Big news on The Voice: in what can only be defined as the most shocking coach return ever, comedian Melissa McCarthy has joined Team Cee Lo! Unfortunately this is only fake news from NBC’s latest cross promotional skit on SNL, but what an amazing partnership these two (and Cee Lo’s menagerie of animals) would have been!
Meanwhile, on The (real) Voice, the coaches are geared up for the final week of the Blind Auditions. “When I hit that button, it’s the same as when I pump the volume up in my truck,” says Blake Shelton, always the poet.
Adam Levine wants to make sure everyone understands how perfectly the coaches get along, speaking about their “incredible chemistry.” He even lets Carson Daly in on a big group hug. He ruins it a little by calling Carson “the fifth Beatle,” but, for a moment at least, the host is touched.
While the night brings some life lessons for a few unlucky contestants (such as Usher’s “You can’t dance on key” to a poor fellow who forgot the “blind” part of the audition, and don’t try to make Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” a rock anthem for another ill-advised guy), it brings a chance at temporary stardom for others. Here’s who made it to the next round:
Jeff Lewis, 28 — Dallas, TX
Uh oh! Potential for disaster alert! Jeff Lewis is not only singing one of the coach’s hits (Usher’s “U Got It Bad”), he’s turning the R&B jam into an acoustic folk number. As Carson so bluntly puts it, “That’s a dicey move, man.” The move, however, pays off. Although the coaches really sweat Jeff out until the last minute, Usher, Blake and Shakira all turn around for the former Interscope artist.
“Great song!” says Usher, complimenting himself. “I’d like to change your life.”
“There are just a few details that could be improved, and I think I can help you with that,” says Shakira, going for the mentoring angle.
“I detected a hint of country, and I guess it was you playing the acoustic guitar,” says (who else) Blake. Then he pretends to be from Dallas to solidify the bond.
After complimenting all of the coaches, a great move for future steal opportunities, Jeff selects Usher. Because he sang an Usher song, obviously.
Shawna P., 45 — Orange Beach, AL
Finally! The token middle aged contestant of the season! Like every contestant aged 45 and over of past seasons, you know even before she starts talking that Shawna P. will hit the big five sound bites: she’s been singing since before most of the contestants were born (check), it’s never too late to pursue your passions (check), she’s representing the 40-plus crowd (check) she’s inspired by an artist so old he’s long dead (Elvis) (check) and she’s one of the more “experienced” artists on the show (well, technically Carson gets in that “you’re old” euphemism, but we’ll count that as a check).
Shawna is pretty cool, in that kooky aunt sort of way. She worked with the “music mafia” in Nashville. Unfortunately, while that helped launch the careers of country stars Gretchen Wilson and Big & Rich, it didn’t quite propel her own career.
Her performance of The Black Crowes’ “She Talks to Angels” is gritty and raspy. She’s got some pitch issues, but her growling runs are intriguing. Shakira and Adam both turn around and try to woo Shawna.
“You have a voice on you!” says Adam. “The first thing I thought about was Janis Joplin.”
“I was so seduced by your performance,” says Shakira, “Don’t be fooled by the ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ and ‘Whenever, Wherever.’ I’m a rock and roller at heart.”
Even though Adam sends Shawna smoldering looks while she debates between the two, Shakira’s promise to show her how to shake her hips really seals the deal.
Caroline Glaser, 18 — St. Louis, MO
Coffee shop darling Caroline Glaser feels like a fish out of water on her first trip to Los Angeles. “I found myself drawn to the indie folk genre,” she says over clips of her singing Colbie Caillat in a coffee shop. Someone work with Caroline to define what “indie” means to her.
Caroline sings Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” and puts her own spin on it. “Her own spin” basically means some vocal runs, falsetto and a little essence of goat, but the combo is surprisingly charming. Her unique sound gets Blake and Shakira to turn around and begin their fight over her. “Your voice is so angelic,” says Shakira, “What I really love about your voice is all the playing you do with it.”
Blake takes the opposite route, telling Caroline, “I love the fact that you didn’t do anything over the top. You completely blew my mind with it.” He also identifies that she’s a songwriter…somehow…and that’s really what sells her. The indie folk singer joins Team Blake.
Michael Austin, 43 — Norco, CA
Michael Austin is unapologetically country. With his sleeveless shirt, big tattoos and cowboy hat, he says, “Everybody calls me ‘Big Country’. I think it’s pretty obvious. I’m big and I’m country.” Well put, Michael.
In addition to being a singer, Michael is a deputy sheriff, and, incidentally, his deputy sheriff pictures may be the best thing that will happen to the internet this year. Think Ron Swanson meets Paul Blart, Mall Cop meets Garth Brooks. “If you split me down the middle, you’re going to see half of a rockstar, half of a deputy,” he says.
Michael sings Keith Urban’s “Somebody Like You,” and Big Country delivers. Blake notes that it’s pitchy, but both Adam and Shakira turn around to fight for him.
“First of all, stupid!” Adam says, pointing to Blake, then focuses his passion toward Michael. “You know who you are, what you love, what you do — and it’s a relief.”
“Your performance just put me in a good mood and made me smile,” says Shakira, adding “I’m adventurous and not afraid of anything. I can yodel!”
Unfortunately, Michael will not get to see Shakira in the fine art of the yodel, because he picks Adam. “Let’s whoop his ass,” Michael tells Adam on his way out. Watch out, Blake!
Sasha Allen, 30 — New York, NY
Balancing a seven-year-old and a seven-month-old must be tough, but New Yorker Sasha Allen makes it look good! “I am a singer, but I am absolutely a mother,” she says of her decision to try out for The Voice. Before she became a mom, the vocalist/classically trained pianist had “brushes with success,” singing backup for the likes of Christina Aguilera, John Legend and Alicia Keys.
Despite her pop singing background, Sasha chooses a country song for the audition. “I find with country songs there is a story to be told,” she says before taking to the stage to belt out The Dixie Chicks’ “Not Ready to Make Nice.”
Sasha is the hit of the night. The moment she nails the high notes of the chorus, all four coaches turn around. “You are magic. you have a God-given gift that I really want to be a part of,” says Adam.
“We’re meant to be together, don’t you see?” says Blake, who’s only real argument is that Sasha picked a country song.
Usher points out that the choice of a country song is irrelevant, “You wanted to make a lasting impression on all of us,” he says, “I only hope you want to be on my team and my journey to my first win. I am an animal for my talent.”
Shakira plays the lady card, noting “It’s going to be tough to communicate with guys.”
Sasha is overwhelmed, but ultimately picks Adam. “I pride myself in being able to win the four-chair turn arounds,” he gloats.
Mary Miranda, 17 —Havana, Cuba
When Mary Miranda came from Havana, Cuba to New Mexico, she learned English by listening to American music. She notes that Shakira learned English the same way, so this just might be a match if Shakira turns around.
On the tragic back story front (they’ve really been lacking lately, right?), her dad lives in Barcelona and she never gets to see him. She tearfully hopes that he can come to her Voice performances. Due to the recent lack of tragic back stories, we’ll let it slide.
Mary sings Selena’s upbeat Spanish language pop song “Como la Flor,” and Shakira is immediately into it. She turns around, followed shortly thereafter by Usher and Blake (like they have a chance).
Blake plays the ignorance card, for some reason and tells Mary what went through his head when she performed: “She’s really good, but I don’t understand anything she’s saying, but then it dawned on me that nobody can understand anything I’m saying either! I think you’re awesome!” Worst. Argument. Ever.
“You are talented and I did hear so much potential in your voice. I don’t have a song called ‘Hips Don’t Lie,’ but I can shake my hips,” says Usher.
“From the moment you started the song, that long extended note, I knew that I was in front of something really really big” says Shakira. Seeing that Mary starts crying just hearing Shakira’s voice, there’s no need for her go on. Mary (obviously) picks Shakira.
Grace Askew, 26 — Memphis, TN
There’s just something about Grace Askew: Whether it’s the way that she proudly mashed up the words “blues” and “country” to define herself as “bluntry”; how she incorporates what can only be described as vocal hiccups into her song; her potentially fake last name; the June Carter bouffant she’s styling 50-plus years past it’s prime. Whatever it is, Grace Askew borders on annoying.
Anyway, putting the judgy wudgy aside, Grace has been a touring artist for the past four years, but she’s hit a plateau. “It’s time to bring the big guns in,” she says of the judges. “I want to be able to tour all over the world.”
Grace sings Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’,” and other than that quirky squeak-hiccup thing, she’s fun on stage. Blake turns around immediately, and spends the performance trying to convince the other coaches not to turn around (come on, man, think about your strategy). Despite this, Shakira turns around.
Blake is floored by the performance. “I found one that I really like a lot and I’m excited about it!” he says. “I don’t think that there’s anything much sexier than a girl up there with a big old chrome guitar. And with cowboy boots on,” Blake tells Grace, for a moment forgetting that Miranda is at home watching.
Shakira, fighting the good fight, tells Grace, “I like you, your voice, your performance. I think you have so much personality in your voice.”
Shakira may have gone on for longer, but there’s already a love fest happening with Blake, so Grace selects the country crooner as her coach.
Ryan Innes, 31 — Provo, UT
Like the plot of a misguided romantic comedy, Ryan Innes had his heart broken when his fiancé left him…so he quit being a doctor? To pursue music? “I thought, you’re going to regret it if you don’t give it a shot,” he says. Er, not sure how many people actually regret not using their medical degrees, but you make your bed, might as well pretend it’s comfortable when you’re lying in it, right?
Ryan sings John Mayer’s “Gravity.” All of the concern over the misuse of his schooling aside, the guy’s got a great voice. Strong, huge ranges and controlled falsetto. Adam turns around after the first “gravity,” Blake turns around after the second, and Usher and Shakira turn around after the third.
“Ryan’s got soul!” Blake exclaims. Oh, how his words will come back to haunt him.
“There was something really nice about it, I was floating in my chair,” says Shakira. “I would love to have you on my team because you showed a confidence that was really refreshing.”
“I really do think that your voice is packed with soul,” says Usher. “I have not won The Voice, but I’m here to win. You shook this entire room.”
“I would like to just point out the lightning quickness with which I turned my chair around,” says Adam, “I’m so blown away by you.”
Taking the coaches’ words to heart, Ryan picks Usher because of the soul music connection, leaving Adam devastated over losing a four chair spin.
FYI, other people performed:
They didn’t quite make the televised section, but they’re on to the next round. R&B singer Jamila Thompson joins Team Usher, pop rocker Amy Whitcomb joins Team Adam, and country singer Justin Rivers and pop rocker Michelle Raitzin join Team Blake.
With only one more night of the Blind Auditions left, who do you think has the best team? Let us know on Facebook, or in the comments below.