The six finalists on "The Voice" got their first chance to perform two songs in one show and four of them took similar plans of attack: Perform one song in strict accordance with the original and tweak the other by altering the tempo and arrangement.
Naturally, there were mixed results. Yet Amanda Brown excelled by being the one singer who stuck with the intent of the best-known versions of her two songs, choosing to add vocal intensity over arrangement gimmicks.
Tuesday morning's iTunes chart reveals that Cassadee Pope remains a fan favorite and it is still very much her contest to lose. Artistically, though, Brown demonstrated interpretive skills that have been lacking on television competitions, and Trevin Hunte, with an impeccable take on a "Dreamgirls" classic, is back to being a contender.
Each singer got to choose one song and the coaches picked another. Surprisingly, a majority of the songs have iconic status or defining interpretations; there were no contemporary hidden gems in the mix. After Monday's show, the six singers shared their thoughts on their selections and performances. We have a few thoughts of our own. Performers are listed in order of preference.
1. Amanda Brown
"(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, made famous by Aretha Franklin
"Here I Go Again" by Whitesnake
The dominant one-two performance of the night, Brown gave two wildly different interpretations, taking the Aretha hit up to the choir loft and pushing the Whitesnake jam into the gutter. A double feature of "The Preacher's Wife" and "Rock of Ages" anyone? Power was the game she excelled in Monday, maintaining the intent of the originals and ensuring that everyone in the audience understood who Amanda Brown is as a performer.
"'Natural Woman' is one of those songs you grow up knowing and Aretha is an artist you always know and I wanted to pay tribute to that. I haven't done that," she says, noting the forceful impact of the energy of nearly 30 females singers behind her. "It's not just important for me, but for people to see. I wanted to pay tribute to the artists that have performed these songs I feel like I put my little spin in both and hopefully someone says 'yes, that was a good rendition.'"
2. Trevin Hunte
"Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina and the Waves
"And I'm Telling You" from "Dreamgirls"
After a perfunctory take on the summer-iest pop song of the last three decades, Hunte demonstrated superior control, pitch and volume with a glorious take on the "Dreamgirls" show-stopper most recently interpreted by Jennifer Hudson. Gender-swapping -- a guy does a song associated with a woman or vice-versa -- is always a safe gimmick on these shows and YouTube covers, but Hunte more than delivered the goods and used the song as a blueprint for a powerhouse demonstration.
"I definitely tried to mash myself into the song," he says. "I rank the night high because it was one of the most challenging."
3. Cassadee Pope
"Stand," written by Blair Daly and Danny Orton, a No. 1 country song for Rascal Flatts
"I'm With You" by Avril Lavigne
From my vantage point in the studio -- six rows behind Christina Aguilera -- Pope had a few pitch issues in both performances and did not further illuminate her vocal skills. She's an admirable singer who knows how to let it rip when a song is nearing its emotional climax ad that certainly generates the standing ovations. Popular as she and her performances are, Pope still fits neatly into a country-pop box that is already overcrowded with talent.
"We're all artists and songwriters so we all know how to pour our hearts into a lyric to make a connection," she told Billboard. "I was a fan of Avril Lavigne since I was 12 and I didn't connect with the lyrics as a kid but the melody is so pretty."