"The Voice" Turns Up the Heat in Live Playoffs

Some unreliable air conditioning amid a scorching Los Angeles heat wave didn't help matters.

By Sam Schulz
|  Tuesday, May 14, 2013  |  Updated 6:06 AM CDT
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"The Voice" Turns Up the Heat in Live Playoffs

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And then there were 12 — soon to be 10.

"The Voice" teams began Monday night at three members apiece, after each was whittled down from four last week, but eliminations threaten to cost a single team as many as two members.

That's because after the night's performances by all the 12 remaining contestants, two of them are going to be axed, regardless of their team, depending on how America votes.

And it made for some serious heat on-stage and in the coaches' chairs — made worse by problems with the studio's air conditioning amid a blistering Los Angeles heat wave.

Team Usher's resident R&B up-and-comer Vedo didn't exactly cool things off, either, when he kicked off the night with an energized, dancing-heavy take on Michael Jackson's "Rock with You" that Blake deemed "awesome."

"The work that you did with your coach really paid off, and it showed," Shakira told him. "You leave your heart onstage every time you perform, and tonight wasn't an exception."



Next up was one of Team Blake's three country acts — Holly Tucker, who served up her own interpretation of Martina McBride's "Broken Wing."

Usher had fighting words for her performance: "Anybody who ever doubted your talent is a frickin' idiot," he said, while Shakira busted out a "gosh dang" in her praises. But Blake's praise for a song he loved was perhaps soberest: "You did it justice. You made a difference tonight for Nashville."

Next up was Garrett Gardner, whose gravelly voice belies his 17 years and whom Shakira championed since he returned from a past-season "Voice" attempt that never bore fruit.

Shakira gave Garrett the tall task of re-purposing a '90s boy band standard, the Backstreet Boys' hit "I Want It That Way," as a rock anthem — a tall task, to be sure, and the reviews from the coaches were mixed.

"That wasn't my favorite choice," said Adam, though Blake noted, "sometimes in order to find out who an artist is, you gotta throw them something out of left field." But Shakira was adamant in her praise of Garrett's performance, calling it "cool as hell."

Next was Team Adam's Sarah Simmons, a Memphis-based soul-pop singer whose coach gave her Brandi Carlisle's "The Story" to give her a grittier alternative to the soft but powerful ballads that make up her comfort zone.

Her performance, with its dramatic climax, won the praises of the coaches, especially Blake.

"Thank you for showing us the extremes of your voice," he said. "That's one of my all-time favorite songs, by the way. That's an incredible job."

Hers made a hard act to follow, but the task fell to the playoffs' only resident duo, Team Blake's The Swon Brothers.

The Oklahoma-bred pair had asked to sing "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes" by George Jones, who died just this month, and their coach obliged.

The brothers delivered a haunting take on the classic, one of them on piano and the other on guitar. Usher called it an "incredible tribute," Adam a "beautiful, beautiful rendition" — and the Maroon 5 frontman also said he "forgot it was a competition" during their performance.

Next came another performer beloved by Adam — though not enough to have stayed on his team. Team Shakira's Sasha Allen, a one-time Team Adam member, performed Heart's "Alone." Shakira warned the musical theater actress to avoid the impulse to Broadwayify it.

"The advice she gives is perfect," Sasha said in rehearsals. "I want to make Shakira proud."

Her performance accomplished that in spades, and it also wowed the other coaches. "You're really miraculous," her one-time coach told her, while Shakira called the performance "beautiful and heartfelt and emotional" — even as she proclaimed, "I promise you, I'm gonna write a song called 'My Sasha.'"


Team Usher's next performer, model-cum-singer Josiah Hawley, didn't need a song named for him. He already had one whose title his coach hoped the polished crooner would overcome by striking a more intimate tone: The Script's "The Man Who Can't Be Moved."

Performing on acoustic guitar, Josiah pulled off that feat, the coaches agreed. Adam said he'd found a "sweet spot," not to mention his own voice.

After Josiah came the competition's youngest contender, country prodigy Danielle Bradbery, from none other than Team Blake. Her rendition of the Carrie Underwood alcoholism screed "Wasted" had the other judges impressed and unnerved.

Shakira called Bradbery "a 16-year-old Margaret Thatcher" for her unflappable demeanor — a comparison that drew a baffled response from Adam even as he deemed Danielle "the one to beat."

That was high praise for the man who counted among his talented team members the former Michael Jackson backing singer Judith Hill, with a fearsome talent and a stage presence Blake had already deemed that of a "diva."

For Carole King's "You've Got a Friend," she accompanied herself on piano with no other backing musicians, and she gave a performance the coaches said was predictable only in its brilliance.


Next was Team Usher's unassuming vocal powerhouse Michelle Chamuel, the indie pop singer who had her breakout performance last week with a vulnerable take on "True Colors." This time, she got to cover one of her favorite songs, the Robyn dance-pop anthem "Call Your Girlfriend."

The coaches marveled at the breadth the two songs took, and Shakira at her ease dancing while singing. Usher said he was glad for the chance to see Michelle have fun.

Perhaps Team Shakira's most unique performer came next, Kris Thomas — the satin-voiced crooner who almost joined the Navy but instead brought his incredible vocal range to "The Voice." He took on the Jackson 5 ballad "I'll Be There," and the coaches felt he nailed it.

"That is a task that you definitely rose to," Adam remarked, while Blake praised Kris for always pushing himself to his limits in his performances and called this one "incredible."

Finally, closing out the night was an emotional performance by Team Adam's country crossover hopeful Amber Carrington, who chose to tackle Martina McBride's "I'm Gonna Love You Through It" — a song that hit close to home, given her own mom's struggle with and death from cancer, and wowed the coaches.


"Right when you think she's giving it all, she's got more," Usher marveled, saying her vocal power "defies the laws of gravity."

"You did Martina proud, and even more than that, to me, you did country music proud. You did Nashville proud," Blake told Amber soberly, echoing the praise he gave Holly Tucker for her own powerful take on a McBride song. "Adam's got a star on his hands," he added.

Indeed, the coaches had a whole constellation of stars on their hands. The question now — and it's one viewers must answer — is which is brightest.

"The Voice" airs Mondays and Tuesday at 8/7c.

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