Image credit: Trae Patton/NBC
CENTER STAGE Preston Pohl sings "Nothin' On You" with lots of smoke, but no mirrors (The Voice's flashy stage takes care of all the reflective surfaces you'll ever need).
TEAM BLAKE: Nic Hawk
The song: "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke, feat. Pharrell and T.I.
The performance: My first reaction from just hearing the song choice? Oh dear. My first reaction after watching Nic perform it? Oh dear. For Blake to pick a song that was so recently tainted by agent provocateur Miley Cyrus, is a bold move. It reeks of the confidence Blake must have in Nic to be able to transform that song into something else entirely. And boy did he -- Nic sang the verses, the falsetto, even rapped T.I.'s part, and also danced up a storm, incorporating some interesting ventriloquist motions during the beginning, and making a dance pit-stop with some back-up dancers, all while covering every inch of the Voice stage like it was an X-Games BMX challenge requirement. Phew, do you want some orange Gatorade? But back to the singing -- while I will commend Nic's amazing upper respiratory fitness and ability to juggle multiple singing parts, I found his rendition a bit... creaky. The range of the song exposed his pitchier tendencies, and it was not pleasant to listen to at times.
The feedback: The judges loved Nic. Christina was impressed by his versatility and energy. Cee Lo praised his "natural rhythm." Adam regretted giving him up, but conceded to Nic's stage presence: "How can anyone watch Nic perform and not be entertained?" And Blake was virtually speechless. "Oh-em-gee," he said.
TEAM BLAKE: Ray Boudreaux
The song: "Home" by Marc Broussard
The performance: Oh sweet, single-dad, Ray. If there was a contestant who actually looked better after the umpteenth sob story intro, it's you. How could you not swoon after watching Ray and his preternaturally loud daughter make bologna and cheese sandwiches together? Never mind the nitrates! It's the thought and his soulful voice that counts. Also, I'm totally not biased, but Ray had the best Voice lighting tonight too, for what that's worth. Oh right, the actual singing -- not my favorite Ray showing, but it was consistent, bluesy "swamp pop" (as he put it earlier).
The feedback: The judges continued with their shower of positivity. Though largely encouraging, their comments were pretty vague. "That was the most connected I think I've seen you," said Christina. Blake praised his mission to spread the gospel of swamp pop. If this were a church, I'd guarantee you there'd be a congregration full of ladies fanning themselves.
TEAM BLAKE: Austin Jenckes
The song: "She Talks to Angels" by The Black Crowes
The performance: Has Austin ever delivered a not-near-perfect performance? Or not displayed his vocal muscularity? Tonight was more of the same, which means he sang really, really well. In his case, I'm getting desensitized to his consistency. Just once, I'd like to hear him sing a super-fragile, lace-thin song like a children's lullaby or "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," just to see how his booming voice would handle it.
The feedback: The coaches universally extol him. But perhaps the deluge of encouragement is driving a few coaches bonkers? For instance, Cee Lo said "Everybody's great on this show!" before we had seen the other five contestants. Adam complimented Blake's song choice and, upon learning that Austin rides scooters, attempted to set him up on a motorcycle date with Carson. Blake complimented Austin's emotional vulnerability: "Your heart just lays out on that stage, and I appreciate that."
TEAM ADAM: Grey
The song: "Still Into You" by Paramore
The performance: Adam's strategy is to ween Grey off the wedding singer circuit and veer more towards rock and roll. But with this Paramore tune, I'm not sure Grey accomplished that. Her rendition lacked the poppy punch and punky spirit of the original. She still kind of sang it as a wedding singer would, pretty and showcase-y -- which is not necessarily a bad thing, but also not necessarily interesting.
The feedback: Blake revealed that he had plotted to steal Grey, calling her "awesome." Cee Lo's usual metaphor-filled commentary was boiled down to a terse and joyless, "I enjoyed it." Adam said he "couldn't be prouder."
NEXT: Adam compares a singer to a dollar store toy