April 15, 2014 6:17pm PT by Ashley Lee
'The Voice' Recap: Usher Trims His Team as Playoffs Wrap
The playoffs wrapped on The Voice on Tuesday, marking the first time each singer hits the stage alone since they auditioned for the show.
Up to this point, each of the top 20 singers have either won two battles or enough sympathy from a coach to be stolen. Coaches must trim their teams from five to three singers for the live shows, and Tuesday's one-hour episode put Usher's contestants on the chopping block.
T.J. Wilkins went with "Tell Me Somethin' Good" by Rufus and Chaka Khan, and after Usher taught him a personal favorite technique for imitating instruments, Wilkins channeled a tenor sax onstage, commanding the audience with a ton of personality. And when singing the high notes, Wilkins impressively resembled the song's scribe, Stevie Wonder. "You were so soulful and so committed, and when you hit the high note, it was the ace under your sleeve," said Shakira adoringly, while Blake Shelton added that he's officially on board. Usher added, "You just reminded us of the careless, free nature of that time."
Melissa Jimenez tackled a stripped-down version of Beyonce's "Halo" -- a demanding song choice. She opened the song with a refreshing restrain, and though Usher warned her about her breath control in rehearsals, she soared on the long notes, but occasionally lost her support. Shakira called her brave for taking on the challenging song with a new approach, and Adam Levine congratulated her by saying, "There's no way to really excel on this show if you don't take any risks." Shelton, admittedly unfamiliar with the hit ballad (what?), noted her shortcomings, but applauded her ambition.
Stevie Jo chose B.B. King's "The Thrill Is Gone," full of loose blues riffs, while Jo walked the stage like a rocker (though Shelton joked that he hunches over like a rabbit hunter). "When you sing blues, all technical analysis goes out the window; you just have to emote, and you did a great friggin' job," said Levine, echoed by Usher. Shakira praised his raspy moments and falsettos, even if he held some notes for too long.
Bria Kelly picked up her electric guitar for The Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses," and though she initially rushed through the rock ballad in rehearsals, she settled into the beat enough for her now-signature gritty roar -- complete with a teary eyes. Levine said that the girl who blew everyone away in the blind auditions is back (after getting a bit lost in the battles), and Shakira sat puzzled by the "raspy and sultry" things she just pulled off. Shelton said Kelly makes me step up, and was happy to see a softer side of her.
Josh Kaufman dedicated Bruno Mars' "It Will Rain" to his wife, adding a gospel sound with the addition of a choir. After touting a ton of raspy high notes that the original track doesn't have, Levine, Kaufman's former coach, said he just "removed a dagger from his heart," and Shelton said Kaufman is one of Miranda Lambert's favorites of the season. Shakira called him "one of the best ones here," and Usher called it a collaborative effort with Levine thus far.
Usher then announced that his three picks are Kelly, Kaufman and Wilkins. With no steals in this round, Jimenez and Jo were sent home.
The live shows begin on Monday at 8 p.m. on NBC.
What do you think of the playoff performances? Were the right singers sent home tonight? Sound off in the comments below!