As exciting and intense as the taped episodes of The Voice always are, everyone looks forward to the live shows each season. Each coach’s team has been brought down to four final artists, but after this round only three per team can advance. This year, each coach can only save one artist, and the public’s vote will determine the other two singers from each team that will be saved.
Monday night (Teams Adam and Usher):
Monday’s episode kicks off with another video clip of Usher’s unique coaching techniques – he takes his four singers to a gym, specifically a boxing ring, for an endurance workout for their group performance. (It would have been more fun to watch former Team Usher singer Ryan Innes keep up with the workout.) Still, something must have gone right. Team Usher’s cover of Sam Sparro’s “Black and Gold” was one of the most well-designed and beautiful group performances in show history.
Amber Carrington (Team Adam). My least favorite on Adam’s team, just because she knocked out Midas Whale, is the first to perform solo on Monday night. As Carson Daly disclosed earlier, all of the solo performances for the Round of 16 are to be performed with stripped-down accompaniment, so the voices can be the focal points. Carrington sings “Stay” by Rihanna; for an alleged country singer, I feel like she doesn’t really ever sing country. She does a good job with it, though, and while I’m still not incredibly impressed, it’s now up to the voters to whether Adam’s prediction that Amber will be the biggest surprise in the competition will come true. Advancing to the Top 12 would certainly make her case.
Josiah Hawley (Team Usher). So much for the stripped-down accompaniment. Usher gives Josiah “Starlight” by Muse, a band that one does not simply strip down. He also describes Josiah as having “sexual, confident commitment” and not another word needs to be said. Josiah is this season’s Dez Duron – a very good voice who will receive just as many votes for his looks as he does for his singing ability. Still, I’m not particularly impressed with his “Starlight.” Usher says the song is all about breath control for Josiah, but I still could hear a few strained breaths as well as strained notes. He did well overall, but Team Usher is the most talented and competitive team, so I wouldn’t be surprised if his time on The Voice is cut short.
Sarah Simmons (Team Adam). The more I listen to Sarah Simmons speak, the more I’m amazed – she has such a soft speaking voice for someone who can belt with the best of them! So it excites me when Adam says Sarah should have the “quiet moment” this round that she hasn’t had yet, and gives her “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan. This is the first performance of the night I really love. If Usher’s team is the most competitive, Adam’s is a close second. After Sarah’s gorgeous performance, Blake tells his team watching in the audience to “do that!” She had better be a lock.
Cathia (Team Usher). My least favorite of Usher’s artists is not necessarily the least talented. Usher’s stolen artist from Team Shakira beat Ryan Innes in the final knockout last week, and for the Round of 16 she is given “I Have Nothing” by Whitney Houston. Usher attempts “to make her voice dance” by waltzing with Cathia in the middle of rehearsal. I actually like her performance more than Josiah’s, and I don’t think she should have a problem advancing to the Top 12. Shakira loves her former artist’s performance but disagrees with the song choice. I think what she was getting at was that if she does advance, it will be hard to follow up that song.
Caroline Glaser (Team Adam). We come to my unabashed favorite singer in the competition, 19-year-old Caroline Glaser, who Adam stole from Team Blake during the Battle Round. He chose her over Amy Whitcomb last week, despite a shaky performance in the Knockout Round, because I’m sure he sees the potential she has. Caroline sings “The A Team” by Ed Sheeran, which is 1.) the perfect song for her, and B.) a song she has previously covered on her YouTube channel, which I believe means she’s more comfortable with it. She admits she isn’t a powerhouse singer, and needs to find where her “big moment” is. I saw the whole song as her big moment – a hundred times better than last week’s “Little Talks.” I wish the producers didn’t choose to give more close-ups to the light bulbs under her feet than to the singer herself, but no matter. She needs to make it to the next round, where I hope she’ll sing “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. What, don’t believe me? Seriously, look up her YouTube channel.
Funny moments of the night: Carson Daly tells Blake the song was “right in [his] wheelhouse,” and Blake immediately admits he doesn’t know the (immensely popular) song… and then Blake shamelessly promotes the “special latte” Starbucks gave him, which I’m positive at this point has alcohol in it, for the third time that night. Usher later says Caroline gets “a vote simply for the dimples,” to which Daly, the least funny comedian I know, delivers the best one-liner ever: “That’s a different phone number.” As in, to vote. Ah, never mind.
Vedo (Team Usher). Usher gives Vedo “Against All Odds” by Phil Collins because he wants to see Vedo move an audience with his voice, without any dance moves. He didn’t give Vedo a Collins song to surprise him with an artist he’d never heard of before, but that happened, too. At least he’s honest! It is a genius song choice by Usher. Vedo conveys the emotion of the song perfectly, while also maintaining excellent pitch and adding great riffs. A true artist can take a song he’s never heard before and make it into something special in a short time, and that’s what Vedo does. (Aside: Shakira pulls off another spontaneous but deep analogy, calling herself “an ant in the infinity of the universe” while not critiquing his performance at all.) In short, Vedo needs to move on to the Top 12.
Michelle Chamuel (Team Usher). After we get a lesson in “looking good” from Team Adam (because that’s what The Voice is all about, right?) and they perform Florence and the Machine’s “Shake It Out,” we come to my second-favorite singer in the competition, Michelle Chamuel. She sings her first ballad of the competition, Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors.” While last week we saw Michelle drop and give Coach Usher twenty, this week Usher has Michelle sing into a mirror in order for her to be more comfortable with herself. Usher’s unique coaching methods seem to have helped this unique artist the most, as she nails her performance. The coaches agree hers was one of the breakout performances of the night, and Usher can only softly say “Yay!” She’s sticking around. (Also, she hasn’t mentioned the band she used to sing in, Ella Riot, formerly My Dear Disco. If you’re a fan of indie electro-pop with funk influences, or even if you aren’t, check them out.)
Judith Hill (Team Adam). Even though it would be nice to think that the order of live performances is decided with a hat and little slips of paper, it’s obvious that NBC wants the last performance of the night to be the best. I consider the Michael Jackson duet singer the favorite statistically, so it’s not surprising she closes out the show, but Adam says Judith is by no means the favorite yet, citing former Team Adam member Sasha Allen as competition. (Is he admitting he shouldn’t have cut her? Because he shouldn’t have cut her.) “Feeling Good” was done by Dez Duron last season, but nobody has ever done it quite like Judith. All the coaches are very impressed, and so is the rest of the audience. Coach Adam can only call it “cool.”
If I had my way: Team Adam would consist of Judith, Sarah and Caroline, and Team Usher would be Vedo, Cathia and Michelle. Amber is really nothing special compared to her teammates, and Josiah’s performance was not exactly what I hoped it would be, so I move Cathia on instead. It all depends on which artists get the most votes, and which artists are left for the coaches to choose one to save.
Tuesday night (Teams Blake and Shakira):
Both Usher and Adam praise Michelle Chamuel’s Monday night performance early on, which makes me more confident that Michelle will advance either by voting or by her coach’s save. Team Blake goofs off at a karaoke joint and then performs “Boondocks” by Little Big Town, and then we finally begin the solo performances:
Garrett Gardner (Team Shakira). Shakira’s “coach’s pet,” Garrett, starts off Tuesday’s show. Shakira gives him “Imagine” by John Lennon, which both he and Carson Daly call an “iconic song.” It’s a true test for the 19-year-old, and he impresses me more than I thought he would. Accompanying himself on the piano while singing, Garrett controls his dynamics fantastically and doesn’t overdo it. I like his tone better than I have liked it in the past, and overall it is a solid performance of a huge test of a song.
Holly Tucker (Team Blake). Suddenly Holly is worried she doesn’t fit the mold of a supermodel/superstar…? This was kind of a strange time for a scarring backstory to crop up. Does this great singer need pity votes? Blake tells her she’s beautiful, she says kthanks, and we get on to the music. “How Do I Live” by Leann Rimes is the song of choice this time, and we see basically no coaching from Blake, just talking about confidence. She seems plenty confident onstage to me, in addition to having a very, very good singing voice. She hits the high note before the final chorus, putting plenty of power behind it. I don’t see why she shouldn’t move on to another round, fat (yes, I said it – the F-word) or not. Also, Blake is drunk on his “special latte” again.
Kris Thomas (Team Shakira). “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars is an excellent song Shakira could choose for Kris. As much as we all love Kris’ super-high falsetto, I got excited when it appeared in rehearsal that Kris will use more of his normal vocal range in his performance. I was more than impressed – sure enough, Kris uses his regular tone and his falsetto in good balance, with plenty of notable falsetto riffs. Shakira is also clearly impressed with the performance, and while Adam wished Kris had been less nervous onstage, the coaches generally loved the song also.
The Swon Brothers (Team Blake). I really like this brother duo and their story. The trick is that both still tend to get sloppy, and if just one of them does, it will hurt the other, and the performance overall. For the first live Voice performance by a duo since Season One, Zach and Colton sing “Fishin’ in the Dark” by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. The performance is a prime example of a fun, relaxing, country moment – as Adam puts it, “so Blake.” Blake is upset Adam doesn’t know “Fishin’ in the Dark,” which is interesting because Blake didn’t know “The A Team” from Monday night. I like them, but on Blake’s team, country is fighting country with country, and I have no clue yet who will be cut this week.
Karina Iglesias (Team Shakira). Shakira gives Karina Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” because she stole her for the soul in her voice. She has a little trouble with one long “let’s” within the lyrics during the rehearsal, and Shakira says she needs to work on emoting the message of the song. I think Karina does a great job of this during the live performance, but Shakira also warned her not to over-embellish, which I think she does. It also isn’t the greatest of song choices because, despite how soulful Shakira sees Karina as, she’s a rocker at heart. Overall, she shouldn’t have too much trouble making the next round.
Justin Rivers (Team Blake). We finally get more backstory for Justin, the South Alabama country singer who is married to a beautiful woman and has a kid on the way. His wife had to force him to come to his Voice audition because he was about ready to give up on his dream. I think Justin is a better dark horse story than Amber Carrington, even though both were one-chair turners. Justin has lasted longer than former country artist contestants Warren Stone and Michael Austin, though that might be because they were stuck on Team Adam. Jokes aside, Justin gives a great performance of “Meet in the Middle” by Diamond Rio. Usher calls it a “country incredible” moment after explaining how he felt like the only hip-hop guy at a country concert. Overall, Justin’s stock continues to rise, so to speak, and he’ll be around at least another round or two.
Danielle Bradbery (Team Blake). I wish they would stop counting Danielle’s performances as “your fourth performance ever,” etc. It was clear that her Voice blind audition was her first “big” performance, not her first ever performance. Besides that, I still love Danielle and her voice. Blake goes four for four at giving his artists less-popular country songs as Danielle sings “Maybe It Was Memphis” by Pam Tillis. (Maybe three for four, since I know Leann Rimes. She was mentioned in “One Week” by Barenaked Ladies. But I digress.) We hear grit in Danielle’s voice for the first time, and overall her voice fits the song perfectly. Coach reactions are varied: Usher looks below the 16-year-old’s waist (“Way to change your boots, and put on some cool pants”), Shakira quotes Blakey (“Holy crap”), and Adam admits Danielle is one of the singers to beat in the competition. I mostly agree with Adam.
Sasha Allen (Team Shakira). On Monday night, Adam said Sasha is the biggest competition to his team’s favorite, Judith Hill. Having coached her and foolishly cut her, he should know, perhaps even better than current coach Shakira. Shaki gives Sasha “Oh! Darling.” I’m partial to the version of this song Juliet Simms did for her blind audition during Season Two, and Sasha seems like she screams some parts. Besides that, I don’t know what else to say – she is a fantastic singer, and easily Shakira’s best.
If I had my way: Team Shakira would be Sasha, Kris and Karina, though I could interchange Garrett and Karina and be okay with it. Team Blake would go forward with Danielle, Justin and Holly. This was a tough one for me because they are all country singers and all of them did so well with their performances, but the Swon Brothers, whom I’ve been rooting for and would hate to see go, just had the least spectacular out of all of them.
Wednesday night (Results):
The results show on Wednesday night began with Team Blake and his team of only country artists. America first saves Holly and then Danielle, which I completely agree with. They are Blake’s most popular artists, and arguably the better singers too. However, Blake says that through all of the scenarios and combinations of artists, he apparently did not expect both Holly and Danielle to be saved by voting and Justin and the Swon Brothers to be left for his coach’s save. But I expect him to save Justin, because the Swons had the least remarkable performance of Tuesday night, so I’m surprised when he saves the Swon Brothers. The duet sees another round, which I admit I am happy about, but the rising country star who we just started learning more about, Justin, is gone perhaps too soon. Eliminated: Justin.
It was easy enough to predict that Sasha and Kris received the most votes on Team Shakira. But not even Shakira could have predicted how Shakira would decide whom to save. In a ramble that seems to last more than two minutes, she first says she literally picked a name out of a bag on a piece of paper. Then she describes real reasoning behind her decision – Karina is great, she can help Garrett a lot more, so Garrett is saved and Karina is eliminated. Did we just see the first singer to be eliminated for being too good? To be fair, Karina’s performance was not as memorable compared to the others, it wasn’t the right song choice for Shakira to give her, and America got their part right – Sasha and Kris are Shakira’s stars. Eliminated: Karina.
Team Usher, as I’ve said, is the most talented and most competitive team on the show this season, so a surprise would not faze me, unless it was Michelle Chamuel being eliminated. She had arguably Team Usher’s best performance Monday night, and Usher basically said he would save her if necessary. Sure enough, Michelle is America’s first save. Save number two is Vedo, who has been growing on me and who physically jumped for joy when hearing his name. Usher, in far fewer words than Shakira, saves Josiah, not Cathia. Until this point I was getting myself used to the idea of having another round with Cathia, because I was less impressed with Josiah’s performance. This will spark further debate on the Internet whether Usher set Cathia up to fail on purpose by making her sing Whitney Houston. I haven’t liked Cathia since her catfight with Mary Miranda, so I cannot say I mind. Eliminated: Cathia. (This means both of the show’s remaining Latina artists are eliminated in a span of fifteen minutes.)
Our last elimination is from Team Adam, which is the most worrisome for me because my favorite, Caroline Glaser, could easily be eliminated. My guess and my worst-case scenario is that Judith and Sarah get the most votes by America, and Adam chooses Amber, who he’s said can win the whole show, over Caroline. I think he would save anyone else over Caroline, so my best-case scenario is that Caroline is saved by America. Judith looks shocked when it is announced she is America’s first save. Amber, now my least favorite in the competition, also lives to see another round thanks to America. Adam says he will not support his own decision, either way. Carson says the show goes off air in less than a minute, the credits roll, and Adam is clearly rushed when he says, “S-Sarah. I pick Sarah.” Well thank goodness Law & Order: SVU started on time. This seemed hardly fair and I call for a review… but the truth is, we have to say goodbye, Caroline. Eliminated: Caroline.