To paraphrase Thomas Paine, these are the nights that try artists' souls. Having survived a gauntlet of auditions, interviews, battles, knockouts, coaches' choices, votes and instant saves, the eight men and women remaining in the competition are weary but hardened. And tonight they'll have to sing for their survival once again. James Wolpert, Tessanne Chin, Jacquie Lee, Will Champlin, Ray Boudreaux, Matthew Schuler, Caroline Pennell and Cole Vosbury have been rehearsing all weekend, working with their coaches and Paul Mirkovich's band to perfect what each hopes is a personal musical knockout punch.
But before the competition gets underway, Carson welcomes Robin Thicke back to the stage. An advisor in Season 4, the handsome singer last appeared here last spring when he premiered "Blurred Lines," a song that would become an international smash hit. Tonight, he brings the sexy again, singing "Feel Good" while standing atop a fog shrouded grand piano.
Robin Thicke may be a tough act to follow, but James Wolpert is up to the task. His number tonight is solid rock gold: Queen's "Somebody to Love." Encouraged by Adam, James looks to pay tribute to the original vocal by Freddy Mercury, but also adds his own sense of phrasing and emotional resonance. He starts the song by emerging from a crowd of male backing singers who are all dressed just like him—in tuxes and horn-rimmed glasses. He delivers a soaring, triumphant vocal; James has set a high bar on a night that promises to offer plenty of vocal fireworks.
Tessanne Chin draws the second spot. On a glowing, hot pink set, the powerful Jamaican singer brings a confident "Underneath It All." She weaves her way past dancers and trumpet players on the stage, playing to all parts of the crowd. It's another killer performance from the professional singer who's cut her teeth singing behind Jimmy Cliff. Teenager Caroline Pennell follows. On a music box-inspired set, Caroline puts her own spin on Florence + the Machine's "Dog Days Are Over." CeeLo couldn't be prouder. "No matter what happens, you're a winner," he tells her. "Because you've won my heart."
We stop into the Sprint Skybox for a visit with Carson and Robin Thicke before heading back down to the stage for a group number. Cole Vosbury, Ray Boudreaux, Tessane Chin and Will Champlin come front and center to deliver a sweet, harmony-filled take on "One Day."
After a break, Cole Vosbury is back on-stage. Accompanied by a string section and standing in a sea of dry-ice fog, Cole cuts a singular figure. Strumming an acoustic guitar, he pulls out all the stops for his take on Vince Gill's heart-wrenching "I Still Believe in You." It's a stirring, uplifting take on the country hit - and Blake is effusive in his praise.
Matthew Schuler steps up next. He reworks Imagine Dragons' "It's Time" to show off his considerable vocal firepower. With a squad of dancers (thanks Coach Xtina) moving around him as he whips up the crowd, Matthew proves once again that he's the whole package. We pop into the Sprint Skybox once again and then return to the stage for another group performance: Caroline Pennell, Jacquie Lee, James Wolpert and Matthew Schuler delight the crowd with a spirited take on Ed Sheeran's "Lego House." The somber ballad is anything but in the hands of the four singers. Seated opposite each other, the four performers take turns with the verses in a sweet vocal display; the audience shows its appreciation with sustained applause.
Will Champlin is up next, standing in front of a white baby grand piano. The lights come up to reveal a large string section introducing his piece, "At Last." Will make the Etta James standard his own, inflecting the song with his personal sense of nuance and meaning as plays with his phrasing. The crowd rewards him with a sustained ovation, and Adam and Christina lavish James with praise before we head for commercial break.
Ray Boudreaux rocks the house next, pouring himself into The Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Lovin'." The crowd is quickly on its feet, gyrating and dancing as the rollicking number rolls through the soundstage. Ray wends his way through a sea of fans as he brings the song to a powerful climax.
Finally, high school student Jacquie Lee is announced. The teenager has drawn the coveted final slot. She makes the most of the opportunity, eschewing her earlier oeuvre of ballads and pop to tackle the Motown classic "Who's Lovin' You." As before, her outsized voice completely belies her age and small frame. Though her voice won't be won't be confused for Tessane Chin's anytime soon, she's masterful and confident. The coaches are effusive; it's clear Jacquie's successfully planted her flag in yet another genre.
Carson quickly adds that voting is officially open. He runs down the myriad means America has for choosing its favorites. For the next 12 hours, the fate of the Top 8 is in the hands of the fans; the artists head back to their hotel rooms to crank up their social media machines to get out the vote. In less than 24 hours, we'll all reassemble to see who's made it to the semifinals.
All eight of the remaining artists sing live - and your votes decide who makes the Top 6. Robin Thicke performs.