In the fourth season of 'The Voice', the show welcomes two new judges to the panel, Shakira and Usher. Both have slipped into the revolving chairs of Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green, respectively, with a real ease. They join returning judges Blake Shelton and Adam Levine, winners in three finals between them. The auditions are over, and 48 acts have found mentors in the coaches, each of whom will bring 12 members of their teams into the battle rounds. And as he has for all three previous seasons, Carson Daly will be handling the duties of host, keeping things moving between the singers and the judges. At the top of the show, Usher tells us his teams will blow out mind... Each coach has great support, as Adam brings in Hillary Scott, lead singer of Lady Antebellum, while Blake has Sheryl Crow, Shakira has Joel Madden, lead singer of Good Charlotte and coach on The Voice Australia, and Usher has Pharrell Williams. They will all be on hand to help out with out next level of competition, the Battle Rounds.
Left to right: Shakira, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Usher, and Carson Daly.
Team Adam is the first to fight in the ring, as Amber Carrington and Sasha Allen will be singing "Try", by Pink. Amber is a Country singer, while Sasha has more of an R&B tone to her voice. Both tackle the song strongly, but I have to say there is more color to Amber's voice. Neither shied away from taking a strong line on the song.
The other coaches all loved them both, as did Adam. He mentioned that he thought Sasha would walk about with this battle, as Amber had so little experience. After deliberation, Adam picks Amber. As soon as Carson began speaking to Sasha, Usher pushed in for the steal, followed quickly by Shakira. Both plead to be her coach, and she picks Shakira, a real surprise. Especially to Usher, who was speechless. But all ended in hugs. And it is time for Team Shakra, with Garrett and J'Sun. They will be singing "How You Like Me Now" by The Heavy.
During the rehearsals, they go hard at work, and immediately react to notes from Shakira. Joel likes them both, too. But even before they take to the ring, Shakira is already worried about the position she put herself in with this battle. The boys do sound great, although so very different. J'Sun has that R&B sound, like Garrett has a gravelly Rock growl. J'Sun kicks off the song, and is in great voice. But Garrett surprises, and comes back so strong. The performance was greeted by Usher with a standing ovation, Shakira bowing to them both. Adam loved them both, Blake thought it was Garrett who won, while Usher picked J'Sun. This didn't help Shakira, who was unsure show to pick. After the commercial break, she chose Garrett, and I must agree with her. J'Sun is sweet to Shakira afterwards, and no coach hit the button for him. Holly Tucker and Michelle Raitzin are the first to come in and meet with Sheryl Crow. They will be singing "Blown Away" by Carrie Underwood, and Blake is afraid Holly's gorgeous voice is so sweet, maybe too sweet. And Michelle might be struggling with pitch. At the end of the second rehearsal, Blake is quite happy with both, but is sure he will not have an easy decision.
Both girls seem a bit nervous, feeling the pressure of the night and reminding them of what they need to prove. Holly started the song with a vocal that was on point, and was joined beautifully by Michelle. But on the chorus, Holly really took control of the battle, powering through the notes. Usher loved them, and Shakira thought they were fierce. Adam loved them, but thought Holly gave the best tonight. Blake loved them both, and struggled with his decision. But he went with Holly, but thought it was oh-so-close. Michelle took her bows, but left the stage with no coach. Team Usher is up next, with Jess Kellner and Taylor Beckham taking on "You Know I'm No Good" written and performed by the late Amy Winehouse. There is some concern after the rehearsals, for neither girl was really on top of her performance. While Winehouse had the voice for the song, she also had that special something that told you she not only understood, but also lived her song.
The performance starts out nicely, but doesn't really go anywhere. The coaches were nice, with Adam and Shakira picking Taylor, while Blake liked Jess. For Usher, it was Jess who took the night. As Taylor was saying a tearful thanks to Usher, Blake pushed his button and saved her. Which leads us to the next battle, as Team Blake will take the stage. Christian Porter and The Swon Brothers will be taking on Tom Petty's "Won't Back Down". After the first rehearsal, Christian is needing to put in some hard work. With the second rehearsal, Christian did the work, and it seems like the Swon Brothers didn't. So when they come back for the Battle Round, who will deliver the knock out punch?
In the ring, it is Christian who leads off on the song, and he sounds great. He is joined by the Swon Brothers, who had auditioned with a Tom Petty song, so we know this is in their wheelhouse. The battle is an odd one, with one voice trying to compete with two. For me, Christian sounded great, and took command of the stage. He also put his own spin on the song, while the Swon Brothers sounded like a cover band. Usher was non-committal, Shakira picked the Swon Brothers, and Adam preferred Christian. Blake is unsure, feeling neither really owned the performance for him. I will admit, neither seemed like a real threat to win the competition. After a break, he picked the Swon Brothers, once again using the excuse of sticking with Country artists. Christian said his goodbyes, and left the competition. For the final battle of the night, Team Adam returns to the stage, with Judith Hill and Karina Iglesias entering the ring. They will be singing "It's A Man's, Man's Man's World" made famous by James Brown and written by Brown and Betty Jean Newsome. The song is just so iconic, tackling it will not be easy. During the first rehearsal, they need a little bit of what the other has. Karina could use a little bit of subtlety, while Judith needs more to find the emotional core of the song. After the second rehearsal, Adam is regretting his choice of pairing them together, knowing one will be ripe for the steal.
On the night of the show, both are feeling confident and ready to sing, and bow to one another before the song begins. Karina kicked off the vocals, and Judith came in strong. They are both in top form, and this is definitely the performance of the night. They were wonderful, but I would have to go with Judith, who had such wonderful nuance in her vocals. The judges gave them a standing ovation, and couldn't find much to complain about, save the silliness of Adam putting them together. After much contemplation, he picks Judith, and we know what is coming. As Karina speaks to Adam, Shakira uses her final steal, and is excited to add Karina to her team.
After the first night of Battle Rounds, with six battles completed, three singers have been eliminated, and three have new teams. Adam didn't use a steal, and has both still available. Usher has both his steals waiting for the right artists. But Blake used one of his, while Shakira has used both.