Monday, May 6, 2013

The Voice Season 4 • Live Playoffs 1

Tonight, the first lives shows will be hitting the airwaves, featuring the music of Sam Sparro, Muse, Whitney Houston, Ed Sheran, Florence & the Machine, and Nina Simone. This is the first chance for Americans to give voice to their thoughts on who they want to hear singing. This evening, Team Usher and Team Adam will each ask four people to sing, with the Top 2 of the team making it through via votes, and the coach picking one of the remaining two to move on to the next round. By Wednesday night, the show will go from 16 acts to 12, all looking to be named 'The Voice'. Each member of the team will take their turn at the microphone, looking to earn a place in the next level of the Live Playoffs. Will they be able to set themselves apart from the other singers, and get American to vote for them? And speaking of votes, once again, not only can you vote via phone and your computer, you can also cast a vote with the purchase of the singles on iTunes.

The Voice Season 4 Judges photo the_voice_judges_zpsd9d01b49.jpg
Left to right: Adam Levine, Usher, Blake Shelton and Shakira.

Tonight, along with the solo efforts, we will also be getting a group performance from each team, and we lead off with Team Usher taking on a favorite of mine. Josiah Hawley, Michelle Chamuel, VEDO, and Cáthia will be singing Sam Sparro's brilliant "Black And Gold". But before we hear them, we also see Usher taking his team to an unusual spot, a Kickboxing Gym. He wants to help them build up their endurance, wanting them to always give their best. But soon it is time for them to work as a team as they sing "Black And Gold".

The first solo performer of the night goes to Amber Carrington, the young Country singer with the bold voice. She will be singing Rihanna's "Stay", and she puts a twang in this Pop song. Adam loves her voice, and gives just a few tips during the rehearsal. While she hasn't been a favorite of mine thus far, she is doing a wonderful job on this song, giving her strongest vocals I have heard from her so far. There is a fullness in her voice that is so wonderful to hear, and still manages to get ethereal with her top end. Blake, Usher and Shakira all loved it, and gave her high praise. After the break, handsome Josiah Hawley will be performing. We discover he will be singing "Starlight" by Muse, for Usher feels that is the type of music he is destined to play. While rehearsing, Usher reminds him the song will be a exercise in breath-control. But it is now time to hear "Starlight".

He starts nicely, and I have to say, he has continually surprised me with his ability to up his game round after round. His voice is strong and supported, and even gives moments of haunted. No, he isn't Matthew Bellamy, but very few can be. He manages to both do the song justice, as well as make it his own, with a few different twists on it. Blake loved it, and thought the world just lost a male model. Of course, he will fill in for him there... Shakira loved it, and felt it was a strong, sincere performance. Adam is impressed by how far he has come since his audition. Usher is as proud as he could be. Next up, Adam will be sending Sarah Simmons to the stage, singing "Angel" by Sarah McLachlan. It seems like a softball, a song that is just up her alley. She struggled a bit in rehearsal, getting too emotional as she is dedicating it to friend who had passed away last year. On stage, she had a good performance, although there were some odd moments in there. There are times there is a rough edge to a note here and there, and at times just missing notes, sliding from on to flat, or sharp. I was really thinking she would nail this. Blake, Usher and Shakira all loved it, feeling the emotional weight she brought to the table. Adam just loved it, and has nothing but respect for her. After a break, it is time for Usher to send out his next artist. That is Cáthia, who will be tackling a Whitney Houston classic. Usher thinks she can handle "I Have Nothing" from 'The Bodyguard' soundtrack. In rehearsal, Usher is working on musicality with her, trying to get her to feel the heartbeat of the song, and go with it. Here is the late Ms. Houston singing "I Have Nothing".

Cáthia looks lovely as she comes out on stage, and begins with some solid vocals. In the chorus, she drifts off key a bit, taking some notes flat instead of resting on their sweet spot. She continued to try her best, giving it all her heart. Shakira is the first to talk to her, and while she loves Cáthia, she is unsure that was the right song for her, as Whitney's songs are hallowed ground. Blake loved it, thought she did well. Usher thought his charge did well, but did not achieve all his goals for her performance tonight. He still believes in her, and thinks she can still go all the way, even after this weak performance. After a break, we hear we will be getting a true treat, as Adam and Usher will be joining forces in a very special performance. In fact, they take on Stevie Wonder's Superstition". I am shocked, their voices actually work together. Of course, neither has a big or bold voice, and both show a great deal of style. Adam is happy to step back and play his guitar, and they deliver a sexy segment of the show. When we come back, it is time for Caroline Glaser to join coach Adam in the rehearsal hall. She will be singing "The A Team" by Ed Sheran. Adam chose it for it was a bit darker than she had sung thus far, and it might work for her. But first, this is Ed Sheran singing "The A Team".

She has that quirky, indie-girl sound. She was good, and solid as things go, but she did kinda garble the lyrics, and swallow some of the notes. Blake and Usher loved her performance, and think America will vote for her. Adam is very proud, and felt she has a different sound and style that he loves. After the break, it is VEDO who will be competing for votes after he sings "Against All Odds" by Phil Collins. In the rehearsal, he struggles with a few of the high notes, and Usher gives him tip for proper vocal support. I love that he is taking the time to do that. During the actual performance, VEDO sounds pretty darned good. He helps the song sound current, not trapped in the 1980s. It was not the best of the night, but it was good. Shakira is surprisingly standoffish, noncommittal with her thoughts. However, Adam loved him, and thought he did well. Usher was very pleased and proud of how well he did. After Christina Milian chats with Team Usher, we learn that the ladies of Team Adam will be singing "Shake It Out" by Florence and the Machine. Team Adam is, of course, Amber Carrington, Caroline Glaser, Judith Hill, and Sarah Simmons.

The ladies sound great, but I think it is Amber and Judith who stand out from the crowd. I am actually still surprised how much Sarah Simmons is disappearing vocally tonight. I didn't see that coming. After another commercial, the final contestant from Team Usher readies herself to perform. Michelle Chamuel shows up to rehearsal ready to talk on "True Colors" by Cyndi Lauper. He thinks it will be a great opportunity for her to become vulnerable with the audience. She starts if off simply, and her voice is just gorgeous. She is certainly making it her own, very different from any version I've heard before. This is easily my favorite performance of the night. Shakira loved it, and felt she was so authentic, so honest. Adam loved it, too, and thought it was her break-out moment. Blake also loved it, and told his acts to pay attention. Usher is thrilled, and thought she was incredible. After a break, it is time for the final performance of the night, as Adam sends out Judith Hill. In rehearsal we learn she will be singing "Feeling Good", written by English singer-songwriters Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse for the 1964 musical 'Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd'. It was made famous by Nina Simone, and quickly became a standard.

She does a great job with the song, making it feel current and her vocals are tight and on the mark. This is giving Michelle a run for the money as best of the night. I can't find a fault in that vocal, not one. Blake and Usher loved it, and didn't find the words to show much. Adam is so thrilled with her, so proud she took her moment. If I am not mistaken, we will be learning the results from the performances tonight as well as Tuesday night, with an hour results show on Wednesday. To learn how you can place your vote, visit the official website. In brief, you can vote via a toll-free phone number, online at, with the special NBC App, or Facebook. Unlike some shows, the Voice limits the amount of votes people can place per method. You can vote 10 times per phone, or 10 times via Facebook, or 10 times via NBC App between now and 10AM Tuesday morning. The phone number is (877)553-37XX, filling in the 'XX' with the artist number. Those numbers would be Amber 01, Josiah 02, Sarah 03, Cáthia 04, Caroline 05, VEDO 06, Michelle 07, and Judith O8. Now is the time to place your vote, and let your Voice be heard. Who did you love the best, who moved you?

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