As the knockout rounds wrapped up Tuesday on "The Voice," Usher doubled down on some diverse under-the-radar talent, while Blake doubled down on his own genre.
At the end of the night, both teams had been whittled down to just four members — and Blake had ended up with an all-country roster, thanks to tough decisions that had some of his fellow coaches balking and that showed just how quickly a front-runner could become an also-ran.
Blake's process of paring down an already country-heavy team began with his pairing of two singers — one young, one less so — whom he called "country with pop twists": Savannah Berry and Justin Rivers.
Teenaged songwriter Savannah tried to bring a country lilt to Justin Bieber's "As Long As You Love Me," and in the process, Blake said, she also brought what he called "the mark of a true artist": an expression that betrayed her writerly impulses.
Justin took a risk covering Miley Cyrus' "The Climb," a decision that concerned Blake. "I think a small part of him feels like he has something to prove," Blake said o Justin, advising him to show off his range, not his runs.
It was Justin who wowed the coaches the most, despite the risks both took in their material. "That big note at the end — man, you held that thing forever!" Usher remarked of his big finale, while Adam called Justin one of this season's biggest surprises.
Blake sided with Justin — much to his own surprise. "I really thought Savannah was gonna win that, but Justin dug down, knowing this was his last chance," he said.
Next up were two Team Usher hopefuls — model-turned-singer Josiah Hawley and 21-year-old hairdresser Jess Kelner, both with what their coach called "distinctive tones." For Josiah's cover of Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black," Usher advised him to focus on being vulnerable, while Jess channeled her appreciation for her mom into James Morrison's "You Give Me Something."
Adam remarked that they should have performed each other's songs, while Blake said he thought Josiah's performance felt "calculated." But that didn't stop Usher from declaring Josiah the winner.
Next up for Team Blake was a pairing of country singer Holly Tucker and soul singer (and recent steal from Team Shakira) Luke Edgemon.
"Don't hold back. I mean, blow people's hair off, because you're a very special singer," Blake advised Holly, who picked Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dying" as her knockout number.
He advised Luke, meanwhile, who was covering Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream," to "beat me up, but don't send me to the hospital" with his vocal tricks. "I need to choose my moments correctly," Luke agreed.
After both performed, the coaches were split — and fiercely defended some strong opinions. Before the applause had even died down, Adam was giving Blake some advice.
"He's amazing," Adam said of Luke. "Don't be stupid," he told Blake, knowing his predilection for country, and he added, "I'm not playing games."
Usher questioned Luke's R&B take on the pop hit. "It was a bit difficult for people to 100 percent connect with it," he said — but Adam and Shakira vehemently disagreed, and said so.
Still, Blake sided with his country roots and chose Holly as the winner of the bout — a decision roundly ridiculed by the other coaches, who insisted he was making a big mistake in eliminating Luke.
Next up was a pairing of two women on Team Usher with indie rock leanings: Audrey Karrasch and Michelle Chamuel.
Audrey chose to cover Lil Wayne's "How to Love," a song that gave her some trouble in rehearsals. "I need you to perform as though you're talking, and it's intimate," Usher said, facing her as though in a conversation as she sang.
His tack with Michelle was more, well, physical. "You gotta breathe," he advised as she tried out P!nk's "Raise Your Glass."
"I can drop and give you 20," she volunteered. Usher took her up on the offer — and together they did some pushups.
On-stage, while Audrey strained in parts of her song, Michelle's energy paid off for a number that electrified the coaches. "It was like right before she got on stage, somebody told her she'd won the lottery," Blake marveled, while Adam remarked on her dance moves.
Usher agreed and, citing Michelle's commitment to working hard, chose her as the winner of the round.
Next up on Team Blake were two very young singers he thought could both use a shot of confidence, country-inflected Danielle Bradbery and pop-inflected Taylor Beckham, a recent steal. Danielle picked the Carrie Underwood single "Jesus, Take the Wheel," while Taylor picked Rihanna's "Russian Roulette."
But while, as Usher remarked, Taylor never really got a chance with that song choice to show who she really was, Danielle "really took control," he noted — and Shakira remarked on Danielle's uncanny ability never to look nervous, especially given that she had never performed before "The Voice."
Blake agreed, and he deemed Danielle the winner of the round.
Next for Team Usher was a pairing of two hard-working young R&B singers, C. Perkins, recently stolen from Team Shakira, and Vedo, who was still mourning his mother's recent death from cancer.
C. opted for Chris Brown's "She Ain't You" — a choice Usher worried "may be a little much for C.," while C. said its big challenge would be the high note. Vedo chose "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" as a tribute to his mom. "The song he selected allows him to convey his passion, his pain," Usher said, advising Vedo just to try to keep control during what was sure to be an emotional performance.
Vedo did just that on-stage, and Usher deemed him the winner of the round. "You did it with so much restraint and so much grace that we all kind of jumped up and said, 'Uh-oh, here comes Vedo,'" Adam remarked.
That left Team Blake's last knockout round, one in which another pair of country acts — "bluntry" (that's blues and country to you) singer Grace Askew, and country duo the Swon Brothers — would vye for the chance to round out Blake's team heading into the live performances.
Grace took on Tina Turner's "I Can't Stand the Rain," while the Swon Brothers — hoping to become the first duo since Season One to make it to the live performances — tackled Dobie Gray's "Drift Away."
While Grace won points for her unpredictability and originality "You never sing the same thing twice," Blake said — a fact that he mentioned made coaching with her tough sometimes, just as he appreciated what it said about her as an artist.
After an indecisive few moments, Blake chose the Swon Brothers as the winners, crediting their tight harmonies and precision. Usher lamented that the creativity that made Grace so unique may well have been her downfall, too. "The fact that she is so spontaneous and so in-the-moment, that probably worked against her tonight," he said.
And with that, Team Blake had its four members heading into the live performances — and it had emerged as an all-country powerhouse comprised of Justin, Danielle, Holly and the Swon Brothers.
That meant the final knockout pairing for Team Usher, and for the entire round, belonged to two very different singers: aspiring Latin pop belter (and recent Team Shakira steal) Cathia and world-weary soul crooner Ryan Innes.
Cathia was set to sing her first song in English yet on the show. With a riff on the Kelly Clarkson hit "Mr. Know-It-All," she hoped not only to prove her talent could translate into English but also to connect with her audience in ways beyond her singing. "Usher's really helping me on the stage presence side of things," she said.
Ryan, too, wanted to break out of the niche he'd made for himself and chose "I Don't Want to Be" by Gavin DeGraw. It was a wise choice, Usher said, adding that Ryan, still recovering from a failed engagement, has to show he's "not just a lonely, broken-hearted man."
Those were tall tasks for both singers, but the coaches agreed that they'd accomplished them. That made for a choice for Usher that Shakira called "a toughie one." Ultimately, though, Usher said Cathia — despite being a new addition to his team — had wowed him the most and had the most promise.
And with that, Usher had a lean team that spanned pop-rock, indie, R&B and Latin pop — all of it courtesy of just four diverse singers, Josiah, Michelle, Vedo and Cathia.
Next up for those four and the other coaches' newly winnowed teams: The live performances.
"The Voice" airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8/7c on NBC.