TEAM CEE LO: Nicholas David
Nicholas has a baby on the way, and he's going to grow out his facial hair until that baby is born. "It's a tradition that I keep my beard," he explains. "When they're growin', I'm growin'." Cute! And you know what's even cuter? The way Nicholas exclaims, "Holy buckets!" when his idol Bill Withers walks through the door. "Don't go too far out with that phrasing," urges Withers. "Be yourself but don't go crazy." And Nicholas really listens to that advice when he launches into "What's Going On." Wearing sunglasses and braids, looking like the Stevie Wonder of the Midwest, he delivers a deeply soulful rendition of the song, complete with a spirited, Muppet-style keyboard solo. Cee Lo is moved, rambling on and on about Hurricane Sandy and the powers of healing and whatever proverbs he's writing for some future Zen of Cee Lo book. What does it all mean? He's happy to sum it up for us: "America, vote for this man."
TEAM BLAKE: Cassadee Pope
After last week's big iTunes win, Cassadee has graduated from her usual, sandwiched-in-the-middle position to the grand finale slot. That means she has a lot of fans supporting her. Normally, I'm not one of them, but she's starting to win me over tonight. For one thing, she's actually kind of funny. When Blake says she doesn't have many father figures, she says, "I look at him like a crazy uncle." And when she takes on Michelle Branch's "Are You Happy Now," she does the jilted alterna-girl thing pretty well, sneering as much as singing, and actually playing that guitar this time, instead of letting it hang around her like a string of pretty Christmas lights. She seems tougher than usual, or maybe it's just that wind machine blows her hair back so hard, you can almost see her skull. Either way, Blake's happy, exclaiming, "You just sang the crap out of that song."
My picks for tonight? Amanda and Nicholas, with Cassadee earning the title of most improved. Let me know who your favorites are in the comments. And remember, America: You can't vote for 50 Cent.