With a trip to the finals on the line, Monday night's (April 30) "Voice" semifinals saw the remaining two artists from each team take the stage to sing their hearts out for America's votes and high scores from the coaches, which, combined, determine who moves on to next week's finals.
First up was Mouseketeer-turned-rocker Tony Lucca, who ditched his guitar for the first time in the competition to show off a different side of himself, singing "How You Like Me Now." Lucca upped his game last week with his rocking rendition of Britney Spears' " ... Baby One More Time" and knew he had a lot to prove.
Without his guitar to hide behind, Lucca delivered plenty of pop-star swagger. Blake summed it up most succinctly, saying Lucca's swinging performance was reminiscent of similarly suited-up Robert Palmer in his prime. Even Christina, who has often been Lucca's harshest critic, went on and on with praise for so long that host Carson Daly cut her off. (Didn't he notice her tiara? Who cuts off a pop diva in fishnets and a bejeweled crown?)
Erin Willett entered the ring with a "special song choice": a rearranged take on David Guetta and Usher's dance thumper "Without You." It was a risk, but that's what Erin, who said during rehearsals she felt like she's "never had a moment" on the show, was after. She was expectedly powerful, earned a thumbs-up from the judges and got very emotional onstage when she finished singing, but we're not sure everything came together just right to make the performance memorable for the right reasons.
Throughout the competition, Christina has pushed classically trained Chris Mann into pop and rock territory to prove — both to himself and the voting public — that he could do more than sing opera (as he did during the blind auditions). However, as the contest winds down, Aguilera was keen to show off what attracted her to Mann in the first place (his perfect voice) and gave the singer one of the most well-known classical songs ever, "Ave Maria." He nailed it, so much so that Aguilera caught Cee Lo tearing up. Aguilera was so moved by Mann's performance that she jumped from her chair and joined him onstage to give him a hug.
Fan favorite Jamar Rogers from Team Cee Lo was next to the stage with the classic "If You Don't Know Me by Now." A born entertainer with a penchant for high-energy performances, Rogers reeled it in this time, hoping to showcase his voice, and the judges took notice.
"Forget the competition for a minute," Adam said. "I'm just a fan of what you do."
Though they are ostensibly competitors, there's always a good bit of camaraderie among the contestants on "The Voice," and that showed through when the teams joined forces for group performances of the Killers "All These Things That I've Done" (Teams Cee Lo and Adam) and Lady Gaga's "The Edge of Glory" (Teams Christina and Blake). Similarly, though they may bicker in their judges' chairs, Christina was bobbing her head (a task given how much that jeweled tiara must weigh) along to Blake's performance of his new single "Over."
Hoping to show that Mann isn't the only true powerhouse male vocalist in the competition, Blake paired former Alicia Keys backup singer Jermaine Paul with Journey's massive ballad "Open Arms." Jermaine rose to the challenge, digging deep into the song's emotion and tackling the song's runs with aplomb.
The judges were not shy about praising Paul's performance. "You came in and you murdered that song," Christina said. "Jermaine, I would like to congratulate you, because you are no longer a background singer, my friend," Adam added. But his own coach made the most crucial point, given how close Paul is to the finals, saying, "You're peaking at the right time."
Katrina Parker also opted to change things up, singing "Killing Me Softly" in the style of the Fugees' remake. Outside her usual Adele-like belting, she showed off a new vocal personality — more sultry and raspy than ever. Noting that later in the night the judges would be forced to award percentages to the contestants and that Tony Lucca and Adam are maybe a more natural mentoring fit, Christina championed Parker, telling Levine to "take a look at Katrina Parker because she's a star."
Having saved her from elimination twice in the competition, we think he gets it, Christina.
While many singers opted to show off a different side of themselves, being in the bottom two last week chased Lindsay Pavao right back into her hipster-indie wheelhouse, where she found Bon Iver's "Skinny Love" waiting for her. The performance was very Florence and the Machine-lite, with Pavao looking ethereal while strumming a guitar and sounding as unique as ever. Even Blake complimented Christina's strategy of returning her contestants to their roots (Mann with opera and Pavao with light indie rock).
The final contestant to hit the stage was rocker Juliet Simms, singing James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World." She earned a standing ovation from her coach Cee Lo and fawning praise from the rest of the judges (Adam said she was "the one to beat" tonight), but Aguilera's words of support — saying that Simms sings for herself and that often leads to the most gut wrenching performances — were perhaps the most important, as she tore the roof off the 2007 Grammys with her take on this song.
At the very end of the show, the coaches were given 100 points to divide between their two contestants, the results of which will be tabulated alongside America's vote and revealed Tuesday to determine who moves on to the finals.
Who are your picks for the finals? Let us know in the comments below!