If I could best encapsulate the vibe of Monday's top eight performance show, it's that it felt a lot like the set list at prom night. There was the eclectic mix of vaguely reggae tunes, the slow-dancers, the classic rock sing-a-longs. Stylistically, there were Rat Pack tuxedos and over-curled hair. There was the prom king (Sexiest Man Alive Coach Adam), prom queen (a svelte and subdued Christina Aguilera), and the class gossip (...Jay Leno? I'll 'splain later). And like a lot of high school dances, there was a whole lot of sentimentality (how many times did a coach say "I love you"?) and casual avoidance that this is their last night together (tomorrow is eliminations).
My strained teenage dance metaphor aside, Monday's performances, for a whittled-down final eight singers, weren't full of winners. They served to reinforce the remaining singers strengths' and weaknesses. Ray Boudreaux can only sing soul-pop, Caroline Pennell is best at softer Lillith Fair-like tunes, and Tessanne Chin... can sing virtually anything. There were only two standouts for me tonight: James Wolpert's Queen cover and Will Champlin's gender-bending Etta James rendition.
In the celebrity guests department, a man no stranger to controversy stopped by. When there's a Miley, surely a Thicke can't be far away. Earlier in the season we saw Matthew Schuler cover Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball," with great aplomb, if I may add. Though the princess of provocateur only appeared on the show in spirit, her twerking partner-in-crime, Robin Thicke, opened tonight's show with a performance of "Feel Good." He even took a trip to Carson Daly's Skybox, where the falsetto-voiced singer proved generally uninteresting while thanking The Voice for his success.
Onto the night's performances...
TEAM ADAM: James Wolpert
The song: "Somebody to Love" by Queen
The performance: This pairing is such a no-brainer that I'm surprised James hadn't tackled this earlier during the competition. His stage production is built to match the classic rock gods' bombast as James was engulfed by a fleet of suited up man-bots. This Freddie Mercury tune was the best use of James' unique vibrato, cascading yelp, and showman confidence by far.
The feedback: "That is the tallest order, for a male vocalist to sing Freddie Mercury like that," said Adam. Blake called his performance "maybe the best I’ve heard you sing so far." Regarding the production value and grandiose tuxedo mafia, Christina said she felt like she was watching a Broadway show. Cee Lo called it "one of the absolutely best performances ever in the history of The Voice."
TEAM ADAM: Tessanne Chin
The song: "Underneath It All" by No Doubt
The performance: Tessanne says she wants to show her "fun side" with this song choice. Adam wants her Jamaican heritage to start coloring her performances. On the stage, which by the way looked like a quasi Miami open-air nightclub, we definitely saw more of Tessanne's casual singer side, with the spoken word, "reggae breakdown" bit. While I think Tessanne is a massive talent, and consistently powerhouse-worthy, she hasn't really given us a showstopper in the way that James and Matthew have thus far. And this performance wasn't it, either. I wanted to hear a lilting, more stripped-down version of her voice in the verses, but what we got was more diva, more of the same.
The feedback: Adam called her performance “the most well-rounded thing you could possibly sing on this show.” Cee Lo said she is “the immense beauty that was born out of that place.” And Christina is glad she got to hear Tessanne's speaking voice bleed into her singing voice: "You were able to tap into your truth."
NEXT: Florence and the Cotton Candy Machine...