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‘The Voice’ Top 12 Live Playoffs: Another Day in Singing-Show Paradise

Lyndsey Parker
Yahoo TV

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Kat Robichaud crowd-surfs on "The Voice"

On Monday, the top 12 competed live on "The Voice," for the first time this season without any team quotas or coach intervention. That means on Tuesday, two contestants — regardless of which team they're on — will go home, based on America's votes.

So, basically, Tuesday is going to suck.

But will Tuesday's introduction of a new gimmick feature, the "Instant Save" — which will allow fans (well, at least East Coast fans) to tweet their protests — have any REAL impact on the results? We shall see. Let's just hope those fans tweet wisely, because a case could be made for really saving any of these contestants, even the ones who had a slightly off night.

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Here's how everyone did Monday:

Caroline Pennell (Team CeeLo) – Caroline was Team CeeLo's star player last week, charting high on iTunes with her cute, quirky White Stripes cover. But I'm not sure if her performance of Avicii's "Wake Me Up" (well, actually, it was the folksier, acoustic Aloe Blacc version) was as successful. I know that her well-intentioned coach CeeLo Green was trying to get her to liven things up with this effervescent tune, but somehow, her performance lacked oomph. She seemed a little awkward and uncomfortable, and while awkwardness is usually part of Caroline's geek-girl charm, this time her energy lagged and the song never really went anywhere. The coaches all liked this, though. CeeLo praised Caroline's connection to the audience and told her, wrongly, "The energy is positive and in your favor." Blake Shelton appreciated how she stayed in the pocket. Adam Levine told her, "There's a purity to what you do that's just amazing." I love me some Caroline, to the point where (to quote Blake from last week) I want her singing in my operating room if I ever have to undergo an amputation…but sorry, this fell flat for me. Wake me up when it's all over, indeed.

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Josh Logan (Team Xtina) – Here's another song choice that just did not work for me. Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror"? Really? Josh Logan is a ROCK singer. He was on "Rock Star: Supernova," for rock's sake. Instead, he was forced to put on a suit and turn in yet another safe AC performance that belonged on "Saturday Night Live's" The Mellow Show. Josh's coach, Christina Aguilera, wanted a more soulful, less fussy performance from him, with fewer runs and adlibs, and he followed her instructions well. Maybe too well. This performance just was not that memorable or unique. It was just so Javier Colon-circa-Season 1. But Adam told Josh, "I love how you took Christina's homework." CeeLo concurred: "I'm glad you listened to her, because she was absolutely right. Tonight's performance was much improved." Said Blake, "Had you done a performance like that last week, I don't think you would've been in the bottom three of your group." However, I don't know if this will be enough to move Josh up this season's leaderboard.

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James Wolpert (Team Adam) – James had an amazing night last week doing an acoustic Joni Mitchell song, and a terrible night the week before doing a rock anthem, Boston's "More Than a Feeling." So I was worried when I learned that James was returning to high-energy rock this Monday with the Killers' "Mr. Brightside." However, this time, James's natural nerdiness worked perfectly with the nervy angst of this jealous, paranoid song, lending the performance a cool David Byrne/Sparks/Danny Elfman-in-Oingo Boingo vibe. And James really committed to the song. "Every single second of that was the most dynamic-yet-controlled, blistering performance…You just turned into a rock star in front of our very eyes," proclaimed a proud Adam. I knew James was a rock star all along. All he has to do from now on is stick with alt-rock (remember the outstanding Jack White cover he did at his first audition?), and stay the heck away from classic rock...and he could rock the vote all the way to the Season 5 finale.

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Austin Jenckes (Team Blake) – With last week's elimination of Shelbie Z. and Olivia Henken, "The Voice" Season 5 was left without any straight-up country singers. The closest the show now has to country is bar-band type Austin, who actually moved to Nashville to become a professional songwriter for country stars like, well, Blake Shelton. Blake insisted this week that he's not trying to steer Austin in a full-on country direction, but then of course he had Austin do Travis Tritt's "It's a Great Day to Be Alive." While Austin was wearing an American-flag guitar strap. On Veterans' Day. So, Austin is probably going to win "The Voice" Season 5. Austin was very believable on this song, showing off his range and singing straight from his heart, so I understood his mass appeal, even if I wasn't exactly floored myself. Christina loved the way Austin "kept it real." Blake told him, "You're the one guy, of everybody on this show, that everyone wants to sit down and have a beer with." Ding ding ding ding ding! That kind of stuff is so important in these TV competitions. Viewers vote for likability and relatability as well as talent. So, like I said, Austin is so going to win.

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Jacquie Lee (Team Xtina) – Not many 16-year-olds could sing the Jack White version of U2's "Love is Blindness" and do either artist justice. But Jacquie is no typical 16-year-old. Jacquie has grit that you'd never expect from a girl with such a sweet American Girl-doll face. I certainly wasn't expecting Jacquie to put on a performance like this — it even topped her fiery "I Put a Spell On You" from last week. She performed the song with both teenage angst and full-grown pipes, and I was wowed. So were the coaches. "When you hit that chorus, I saw everybody go 'whoa'; you set the stage on fire," said Christina. Adam praised Jacquie's "amazing level of amplification, this crazy voice that comes out of you like a dragon." CeeLo said, "I love the way you make me feel. I forget to think. I just get lost in it. I'm going to download that version and play it the next time I go horseback riding." CeeLo goes horseback riding? OK, then. Anyway, I think Jacquie is a real thoroughbred in this race.

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Ray Boudreaux (Team Blake) – Last week, Blake said Ray was in a position to introduce his brand of "swamp-pop" to a whole new generation. So this week, I excitedly awaited Ray's performance of something by the Cramps, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Willy Moon, or, I dunno, Railroad Jerk. (Look 'em up.) But I guess since Ray didn't win the popular vote last week, Blake decided to help him connect with America by having him "sing about love." So Ray was assigned "All of Me" by John Legend. Snooze. I was NOT feeling this. Ray sang it pretty well (except for some struggles towards the end with the high notes, which Christina pointed out), but this ballad stripped him of all his swagger and James Dean-esque sex appeal. He seemed so bland here. However, Blake was pleased. "That worked in a big way. We're on to something," Blake said. Noooooooo! I don't want Ray doing adult-contemporary ballads week after week. Bring back the swampiness, please!

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Kat Robichaud (Team CeeLo) – More than any other contestant this season, Kat has identified herself as a real rocker, through and through. However, last week she was forced to sing a Mary Lambert ballad that didn't really allow her to go "balls to the wall," as CeeLo so eloquently and awesomely worded it. But this Monday, CeeLo thankfully let Kat's freak flag unfurl and fly higher than ever before. AWOLNATION's "Sail" was the PERFECT song for this dynamite lady to showcase her "Katitude." She was prowling the stage like a Kat in heat. SHE CROWD-SURFED. (A "Voice" first!) And she totally wailed on "Sail." I hadn't seen a "Voice" moment like this since Juliet Simms was still on the show. Yes, yes, yasssssssss. Blake compared Kat to a lion stalking antelope, which seemed like a very Blakey thing to say and was certainly high praise coming from him. Christina declared, "Kat came to play today! You were in character and you were serious." Go Kat go, is all I have to say. This was my favorite performance of the night.

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Jonny Gray (Team CeeLo) – After Jonny's performance last week, of a cool song like the Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony," turned out to be so dull, I had no idea how he was going to manage to make the uncool Phil Collins's "Another Day in Paradise" sound even slightly exciting. But somehow, he did. Jonny worked it out, making the song fit his folky coffeehouse-rock style, adding a touch of broody/moody darkness, and elevating the sappy tune out of the lite-radio realm. I was rather impressed. CeeLo chose this song to showcase Jonny's diversity, and I guess he knew what he was doing. I didn't understand a single word of the Zorro-hatted CeeLo's babbling critique, but there's obviously some method to Loberace's madness.

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Tessanne Chin (Team Adam) – Dedicating Emeli Sande's "My Kind of Love" to her husband in the audience, Tessanne once again slayed with another passionate performance. Seriously, every performance of hers is perfection. But will she be this season's Judith Hill: the impeccably, impossibly perfect professional who peaks too early when her perfection becomes predictable? "It's almost so consistent, that the bar is so high, so I'll never be satisfied," said Adam, worryingly. But Adam also called Tessanne's performance "emotional and flawless at the same time…This show is called 'The Voice,' and you've got that in spades." Christina called the performance "beautiful." I just hope Tessanne doesn't plateau. She deserves to go far.

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Matthew Schuler (Team Xtina) – I do not know why Christina picked Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" for Matthew. No one needs to hear this song covered ever again. Even Leonard Cohen himself has complained that the song has been covered too much, although I doubt he complains when another royalty check lands in his mailbox. Well, Leonard will likely be getting another check very soon, because Matthew's version is probably climbing the iTunes chart as I type this. Yes, it's a tired cliché of a song by now, and it has lost much of its impact after being performed by every singing-show contestant from Jason Castro to Carly Rose Sonenclar, but Matthew's gorgeous voice did breathe some new life into it. This was another stunning vocal from him. "You make people feel so special, and it's so rare, and you're so blessed, and it's such a gift," gushed Christina. "This time last week, I would have told you Jacquie was the frontrunner on your team, but now…man," mused an astounded, uncharacteristically speechless Blake. And Adam said, "I'm kind of possessive of this song. I'm happy to say you really helped preserve the legacy of what the song means." Hallelujah, indeed. But can we please retire this song now? No one's going to top Matthew's version, anyway.

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Cole Vosbury (Team Blake) – Blake set out to prove that Cole can put his stamp on any song in any genre, so he gave Cole Miguel's R&B loverman ballad "Adorn." Uh oh. Could the guy whose first impression was jokily singing "The Jeffersons" really pull off such a sexy signature song? The answer was YES. Cole adorned "Adorn" with his own style and somehow turned it into a Mumfordian soft-rocker, pulling it off without even playing his trusty guitar. Cole really did make it his own, as they say in the biz. "Every time Cole gets onstage, I feel like he brings a gun to a knife fight; it's more than you would expect, and it squashes you," said Blake. "I'm very excited for you," added CeeLo, Cole's original coach and the only coach who turned for Cole in the Blind Auditions. CeeLo may have been foolish to give Cole up in the Battle Rounds, but I do have thank him for putting Cole in the running in the first place.

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Will Champlin (Team Adam) – Getting the pimp spot was Will, who had a breakout moment last week with "Secrets" and went from being James Wolpert's defeated Battle Rounds rival, and Matthew Schuler's defeated Knockout Rounds rival, to being a real contender in his own right. With Imagine Dragons' "Demons" (a great, very current song choice, right in his pop-rock wheelhouse), Will continued to establish himself as one to watch and possibly one to beat. He poured his entire being into this dynamic performance, leaving everything on the stage. It was obvious that this opportunity meant a lot to him; Adam commented on Will's dedication (during rehearsal, Will memorably said he's never given up on his dream because he "loves music too much"), and told him, "You can feel the passion in what you do. That's what I want on my team."

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So now, it is prediction time. Which two singers will sadly be going home Tuesday? Without looking at the final iTunes chart numbers yet (those, of course, could change everything), I will guess that the singers in jeopardy are Ray and Josh. Both contestants performed songs outside of the genres they do best, and neither did anything too exciting or different with their assigned material. On a very competitive night, I simply don't think they did enough to stand out.

Come back Tuesday to see if I'm right…and to learn what this newfangled "Instant Save" thingy is all about! See you then.

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