The penultimate night of "The Voice" Season 6 blind auditions started off, as shows at this stage of the competition so often do, with each coach predicting his or her team will carry off the win. How the talent will ultimately fare remains to be seen, but one thing becomes more clear every week: From an entertainment perspective, the superstar team in the red chairs is a definite winner.
On Monday night, the coaches again struck just the right balance of lighthearted humor and amusing friction as they jousted and jostled, cuddled (Adam Levine apparently just loves to share Blake Shelton's chair), cajoled and critiqued. In one amusing interlude, Levine and Usher teamed up to try (unsuccessfully) to undercut Shelton's pitch and steer talent to Shakira; Shelton called them "Siskel and Ebert."
At another point, Levine furiously stormed off after losing an auditioning duo to Shelton, with whom they had much in common. "They might as well have been his little cousins or something," Levine harrumphed. "It's ridiculous … I quit."
Ah, good times.
And then there was the talent that paraded across the stage. Here are the singers who made it through:
Kat Perkins, a 33-year-old rocker-turned-nanny from Minneapolis, had been in a band, Scarlet Haze, that had opened for Bon Jovi before it and her marriage broke up. Her take on "Gold Dust Woman" spun Levine, Shakira and Usher and prompted them to stand and applaud.
Shakira told Perkins she'd help her become the "architect" of her "own destiny." Usher said he was sure they could win the show together, but misclassified Perkins as a country artist, a misstep Levine quickly used to his advantage. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but you're a rock singer," he said, noting that she'd sung a Fleetwood Mac song and that he'd won "The Voice" the year Stevie Nicks had been on it.
After Perkins picked Levine as her coach, she hopped into his arms. "That girl's going to go further than I think people realize," he said.
Paula DeAnda, 24, from San Antonio, Texas, had also had some early music-industry success, at one point opening for Rihanna, only to have her career stall. Hoping for a reboot, she sang "The Way," somewhat unevenly, but still caught the interest of Shelton and Shakira, of whom DeAnda had called herself a "huge fan." Shakira made a solid pitch that she'd work hard to help DeAnda improve. But Shelton bonded with DeAnda over her Texas roots, told her he saw a path to the winner's circle in his lane, and stole her away. "I've never really explored my country roots," DeAnda said, "but, you know, I am from Texas."
Usher nabbed a big win with Jake Barker, a good-looking 28-year-old with a following on YouTube whose career had been hampered by crippling stage fright. Barker showed few nerves with his solid rendition of "When I Was Your Man," spinning not only Usher, but Levine and Shakira as well. While Levine and Shakira debated about Barker's vocal trills, Usher moved in. "I see you as one of the greatest voices on my team," he told the singer, adding he'd "help to push" him and make sure he was "prepared for the winning circle."
After Barker picked him, Usher said he "could go all the way to the end, maybe win this whole thing."
In a series of fast yeses, Usher nabbed pop singer Tess Boyer, Levine scored soul man Josh Murley and soul-pop vocalist Austin Ellis, and Shelton picked up Cali Tucker, who turned out to be country music star Tanya Tucker's niece.
Shakira and Shelton each made a last-minute play for Ria Eaton, a 19-year-old singer hoping to help her family through hard times. Eaton, who sang "Cups (When I'm Gone)," had been working at the mall piercing ears, a job you might have expected to warm her to Shakira's declaration that she was going to "show the world what a jewel" she was. But Usher and Levine, with their "Siskel and Ebert" act, seemed to hinder more than help Shakira's case. Eaton chose Shelton, who called the "rasp" in her voice "one in a million."
Cierra Mickens, 23, a vocalist with gospel roots looking for musical opportunities beyond her hometown of Eagle River, Alaska, as well as a sign to help her decide whether to go to law school or pursue a singing career, turned Shakira and Shelton and then finally Usher with her take on Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy." Law school would have to wait. Shakira made a smart move, walking right up onstage to tell Mickens, face to face, how much she believed in her, and it paid off. "I got a good one, I think," Shakira later said.
Alaska & Madi, a duo made up of two BFFs who met as 12-year-olds through an organization called America's Kids and had won the group's national competition, revealed Shelton had won the same competition years before them. They spun Levine and Shelton with their intertwining harmonies on "Barton Hollow." And while Levine tried his best to get them, making an appeal for a counterintuitive choice, Shelton had the duo sewn up from the get-go. They were "meant to be together," he said, and the girls apparently agreed, much to Levine's apparent irritation.
Shakira picked up a 25-year-old singer named Ddendyl, who grew up in a tiny cow town but is now a lounge singer in Washington, D.C. After being, for some reason, the only coach to spin for Ddendyl's beautifully "airy" take on "Stand By Me," Shakira rightly compared her to Norah Jones. Usher seemed a little regretful of not having turned. "Shakira got a good one," he said.
All four coaches turned for 38-year-old Indianapolis dad, philosophy grad and SAT tutor Josh Kaufman, who chose to sing George Michael's "One More Try" because he was giving musical success, you know, one more try. They all rolled out the compliments. "That was goosebumps … unbelievable," Levine said. Shelton gushed that Kaufman was "amazing … awesome … incredible." Usher said he could help the talented singer develop as a soul artist and "make the right decisions." And Shakira called him "the real deal," capable of captivating "the minds and hearts of everyone in this country."
Kaufman delighted Levine by picking him. "Josh Kaufman is going to win this whole thing," the coach said. "Nice to know he entrusted me with his talent."
But Usher was not happy, saying he felt Kaufman had made "a mistake" by not picking him. "I hope that Josh can surpass Adam's ego," he added. Ouch.
On Tuesday, the coaches will fill the final slots on their teams. Who do you think has the strongest team so far?
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