'The Voice' Recap: Big Notes and Ballads Rock Top 12

With double eliminations each week, the remaining singers push their vocal boundaries to make it through to the top 10.
Trae Patton/NBC

The Voice has always been a show of upsets -- not necessarily because the wrong singers are eliminated too early, but because so many singers are sent home every week in general. America said goodbye to a whopping eight singers on Thursday night, and nearly every upcoming week until the finals will rid the competition of two singers, regardless of whose team they’re from. That means any of the coaches -- Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine – could be out of the running as early as next week.

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With no more saves and steals left to fall back on, here’s how the top 12 performed on Monday night:

Green’s super-sweet Caroline Pennell kicked off the episode with Avicii’s “Wake Me Up,” highlighting the folk-inspired guitar-picking on the original track by Incubus' Mike Einziger with her natural indie timbre. Every song she has performed so far feels effortlessly refreshed by her voice. Shelton praised her comfort with her most upbeat track to date, “even with the studio audience, who has the worst rhythm ever, by the way.”

Aguilera assigned Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” to Josh Logan, her gritty rocker who often over-embellishes his tracks. He performed the anthem with less technical strategy, letting his voice shine and authentically connecting with the audience. Levine wished he would have traveled more of the stage, while Green and Shelton commended his quick improvement. “Had you done a performance like that last week, I don’t think you would’ve been in the bottom three of your group,” Shelton said.

Levine challenged James Wolpert with The Killers' “Mr. Brightside,” and the techie rocker trumped the track with his theatrical vocals, paired with a more subtle stage presence -- a growth in itself, since Aguilera mentioned that he usually gets jumpier when accompanied by more instruments, jeopardizing his pitch. She also praised Levine’s decision to switch up the melody with a big note, saying, “Giving you that high note was the best advice he could’ve given you, because it did bring the energy to a whole different place.”

Shelton pushed singer-songwriter Austin Jenckes into a country-crossover space with Travis Tritt’s rendition of “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive,” and he delivered another authentic performance. “We’re not scaring Austin country at all, but once the country audience embraces somebody, they don’t expect him to go country, they just embrace him,” said Shelton, whose previous two winners have entered the space. Levine said it paid off, as Jenckes just proved his musical diversity.

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After bringing the house down with multiple classic songs, Aguilera’s Jacquie Lee aimed to prove her current relevance with Jack White’s version of “Love Is Blindness.” The 16-year-old rocked the song’s ambitious octave change with ease. “You’re this tiny little thing, and this voice comes out of you like a dragon,” Levine said, while Green humorously commented, “I want to download that version of that record, put it in my iPad and play it every time I go horseback riding.”

Small-town single father Ray Boudreaux showed his softer side and place in today’s music landscape with John Legend’s “All of Me,” proving that he doesn’t need to hide behind wordy songs with upbeat rhythms -- in fact, he shines quite nicely on a ballad with long notes, especially when using his falsetto. The performance marked a subtle but powerful breakout moment for Boudreaux. Still, Aguilera wished for better pitch control, especially this late in the competition. “I’m not judging with my lower region,” joked Aguilera of her critical comments, which drew booing from the audience. “Keeping it professional!”

Green’s glam rocker Kat Robichaud opted for a ballad last week and has since heard plenty of pleas for the theatrics to return for upcoming performances. She put her “kat-titude” on AWOLNATION’s “Sail,” effectively emoting the song’s pain while effortlessly traveling the stage -- she even surfed the crowd without losing her vocal control. “She’s almost like a lion, walking around a herd of antelopes in this audience,” said Shelton of the daring move. “There’s no way she can sing through that, and she sang through that – it’s amazing.”

Green had military veteran Jonny Gray sing Phil Collins’ “Another Day in Paradise,” a song of struggle that Gray dedicated to his mother. “These are not songs to just be performed and sung along to, these are narratives. We need these songs, these are food,” said Green of the pick. Though Gray initially lost his rhythm, Levine noted how he recovered from it and conveyed the song’s message.

Levine’s Jamaican powerhouse Tessanne Chin put her spin on Emeli Sande’s “My Kind of Love,” giving another solid performance that proved her stellar vocal abilities. Aguilera said her performance arc traveled from sounding like Rihanna to Kelly Clarkson to, finally, herself, which is difficult to do as a female performer. Levine said that Chin continually sets the bar high for herself and inspires him as a coach to always do more.

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Aguilera’s Matthew Schuler reverted to his religious family roots with a dialed-back performance of Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah,” personalizing the heavily covered song with his own climactic ad libs and emotional range. Shelton called his voice magical, and Levine said Schuler preserved the legacy of a song that he is especially critical of, earning his respect.

In dedication to his late younger sister, Cole Vosbury performed his own version of Miguel’s “Adorn.” Shelton encouraged him to ditch his acoustic guitar for the stripped-down rendition, which allowed him to walk the stage while putting personal meaning into the ballad. He earned a well-deserved standing ovation from the coaches. “Every time Cole gets on the stage, I feel like he brings a gun to a knife fight,” said Shelton.

After being saved last week, Levine’s Will Champlin once again wore his emotions on his sleeve for “Demons” by Imagine Dragons. Though he struggled with breath control during rehearsals, he showed comfort onstage with the crowd and made a climactic voice break work to show his vulnerability. However, we’ll have to wait until Tuesday night to see if America thinks it’s enough to justify Levine’s save over Preston Pohl.

What did you think of tonight's performances? Which singers deserve to advance, and which should be sent home? Which coach will lose all of his or her singers first? Sound off in the comments below.

Twitter: @cashleelee