The final four contestants of the NBC singing contest series "The Voice" took to the stage on Monday a day before the season 2 finale, with what has become expected drama from dominant coaches Christina Aguilera and Adam Levine.
Monday's pre-finale episode saw the two butt heads once again with regard to Levine's contestant, Tony Lucca. The Michigan native, whose history of appearing on "The All New Mickey Mouse Club" with Aguilera when they were younger has been a dominant storyline on "The Voice," has drawn mostly lukewarm and negative critiques from Aguilera.
On the latest episode, Lucca sang a southern rock and country version of Jay-Z's song "99 Problems," whose original lyrics contain explicit language and refer to a woman by the B-word. Lucca changed the track to be more appropriate for primetime network television, but Aguilera took offense anyway.
"I thought you sounded great," she said, clutching a paper coffee cup with a lid. "You have a really cool voice. You came here, you know, I know your beautiful wife and your daughter and family are here tonight and I just thought the lyrical connotation was a little derogatory towards women but you know all in all, it was good fun."
Lucca's wife and their boy Liam, her son from a previous relationship, attend his "Voice" tapings. They also have a 2-year-old daughter.
Levine fired back at Aguilera, saying: "We're not referring to women. It's called a metaphor."
"If that's how you have to get points," she said.
"I just want to say I love you, Christina," Levine said, standing up and stripping off his flannel shirt to reveal a black tee with the words "Team Xtina" printed in sparkly pink letters.
Lucca later said that he loved Levine's shirt, adding: "I think he was trying to get me to wear one on stage but I didn't know that they had it approved."
Aguilera had announced earlier during the episode that she is "a little bit sick tonight" and that all four contestants "deserve to be on that stage."
The drama that unfolded turned out to be positive for NBC, as the show's ratings grew from last week, from a 3.5 rating among adults aged 18 to 49 to a 3.7 and from 9.5 million to 10.5 million. It was the most watched show during its 8 to 10 p.m. time slot.
The contestant Aguilera is backing is classical singer Chris Mann, who is from Wichita, Kansas. On Monday's episode, the two sang "The Prayer," a powerful ballad made famous by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli, featured in the 1998 animated film "Quest For Camelot." He later sang "You Raise Me Up," made famous by Josh Groban.
Aguilera was seen with tears in her eyes during the performance. Mann also sang her 2003 track "The Voice Within."
"This is a real man," she exclaimed. "A real man. Who respects women. You're a class act in every way."
Lucca slammed Aguilera in an interview with Us Weekly magazine after the show.
"How convenient that she waits the whole season to talk about all things classy," he said. "It's just so transparent at this point and pathetic."
During the episode, he also performed The Beatles' "1965 ballad "Yesterday" with Levine and the 2003 song "Harder to Breathe" by his coach's band, Maroon 5.
The other two contestants are coach Cee Lo Green's, Juliet Simms of San Francisco, and Blake Shelton's, Jermaine Paul, who is from upstate New York. He sang R. Kelly's 1996 song "I Believe I Can Fly" and Christian music singer Dave Barnes' 2010 track "God Gave Me You." He and Shelton sang a duet of the 1967 Sam and Dave song "Soul Man." The contestant became emotional backstage while talking to correspondent Christina Millian.
Simms, a rocker who has performed in flashy outfits - one of which involved black wings, sang the 1967 song "Born to Be Wild," made famous by Steppenwolf, with her coach and also performed "Crazy" by Green's group Gnarls Barkley. She closed with a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd's 1974 hit "Free Bird."