The live shows come to Universal Studios Stage 12 as the dozen artists remaining in the competition continue their quest to be named The Voice!
Three of the remaining artists are country singers. Perhaps surprisingly, only two of them are being coached by Blake Shelton. The first one to take the stage is Audra McLaughlin, the old-school country lover singing “Angel of the Morning,” a song that has been a hit for more than a few artists. Audra belts out the song as she strides across the stage. It’s thrilling to see how much this medical assistant student has come out of her shell since the beginning of the show. “I don’t think you’re really meant to be a medical assistant,” her coach tells her, drawing a laugh.
Blake’s other country singer, Jake Worthington, gets up to sing Travis Tritt’s “Anymore,” the moving ballad about a Vietnam veteran’s struggles after the war. The seventeen-year-old Jake may have been born long after the Vietnam War ended but he has shown he’s capable of tapping into the emotion of just about any song. The coaches are suitably awed as Jake continues his streak of going above and beyond everyone’s expectations. Plus he’s just so darn likable.
Sandwiched in between these two is Kristen Merlin of Team Shakira. Kristen has quietly become a powerhouse in this season's competition while still keeping up her “aw shucks” demeanor. She sings Sugarland’s “Stay,” a personal song for her since it was her rendition of another Sugarland tune that got Shakira and Adam to turn their chairs for her during the blind auditions. She’s absolutely killing this song too, right up to the very end. And then, near disaster: her microphone dies! Kristen, ever the trooper, continues singing though no one can hear the last twenty seconds of the song. Her determination and composure earn her the loudest applause of the night and a standing ovation from host Carson Daly and all the coaches. You never do know what you’ll get with a live show.
Soul and more soul
This season may be The Voice's deepest in terms of soul artists. Team Adam has the big-voiced barista Delvin Choice, who has continued to impress with his ability to take his coach’s advice and make himself a better performer. He sings “Unchained Melody,” the uplifting ballad made famous by The Righteous Brothers. It's a powerful performance and earns Delvin righteous praise from all the coaches and some heavy flirting from an audience member. Delvin's magnetism is palpable.
Also on tap for some soul singing is Team Usher’s T.J. Wilkins, the musician from South Central Los Angeles who hopes his music will get him out of the dangerous environment he grew up in. T.J. takes on John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change” and knocks it out of the park, earning himself a standing ovation from the coaches, high praise from four internationally successful superstars. Like Kristen Merlin, T.J. has quietly and steadily turned in one solid performance after another, building his game and establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with in the competition.
Usher also has soul singer Josh Kaufman, the father of three from Indianapolis who has been impressing the coaches since his blind audition. He sings Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me,” a piano ballad that should showcase his impressive range and feeling. Josh takes the stage in his trademark hat and shows off pipes, weaving from low notes into a high falsetto and back with no hint of strain. He’s got the audience on its feet with excitement. The only time Josh hasn’t worn his hat while performing this season, he lost his battle against Delvin Choice. After tonight, you can count on seeing that hat from here on out.
The remaining singers put this season's rocking female firepower on display. Team Adam has two of them. First up is Christina Grimmie, the tiny girl with the big voice who has toured with Selena Gomez. She’s had some shaky performances, but Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” is right in her wheelhouse. The coaches are blown away, especially Blake, who once again expresses his amazement that such a big voice can come out of such a tiny person.
Adam also has Kat Perkins, the Minnesota rocker who once fronted a band that opened sold-out stadiums for Bon Jovi. Kat has been taking on big songs this entire competition: tunes by Journey and Fleetwood Mac are not for the faint of heart. Tonight she’s going big again with Heart’s “Magic Man.” Joined by a couple of guitarists onstage, Kat takes the song and makes it her own. Somewhere, the Wilson sisters are smiling.
Team Shakira is also no slouch in the category of women who rock. She’s coaching Dani Moz, a big-voiced piano player who took on a couple of powerful singers in the battle rounds and came up victorious both times. She takes the stage to sing Pink’s “Just Give Me a Reason” and is quickly off on a rollicking ride that has the audience stomping its feet. The coaches are suitably impressed, particularly Shakira, who simply can't stop gushing over her singer. Control yourself, Shakira, we still have weeks of competition to go.
Shakira also has Tess Boyer, the former NFL cheerleader who has become the dark horse of the season. She sings Bon Jovi’s “I’ll Be There For You,” one of the New Jersey rockers’ biggest hits. Tess has been stolen twice now – “Let’s get to as many of your coaches as we can,” Carson Daly tells her after her performance, drawing a laughing smirk from Tess – and all of the coaches who gave her up know they have lost a good one. Sorry fellas, but Tess seems to have landed on her feet anyway.
Usher also has a powerhouse in the person of Bria Kelly, a teenaged blues rocker from Virginia who is already a seasoned performer. Bria kicks off the show with Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep." It's a possibly risky choice: a song – and a singer – that can either make you or break you. Bria is up to the challenge, blasting her way through with her signature growl and big notes, earning much praise from all the coaches. Coach Usher can’t stop grinning, and why not? He’s got himself a live wire.
But there's another force to be reckoned with, Team Blake’s powerhouse, Sisaundra Lewis. The mother of three and the oldest singer seemed at first like an odd choice for Blake Shelton to coach, what with him being a little bit country and her being a little bit…well, a little bit of everything. Sisaundra takes on the Elton John classic “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” and blows away the coaches, especially her own. Usher, Adam and Shakira still can’t figure out how they let this one slip away. Sorry, folks. But you’re all still sitting darn pretty with your talented performers.
The live performances having concluded, Carson announces that the voting is now open. Tuesday night will see the first eliminations as two artists will see their time on The Voice end. It’s sure to be a nail-biter as we find out who goes and who lives to sing another week.
The Top 12 perform live, hoping to earn America's votes and a trip to the Top 10 round.