8:00 p.m.: Host Carson Daly announces that the musician coaches – Oklahoma country star Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green and Adam Levine – decided a few hours ago to do a special performance inspired by the nerve-wracking conditions on the two-night finale. So they’re going back for another Queen cover, this time of “Under Pressure.”
I’m not sure I like the performance as much as their previous collaborations, but I do appreciate that it’s more equitably showcasing each star. It’s not just an Xtina number with the guys as backup singers. By the way, Christina finally looks really good on this show, so go her. (Note: According to NBC, they were originally slated to perform the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”)
8:04: Carson confirms that each of the four finalists – Dia Frampton, Javier Colon, Beverly McClellan and Vicci Martinez – will perform twice tonight. They will do a duet with their coach and then perform an original song. The public votes will be based on the latter. Also, Carson says there will be a special announcement later in the show.
8:07: We’re capping a clip montage with a reminder of what’s at stake: a recording contract and $100,000. And this time, the coaches don’t get to vote. It’s all up to the fans.
8:08: All the contestants are looking spiffy, but I’m particularly fond of Dia’s flowing red gown. And if Javier is going to keep the hat, I’m glad he got a new one that is much cooler than his usual ballcap. He’s expressing how much the four finalists all love each other, and he sounds sincere.
8:10: “It’s so loud in here. It’s crazy. It’s like ‘TRL’ 10 years ago,” Carson gives a shout-out to his old gig.
8:11: Adam hates being out of control; Cee Lo thinks Vicci will be an inspiration to women and Latino performers; Xtina praises Beverly as a powerhouse; and the emotional Blake says “I know, right, Dia” to the screaming crowd and talks about how much he has bonded with her. In the words of the Monty Python guys, “Get on with it!”
8:16: Carson confirms what was reported earlier today: The eight semifinalists will be going on tour starting next month in Los Angeles. There’s supposed to be more details released on NBC.com soon. Also, first up to perform will be Javier Colon.
8:18: Javier is debuting his original song “Stitch by Stitch,” and since it’s him, it will be a heartfelt ballad. He’s on the acoustic guitar and he sounds like he’s trying to follow his coach’s advice to let the vocal intensity build up. As usual, he sounds amazing, but I would love to hear the guy do a song that isn’t a ballad, just to change things up.
8:21: That was by far Javier’s best performance in my opinion. He really avoided oversinging that time. That ballad was better than most of the love songs on pop radio these days. The coaches, per usual, are lavish in their praise, but Blake notes that he has really come to respect Javier as a great person and not just a great singer. Adam seconds that emotion, while Cee Lo and Xtina talk about how well the song fits Javier.
8:28: Dia and Blake are rocking their matching camouflage electric guitars in the rehearsal footage of their duet, Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” Blake says, “You’re taking over the world, sister,” and gushes that she has helped him rediscover his youthful passion for performing. She’s praising Shelton for teaching her to have confidence in herself. I think this is an inspired song choice to bridge their divergent styles, and I adore the matching “Blues Brothers”-esque black suits and sunglasses. Very cool all around. Go Dia and Blake!
8:32: OK, that was FUN! And I love that we’re getting to hear full-length songs tonight and not just 2-minute snippets. Carson notes that all the coach-finalist duets will be on sale on iTunes, BUT only the original songs from the contenders will count as votes for those finalists.
8:37: Here’s an important tweet from @Team_Blake: “And forgot to mention DO NOT download Dias song until after @NBCTheVoice It will not count until then.”
8:38: Vicci Martinez is up next to perform her original song, and she promises it will be “epic” and will build up from quiet to in-your-face. That’s what this little fireball does best, so we’ll see how she does with “Afraid to Sleep.” Unlike Javier, who played acoustic guitar partway through his competition piece, Vicci is going without any instrument except her big voice. It’s a dramatic power ballad that for some reason reminds me of Bonnie Tyler, but only in a more rough hewn way. It’s got that intensity, but I’m waiting for that trademark Vicci explosiveness.
8:41: Vicci’s kneeling on the fog-covered stage, the crowd is waving cell phones (or maybe glow sticks), but I’m just not feeling this performance like I have her past appearances. It’s pretty, but I didn’t feel like she quite nailed the huge soaring notes like she has in the past like on Pink’s “F—ing Perfect” or Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” But Adam says he was invested in every moment, Blake says she always insists on being a big deal (and makes a joke about Adam giving her a pair of jeans; it’s Blake, you can figure out the tone of that quip); Xtina praises the song as very suited to the performer; and Cee Lo says as her coach he’s confident she’s got this. I’m not so sure. Whereas I thought Javier’s original song was his best performance of the competition, I though this was Vicci’s weakest showing so far.
8:49: We’re taking a break from the contestant performances with a special appearance by Pitbull and Ne-Yo, performing their global smash “Give Me Everything” from Pitbull’s new album “Planet Pit.” I really like Ne-Yo’s voice, although I’m not crazy about the dancers in their trashy Frederick’s of Hollywood underwear (I don’t think it even qualifies as lingerie).
8:53: Blake and Dia had Tom Petty trending on Twitter a few minutes ago; now they’ve got Ray Bans trending for their awesome duet performance.
8:57: Not surprisingly, Xtina has picked one of her own hits to use for her duet with Beverly McClellan. They will be doing “Beautiful.” Yes, it’s a fitting song choice, but after Christina used “Lady Marmalade” for her quarterfinals group song, I was hoping she might do a song that she hasn’t already wildly oversung.
9:00: Beverly and Xtina are doing “Beautiful” as a heartfelt acoustic anthem backed by some subtle strings. It is giving us at last the chance to hear Bev do something that isn’t a big rock ‘n’ roll blowout, and we’re finally getting to appreciate the prettiness and not just the power of her voice. Still, there’s too many vocal runs and flourishes happening here for my taste. However, I like that they’ve invited “Beautiful” songwriter Linda Perry to perform with them.
9:04: We’ve got an “American Idol” and “The Voice” collision with Katharine McPhee’s appearance to tout the upcoming NBC series “Smash,” which next season will be the lead-in for “The Voice” when it moves to Mondays. And she’s going to do “Beautiful,” too. I guess maybe it’s not all Xtina’s fault that we’re hearing that song tonight.
9:08: Just looked at the link for “The Voice” tour dates. Unfortunately, the closest they’re getting to Oklahoma is Vegas. Tickets and information: http://bit.ly/mmC7U7.
9:09: Now we’ve got the original song from Dia Frampton coming up, and I can’t wait to hear “Inventing Shadows.” Blake praises her as one of a kind, and she shares that her last album she recorded at her mom’s house. “You can actually hear the dishwasher in the background.” She’s back in that gorgeous red gown and back behind the piano, and her vocal tone just sounds so unique. We’re getting to hear more of her vocal range, which is great, but she also sounds more breathy than usual, which is not so great.
9:15: And Blake – “your proud papa,” as Carson puts it – again gives a standing ovation for Dia. Xtina says it’s really lovely but gets into it with Blake over how he had silhouettes in shadowboxes after making fun of her mimes/dancers earlier in the season during Lily Elise’s performance. Adam chimes in that Dia’s singing was great but he was distracted by all that stuff. “You know what else is going to be distracting to them? When they look at their phones tonight and you’re on the top of iTunes above their records,” Blake shoots back. “That’s going to be so distracting to them, all that iTunes domination.”
Dia truly has become a force to be reckoned with on iTunes, but unfortunately, that wasn’t her most compellingly downloadable performance. I did like it and probably will buy it, but I thought it was a bit gaspy. It wasn’t quite as commanding as her renditions of “Heartless” or “Losing My Religion.”
9:21: Adam Levine is showing no fear: He and Javier are going to cover a Michael Jackson song, “Man in the Mirror,” for their duet. It takes guts, but if they pull it off, it could be a show-stopper.
9:22: Dia’s “Inventing Shadows” is already trending on Twitter. She is going to be tough to beat.
9:23: Javier and Adam look very dapper in their matching black suits, and I love no-hat, bald-and-beautiful Javier. They’re doing “Man in the Mirror” as a thoughtful ballad, and their voices blend beautifully. I’m not fond of Adam trying to imitate MJ’s vocal inflections, but I’m glad he’s really showcasing his student here. Bravo. Overall, I like it very much.
9:31: Another break for the contestants: Reigning Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year Brad Paisley is going to perform his raucous drinking song “Don’t Drink the Water,” featuring his current tourmate Blake Shelton. Love this song and Brad’s new album “This Is Country Music.” Blake is coming out of his big red “Voice” chair to sing along and playfully working Xtina’s name into the lyrics to boot. And now we get to see Brad’s amazing guitar skills. Country is killing on “The Voice”!
9:39: Beverly McClellan is going to give the last original, competition performance, titled “Lovesick.” “I think it’s a hit,” Bev thinks. The title sounds like a ballad, but McClellan is delivering another big, raw rocker. The song has a bit of a retro vibe with the backtracking lyrics on the chorus (“I’m lovesick, I’m sick of love, I’m lovesick”), and she’s nailing that phrasing.
9:43: After roaming the stage and working the crowd, Beverly plays a brief interlude on the piano and then goes back to stalking and singing. She’s getting a standing O from the coaching panel. She tells Carson she feels “energized,” and the host quips it’s a good thing she didn’t have a lighter, or she would have burned up the stage. Cee Lo and Adam indicate that her blowout performance transcends the competitive nature of the show. “If music was crack, you would have a serious problem,” Blake says. “I do,” she replies. “I love watching you,” he declares. Xtina is praising her for her big heart and great work ethic. I personally didn’t think it was McClellan’s most electrifying performance, but of the original competition songs, it was the most rollicking. The others were power ballads, and that could give “Lovesick” and Beverly the edge.
9:47: Carson just said that voting closes tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. Eastern, which means it closes at 8 a.m. Central time. So there are some Oklahomans who are going to have to get to voting!
9:52: The final duet of the night is Cee Lo and Vicci’s rendition of Pat Benatar’s “Love Is a Battlefield.” Wonder what they will be wearing. Vicci is promising epic and reminding us of Cee Lo’s rep for putting on a big production. Not like we needed a reminder.
9:54: No, they didn’t. Yes, they did. They are doing a full-blown tribute to “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.” Complete with children in post-apocalyptic garb jumping, dancing and tumbling and a dramatic Vicci vs. Cee Lo face-off. As the other coaches give a standing O, I’m reminded of how much more compelling Vicci is when she rocks. I wish she had blasted through her competition piece like she just did through that.
9:59: Carson’s parting shot: “I’m gonna attempt to give Cee Lo a hug, but I’m terrified.” Yes, Cee Lo is decked out spikes, shoulder pads and a faux ‘hawk, all in his signature red, while Vicci is looking uber-cool all in black leather. Definite style points.
10:00: OK, it’s time to vote for the inaugural champion on “The Voice”! Here’s how I’m ranking tonight’s performances: Javier, Dia, Beverly and Vicci.
Overall, though, I rank them this way: Dia, Vicci, Javier and Beverly. We all have until early tomorrow to cast our ballots.
Remember, the duets don’t count as votes for the contestants, but they are available on iTunes. My faves, in order: Blake and Dia, Cee Lo and Vicci, Adam and Javier, Xtina and Bev.
10:23: Informal poll: Did you think the Cee Lo-Vicci duet costumes and staging were most reminiscent of (A.) Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (B.) Gwar (C.) Flamboyant cavepeople or (D.) Other ____? (I think my vote should be obvious.)
10:27: According to NBC.com, voting is actually open until 10 a.m. Eastern/9 a.m. Central Wednesday to determine the first-ever champion on “The Voice.” Go to NBC.com, or buy the original song performance of your choice on iTunes. Or if you prefer to cast your ballot by phone, here are the numbers:
Javier Colon 1-855-VOICE-01
Vicci Martinez 1-855-VOICE-02
Dia Frampton 1-855-VOICE-03
Beverly McClellan 1-855-VOICE-04
And tune in again at 7 p.m. Wednesday, when we’ll find out who won. Once again, I’ll be live blogging the season finale here on BAM’s Blog.
Thanks for following along tonight. Happy voting!