Blake Shelton and Shakira's teams stepped out live for the first time on "The Voice" on Tuesday night, as Teams Adam and Usher had done the previous night, to compete for audience votes as well as their coach's favor and vie for a spot in the top 12.
The evening brought some terrific performances, including a riveting duet by Shelton and Shakira on Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now." Shakira may have a citified sound and style, right down to her citified boots, but she held her own on the country hit.
And though she is a newbie on "The Voice," her team did well.
Young Garrett Gardner took the stage first for Team Shakira, playing piano and singing John Lennon's "Imagine." An ardent Lennon fan, he was unsure about taking on such an iconic song, but Shakira thought it would allow him to show more of his artistry.
Adam Levine, who said the song was one of his favorites, didn't seem terribly impressed but said nice things about Gardner in general. Usher, too, celebrated Gardner's persistence in returning this season after failing to make it through Blind Auditions last year. And Shelton called him "good looking," "a beast" with a good voice and "the complete package." Shakira compared Gardner's journey to the American dream, saying he was proving that hard work and determination can pay off.
Shakira assigned team member Kris Thomas Bruno Mars' "When I Was Your Man," which allowed him to show off his high voice and sweet tone. Levine and Shelton differed on whether Thomas' nervous energy was a drawback (Levine) or an asset (Shelton, who felt it showed the competition mattered). Shakira ignored that debate and, instead, paid tribute not just to Thomas' talent, which she said gave her goosebumps, but also his "heart of gold."
"I'm sold. I can't help it -- I like the good guys to win," she said.
To bring out the soulful side of Karina Iglesias, formerly coached by Levine, Shakira had her sing Al Green's "Let's Stay Together." It was an intense, fauxhawk-trembling performance. Levine said he'd been "foolish" to let Iglesias go, but he didn't seem truly regretful. Shakira was full of compliments, saying Iglesias had given her everything: "sassiness … strength … lungs."
But Shakira had definitely saved her best singer, Sasha Allen --- New York mom, professional backup singer and former Team Adam member -- for last. At Shakira's urging, Allen let her "sexiness" and "desperation" come through on the Beatles' "Oh! Darling." It was a gorgeous, smoking-hot performance. Levine said, whether or not she was on his team, he still believed she could win the competition. Shelton said the world had just fallen in love with Allen. And Usher seemed to prove Shelton's point, offering a shy smile and kicking up both legs as he called Allen a "great vocalist" and complimented her on her dress.
Shakira could not have been more pleased. "I feel like we are in front of one of those moments that we all signed up for here," she told Allen. "You have one of the best voices I've ever heard in my life."
Shelton, meanwhile, had tried to loosen up his performers (country artists, all) for the live shows by taking them to sing karaoke. Whether or not as a result, Team Blake certainly looked more comfortable on its group number, "Boondocks," than Shakira's team looked on theirs, Queen's "We Are the Champions."
They did well individually as well. Baylor University marching band member Holly Tucker, who was concerned that she didn't "fit the mold of what a superstar should look like," looked and sounded beautiful and confident as she tackled Leann Rimes's "How Do I Live." The coaches heaped praise.
Usher said he "loved" Tucker's "take-charge approach" and felt she'd made the song "more personal." Shakira complimented Tucker's "pretty tone" and "reliable" pitch. Levine told Tucker that she was "a beautiful woman" and "super talented." And Shelton, like a proud papa, told her she had not only proved she deserved to be there, but that she was, in fact, the one to beat.
Shelton gave his happy-go-lucky, feel-good duo the Swon Brothers "Fishing in the Dark" by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, hoping it would help them show off their vocals. Usher said he'd been unfamiliar with the song. "You don't go fishing in the dark?" he was asked. "Sometimes, in other ways," Usher replied.
Shakira said she always relaxed and had fun when the Swon Brothers took the stage. And Shelton complimented them on their tight harmonies, saying they'd given him everything he'd hoped they would.
To Alabama boy Justin Rivers, Shelton assigned Diamond Rio's "Meet in the Middle." Rivers performed it on a stage peninsula, surrounded by audience members. By the end of the performance, Rivers had ripped out his in-ear monitor and cut seriously loose. Usher called it "freaking cool." Shakira dubbed it "refreshing." Levine said Rivers was a "huge surprise." And Shelton called him a "dark horse," who could change things up as he sang and make it work.
Shelton's last artist was 16-year-old Texas cutie Danielle Bradbery, who Shelton thinks could bring beloved country hits to a new generation. Bradbery showed off her solid vocals with Pam Tillis' "Maybe It Was Memphis" but didn't seem terribly connected with the song's emotion and story. The coaches, however, didn't note any flaws.
Usher complimented Bradbery's comfort level on stage and predicted she'd have a long career. Shakira paid tribute to Bradbery's coach by uttering one of his favorite phrases, "Holy crap." And Levine said she was among the best singers in the competition with a voice that was so good it was scary, but Shelton went further. "Danielle is one of the most important artists who's ever been on 'The Voice,'" he said.
Who are your faves? And who would you send home?
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