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MAY
13
2 YEARS

'The Voice' Recap: Top 12 Feel the Heat

With the air-conditioning busted at the Los Angeles studio, Shakira takes one risk too many, while Usher strips down and introduces another secret coaching weapon.

The Voice Usher Art - H 2013
Trae Patton/NBC
Usher

Everyone was feeling the heat on Monday night’s episode of The Voice -- mostly because the studio’s air-conditioning was busted for the first half-hour of the taping. “I can’t hear! It’s so hot in here, the sound doesn’t carry!” joked Blake Shelton, as Carson Daly rolled up his sleeves and Usher momentarily shed his layers to stay cool in a tank top.

With three contestants left on each team, the bottom two singers will be home Tuesday night, no matter what team they’re on. All of the top 12 were fired up to fight for their spot -- even if it meant using a risky song choice from Shakira or pushing Adam Levine to allow a performance without the house band.

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Here’s how the remaining season four musicians handled the heat:

Team Usher

This week, Usher brought in his choreographer, Aakomon “AJ” Jones, to offer tips to his teammates, like training Vedo to simultaneously sing and dance for Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You.” Vedo reigned in his usual dance moves for a much more physically subdued performance, with just enough choreography to showcase his abilities. “This is one time where it didn’t affect it, it added to it,” said Shelton.

Male model Josiah Hawley asked to do an acoustic version of The Script’s “Man Who Can’t Be Moved” but struggled with some of the high notes during rehearsals. Strumming on his guitar, the intimate performance very much echoed Danny O'Donoghue’s original but was Shelton’s favorite thus far from the contestant. Usher admitted his inspiration for coaching Hawley: none other than Levine himself.

Fresh off her breakout moment last week, Michelle Chamuel was assigned Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend” to step into the electronic sound she hopes to pursue. She rocked the song in rehearsals but struggled with the high notes during the live performance and fell back onto her falsetto rather than pushing her powerhouse sound. Nevertheless, her stage presence soared, earning praises from the coaches.

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Team Blake

Shelton’s country contestant Holly Tucker, who has previously released records independently, sang “Broken Wing” by Martina McBride. Though a vocal powerhouse, the performance felt somewhat emotionally detached -- a note Shelton gave her to work in rehearsals. Nevertheless, Levine dubbed it one of the strongest performances of the season so far.

Aspiring country pop artist Danielle Bradbery was assigned Carrie Underwood’s “Wasted” by Shelton and championed the Idol winner’s tune. “You’re like a 16-year-old Margaret Thatcher, like a mini Iron Lady!” noted Shakira, while Levine announced that Bradbery’s currently the one to beat and that his own team has some work to do.  

The Swon Brothers   requested to perform an acoustic version of “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?” by the late George Jones. It was not only a respectful tribute to the legendary country musician but also a perfect canvas for their tight harmonies. “I forgot it was a competition; I was just enjoying it and having a good time,” said Levine.

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Team Shakira

Shakira challenged Garrett Gardner to do a rock rendition of Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way.” Though with his familiar rasp and growls and some noteworthy phrasing, the performance wasn’t exactly the creative breakout moment that transformed season two’s Tony Lucca, who rocked a version of Britney Spears “Baby One More Time.” Ironically, the risk wasn’t a favorite of Lucca’s former coach, Levine -- “Thank god for the genetics that made you a heartthrob,” he said to Gardner -- but Shelton and Usher commended Shakira’s risk.

In rehearsals, Sasha Allen had trouble hiding her Broadway roots while singing “Alone” by Heart. Though keeping the intimacy of the song onstage, she leaned on her acting experience to bring a great emotional connection to the song. “I felt you kind of took us to church, that’s what I thought,” said Usher, who gave the same comment to Judith Hill last week, but with much more enthusiasm. Maybe all the heat made him woozy.

Shakira assigned Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There” to falsetto crooner Kris Thomas, who was about to join the Navy before coming on the show. Echoing some of the phrasing of Mariah Carey’s cover within the range of a young Jackson, Usher noted that the rendition felt somewhat torn. Yet Shakira praised, “You sang with so much sincerity, there was so much sweetness and honesty at the same time.”

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Team Adam

Saved by Levine last week, Memphis music student Sarah Simmons experimented with Brandi Carlile’s “The Story” in hopes of pursuing an alternative sound throughout her career. Her performance perfectly spotlighted her vocal abilities, especially the rarity of her grit. “Your coach seems to know you very well because this song seems to suit your voice and your style,” said Shakira.

Hill asked to sing Carole King’s “You Got a Friend” while playing the piano onstage, marking the first time any of Levine’s contestants have ever performed with just their own accompaniment. She managed to evoke a ton of stage presence while seated at the piano, complete with unique phrasing and curls. “It was beautiful, it was powerful, it was everything we’ve come to expect from Judith Hill every week,” said Shelton, while Usher noted that Hill always maintains control of her destiny on the show.

Levine’s country pop singer Amber Carrington ask to sing McBride’s “I’m Gonna Love You Through It” in honor of her late mother, who passed away from cancer. Her powerhouse sound shined bright onstage. “You did Martina proud and even more than that to me, you did country music proud, you did Nashville proud,” said Shelton, which he also said to Tucker earlier in the show. He continued, “As much as I hate to say it, Adam’s got a star on his hands with you.”

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The bottom two singers will be sent home on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. on NBC.

What did you think of tonight’s performances? Which singers deserve to advance to the live shows and which should be sent home? Sound off in the comments section below.