'The Voice' Recap: Industry Mentors Challenge Top 10
Crosby, Stills and Nash's Graham Nash and producers Busbee, Scott Hendricks and Natural lend their expertise, but some singers crumble under pressure.
The Instant Save may be annoying to half of the country, and the weekly double eliminations might be occasionally harsh, but the best thing about The Voice is that it's a show that constantly changes. So far, season six has knocked out an entire round and replaced it with much better battles, and brought in Coldplay's Chris Martin as a universal mentor to all four teams.
Monday night's episode brought another surprise: industry mentors for the top 10. Shakira recruited her producer Busbee, Blake Shelton brought in his producer Scott Hendricks, Usher brought his musical director and producer Natural, and Adam Levine called on his own mentor, Crosby, Stills and Nash's Graham Nash. These music biz experts ended up offering professional-level challenges, causing some of the finalists to rise to the occasion while others drowned in high expectations.
After U.K. band Rixton kicked off the episode by performing "Me and My Broken Heart," the top 10 took the stage to vie for viewers' votes.
Kat Perkins hoped to show her sensitive side with Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide," during which Nash advised she should feel free to cry -- "Crosby does it all the time!" he laughed. Onstage, she remained seated on a stool next to her acoustic guitar player, shedding a few tears (sure, why not) during the stripped-down, subtle performance that could stand up to any pro musician. "Acoustic singing will matter more than all the theatrics of the stage," commended Usher, "and you completely executed, with precision." Shakira noted Perkins' fast vibrato, which she too has mastered.PHOTOS: 'The Voice' Finalists and Favorites: Where Are They Now?
Christina Grimmie opted to add her own piano accompaniment to Drake's "Hold On, We're Going Home" as a way to revert to her YouTube roots. With fiery visuals and a few electric guitars, she managed to evoke the darker side of the love song. Shelton said she transformed from a singer to an artist, Usher said she made Drake proud, and Shakira was happy to see her personality in her best performance yet.
Delvin Choice went for Gary Clark Jr.'s “Bright Lights” and got the crowd dancing with the energized funk track, complete with a false ending that let him close with a slew of impressive riffs. While we wish Choice had kept his thrusting to a minimum -- it just wasn't the right song for all of that -- Shelton called his performance powerful, and Usher said, "You bring out the gospel every time."
After winning the season's first Instant Save, Tess Boyer went with Paramore's "Ain't It Fun," a tricky song to make unique. Though she struggled with rhythm in rehearsals, she threw in a ton of long notes after the bridge onstage, but the song altogether was relatively low for her wide range -- with just a snippet of Kelly Clarkson's "Dark Side," Boyer reminded viewers last week that she's got pipes worth sticking around for. While we think she could have chosen a more dynamic song, Levine said it was very well executed, and Shelton and Usher called it "pitch perfect."
Kristen Merlin took on Passenger's "Let Her Go" to expand beyond her country genre and expertly excelled on the understated performance (her mic stayed on the entire time too). Levine commended her for her consistency, and Shelton said she now looks and sounds comfortable onstage.STORY: Gwen Stefani in Talks to Join NBC's 'The Voice'
Audra McLaughlin was assigned Reba McEntire's "You Lie," and she triggered overwhelming mid-song applause while sailing on the chorus' long notes. Usher said she "moved the room without moving," Levine called it "a world-class vocal performance" (and her best yet) and Shakira reassured her that she's not going anywhere this week.
Jake Worthington went with George Strait’s “Run," and though he's usually solid onstage, he seemed off his game. Initially pitchy, he then struggled to hit and project on the song's low notes, which seemed just outside his comfort zone. Usher and Shakira tried to offer comfort by saluting him for performing tonight -- "I'm so happy you're still here" was thrown around often -- and Levine said he's a great representative of country music.
Sisaundra Lewis hoped to surprise with Steve Perry’s “Oh Sherrie,” kicking off the performance with an a cappella introduction. She then floated across the stage quite comfortably (putting the younger contestants to shame when it comes to stage presence) while rocking the '80s track. Usher said the creative risk paid off, and Levine made sure she knew she blew the roof off.STORY: 'The Voice' Announces Summer Tour
Josh Kaufman was assigned Kenny Loggins' "This Is It" to show off his range -- which it did, and impressively at that. Yet while he hit all the high notes with precision, we wished he'd done more than stand behind the microphone and then greet the audience on both sides of the stage -- meaning we're hoping to see him morph from a singer into an entertainer. Shakira said "these soulful renditions may be your sweet spot" as he sang with sincerity, and Levine praised his unique tone.
Bria Kelly was, at first, shouting throughout Avril Lavigne's "I'm With You" in rehearsals, but Usher and Natural reminded her that the song is about "levels" and taught her to be delicate -- a struggle for her up to this point. Onstage, she did travel the up-and-down trajectories that the song demands, but it wasn't as easy, or as easy to watch, as her performances usually are. Levine didn't feel she was connected to the song, and Shelton said it was really different from what she's done so far. Still, Usher said she grew in that performance because she did stretch herself, warning that "not everybody's gonna get it" -- a truthful comment that triggered Kelly's tears.
The Voice continues Tuesday at 8 p.m. on NBC.
What did you think of the top 10's performances? Who's in danger of elimination and will soon be begging for the Twitter Instant Save? Sound off in the comments below.