And then there were 10. Of the hundreds of hopefuls who crowded The Voice's open auditions starting last summer, it's come down to just 10 talented artists: Cole Vosbury, Jacquie Lee, Tessanne Chin, Will Champlin, Austin Jenckes, Kat Robichaud, Matthew Schuler, Caroline Pennell, James Wolpert and Ray Boudreaux. Tonight, they'll fight off nerves, fatigue and countless distractions as they each sing for survival. Tonight's vote opens at 10:55 p.m. ET and all the artists and coaches are poised to make the most of it. But every show, no matter how important, needs a solid opening number, and tonight all 10 artists join in on Mowgli's "Say It, Just Say It" to get the party started.
Red-haired Austin Jenckes draws the first slot. The hulking country rock/folk singer straps on an electric guitar and launches into the '80s pop rocker from The Outfield, "Your Love." It's pure ear candy, and the audience is quickly on its feet.
Jacquie Lee follows up. Settled behind a glossy black grand piano and seemingly floating in a sea of fog, the teenager glides her way through Zedd's "Clarity." It's a shimmering, powerful performance; Jacquie again demonstrates a range and command well beyond her years.
We return from break and find Will Champlin in the spotlight next. He's chosen indie singer John Newman's "Love Me Again" to try to propel him to the Top 8. With its pop-dance beat and strident lead vocal, Will's got a challenge on his hands - but one that pays off as he pushes himself into his higher register to impressive effect. Adam's floored.
The competition's other youngster, Caroline Pennell, draws the next slot. Her delicate, bird-like voice is a pitch-perfect match for "Leaving on a Jet Plane." The folk song (written by a young John Denver) was the one and only No. 1 hit for Peter, Paul and Mary. Caroline hopes she can take it to crack the top 10 of the iTunes charts, since any song that makes it there brings a multiplicity of additional votes with it. The feel-good song resonates with the crowd, and the diminutive Caroline looks like she could be headed to the Top 8.
Mr. Big's "To Be with You" is the pick of the next singer, Cole Vosbury. The rock singer with the big beard and the even bigger voice knows the sing-along song could propel him into the upper echelon. From the opening notes, Cole pulls out the stops and quickly has the audience clapping along with him. The song's a great fit for his smoky vocals.
Tessanne Chin steps into the spotlight next. As a backup singer for three years, the Jamaican singer knows a showcase song when she hears it, and her pick tonight is all that: "If I Were Your Woman." The soul classic, originally from Gladys Knight and the Pips is a supreme showcase for Tessanne's unique ability to lift a song to greater heights. By the time she delivers the final notes, the audience is blown away. The coaches can't heap enough praise on Tessanne.
Ray Boudreaux knows he's got a tough act to follow, but he's undaunted. He knows he's got a song that could make or break him: Ray LaMontagne's "You Are the Best Thing." He steps to center stage and immediately finds his center within the song. As he keeps pushing himself deeper into the tune, his interpretation hits home, and no matter where he goes from here, Ray's got a performance to be proud of.
Next up is James Wolpert, who's chosen "Without You," a love ballad covered by everyone from Badfinger to Mariah Carey, Frank Sinatra and Harry Nilsson. It's a challenging piece for any singer, with a wide-ranging melody and a plaintive, sad central theme. But the song suits James as if it were written for him; his push into the song's crescendo has the crowd cheering. James is all smiles as he comes off the stage.
Kat Robichaud has the next-to-last slot. Spared from elimination last week by the instant save, she knows she can't show any weakness in her performance tonight. She's set her sights on a rock classic: Pat Benatar's "We Belong." Seated at a gold piano, Kat approaches the song gently, building toward the powerful chorus. Paul Mirkovich and the house band come on strong as Kat kicks it into gear. Pulling the song's energy back and forth, Kat works the crowd, finally pushing herself to the limit as she brings the song to a high octane finish. CeeLo couldn't be more proud.
Finally, Matthew Schuler makes his way to the stage for what will be a signature performance of "Beneath Your Beautiful." The song, originally done by Labrinth and Emeli Sande, puts Matthew's vocal prowess on full display; his soaring vocals have the crowd standing. Once again, Matthew has torn the roof off the Universal Studios stage. Carson jumps in to remind us all how to vote and bids us goodnight. The artists head off to their hotel rooms to begin feverishly drumming up support amongst their fans; the coaches too will tweet and post with fervor, hoping to take their artists over the top.
The remaining 10 artists sing live in a bid for America's votes.