Things got hot on "The Voice" on Monday night, and it wasn't only because this season's remarkably talented top 12 burned things up with their live performances.
With Los Angeles in the midst of a heat wave, the air-conditioning had gone on the fritz, Carson Daly informed us. That meant Daly eventually doffed his jacket and rolled up his sleeves and Usher removed his shirt. Adam Levine looked a bit like a perspiring Ken doll. Shakira and Blake Shelton, however, seemed barely affected by the wilting heat.
Still, hot or not, the show had to go on, with the first few contestants bearing up under apparently miserable conditions, before the A/C finally kicked back in to cool things off.
Team Usher's Vedo showed off his smooth dance moves and ability to hit the notes of Michael Jackson's "Rock With You." Shakira said the way Vedo left his heart on the stage every time he performed made him likable. Shelton called the performance "awesome." Vedo's own coach, Usher, said he showed himself to be a complete entertainer, able to sing and dance at once.
Baylor University student Holly Tucker, of Team Blake, sang Martina McBride's "Broken Wing," doing her best to connect to the song's message -- "relate to people" -- and building toward a powerful finish. "Anybody who ever doubted your talent is a fricking idiot," Usher told her, calling her performance "through the roof." Shakira said Tucker had outdone herself, playfully stealing a line from Shelton: "Gosh dang, girl." Levine remarked on the passion Tucker had shown while singing, and her immediate return to calm once she'd finished. Shelton said his team member had gotten better each week and done McBride proud. "You made a difference tonight for Nashville, for sure," he said.
Team Shakira's 17-year-old Garrett Gardner proved himself perhaps the evening's weakest link, though he didn't get a lot of help from his coach, who assigned him a "rock interpretation" of the Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way" and asked him to show off his "signature" growl to boot. Shakira gave her boy a standing O, but Levine said the song "wasn't [his] favorite choice." Shelton allowed that it wasn't the worst thing to throw a contestant "something out of left field" and gallantly declared the performance "pretty good." And Usher said you had to take risks to reap rewards. Shakira, clearly gaga for Gardner, called the singer "charismatic" and the rendition "cool as hell."
Team Adam's Sarah Simmons displayed her range, going from soft sweetness to grit and power, on Brandi Carlile's "The Story." Shelton expressed gratitude that she'd shown the "extremes" of her voice. Shakira felt the song showcased her charisma, in addition to her vocal ability. And Levine called Simmons one of the competition's best singers. "I know that is the case," he said.
The Swon Brothers, Team Blake's trailblazing duo, asked to perform a tribute -- all-acoustic, accompanying themselves on piano and guitar -- to late country great George Jones. "We can't do it like George, but we can do it for him," one of the Swons said of "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes," with which they made a pretty good case for themselves. Shelton stood to applaud. Usher called the performance "incredible." Levine dubbed it "beautiful" and said he'd enjoyed it so much he'd forgotten about the competition. And Shelton said they'd had "a breakout moment" while honoring "the Possum" and country-music history.
Sasha Allen, Team Shakira's powerhouse, erstwhile of Team Adam, sang Heart's "Alone" and tried to make it more pop than Broadway. (Turns out, she'd had a role on Broadway in "Hair.") Levine called Allen "miraculous," and acknowledged that she showed, week after week, why he was "stupid" to have ever let her go. Usher said Allen had taken him "to church." And Shakira pulled out all the stops, calling Allen's voice "one of the best voices I've ever heard" and her performance "beautiful," "heartfelt," "emotional," as well as "fierce and really powerful." "America, please vote for my Sasha," she said. "If you vote for her, I promise I am going to write a song called 'My Sasha.'"
Team Usher's male model Josiah Hawley looked to make his mark with an "intimate" acoustic performance of the Script's "The Man Who Can't Be Moved," a move Usher, for some reason, found "gutsy." Seated on a platform above an enthusiastically waving audience, Hawley, in a white T-shirt and jeans, gave his best performance on the show to date, for what that's worth. Levine said he'd finally found his vocal "sweet spot." Shelton said his combo of "Adam's clothes and Usher's advice" had been a winner. Usher enthused that Hawley's performance was only the beginning, saying he felt as if he were working with "a young Adam." Levine didn't look too flattered by the comparison.
Sixteen-year-old country-pop hopeful and Team Blake member Danielle Bradbery assured us that, back home, she was just a regular teen, and then showed off her arrestingly clear, strong, confident tone on Carrie Underwood's "Wasted." Bradbery could stand to connect more with her song lyrics; it can be easy to miss the meaning while admiring the singing. (Get on that, Blake.) "I never detect an ounce of nerves in you," Shakira said. "You're like a 16-year-old Margaret Thatcher -- a mini-Iron lady." Levine called her "the one to beat." Shelton told Bradbery they could talk forever about "what an incredible singer you are and still not say it all," then told the audience she was "exactly the girl you think she is" – a "normal" teen becoming a star "before our eyes."
Attacking stardom from another angle, former Michael Jackson backup singer Judith Hill, of Team Adam, hopped on the acoustic, self-accompanying bandwagon and performed a soulful rendition of Carole King's "You've Got a Friend," while playing a very white, very grand piano. Shelton said Hill was "one of the ones we can count on for greatness every week." Usher said she was "totally in control of [her] destiny." And Levine said she'd separated herself from the other great voices in the competition by showing her prowess at the piano and proved herself to be the "most talented human being in this competition."
Team Usher's unusual, and unusually appealing, nerdy free spirit Michelle Chamuel, was as interesting to watch as ever on Robyn's "Call Your Girlfriend." Usher, no pushover, gave her a standing ovation. Shakira gave her props for singing and dancing at the same time "like a pro." Levine said Chamuel was one of his faves, calling her "interesting," "unique," "passionate" and engaging -- and blurting out, "I love you." "I adore you," Usher told Chamuel, adding that he hoped the audience would "continue to vote for you because I want to go all the way to the end with you."
High-voiced smooth crooner Kris Thomas, of Team Shakira, took on the second Michael Jackson song of the night, the Jackson 5's "I'll Be There." It was an uneven performance of a vocally complicated song that showed off Thomas' pretty tone but occasionally slippery grasp on pitch. Levine and Shelton acknowledged the toughness of Thomas' task but said he'd risen to the challenge, though Usher seemed unimpressed. Shakira said Thomas had shown "sincerity … sweetness and honesty" and told him he "should feel very accomplished today."
The evening's capper was Team Adam's powerful country artist Amber Carrington, who sang Martina McBride's "I'm Gonna Love You Through It," dedicating it to her mom, who died of cancer at 38. It may have been the second McBride song of the evening, but in Carrington's hands, it was a standout. It was as if the song had been written for her. Shelton reluctantly admitted Levine had "a star on his hands." Usher said Carrington had defied the laws of gravity. "I see you having an incredible career," whether or not she won the competition, he said. Levine said she had a way of touching him on an emotional level that astonished him every time.
Who do you think will go home?
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