The second week of live playoffs on The Voice was just as crazy as the one before it - but at the end, it came down to one of the most important things in the singing competition: song choice.
Monday's Top 12 performance show had more than a few eyebrow-raising moments. A heat wave knocked out the Los Angeles studio's air conditioning, forcing everyone to sweat their way through half the show until it could be repaired. At one point, host Carson Daly found out that if the temperature rose too high, the lights could go out. "That'll be fun for America," he quipped.
But perhaps the most surprising part of Monday's show was that Shakira assigned Garrett Gardner, the 17-year-old she saved from elimination the week before, a Backstreet Boys song for his Top 12 performance. He told TODAY.com that his initial reaction was that she was joking. She wasn't - and Garrett's version of "I Want It That Way" was met with a decidedly mixed reaction. Ultimately, Garrett was eliminated from the competition on Tuesday.
The other artist to get the axe was Team Usher's Vedo, who had a wrinkle of his own develop: both he and Team Shakira's Kris Thomas were given songs first made famous by Michael Jackson, although Kris was performing a tune by the Jackson 5 rather than just Michael. Although Vedo was able to both sing and dance his way through "Rock With You" without breaking a sweat even in the sauna that was the Voice studio, it wasn't enough to get him into the next round.
If either of these artists had been assigned other tracks, would they still be competing? While we won't ever know for sure, the argument can certainly be made, particularly in Garrett's case. If Shakira's goal was to prove that he could flip a song from one genre to another - which has been done on The Voice, such as when Tony Lucca turned Britney Spears' "Baby One More Time" into his defining moment in Season 2 - another song would have helped, if only because Garrett didn't seem to flip this one enough.
As for Vedo, was he out-Jacksoned by Kris? Or did he end up facing an impossible comparison to the King of Pop? Take on a legend, and if you don't knock it out of the park - even if you do a good job like Vedo did Monday - it can reflect badly. Just ask the number of Voice artists who have sung Whitney Houston, and have all had themselves judged against her phenomenal original versions.
Multiple Voice coaches have told even more artists about the importance of song choice in the competition, particularly in the live rounds, where it is not just about vocal ability but also about doing something that connects with as many people as possible. Pick the right song at the right time and you can go far, like Tony Lucca or like how Cassadee Pope surged forward once she discovered her country side in Season 3. Choose a song that doesn't quite work, and there are no second chances.
And if you're still not sold on the importance of voting for your favorites, then there's this: joining Garrett and Vedo in the bottom four were Team Blake's Holly Tucker and Team Shakira's Sasha Allen. Yes, Sasha Allen, whose consistently powerhouse performances have created a running joke about how dumb Adam Levine was to let her go. Even if an artist delivers the rendition of their life, it doesn't mean anything unless their fans turn out to support them.
At least this week, there wasn't any more concern about the voting process.
The Voice continues Monday, when it will narrow down the Top 10 to the Elite 8.
(c)2013 Brittany Frederick/Big Red Chairs. Excerpts appear at Starpulse with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @bigredchairs.