“Nothing celebrates Memorial Day like this rarely sober national treasure,” Carson Daly says of Blake Shelton, the opening performance of Monday’s The Voice. The reigning CMA Male Vocalist of the Year sings “Boys ‘Round Here,” keeping it true to the ‘Murica he loves: pick up trucks, chewing tobacco, spitting and all. Consider the holiday recognized.
While the rest of America kicked back on Memorial Day weekend, the cast and crew of The Voice spent the long weekend working overtime — especially the back-up dancers and set designers. It was a particularly theatrics-heavy evening for the show, which is good, because nothing helps an audience vote for the best singer like distracting them with choreography, fire and lasers.
In the first group performance of the night, four of the remaining ladies team up to sing Rihanna’s “Diamonds.” Judith Hill, Sarah Simmons, Michelle Chamuel and Sasha Allen are, obviously, dressed like sparkly diamonds onstage (love it). Their smiles and hugs aren’t fooling anyone, though: the competition is fierce between the divas. Each one tries to stand out above the others during the song, making for some high quality filler material.
The remaining singers — all country and mostly ladies — team up to sing Sugarland’s “Something More.” This is quite possibly the most country-heavy the show has ever been this late in the game, and Blake Shelton is enjoying it in all of his glory. Danielle Bradbery, Amber Carrington, Holly Tucker and The Swon Brothers represent the surprisingly large country contingent of the final eight…
…who will ever so quickly become the final six. Until then, the great eight vie for your votes with some stunning solo performances:
Team Shakira: Sasha Allen
Sasha Allen stays on her current Top 40 kick, performing David Guetta and Usher’s “Without You.” It’s always a bold move to perform a coach’s tune in front of said coach, but as the last woman standing on Team Shakira, Sasha has to be bold!
Sasha takes just about every song she sings quite seriously, and “Without You” is no exception. She’s as technically lovely as ever, but there’s something off-putting about hearing an Usher song sung by a classically trained voice. Sasha loosens up eventually, but it’s mostly very rigid. The coaches, however, rave about it.
“Hearing the song performed by you conjured incredible emotions. I really do feel you did an incredible job,” Usher says.
“You are the whole package to me. You really transcended today,” Shakira gushes. “You are the epitome of the American woman. You can do it all.”
“I think you bought Shakira another week on this show,” says Blake. We’ll see.
Team Blake: Holly Tucker
Holly Tucker gets ready to “totally rock out” to The Band Perry’s “Done.” She has quite the Hollywood Squares setup for her stage, but luckily her square is highlighted in red so the audience knows where to look.
Other than a few too many mechanical bull riding “Wooooos!” for comfort, Holly rocks out in her own country way. She even manages to move her feet while she’s dancing this time, specifically when she struts her bedazzled cowboy boots back and forth across the stage. Blake can hardly contain his excitement when it’s all over. Woo!
Before the compliment brigade starts, Carson Daly calls Usher “Urkel,” because he is wearing his Team Michelle Chamuel glasses. Usher shoots back, calling Carson “Jimmy Neutron.” What an oddly accurate and specific zinger from Usher! Wait, what were we talking about? Ah right, back to the contestants.
“Incredible job,” Usher tells Holly after the Urkel/Jimmy Neutron debacle.
“You had such attitude and sassiness. It was great,” Shakira says.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen you own a song,” Blake tells Holly. “You just chewed it up and spit it out!” Knowing Blake’s affinity toward the whole “chew tobacco, chew tobacco, chew tobacco spit,” deal, this is quite a compliment!
Team Blake: The Swon Brothers
Both The Swon Brothers and their coach are still reeling from last week’s tragedy in Oklahoma. “We definitely hurt with our home state,” Zach says, dedicating the performance to a state on the mend.
Blake compares The Swon Brothers, who are the longest-lasting duo ever to compete on The Voice, to a “modern day Eagles.” Mentor Sheryl Crow made the same assessment last week! Let’s tone it down, gang: hell has frozen over and The Eagles are still performing. No need for a modern day version just yet.
Never the less, they do perform The Eagles’ “Seven Bridges Road.” The duo starts off a cappella, sitting around an actual bon fire on stage. It’s all a bit much, but perhaps the crew was trying to make up for working on Memorial Day by making it look like summer camp. The Swon Brothers manage to transcend the cheesy set decorations, however, and ramp up to give the number a bluegrass sound (RIP Midas Whale).
“What an incredible song and an incredible time by an incredible group!” Usher says.
“The classic Eagles harmonies really suited your voices,” Shakira tells Blake.
“There were a couple of moments that I was a little scared of, and would be as a singer as well, that kind of ironed themselves out as the performance progressed,” Adam says. It is, incidentally, the closest to criticism that any judge will come to on Monday.
“You continue to grow on this show,” Blake tells his golden boys/the only boys left.
Team Blake: Danielle Bradbery
Because Danielle Bradbery doesn’t quite have enough of that Girl Next Door look already, she performs The Judds’ “Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Ol’ Days,” on a porch swing. And she thinks of her late grandparents while doing it. Not to call out pandering to a sentimental audience, but…
It’s another sweet-as-pie performance from Danielle — one that is vocally flawless but incredibly predictable. On a night where other performers are going out on a limb, Danielle is leaning against the tree with her cowboy boots on. At least the boots are sparkly.
“You’re a prodigy,” Usher says, before getting the scoop on where said sparkly boots can be purchased.
“I think the reason that you’ve come so far in this competition is that you’re so believable,” Shakira says. “You have star quality.”
“Regardless of what happens on this show, you are so important because you are an incredible country artist that’s waiting to be born,” Adam tells Danielle, the fetus.
“You did it beyond justice,” Blake raves. “You did an incredible job with that song.”
Team Usher: Michelle Chamuel
Wearing his Michelle Chamuel signature glasses for the entirety of Monday night’s show, Usher is really pulling for his final contestant. The man is not going down without a fight, and continues with the war metaphors, right down to the song title.
Michelle sings Bruno Mars’ “Grenade,” and Usher coaches it into one of the top performances of the night. “Imagine we took everything away and make you the loudest instrument,” Usher says in rehearsals. It turns out to be a smart strategy, and Michelle stands out over the bright lights and backup dancers that define just about everyone other performance.
Her voice is powerful, and she transitions effortlessly between strong notes and sweet falsettos. What the performance lacks in backup dancers, it makes up for in reflections of Michelle, thanks to the many mirrors that dot the stage. No gimmicks needed: it’s a powerhouse performance.
“That was spectacular,” Shakira says. “I’m a huge fan.”
“This was such an amazing situation that it just sucked me right in,” Adam raves. “This was one of the best performances of the night!”
“I can’t believe such a big voice comes out of such a little human being,” Blake jokes. “That’s your best so far.”
“That performance represented everything that we love about life,” Usher raves, thus revealing his intense love of mirrors.
Team Adam: Judith Hill
“I want to show the world who Judith is,” Judith Hill says for what feels like the thousandth time since the Battle Round. What she means is she’s changing genres once again, and risking it all on a rendition of will.i.am and Justin Bieber’s “#thatPower.”
It’s a nice change from last week’s lounge singer act, although her stage presence is drowned out by the sea of backup dancers. Judith’s voice carries through as always, but at this point in the game, the performance wasn’t awe inspiring enough to guarantee an advancement to the next round. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to risk it all on a song that has a built in hashtag.
“Adam has been on the phone with Cee Lo this week,” Blake jokes of Judith’s teased mohawk and feather-covered outfit.
“What an incredible way to open the show,” Usher says.
“Power is the central thesis for what I’m about to say,” Adam tells her. “Not only did you create a really amazing version of [the song], but this is an artist.”
Team Adam: Sarah Simmons
“I am pissed off in real life,” Sarah Simmons confides in her coach/America when Adam tells her to connect with a real emotion for her performance. Sarah tries to make her anger work for her when she performs Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know,” but it ultimately only amounts to a few growls to liven up a played out song.
The performance overall is vocally sound, but at this point, every performance is. There are some goat moments that are a bit concerning, which can be a side effect when gravel tones and falsetto notes try to intermix.
“I might be critical about flats and sharps, but I think it was great of you to show a different texture,” Usher says. “It was an incredible effort on your part.”
“You’re very interesting. You’re a very interesting artist. It was quite enjoyable,” Shakira says. Two interestings in one comment seems like a slightly veiled “bad,” but The Voice is an insult-free zone.
“It’s impossible not to love you,” Adam says. “This is a tough song, and I don’t really think anybody’s done it right until tonight.”
Team Adam: Amber Carrington
Gird your loins: a reality contestant is singing Adele. Before you look up the number for voting Amber Carrington off the show, A.) it doesn’t exist (this isn’t Survivor Voice), and B.) it was her coach’s idea!
Amber closes the night with Adele’s “Skyfall,” and man is she nervous to take it on. “I’ll have to find that inner actress and bring her out,” she says, fully prepared for the wrath that could come if she dare desecrate an Adele song on national television.
Luckily, Amber nails it, right down to her glamourous look for the occasion. One might say it’s the performance of the night, especially on a panel of compliment-happy coaches.
“I think you just took the diva powerhouse vocal of the night,” says Blake. (Called it.)
“You were incredible,” Usher says.
“Those high notes really did it for me,” Shakira tells her.
“No one has ever done an Adele song and done it justice,” Adam says. “The fact that you can do that not only shows the world how great you are but shows me that you can do anything.”
In a world where not even an Adele cover can rile up constructive criticism, it’s really anybody’s game going into Tuesday night’s eliminations.
Who got your vote?