Finally, after waiting patiently through the blind auditions, sifting through the battle rounds, and bull-dozing past the knockouts, we're treated to some live performances, and with that, a clearer look at the Top 20 singers. It's also the first democratic night: "You have a lot of power in your hands," host Carson Daly reminds America about our ability to vote via iTunes.
Monday night featured consistently good renditions from Team Blake and Team Adam. The coaches were in especially ebullient moods, freely giving positive feedback, though a little too much at times. The whole show felt like one giant fuzzy embrace, and while I'm down for some feel-good TV, I was hoping the coaches would twist the dagger just a bit and really tell the singers their thoughts -- constructive criticism is good, right? The surplus of high-self-esteem-mongering aside, Monday night's teams were some of the strongest, so it's not a surprise there were no bombs or flubs.
Bonus: we saw Christina perform, in a Fosse-style-outfit no less, "How I Feel" with Flo Rida. With all that jazzy choreography and hair-melting lighting, their performance kinda felt awards show-esque -- but not that kind of awards show. Don't worry, I'll get to a Miley Cyrus reference later on.
On with the live performances ...
TEAM BLAKE: Shelbie Z.
Song: "Fancy" by Reba McEntire
Performance: Shelbie sets the bar high with her break-time extra-curriculars as she comes back... married! She also returns with a country flavor change -- she tells Blake she wants to become an alt-country artist. In rehearsal and onstage, Shelbie is the picture of self-actualization and utter confidence. What did she do during that hiatus between knockout rounds and the live show? Whatever it is, is it available on Amazon Prime? For some reason, I always have a hard time understanding what's being articulated in country music -- I get lost in the drawls and twangs and micro-storytelling -- but from Shelbie's performance, I did manage to understand how predictably good she is.
Feedback: All the coaches are mesmerized by Shelbie's commanding stage presence. "I love your growls, and just when you get on that stage, you deliver," says Christina. Adam, sporting slicked, parted hair (I'm enjoying this sexy-mobster look), says, "We have no choice but to just praise you." And Blake is a blubbering mess, comparing his reaction to that of a comatose man waking up to find a superstar. "Oh gosh, thanks for making me smart, even if I am in a coma," he said.
TEAM ADAM: James Wolpert
The song: "A Case of You" by Joni Mitchell
The performance: Anyone else think that The Voice is worse than the nightly newscast at desensitizing you to tragic stories? Definitely feeling some sob story fatigue by now. We get it: James, a four-chair-turn, once dropped out of school and worked at an Apple store. In rehearsals, Adam reminds him about last week's technically flawed performance. "You didn't do the best job," says Adam before urging him to forget about it. Adam picks an interesting song that starts out soft and quiet and ends with James' blowout vocals. We also see him on guitar for the first time. I enjoyed it, but I enjoy the louder, rockabilly parts of James' voice rather than his higher registers.
The feedback: The coaches are somehow still experiencing cognitive dissonance over James' nerdy-chic appearance versus his rock roots. "Dude, you can't be a geek and be that awesome!" said Blake. (Um, hello, Seth Cohen?) Christina called his performance "heartwarming," while Cee Lo complimented Adam's song choice. Coach Adam looked like a beaming parent, calling James' Joni rendition "so controlled and so elegant I could not be possibly more proud of you."
NEXT: Laying it on Thicke