Last night, we had several excellent performances to kick off the Live Playoffs for Season 4 of 'The Voice'. Team Adam and Team Usher showed some talent, and a little bit of nerves. Can Team Blake and Team Shakira top those performances, having the chance to watch from the audience. Or will the pressure to match those add an extra layer of nerves to them all. Team Blake, made up of Justin Rivers, Holly Tucker, Danielle Bradbery, and The Swon Brothers, and Team Shakira, with Garrett Gardner, Kris Thomas, Karina Iglesias, and Sasha Allen, will be singing for your votes tonight. We won't know about the results until tomorrow night, but first, they must sing. And so they will. And not just the contestants, for we also find out there will be a special performance by Shakira and Blake, which should be exciting.
Left to right: Adam Levine, Usher, Blake Shelton and Shakira.
The competition starts with a clip of Blake taking his team to a karaoke bar, trying to let them relax and show the best side of them for the audience. They all took a turn at the microphone, with a time to sing, and to laugh together. This will prove useful as Team Blake sings "Boondocks" by Little Big Town. The harmonies on the chorus are wonderful, bright and strong. The solos were not as strong, just a bit rough. On the whole, it was fine, just unexceptional, and I will admit I expected more from them. And after a commercial break, it is time to Shakira to send out her first artist, Garrett Gardner. In his rehearsal, we learn Garrett will be singing the iconic "Imagine" by John Lennon. Shakira is looking for Garrett to take the song to a new place, to sound more rock anthem than ballad. First, let's hear John Lennon sing this classic.
This is a tall order for the 17-year-old, to sing a song as big as this, and to start the night to boot! He did a nice job, and changed it up just a little bit. He showed some nice color in his voice, and delivered some nice moments. It would be hard to not realize he was in the shadow of an icon, not in the sun like he should have been. But having said that, this is just the beginning of the night, and there are more performances to come. The first performer from Team Blake to have their moment in the spotlight is Holly Tucker. In her rehearsal, we learn she will be singing "How Do I Live", the Diane Warren song made famous by LeAnn Rimes. The original had such a distinctive sound and feel, for LeAnn has an incredible voice. But we also learn Holly has issues with her confidence, not with her singing, but the way she looks. Blake reminds her she is beautiful, and deserves to be there. As the song begins, she seems bold and in control of the song. She attacked the vocals, and it paid off for the most part. However, she lost a bit of control toward the end, and the final run was just messy to me. Her falsetto went awry, and you could tell she knew it. However, it didn't seem like Usher, Shakira nor Adam realized it, for they all praised her vocals, and told her she looked beautiful. Blake loved it, and thought she put her self in the position as one of the singers to beat this season. Next up, Kris Thomas takes his turn for Team Shakira, the man with the falsetto. He will be singing "When I Was Your Man", by Bruno Mars. Shakira is quite hands-on during the rehearsal, including singing with him! But first, here is Bruno singing his song.
Kris started off a bit nervous, feeling like he was standing back just a bit. But he warmed up into the song, but never fully. In the middle of the song, he picked it up and did a nice job, and never went off key, despite the nerves. Adam points out the nervousness, and would like to see him relax more. Blake, on the other hand, loved the nerves, for this is important and they should be nervous. Usher just thinks the man is a talent that should be recognized. Shakira was so very proud of him, and thinks he is not only a talented man, he is also a wonderful person, and she is proud to work with him. Next up, Blake works with The Swon Brothers, helping them prepare "Fishing In The Dark" by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. While Blake loves them, he worries about their vocals, for they can get a little sloppy. Right away, they are on their game tonight, the vocals tight and precises. They have an old-time Country feel that cannot be missed. Zack and Colton delivered. Usher loved them, and thought they were great. Shakira always enjoys them, and can't wait to hear them next. Adam also enjoyed them, and joked about how 'Blake' they were! Blake just loved they sounded fantastic, and taking care of all the notes from rehearsal. He is thrilled they stayed so tight. After a break, it is time for Blake and Shakira to put their money where voices are, and they sing "Need You Now" by Lady Antebellum.
I am really surprised, for Shakira sounded great on the song, really delivering the goods. Blake stayed in the background at first, but really came to life on his solo vocals, delivered so very strong and clear. This was a charming performance, one I liked even better than the Usher/Adam duet last night. Karina Iglesias is up next for Team Shakira, singing "Let's Stay Together" by the Reverend Al Green. Shakira loves the soulfulness in Karina's voice, and thinks this will make it stand out. She starts off the performance well, already showing more control and strength in her voice than her last time out. There is a nice soulful sound in her voice, and she delivers a strong performance. Adam loved her, and thought she was fantastic. Blake loved it, thought it was so intense. Shakira is so proud, feeling she left it all on the stage with that song. After the break, we come back to see Blake rehearsing with Justin Rivers, preparing to sing "Meet In The Middle" by Diamond Rio. Blake warns him to relax his airways, and give more life to the vowels. Before he sings, this is Diamond Rio singing "Meet In The Middle".
Right away, I am not sure this was a great song choice for him, as his voice sounds a little shallow, a bit soft, and is swallowed a bit by the band. But midway through, he relaxes just a bit and his performance comes to life. His voice adds some richness, with some depth to it as well. He was most definitely better by the end of that song. Usher loved it, and felt it was a real Country moment for Justin. Shakira loved it as well, and finds him to be a reliable performer. Adam loved when he really owned the performance later in the song, and it really came alive. Blake is just so pleased with his pupil, proud of how well he handled the whole performance. Next, we have the final group performance of the night as Team Shakira will take on the classic "We Are The Champions" by Queen. She brought her choreographer, Nadine "Hi-Hat" Ruffin. Shakira wants something unforgettable to happen. The song starts off well, each performer taking a solo. But the chorus together was a bit soft, and only Sasha Allen stood out for me. I suspect this was not the moment Shakira was looking for, as this was mostly forgettable. After the break, it is time for the last of Team Blake to find her way to the stage. But first, Danielle Bradbery goes to rehearsal to get some thoughts from Blake as she takes on "Maybe It Was Memphis" by Pam Tillis. Blake loved the song when it was a hit 20 years ago, and loves that Danielle is singing it now. But first, let's listen to Pam Tillis singing "Maybe It Was Memphis".
This is an excellent choice for Danielle, and her voice sounds beautiful and crystal clear throughout. She delivered the emotional texture to the song, and I saw nary a false move. Usher loved it, and Shakira was left speechless. Adam was loving it, and angry that she was not on his team. Blake could not be happier with her performance, and thinks she might very well be the most important artist on the show, for he expects much of her after the show. I can't be sure, but she could be the 'Carrie Underwood' for this show, a real star on the Country music scene. This leaves us with our last performer of the evening, as Sasha Allen goes to rehearse with Shakira. She will be taking on "Oh! Darling" by Paul McCartney, and performed by The Beatles. Shakira loves her, and just wants her to deliver the grit throughout the song. But first, here are The Beatles singing "Oh! Darling".
I have to admit, I love Sasha's voice, but the song started off just a little soft for me. But that doesn't last long. Her voice picked up such great depth and heft, and there is an amazing grit to her voice, such a desperation in her soul, I was crazy about where this song went. The end of the song was amazing, so raw and so real. I just loved this performance, and hope it pays off for her in votes. Speaking of votes, we will get the results from the performances tonight as well as Monday night, with an hour results show on Wednesday at 8PM on NBC. 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 NBC.com, 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 Garrett 01, Holly 02, Kris 03, The Swon Brothers 04, Karina 05, Justin 06, Danielle 07, and Sasha O8. Now is the time to place your vote, and let your Voice be heard. Is there a song you are dying to buy off iTunes?