VOICE OVER: Coaches Pile the Praise on the Elite Eight

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Monday night, November 26, began week four of the live shows on NBC's The Voice, getting down to the best of the best. Three from Team CeeLo Green, two from Teams Adam Levine and Blake Shelton, and only one from Team Christina all performed tonight in groups and individually, hoping to make it to the top six. They sang their hearts out, knowing that their journey could end this week. Meanwhile, the coaches seem to have abandoned the notion that following the performanes, their job is to critique, but their philosophy seems to be, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." And this rang true throughout this whole episode.

Make sure to click here and check out the previous recaps to get a reminder about who all is still in the competition!

The evening started with a highly-anticipated world premiere: “My Life,” featuring 50 Cent and Adam Levine. This was a great performance, and had he been in the competition, I would have voted Adam through to the next round.

The coaches discussed how many contestants they each had left, so CeeLo told Carson Daly the key to keeping so many of his artists, “It’s a matter of continually making the right song choices and making sure that they connect and they show their true personality.” Christina completely struck gold when Dez chose her, because he is probably the most popular contestant on this show, and with him, Christina actually has a chance to win.“Dez is my last man standing, and I’m rooting for him all the way; he’s just a phenomenal talent. The key is to make sure he keeps changing it up, and we don’t pigeon-hole him to one style because he really can do it all.”

Amanda Brown, one of the all-stars from Team Adam, sang Adele’s hit, “Someone Like You,” but as is so characteristic of Adam Levine, he wanted to switch it up a bit to fit Amanda specifically. “We’re doing a very bold version of a very simple song. We’re trying to go the rock version. I think we’ve got something very explosive.” And yet again, this was a wise choice on Adam’s part. At this point, I am totally convinced that Amanda can do no wrong, and it seems as if Adam thought the same thing as he clapped profusely for her performance,. As usual, the coaches had absolutely nothing constructive to say, but they lavished on the encouragement, which was clearly very appreciated. Her coach told her, “I’m hard on people for doing Adele songs, because there’s a lot about Adele that doesn’t need to be touched. It’s a risk to do a song that’s so adored by so many people, but this didn’t resemble that in any way. But you took that risk. I’ve never seen anyone do it how you did it. And it became this massive power ballad. You knocked it out of the park.”

CeeLo’s Cody Belew sang Queen’s “Somebody to Love,” to, “Show off that big beautiful voice of his,” as CeeLo put it. The only difference was that Cody wanted to put a certain spin on it, trying to emulate his inspiration, Freddie Mercury. For the second week in a row, Cody had a backup gospel choir. I suppose one can never have too many of those, and let’s face it: this song wouldn’t be complete without one of those or maybe a struggling Glee club in the background. The coaches agreed that Cody really expressed his emotion and took risks through this performance. CeeLo had lots to tell him, “What a wonderful, wonderful job! I’m just so very proud of how you’ve grown at such an accelerated rate. You are strutting through here with so much poise and confidence, and there are so many people who want to live vicariously through you.”

To take a break from the intense individual singing, Dez Duron, Melanie Martinez, Terry McDermott, and Cassadee Pope sang “Move Along,” in an energetic, fun-filled quartet which sounded great for the most part.  

But then they had to get back to actual competition. Scottish rocker Terry McDermott sang “Over,” which Blake had recorded, but since he himself was not a rock singer, Blake admitted to not doing the song justice. Nevertheless, Terry held great respect for his coach’s version, “I think the big challenge for this song will be that Blake has sent such a high standard for it.” Blake and Terry talked about how well they had been getting along as friends, and Terry pointed out that the two of them regularly spent more time together than Terry and his wife did at the moment. On stage, Terry delivered a wonderful performance with the song he was given, but this one did not seem to help his voice shine like some of his others have. Blake gave him a standing ovation looking like the proudest coach in the world. When giving feedback, Adam couldn’t help but jab fun at Blake, telling Terry, “Oh! So that’s what this song is supposed to sound like!” As can be expected, all of the coaches loved Terry. Blake told him, “You performed that song the way I always wish I could. It was amazing to hear it the way it was meant to be. Adam’s exactly right. You just proved yourself as the real deal, and you just became the real artist that can do the thing that you’ve been doing in weeks past with anything that you’re handed. It’s unbelievable, and you’re a star.”

A girl who has always had a special place in Adam’s heart for her creativity and seemingly premature talent, Melanie Martinez sang, “Too Close.” She told her coach that it really spoke to her in her current relationship as she was going through a breakup, to which he responded, “I’m like an older brother; I’ll kick someone’s butt if they’re causing you trouble.” About her singing, he made up a word, saying, “You Melanie-ize everything.” Melanie was surrounded by a beautiful set with twinkle lights as she played her guitar while beating the tambourine with her foot, very reminiscent of her blind audition. She sounded just like she has in the past few weeks, with a very stylistic voice that generally people either love or hate. The other coaches raved about the set and complimented Adam on his song choices thus far, as well as telling Melanie she was wonderful. Adam dove right into his compliments with a scrambled array of thoughts, “I love you!! Well, first of all, hi how are you doing? The way you do things is so well-thought out, and I love that you present yourself in a way that’s so different from everyone in this competition. But when you’re going through a breakup, the point is you want to make the person you’re having this trouble with feel dumb for not being with you. But personal matters aside, I love seeing an artist who is concerned about every aspect of the performance from the lights to the tambourine.” Well bless his heart, I really feel sorry for whomever it is that Melanie’s breaking up with. For most people, getting dissed by famous singers on national television isn’t part of the breakup ordeal.

Christina’s one and only chance to win, tonight Dez Duron reflected on his choice to leave Yale, realizing that though it was a crazy risk, he was glad he took it. Christina pointed out his versatility in terms of talents and singing styles, “He’s not a one trick pony.” Dez also briefly talked about his family background, telling everyone that he is from a wonderful family of eight children, so the audience also got to see pictures of him from his childhood and a recent one of him and his seven siblings. He chose Justin Bieber’s “U Smile” and sang it in a very Michael Bublé fashion, much like last week, sans white suit. As he performed, he looked so excited to be there and so humbled by the profuse applause and cheers. He was simply amazing as usual. Chrisitna had to pile on the repetitive praise, “You killed it, killed it, killed it, killed it. You revamped that so well, and out of everybody in the competition, they can’t do what you do on that stage. America, Dez needs your votes now. Right now get on your phones, get on your tweets.” Translation: Christina needs your votes. Christina’s strategy for winning the whole show appears to be that she politely, albeit reticently and vaguely, compliments the other contestants, but tries not to say anything that would convince viewers to actually vote for them. Then of course when it comes to her own guy, she lavishes on the admiration, saying not only why he is awesome, but why he is specifically better than the others. Though this may be an understandable strategy, she looks very un-classy next to the other coaches who constantly rave about other coaches’ mentees. So in this case, people who are not Christina fans would probably have a difficult decision, considering that despite her best efforts, her last remaining singer is brilliant and very worthy of votes.

Trevin Hunte from Team CeeLo sang, “Greatest Love of All,” which CeeLo said, “Allows him to have his moments and show off what he does best." Trevin took life advice from the song, saying, “Once you learn to love yourself is the greatest love of all. I have to put music first. Whatever you want, you can be. And I feel like I’m a living testimony of that.” With the Powerhouse Show Choir” in the background for him, he performed a beautiful, but again, unremarkable rendition of this Whitney Houston hit. Adam gave some odd, yet flattering approval, “I hope that when I die that this is heaven: Trevin singing, Paul on the piano, and a bunch of kids singing backup. But seriously, you can sing anything you want, because it doesn’t matter. We all love you, we love what you do, another excellent job from an incredible talent.” Christina complimented his his vocal ability calling it a “monster beast.” His encouraging coach CeeLo told him, “I’m very proud of you. What a wonderful performance. I’m certain that Miss Whitney would be proud. I’m amazed at the humility you practice. It’s very sweet.”

The non-singing highlight of the night followed Trevin's performance, when Terry was being interviewed by Christina Milian about his wife, and Christina asked Terry what he would say to his wife at that moment if he could. Just as he began his sentiment, his wife and son came onto the platform to join him. It was the sweetest sight ever.

Taking another break from individual performances, Amanda, Trevin, Nicholas, and Cody sang "Any Way You Want It" by Journey. It was clear that they were all just letting loose, rocking out, and having a blast.  

CeeLo’s third and final singer, Nicholas David, got a surprise visit from the one and only “freaking Bill Withers,” the sight of whom produced a “Holy buckets!” from Nick. He had come to see Nick because he had seen Nick’s rendition of “Lean on Me” last week and wanted to help him himself. As Nicholas practiced “What’s Going On” while playing piano, Bill advised him, “Don’t go too far with that phrasing; be yourself, but don’t go crazy.” With that in mind, Nicholas delivered an amazing performance of this song (in sunglasses, very much resembling Ray Charles) in his own way that often sounded like he was a Motown singer, but somehow he still gave it a fresh spin. “I feel like I learn something new about you all the time,” Blake said, adding jokingly, “I didn’t know you were blind.” CeeLo didn’t hold anything back, “I love you so much. It’s very serious times we’re living in, but what would life be like without music, which has a healing property? We need you.” 

To close out the night, Cassadee Pope from Team Blake sang “Are You Happy Now?” Her performance from last week, “Over You,” got to #1 on iTunes last week, much to her surprise and excitement. Both Blake and Cassadee liked how her life related to her song choice, which allowed her to get into the song in a very real way. Cassadee got to share what her experience with Blake has been like, “I never expected to create such a bond with Blake. He’s like a crazy uncle that’s always looking out for me.” As she sang on stage with guitar in hand, the fans blowing her hair, she was totally tapping into her band days. Her performance was again reminiscent of Avril Lavigne, as well as Paramore, and this performer reinforced the idea that she needs to be a real solo artist releasing her own albums as soon as possible. CeeLo was the first to critique her and said, “To answer your question, no I’m not happy now, because you can win this thing. Just joking!” I think he meant that to sound a little more like a compliment. Adam talked about opening for Michelle Branch at The Roxy, and went on a 30-second rant about how terrible The Roxy is, following which, he called Cassadee a real front-runner in this competition.  Finally, Coach Blake told everyone, “Last week was about her coming out here and laying her heart and soul on the stage. This week, you showed America that you’re as good a singer as anybody in the competition. We’re talking about singing: you sang the crap out of that song! Thank you for being on my team!”

After that night of truly brilliant performances and overly-encouraging coaches, the Elite Eight have shown America all they have to offer. Now it is up to America to decide which two go home tomorrow night. Tune in Tuesday at 8/7c on NBC to find out who goes through to the next round!

Since numbers are dwindling, Ginge’s Picks will only include my top four singers, who are yet again: Amanda Brown, Cassadee Pope, Terry McDermott, and Dez Duron.

Visit www.nbc.com/the-voice/artists/ to view the full list of Season 3 contestants (those eliminated and those still in the competition) plus their stories, videos, and more. You can download your favorites from tonight’s performances at www.iTunes.com/thevoice, or watch them on The Voice's YouTube channel: www.Youtube.com/NBCthevoiceKeep up with The Voice through the week and during the show on Twitter: @NBCTheVoice, #TheVoice.

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Sally Henry Sally ("Ginge") is a BroadwayWorld.com contributor based in Atlanta who has written re-caps of NBC's The Voice episodes week to week, among other jobs. However, she is first and foremost a Broadway fan. Her favorite musicals include Next to Normal, South Pacific, West Side Story, and the very best show of all time, The Scarlet Pimpernel. In most situations, she'd rather be seeing a good Broadway show.

Read more from Sally on Blogger: http://SingularSensationBway.blogspot.com, Twitter: @BwayGinger, or Facebook: www.Facebook.com/SingularSensationbway


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