‘The Voice’ Recap: Blake Shelton’s Team Stars In Playoffs Premiere, Sisaundra Slays (Again)

From the creators of the Knockout Round comes The Voice Playoffs! Starting Tuesday night (April 8), the top 20 contestants competed for the 12 slots available for the live round. Blake Shelton, Usher, Shakira and Adam Levine each must narrow their teams of five down to teams of three, one coach at a time.

Blake’s squad was up first, and he watched his artists Audra McLaughlin, Ryan Whyte Maloney, Madilyn Paige, Jake Worthington and Sisaundra Lewis perform songs of their choosing. Though viewers had to wait until the end to find out who got eliminated from Team Blake, it was immediately apparent that Usher eliminated the animal skin hat he had been sporting in the Battles. Its absence was felt, but the show must go on.

Here’s how Team Blake fared.

Audra McLaughlin Four-chair turn country pop artist Audra McLaughlin has the honor of kicking off the first ever Voice Playoffs. Knowing her audience, the Philadelphia native choses “Broken Wing” by Martina McBride, an artist Blake deeply admires. It’s a smart choice to win the coach over, and an all around strong performance by the consistent Audra.

“From the moment that you introduced yourself to the world, we all recognized that you had a very powerful voice,” says Usher.

“What strikes me the most in your performance is how you were emoting,” Shakira adds.

“I think that you’re spectacular, and the one critical thing I would say is that I want to hear more of that unleashed beast of a performer in you,” Adam says, daring to be honest.

“You keep getting better every time you get on stage,” says her coach. “The thing that gives you an edge over other people in the competition is that you know what this moment is, and you swing for the fences.”

Ryan Whyte Maloney He made it to the playoffs, but Carson Daly still introduces Ryan Whyte Maloney as “the ex-garbage man.” Far be it for anyone to tell Carson how to do his job (the man dated Tara Reid: he’s known for good decisions), but how about “doting father,” “singer/songwriter” or “guitarist and band leader?” Anyway, the doting father sings Shinedown’s “Second Chance,” and the challenging choice worries Blake. “If he’s not having the best day he can have as a singer, it could be real bad,” Blake says going into the big show.

Fortunately, he’s having a pretty great day, and nails the performance.

“There’s only one other artist that has the ability to hold notes like that and damn near be perfect, and it’s that guy down there,” says Usher, referring to a flattered Adam. “This was a breakout moment for you.”

“You did fantastic today,” says Shakira.

“The overwhelmingly positive things are starting to take over,” Adam says of the performance.

“I’m overwhelmed with excitement and pride and heartbreak at the same time,” says his coach. “You just made it that much tougher, dude.”

Madilyn Paige Blake stole former Team Usher high school junior Madilyn Paige in the very last performance of the second Battle Round. She looks to extend her time on his team with a performance of Zedd and Foxes‘ “Clarity.”

There’s nothing technically wrong with the performance, but it’s just so… boring. And tense! Madilyn wears her shoulders as earrings as she uncomfortably drags through the song. The audience tries to clap to keep themselves awake, but being The Voice audience, they just add rhythmic confusion.

“I”m more than aware of what Madilyn is capable of, and in the very short amount of time, I think that Blake has helped you find a different approach to singing,” remarks Usher.

“Well done, Madilyn,” says Shakira. “I heard some pocket issues, but you pushed through.”

“You gotta let go,” says Adam, voice of reason. “There’s so much stillness because you’re afraid to mess up,” he adds.

“I couldn’t be more confident and proud that I used my steal on you,” says Blake. “My favorite thing about your voice is that if you came on the radio, I would say ‘Hey, that’s Madilyn.’”

Jake Worthington Blake describes country singer Jake Worthington as “the real deal,” and it apparently means the world to him. The cowboy hat-wearing teen has certainly gained a sense of confidence with his success this season (after not making it through the Blind Auditions in season 5), and his earnestness is pretty adorable.

Jake dedicates Jake Owen’s “Anywhere With You” to his girlfriend. “She’s the only girl who’s treated me like a skinny guy,” he says, which is one of the more adorable things a teenage boy has ever uttered on national television. His performance is sweet, and while it’s energetic, the stage pacing can get a little awkward.

“I love you so much,” says Shakira, “I think you’re a star.”

Usher challenges him to critique himself, and he responds with self awareness but confidence.  “It you don’t believe it, no one will,” Usher tells him.

“I’m just such a huge fan of yours,” says Adam, “I’m so happy to see how far you’ve come.”

“I’ve got a lot of thinking to do, but it was really solid,” Blake says.

Here’s where Jake is either incredibly earnest, or knows how to play the game as well as any seasoned pro. Before exiting the stage, he emotionally thanks Blake for calling him “the real deal,” telling him it meant a lot to his dad and his family. The personal touch may mean all the difference in the imminent eliminations.

Sisaundra Lewis Closing the night is four-chair turner and former Celine Dion backup singer Sisaundra Lewis. The talented vocalist sings Billy Joel’s “New York State Of Mind,” and is far beyond needing any coaching tips for this one. What initially sounds like some pocket issues toward the beginning of the song is just a jazzy approach to build to a huge finish. The smart choice showcases her vocals, and has a real wow factor with her unreal range.

“I’m blown away,” says Usher. “You are a teacher.”

“Are you aware of the voice that you have?” asks Shakira. “You have the type of voice that has us going like, ‘wow!’

“Leading up to that first chorus it seemed like it was behind, but once it kicked in I totally forgot about that,” Adam adds.

“It’s amazing what you do with a song,” says Blake, who then begins stressing out about his elimination decisions.

And the winners are “This is the toughest decision I’ve had to make in six seasons of doing this show,” Blake says going into the elimination. Luckily, after this he has a break from making these trying decisions until Season 7. So, Audra McLaughlin, Jake Worthington and Sisaundra Lewis are going to the live round.

Headed home: Madilyn Paige Ryan Whyte Maloney

No huge surprises here, although perhaps if Ryan Whyte Maloney had worn a cowboy hat and his heart on his sleeve like Jake Worthington, he might have made it through. Who’s to say?

The playoffs continue next week with the three remaining teams. There’s a teaser that someone shuts down and disappoints Adam, so one can only sadistically hope for the first true train wreck of the season.

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