After narrowing down Team Blake last Tuesday, The Voice is putting two more teams on the chopping block Monday. It's Team Shakira and Team Adam who are being narrowed down from five members to three, with their coach having to decide which two artists are going home.
Shakira's squad begins the night, with country singer Kristen Merlin batting leadoff after being montaged for last parts of the season. We're finally getting a good look at what Kristen can do with Carrie Underwood's "Two Black Cadillacs." Her take on the song certainly has enough power behind it, including one crazy note in the middle, and she knows to keep moving around the stage rather than just stand there and belt it out. Watching this, it's even more frustrating that Kristen got montaged earlier, because she's really good.
Adam and Shakira give Kristen a standing ovation; Adam compliments both Kristen and Shakira's coaching, calling the artist "at the top of your game." Blake agrees, saying "That's as flawless as a live performance can be," although he rips the crowd for not having any rhythm (not the first time he's said that). Usher says Kristen is "one of the strongest voices in the competition and consistent." Shakira tells her artist that she's made her so happy - so hopefully that means she'll protect Kristen when it comes to make her decisions at the end of the hour. Even Adam and Blake encourage her to keep Kristen on her roster.
Deja Hall has selected Jordin Sparks' track "Battlefield," but her inexperience is showing just a little bit. Shakira has to explain to Deja what being "in the pocket" means and help her with her pitch. Will her youth work against her when she's stacked up against the older, more experienced artists? Possibly, because her version of the song lacks the intensity of the original, and no matter how much emphatic gesturing she does, it doesn't quite have the same effect as Jordin Sparks - who was just 20 when the song was released - performing it.
Both Blake and Usher talk about Deja growing up, and both Usher and Adam talk about her learning and growing as she goes along. "I think the place you're at now is better than any other place you've been so far," Adam encourages. Shakira praises Deja's performance and her growth. Sounds like she heard something that we didn't.
Third to sing is Tess Boyer, who's been around this competition like a ping-pong ball. She started with Usher, was stolen by Blake in the first round of battles, and was picked up by Shakira in the second cycle. So is she going to hang in there or will she finally strike out? Her rendition of "Human" by Christina Perri will decide that. The performance starts out slow, but soon Tess is holding out considerable notes.
Everyone argues over who's the biggest idiot in their handling (or not) of Tess. Adam does an intentionally bad impression of Blake that Blake quips sounds more like Carson. Seriously though, Usher calls Tess "superhuman" and says she's "reaped the benefits of this entire panel." Well, except for Adam.
Patrick Thomson selects "Trouble" by Ray LaMontagne, and he's going to have to try really hard considering that Tony Lucca claimed ownership of this song with his fantastic blind-audition version back in Season 2. Shakira has the same thought we're having, though obviously not for the same reasons; she tells Patrick he has to convince the panel that he's an artist, not just a good singer. The grit in Patrick's voice is put to good use on the track, but is it enough after we've heard strong performances from Kristen and Tess?
Former coach Adam calls this Patrick's "finest moment." Usher says he "completely took control of the room, took ownership of the song." Blake actually thanks Patrick for not picking him as his coach, if only because now he gets to laugh at Adam. "You're such a dumb person," Adam retorts. laughing. It's worth noting that we have not heard a truly critical comment from any of the coaches so far in the evening, and we're almost halfway done.
Finishing the Team Shakira portion of the program is Dani Moz with her take on Lady Gaga's "The Edge of Glory." She and Shakira settle on a stripped-down version of the song. It takes a few moments to get used to, but eventually picks up steam, and ends with Dani reaching a few pretty big notes. Maybe this wasn't the best song to give the stripped-down treatment, but going that route was definitely best to showcase Dani's voice.
Adam tells Dani that she was "super-nervous in the beginning and then you put it away." Blake appreciates the emotion that Dani poured into the song and calls it a "game-changer." Usher praises Dani's passion, though he concedes "it wasn't a flawless performance" because of those aforementioned nerves, and admits that he was brought "close to tears" by what he heard. Shakira refers to Dani as a "true artist."
With her entire roster having performed, it's time for Shakira to make her eliminations. To us, this seems much more clear-cut than Blake's decision last week, but of course it's drawn out for TV time. The lucky winners are Tess, Kristen, and Dani - exactly who we'd have picked. You have to feel bad for Patrick, though, because Shakira's use of the word "woman" clued him in to the fact that he was about to be sent packing.
Now we move on to Team Adam, beginning with fan favorite Delvin Choice. He's gone with "Let's Stay Together" by Al Green, a great fit for his voice - and a song that Adam himself has actually performed, so he's got the right coach to help him here. The result is a pretty great rendition that's got even Usher clapping along with the beat, though performance-wise, it's far from Delvin's most engaging outing. Considering he could probably make the phone book sound good, however, we'll give him a pass on the performance part - for now. He'll have to engage the audience more in live shows.
Blake thinks Delvin has grown "leaps and bounds" over the season. Usher says "there's not a more unique voice" on the show this season. Shakira thinks he took them on a ride and "drove the whole thing in such a tasteful way. We were just in the backseat, just relaxed and enjoying how great your voice is." Adam and Blake crack wise about not having turned for Delvin in Season 5, which we bet is going to come up a few more times over the next few weeks.
In our book, Jake Barker gets a gold star for even selecting Maroon 5's "She Will Be Loved," which contains high notes that honestly have never been handled properly by anyone not named Adam Levine. Adam is amused, but we also know the song means a lot to him personally, too - so since it's Adam who has to make the final decision, this is tricky territory. Jake injects a little bit of jazz feeling into his version, and no, he can't hit those high notes, but at least he's not trying and over-reaching. Plus, it's clear the audience loves him and his Guyver-era David Hayter-esque good looks. No, this isn't even close to the awesomeness of the original, but it's good, and it's unique enough that it transcends being just a cover of a coach's song.
Blake approves. Usher basically just tells Jake that he's going to get compared to Adam and Justin Timberlake and that he hopes he makes it to the end. Shakira likes the cover when she didn't expect to. But it's Adam whose word matters the most here, and he notices the spin that Jake put on it, and he respects that. "I am so beyond proud of the short time we've been able to spend together working, because you're a very talented guy," he says. We agree.
Kat Perkins likewise swings for the fences with Journey's classic "Open Arms," which everybody knows. This is a song everyone is going to have an opinion about. Ours is that Kat is basically the amalgamation of Kat Robichaud and Jacquie Lee. She is definitely a rocker, but she also has pipes that could break something. (We would actually pay money to put her together on stage with Kat Robichaud, and not just because they share a name.) After her performance, there should be absolutely no way that Adam won't keep her.
Usher calls it "flawless" and declares that Kat is "a sure thing." Shakira describes the performance as "devoted." Blake can't even come up with a joke, which is saying something. Adam thinks this is "only the beginning" for Kat, stating emphatically that "Steve Perry does not screw around," prompting laughter from the audience.
Morgan Wallen is in the fourth spot, and he's wanting to go back to country after being stolen from Team Usher, with "Stay" by Florida Georgia Line. With Blake already concerned that Morgan might be "one-dimensional," Morgan needs to come out and show everything he's got in his arsenal. We've just seen from the dismissal of Patrick Thomson that a cool rasp isn't enough to move forward.
Having heard that, Usher admits that maybe some of the choices that he made when he coached Morgan weren't in Morgan's best interest; you have to appreciate that candor from Usher. Blake compares him to Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots, which seems to make perfect sense, even though Blake can't name Eddie Vedder. "I'm going to punch you in the face," Adam quips. Shakira thinks Morgan has improved, and Adam likewise seems sold on Morgan as more than just untapped potential.
That means Christina Grimmie finishes out the night. She comes to us with Jason Mraz's "I Won't Give Up," and Adam is trying to focus her a little bit. "Make a plan and stick to it," he tells her. She seems to have gotten the memo, as she delivers a performance that's fluid both vocally and in terms of performance (which isn't easy; this song gets a bit wordy in places). With that, Christina sort of shuts the door on at least Morgan, not because he performed poorly but because she's just captured a spot in the live shows, and that drops the odds for everybody else.
Blake once again cracks wise about Christina's tiny stature before calling her the best singer on Adam's team. Usher compares her to Celine Dion, which causes a momentary freakout, before making a joke about Blake making a joke about the size of Adam's anatomy. Before the discussion turns R-rated, Shakira praises Christina's performance as well before Adam tells her that he's proud that she's mastered what she wants to do. "Try to criticize something," he dares the rest of the panel.
So who will Adam keep? Two-thirds of his roster should already be a lock, so it's really down to just one open spot between three other folks. He selects Christina, Delvin and Kat, which is the best possible combination for Team Adam. Though we will always be curious about how Morgan would've developed, and we already miss Jake and his sweet sound.
The Voice finishes its pre-taped playoff phase with Team Usher tomorrow at 8 PM ET/PT on NBC, before moving into its live playoffs next Monday, April 20 at 8 PM ET/PT. We're off tomorrow because we've got something else in the works, but we'll see you a week from tonight as live shows begin!