geyser of contempt finally reaches its boiling point and explodes, spewing forth so much molten, pitchy lava into the cool of the night. More on that in a moment.
“I personally connected to this song because it’s about my journey,” Jermaine Paul says of his song, “I Believe I Can Fly.” Not sure if he’s aware that R. Kelly’s song is also about Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan’s magical journey through space, but that’s beside the point. Jermaine’s never looked more handsome than he does here in a white tux and carefully disheveled black tie, backed by a choir and a string section and so much uncoordinated swaying from the audience. His voice has rarely sounded so strong and so nimble, taking on almost a manic pitch toward the end that works in his favor. “I’ve listened to that song a hundred times, but I don’t think I ever heard it until now,” Blake says, justifiably in awe of his mentee. When Christina Milian catches up with him a few minutes later, Jermaine is still reeling from the emotionality of his performance.
Later, Blake’s grateful progeny sings his mentor’s own “God Gave Me You.” He’s a gifted enough singer that he still sounds like himself even when he’s doing a country ballad. An atypically playful Carson Daly even jokes afterward that this version was “way better than the original.”
For their duet, Blake and Jermaine do “Soul Man” together. “We’re the odd couple,” Jermaine japes, conjuring images of the two as mismatched police officers stuck together on a wild goose chase in a world they never made. Jermaine sort of takes over the proceedings with some James Brown antics, and this twosome’s mutual affinity makes it fun to watch.
One imagines Adam Levine telling Tony Lucca that he probably can’t beat Jermaine or Juliet, but if he wants to go down memorably and still get a record deal, then his final song should definitely be a countrified version of Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” set to the tune of “We Will Rock You.” Tony has a history of performances where the context is more important than the song itself, and here he is at it again. In both instances, the context was the same, roughly: “Suck it, Xtina!”
“I thought the lyrical connotation was a little derogatory toward women, but overall it was good fun,” Xtina says, knowing the song was for her benefit. Adam coyly defends his mentee’s use of the (censored) word ‘bitch’ in the chorus. “The ___ is life getting at you, things bringing you down. It’s everything,” he says. When Xtina then challenges Adam on his command of metaphor, he tells her that he loves her and strips off his flannel to reveal a t-shirt with “Team Xtina” written in sparkles. To prove that he was in no way thinking about her when he was preparing for this episode?
Later, Tony covers Maroon 5’s “Hard to Breathe” because his fedora is cutting off the oxygen flow to his brain, and then he and Adam bro down together on the Beatles’ “Yesterday,” which they manage to do justice to. Imagine how much better Tony would be if he wasn’t settling scores all the time. Oh wait, he’d sound like this.
“You Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban is a savvy song pick for Chris Mann because if there’s any current, commercially viable artist whose career Chris stands a chance at emulating, it would be the Grobes. There’s a woman on stage signing the lyrics during his performance, which raises more questions than it answers (Why this song? Why now?), and also a high school choir. Chris’s vocals are clear as a whistle and technically impeccable. Xtina is crying by the end of it. “Thank you for raising me up,” she says, defusing the emotions of the moment with a heaping side order of cheese.
Chris Mann sings his coach’s own “The Voice Within” back to Xtina, who seems to enjoy hearing her song sung to her. In the background, the contents of a grateful letter scrawl across a screen, the last line of which is ‘thank you.’ To hammer home the point, Chris thanks her for giving him a chance when nobody else would. It’s kind of sweet. “This is a real man,” Xtina says, taking a dig at Tony Lucca. “He respects women.”
When the two duet on “The Prayer,” beneath the red, skeletal outline of a gazebo and projections of stained glass windows, the combination of these two powerful voices seems strong enough to summon the Santa Ana winds and level the joint. Although Xtina mentions that she’s under the weather no less than three times tonight, there’s no denying how great she sounds here.
The ever-changing hair on Juliet Simms has entered a dark phase, lending its owner an unexpected resemblance to Zooey Deschanel. When she sings the Gnarls Barkley smash “Crazy,” Cee Lo looks on, stone-faced and dispassionate, perhaps still not recovered from 2006, a year that was basically an echo chamber made entirely from “Crazy” covers. He loosens up considerably, though, on a duet with Juliet.
“I feel like he totally gets my soul,” Juliet says of her coach. She then alternately refers to him as her bandmate, her friend and her homey. It’s equal parts cute and clueless. Soon the two appear onstage together on motorcycles and studded leather jackets to sing “Born to Be Wild.” Juliet sounds much better than Cee Lo here, as he is affecting some kind of guttural grunt that sounds wrong coming out of him. In the background, three people dressed like your mom’s idea of how a biker dresses rage against the chain link fence cage that imprisons them, adding some unintentional silliness to the spectacle.
For her showcase song, the classic rock riot grrrl does “Freebird” whilst wearing a long, flowy red gown that looks like it came from the Knife’s goofy space-opera. It may not be a revelation, but only because we already know what Juliet can do. Better to have her stay in the pocket now than take some drastic Tony Lucca-style left turn at the end.
Somehow, Cee Lo is already wearing a shirt that says “No Problems,” a nonpartisan reference to the Adam/Xtina/Tony fromage-a-trois from earlier. “I only have one thing to say,” Cee Lo says, pointing at his shirt: “With Juliet on my team, I have no problems.” We’ll see about that on the finale.
Tonight: All will be revealed, and also Justin Bieber. And if you couldn’t tell by now, it’s Team Juliet all day over here.
Last episode: Point Shaving