The vocalists on Teams Adam and Christina took the stage on "The Voice" on Tuesday to compete for America's votes (and downloads) in the live playoffs and to stake their claim to stay in the competition.
Would they perform as solidly as Teams Blake and Pharrell had the previous night? Adam Levine promised we'd hear songs that were "inventive" and "different" from his crew. Aguilera boasted that her team was prepared "to blow it out of the water."
Both teams had their ups and downs – with some performances clearly outshining others – but after watching Sia open the show, singing "Elastic Heart" with a shaggy blond wig obscuring her features, most of us would probably have been satisfied just to see singers with visible faces.
Here's how the evening went down:
Tonya Boyd-Cannon (Team Adam): Levine gave this church-raised singer Elton John's "Take Me to the Pilot," and she brought to the song her own cool gospel flavor. Blake Shelton admired the way Boyd-Cannon declined to let the show's big moments frighten her, but rather fearlessly embraced and had fun with them. Aguilera said it was "refreshing" to see a performer onstage just totally be "in the moment." And Williams said she'd taken America "on a trip" to church. Levine credited her with being his team's "confidence builder" – the one who showed everyone else how to come out on stage and enjoy herself "every time."
Joshua Davis (Team Adam): Davis imbued George Ezra's "Budapest" – a hit in Britain, though less known here -- with his guitar-playing sensitive singer-songwriter appeal. It was a gentle performance, prompting the coaches to call his voice "soothing" and "comforting." Aguilera went so far as to muse about how much Davis' young kids must like to hear him sing lullabies. Levine said his tone made it seem like "everything's going to be all right." And assured Davis that this performance was only the beginning for him.
Sonic (Team Christina): Mary J. Blige's "I'm Going Down" is one of those songs that often gets performed on TV singing-competition shows, perhaps because it almost always makes the singer sound good. Alas, Sonic turned out to be the exception. Even as she attacked the song with verve, she struggled to keep a hold on her pitch, but it repeatedly slipped out of her grasp. The coaches credited Sonic with battling through to it. And Aguilera highlighted the connection Sonic felt with the song and the way she served as an inspiration for people with hearing loss. Still, the title of the song may prove prophetic on results night.
Brian Johnson (Team Adam): No struggle with pitch for Johnson. His take on Billy Vera's "At This Moment" was spot-on vocally and emotionally, if the song itself felt a bit played out. Aguilera commended him for pouring "so much heart and emotion" into the song. Williams said he'd expressed himself "so comfortably." Levine admired Johnson's "purity" and the way he sought to use his voice to entertain.
Kimberly Nichole (Team Christina): In one of the stand-out performances of the evening, Nichole, whose 91-year-old great-grandmother was in attendance, sang 4 Non Blondes' "What's Up" hoping to tell a story, connect with the audience and show her "vulnerability." By the end, she was weeping – and she may not have been the only one. Williams called the performance "perfection because of the incredible depth of soul you have in your voice and your personality" and compared Nichole's voice to an electric guitar. Levine said she'd "destroyed" the difficult-to-sing song and had been so in control that she'd even managed to make her stiff skirt sway. Aguilera called Nichole "so funny and hilarious and endearing" and said she'd "centered herself" with the song.
Lexi Davila (Team Christina): Aguilera, who just added Davila to her team, hoped to have her "tap into an emotion" with the ballad "All By Myself," but the sweet, shy 17-year-old singer seemed to get lost in the depths of the too-big song, which also seemed, at times, to be pitched a bit low for her. She fought her way through it, though, and the coaches seemed to love it. Levine, Davila's former coach, called the performance "amazing," and her current coach, Aguilera, told her she had "nailed it."
Nathan Hermida (Team Adam): Hermida's task was to unchain his inner performer with Nick Jonas' "Chains." In that regard, he succeeded. Unfortunately, the teen singer's grasp on pitch also came loose. Vocally, he was all over the place. The coaches were gentle, giving the earnest young vocalist kudos for the effort he'd put into it. Levine promised that the problems could be fixed, but it appears unlikely that Hermida will get the chance to do that on the show.
India Carney (Team Christina): Aguilera assigned the classically trained Carney one of her own songs, "Hurt," urging her to wear her emotions on her face. Carney wore her emotions on her face, as well as in her body and voice. She nearly wore her emotions out, bringing all four coaches to their feet. Williams said she'd practically closed the show. "The credits should be rolling right now," he said. Aguilera said that every time Carney performed, the audience was rapt, attending to her every vocal inflection. She felt, she said, "blessed" to have Carney on her team.
Rob Taylor (Team Christina): Another strong member of Team Christina, Taylor earned equal respect – bringing most of the coaches to their feet -- with his buttery, passionate, full-body take on "Earned It" by The Weekend, which he ended on his knees. Williams gushed that Taylor's performance was "effortless," adding, "That's how it's supposed to sound. That's how it's supposed to look. That's how it's supposed to feel." Levine loved the way Taylor put his whole body into each note. Aguilera commended him for coming out every time and doing "something so unexpected."
Deanna Johnson (Team Adam): Repeatedly saved by Levine after shaky performances, thanks to issues with nerves, Johnson was assigned the spiritual "Down to the River to Pray" in an attempt to quiet her fears by bringing the church, where she felt confident performing, to "The Voice." It worked. Caped, clad in virginal white, and looking as if she'd just stepped out of a religious fresco, Johnson lent her distinctive tone to the tune and finally gave the performance Levine had been waiting for. "Outstanding," Shelton called it. Williams said they'd all been reminded of why she'd turned four chairs during the blinds (after having turned none in a previous season) and admired the "wholesomeness" of her voice. "You finally did what I've been … dying for you to do all season," Levine said. "It was completely flawless. Thank you."