It’s getting down to the wire on “The Voice.” On Monday night the top 5 – three from Team Adam Levine and one apiece from Teams Blake Shelton and Christina Aguilera – each performed one song, hoping to become one of the three finalists who will duke it out mano a mano a mano in next week’s finals.
With no more social-media-bestowed second chances this season, the semifinal performances in Monday’s taut, no-frills one-hour show were make or break. After the semifinalists joined together on a group song – American Authors’ “Best Day of My Life” – each took the stage seeking to prove their worth.
First up was Team Adam’s James Wolpert, who had survived a bad week last week (apparently, he was ill) thanks to the Instant Save. Aiming to show viewers why he had been worthy of rescue, Levine assigned Wolpert U2’s “With or Without You.” Wolpert delivered it well, with none of last week’s struggles (though perhaps we could have done with or without the disorienting projections in the background).
Levine gave him a standing ovation. “That was even beyond what I thought you could do,” he told Wolpert. “I’m so proud, so proud.” Shelton added that the bespectacled singer had needed just such a strong moment. “You might have dug yourself out of the hole,” he allowed.
Hoping for “big things vocally,” Levine gave Will Champlin “Carry On” by Fun. For perhaps the first time, Champlin seemed to miss a few key notes as he reached for them. However, he also seemed to have more fun onstage than ever.
Levine, who did not stand to applaud, seemed pleased that Champlin seemed pleased. “Look at that smile, man,” he said. “I know that if Will is smiling, he … definitely thinks he did well because he’s so hard on himself.... That delights me.”
CeeLo Green, who no longer has a team member in contention, called the performance “swaggy.” And Shelton predicted that the audience “seeing that smile and you having a good time up there is going to go a long way.”
Aguilera was hoping for an “inspirational” moment when she assigned her last remaining singer, Jacquie Lee, Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel.” Lee’s powerful, yet nuanced performance apparently exceeded her coach’s expectations. “You did things I didn’t even know you were going to do tonight,” Aguilera told the young singer. “Wow, you blew me away.” She called Lee’s take on the song “nonboastful,” “sincere” and “dynamic.” “Can we press replay?” she said. “I want to hear that again.”
Green called Lee’s performance “amazing” and “perfect.” “Just when I think I’m jaded” – because he has no team member left to cheer on – “you remind me that this all belongs to me, and we belong to each other.”
Green also has some stake in Team Blake’s amply bearded Cole Vosbury, who had been on his team initially. Stepping out in a new suit and a newly trimmed beard to sing Garth Brooks’ version of Billy Joel’s “Shameless,” on which he played piano, Vosbury’s appealing vocal tone was on display, but he may not have had quite the big moment he sought.
Still, Shelton called Vosbury’s performance “incredible” and told him he had met his goal of figuring out “who you are and what you want to do.” “Mission accomplished, dude,” Shelton said. “Now let’s go ahead and win this thing and get it over with.”
Tessanne Chin, however, made a very clear case for why Vosbury might not do so. She stepped out and sang “Bridge Over Troubled Water” with her trademark passion and lushness. Despite an apparent issue with her in-ear monitor, she gave an elegant, pitch-perfect performance that was both soothing and soaring.
Chin’s coach, Levine, was dumbstruck. “I don’t even know what I have to say,” he said as the audience’s cheers finally began to die down. “That was crazy.”
“I’ve never been speechless on this show before,” Levine added, calling Chin’s performance “probably the most flawless and graceful performance I’ve ever heard on the show.”
“It’s hard, as an opposing team member, to argue with anything Adam just said,” Shelton admitted, calling Chin’s singing “beautiful.”
Based only on Monday night’s performances, I’m picking Chin, Lee and Wolpert to move on. Who would you like to see make it through?