We made it through the blind auditions and the battle rounds, and we've reached the final stage of the competition: The live episodes, in which two of the teams, eight singers in all, will perform solo in hopes of earning the coaches' approval and OUR crucial votes.
And since these episodes are live, the recaps are now live updates as well. So keep that refresh button on the ready and join me in the comments section to critique (kindly!) tonight's performances and make your predictions for who will make it one step closer to becoming The Voice.Tonight:
Team Xtina and Team Blake perform. That means we'll hear from Xtina's ladies Beverly McClellan, Frenchie Davis, Lily Elise and Raquel Castro (the Jersey Girl, at right), as well as Xenia, Jared Blake, Patrick Thomas and Dia Frampton from Team Blake. But first: The coaches are going to remind us that they can do more than just coach, and perform a medley of Queen.
The Queen Medley
Adam Levine kicks it off with a backlit rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody," and then Cee Lo, in perhaps the most bizarre cover combo I've ever heard, takes on "We Will Rock You." No, wait, it's even weirder when Blake Shelton pipes in. I like Cee Lo's red C sweatsuit. He is slowly but surely morphing into a live version of the Kool Aid Man.
But then Xtina shows up to show them all
up with a high-waisted leather diaper and an explosive (quite literally) rendition of "We Are the Champions." God, I love this woman!
Now it's time for Team Xtina and Team Blake to compete. Carson explains that next week, two artists for each team will go home. The coaches will save one team member, and the voters will save another. Then he interviews Xtina and Blake about how much they love their teams. Xtina's eyelashes look like tarantulas; I'm mesmerized. Here's how you can vote:
By calling, voting online or downloading the artist's performance on iTunes. Smoke signals and mail-in ballots are right out, GRANDPA.
Then we catch up with "V correspondent" Alison, who explains how Twitter works. Did you know you can tweet at the show, and her, and all the artists? YOU CAN! It is never not funny to hear someone say "tweet" out loud, especially on TV. If you get your tweet to appear on TV, be sure to take a screen shot of it so you can post the photo on Twitter and create a social media blackhole. Isn't the 21st century fun/confusing/a little scary?
But back to an age-old art: Singing! Raquel Castro, "Blow"
She's dancing and looking like a sparkly diva. Ke$ha seems an interesting choice, because (sorry, Ke$ha fans) her songs are a lot more about the attitude and music than actual singing talent. For such a young one, Raquel has great stage presence, and while she goes a bit flat and pitchy on some of the power notes, like I said, that's not really what the song's about. It's about presence and fun, and she had both.The coaches say...
Cee Lo: "That was wonderful."
Adam: "I don't dance, I have a lot of respect for that. You were amazing."
Blake: "Dammit. She is awesome. You are one of my favorites in this competition."
Xtina: "You made me move, you made me excited. You were keeping control. You brought that sassiness."
What did you think of Raquel, you guys? Isn't she like a living Bratz doll? (But in a cute, not creepy, way.)Jared Blake, "Use Somebody"
Jared's been deemed the "king of second chances," so it would be an extra-big bummer if he got kicked off this week, but I'm a bit worried for him. He's one of the oldest and most divisive singers left, and he'll really need to impress us with this performance of Kings of Leon's massive hit. He's got on his fanciest, sparkliest forehead bandana for the occassion, and whoa, he just threw his guitar off stage! I have to be honest that Jared's growly, hard rocker style isn't exactly my cup of tea. But the song is a good fit for him, and I especially liked the ending, when he slowed it down and let that blond woman delicately caress his face. The coaches say...
Xtina: "I love watching you perform, you give it your all. I love how you get the crowd going."
Cee Lo: "You deserve to be here. I love your voice."
Adam: "That was the perfect song for you to do. I was emotionally connected to it."
Blake: "This is your time. The chance stuff is over. The struggle between whether you're country or rock... you're a rock guy. Just own it."
Even though Jared isn't my favorite, I hope he makes it through the week, because I'd really like to see him show some range.Beverly McClellan, "I'm the Only One"
I've been thinking that Beverly's voice sounded like Melissa Ethridge's anyway, so this song seems like the perfect fit. Unfortunately Beverly has a cold, so she might not be able to bring all the power we've come to expect and love from her. Beverly is wearing an amazing military coat and long plaid skirt/kilt, and she sounds pretty healthy. By which I mean that she sounds great! It really is the perfect song for her tone and range. She brought the house down! Xtina is flailing her arms and legs because she is LOVING it! (Also maybe because she's high on the fumes emitted by her crazy polyester jacket.)The coaches say...
Cee Lo: "I love your spirit. You're a natural. I love you so much."
Adam: "Wow, the one that got away. You're amazing. No one knew you had a cold."
Blake: "You come out here looking sexy and hot! It was awesome. I'm a big fan."
Xtina: "The only thing Adam can destroy is his pants... because he's wetting them when he sees you sing." (Huh? GIRL, are you sober?) "You nailed it, you rocked it."
I love Beverly. How can you NOT love Beverly? Let's vote for this woman!Dia Frampton, "Heartless"
Ooooh, I'm already in love with the idea of Dia's soulful voice singing Kanye. She's also playing piano on the song -- this girl is multi-talented. And she looks sweet as can be in a long-sleeved glittery white dress. It's an interesting performance, and I mean that in the best way: Her voice has so much character, and hearing it in a Kanye cover really shows her dimension. She's got a fighter in her, and it's eerie and powerful and beautiful, just like this performance. The coaches say...
Xtina: "I definitely wasn't expecting that from you. Tonight I saw the fighter in you, I liked it."
Cee Lo: "Very original, that's probably the greatest rendition of it that I've heard."
Adam: "That was the most refreshing, unique thing I've seen on this show so far." I agree!
Blake: "This is my favorite moment of The Voice because for the first time, America has gotten a chance to see Dia Frampton do what Dia Frampton does. This is a big deal."
Dia isn't just sugar and spice and everything nice -- she's also an artist. I love her. If she doesn't lead in the votes tonight, then America is the "heartless" one.Team Xtina performs "Lady Marmalade"
I didn't know this was happening. YES! Xtina is in a new amazing outfit: This one is a turquoise, fringe-tastic mermaid corset masterpiece. Sadly, this might be the first and last time we see Team Xtina perform together, as next week two of these ladies will get eliminated. But for now, it's a fun and power-scream-filled "Grrl Power!" moment.Xenia, "Pricetag"
Sweet 16-year-old Xenia is singing Jessie J, and she had a bit of a rough time loosening up in choreography. But she looks plenty confident on stage in her adorable black and white striped dress. More importantly, she looks like she's having fun, and her voice is just as deep and delicious as I remembered. Her lack of affectation is endearing, but I'd love to see her pick a song that pushes her range a bit more. For now, she's absolutely precious, though. If she continues to grow week to week this way, by the end of the show she could be one to watch out for.The coaches say...
Xtina: "You've become one of my favorites. You come across shy and you're so young, but when you open your voice, the maturity that comes out, I'd love to listen to a whole album."
Cee Lo: "I love the innocence of your performance. It's very adorable."
Adam: "I love seeing you have fun. We all just had the best time. It worked."
Blake: "I'm so happy and proud. My heart is swollen right now. America is watching a star being born. That unique sound she has is unrivaled in music."
Bold words from Blake Shelton. Will your votes back up his confidence? I hope so, because I'd love to see Xenia continue to grow.Lily Elise, "Big Girls Don't Cry"
Oh no. Nothing against Lily, but I hate this Fergie song. (I once had a roommate who listened to it on repeat for, oh, four months, so you understand.) But I do like this song choice for Lily, because it forces her to show more vulnerability. It also means she won't be screaming the whole time, like she was in her duet. Instead, she has some wacky and distracting background dancers with her. Lily's voice is strong, but something keeps me from connecting with her the way I do with some of the other artists we've seen tonight. She also does this little squeak at the end of some of her notes, which I'm not a big fan of. It's not a standing-O performance, but she didn't disappoint, either.The coaches say...
Cee Lo: "I connected with you, because it takes a lot of courage to admit fear. You sound great."
Adam: "When the dancers went away, the performance became more engaging. You were great."
Blake: "You always sneak up on me with how great of a singer you are.
Xtina: "You grew and you took that song and built it as you went on. You showed that emotion, I know that's hard for you. You showed control and restraint tonight."
What did you think of Lily's performance? It didn't get completely rave reviews from the judges, which means if you love Lily, you better vote to save her!Team Blake performs "This Love" by Maroon 5
We get to see Team Blake having a low-key lunch together, and then they perform a song of Adam's band, and Adam is REALLY into it. His face is one long humblebrag about it. It's a little bizarre to hear Blake's four performers together; they're just so different. But I like the white trees on set. It's a winter wonderland in June. And watching Blake sing Adam's love song to Adam, well ... that's just priceless. Also priceless: Blake Shelton saying "That's what she said" on live TV about his "length." He's a MAVERICK!Patrick Thomas, "I Hope You Dance"
He's dedicating the song to "the most important woman in his life"... his sister. [Cue: "Awwww."] I have to say, it may be to Patrick's disadvantage that Scotty McCreery won American Idol
this season. I'm not sure America will let two young, fresh-faced baritone country boys win within weeks of each other. This song also might be a bit too sentimental and slow to really showcase Patrick's talents. BUT! He sings the crap out of it, especially the end. His notes are long, clear and strong. And he's adorable. That doesn't hurt.The coaches say...
Xtina: "You're a cutie pie. I'm still waiting for you to take off your pants." (Xtinaaaahhh! Girl, get a grip before you pull a full Paula.)
Cee Lo: "Razor sharp. You perform like a consummate professional. I love your voice."
Adam: "A classy, simple, understated performance. Couldn't have been better."
Blake: "You make me look smart. You're a pro. You're making Nashville very proud."
And, finally, it's time for the last performance of the night!Frenchie Davis, "When Love Takes Over"
Frenchie picked a tough (and catchy as hell) song by David Guetta, but she's got the chops (and the chords) to pull it off. She's got Xtina's three-foot extensions bobbing almost instantly. The song showcases everything I love about Frenchie: She's got the diva power, but when she gets soft, her voice is still so smooth and sweet. She OWNED that song, if you ask me!The coaches say...
Cee Lo: "Your stage presence is very seasoned. I love to see you do your thing. You make me happy."
Adam: "There's something so beautiful about you. You made me really love that song. That's a huge testament to your power as a singer. Damn, girl!"
Blake: "There's no doubt that you are a power singer. The most powerful singer in this competition. You created a party in here."
Xtina: "Your aura, your beautiful face, how you come alive, your poise and presence on stage. You're so controlled. You execute it well."
That's it for the performances from our first live show! Here's where you can (and should!) vote
to save your favorites from Team Blake and Team Xtina. (And on iTunes, and on the NBC app, and by calling...) You can vote 10 times per artist, per method. And you can vote until Monday morning. That's a lot of voting! Just in time for the live show, be the first to join our new Facebook page for The Voice
And when we return next Tuesday, we'll learn which two performers from each team will get eliminated, and hear from Team Cee Lo and Team Adam. Until then, vote here, vote there, and tell me down below: Which performances blew you away? And which performers would you like to see go
(Images courtesy of NBC)