Team by team by team by team, "The Voice" set its top 12 on Thursday night in a one-hour special episode that saw the remaining eight talented artists in the top 20 sent home. With few weak links among the top 20, there were certain to be some sad goodbyes. But the audience voting – which also factors in iTunes downloads – could save only two members of each team of five from elimination, leaving each coach just one save to make his or her advancing team of three.
The cuts seemed particularly unfortunate for Blake Shelton and Adam Levine's strong teams. Their overall superiority this season was clearly on display in Thursday's group musical performances, during which they performed "Free Ride" and "Safe and Sound," respectively. CeeLo Green and Christina Aguilera's group performances were somewhat messier, making the pruning among the ranks feel almost judicious.
On Team Blake, America voted through two gritty-voiced, guitar-strumming, bearded guys, Austin Jenckes and Cole Vosbury, leaving Shelton to choose between country singer Shelbie Z, exuberantly multitalented Nic Hawk, and soulful Southerner Ray Boudreaux. Would Shelton save Shelbie Z, the only woman and committed country singer on his team, especially given that he's had such success with female country singers on "The Voice"? Nope. The person he felt he could "have the most success with" moving forward, he said, was Boudreaux.
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Team CeeLo, whose members did not seem to give their all to their performance of "Give a Little Bit," saw compelling cutie Caroline Pennell and long-haired military vet Jonny Gray voted through. Green chose rocker Kat Robichaud to advance along with them, disappointing Tamara Chauniece and Amber Nicole.
After Team Christina sang a truly unlovable version of Maroon 5's "Love Somebody," we learned that America had advanced the team's two standout singers – Jacquie Lee, who is only 16, and Matthew Schuler. Aguilera expressed satisfaction that America saw the promise she did in Schuler and Lee. She then chose Josh Logan over Olivia Henken and Stephanie Anne Johnson to continue in the competition as well, saying Logan was "where my heart is right now."
Team Adam's spirited rendition of "Safe and Sound" made it clear that none of its members deserved to go home. Still, it was something of a surprise that the audience voted through charming computer geek James Wolpert, who had stumbled during the knockout rounds (though I gather he did well this week on iTunes), to advance along with the supple-voiced Tessanne Chin. That left Grey, Preston Pohl and Will Champlin. The smart money to advance was probably on Pohl, whose blind audition had been stellar and whose old-soul vocals had unwaveringly impressed the coaches, in particular his own. But the artist Levine said he saw the most potential in – "This is going to be maybe surprising -- I don't know," he allowed – was Champlin. The offspring of the member of Chicago was safe and sound. And the other talented singers headed home.
What did you think of Thursday night's results? Was there anyone you were especially sad to see go?