'The Voice' Recap: Top Six Champion Country Hits
From classic to contemporary, the country genre continues to dominate the competition -- but only one singer got a surprise visit from Taylor Swift.
After last week's shocking elimination sent home two of the judges' favorites, the performances by the top six singers -- and the all-too-candid comments of their coaches -- matter more than ever. Thankfully, each contestant sang two songs Monday night (one they've selected themselves and one chosen by their coaches), and only one musician will be sent home during Tuesday's episode.
Blake Shelton is the only coach with all three musicians still competing; Usher, Shakira and Adam Levine remain in the game with one each. Here's how the top six singers handled their newfound double duty:
Holly Tucker was assigned Martina McBride's "When God-Fearin' Women Get the Blues" to blast the audience away with attitude, and though she was solid, the performance didn't top her sassy rendition of The Band Perry's hit last week. "I don't have anything too critical to say, but I did want to see more, I guess," said a lackadaisical Usher, while Levine admired the onstage character that has emerged over her recent performances. Tucker then chose to sing Rascal Flatts' "My Wish," dedicated to her parents. Though she struggled with breath control during rehearsals, her emotional connection to the song came through onstage. "You've really shown range and scope," said Levine. "Consistency has just been amazing from you."
The Swon Brothers took a stab at Darius Rucker's hit rendition of "Wagon Wheel." It's usually not Shelton's style to stage female dancers in corsets and feathers at a saloon, and as visually distracting as they were, the harmony-filled performance proved that the duo can follow through on current chart-toppers. "I think that country music is really crossing over the mainstream, big time, and Latinos like me who weren't interested in country music are interested in it now," commended Shakira, who attributed credit to artists like the duo. Shelton then assigned the siblings Merle Haggard's "Okie From Muskogee," hoping to introduce the classic, quirky country track to today's music fans. "It's great that you're able to have fun and represent where you're from," said Usher of the fun performance.
Danielle Bradbery was challenged with Pam Tillis' "Shake the Sugar Tree," another classic country song initially unfamiliar to her. Yet once again, the purity of her timbre shined on this song, especially while sweetly seated under a tree onstage and sporting baby pink cowboy boots. "I think that you're so incredibly talented, and man, every performance has been so solid," noted Levine. She then selected "A Little Bit Stronger" by Sara Evans, keeping her sister's recent breakup in mind. The pitch struggles of rehearsals disappeared completely onstage, but her constant focus on hitting the right notes felt like she was overthinking the song rather than connecting with it. Nevertheless, her final notes sealed the deal on the satisfying performance.
Michelle Chamuel was given Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know," another emotional rock ballad to draw a connection with viewers. She kept the opening verse tender, complete with a full pause, and continued on to hit the song's high notes, as she always does. "Carving out your own spot in the universe -- that's the sign of a really great artist," noted Levine.
She then chose to prove her marketability with "I Knew You Were Trouble" by Taylor Swift, who happened to be rehearsing at a neighboring lot and loved Chamuel's "emotional" and theatrical take. The audience rewarded her with thunderous applause. "I'm so freakin' jealous right now, damn it," said Shelton, "When Taylor did it, it was intense, but that was head-bangin'!" And if The Voice doesn't work out? "We should continue to do this regardless; I really am invested in you," said Usher to his singer during rehearsals.
Sasha Allen selected Aretha Franklin's "Ain't No Way," blending her soul influences with her Broadway-trained projection and giving herself another crucial breakout moment. "I always knew that you were as good as you were tonight," said Allen's former coach Levine who, along with Usher, declared this her best performance yet. Shakira then pushed Allen to add some New York sass to a country song, Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats." Despite losing her breath a few times, the performance included a theatrical wardrobe and a rock-infused ending. "I guess there's more than one Sasha Fierce," said Usher, in reference to Beyonce's musical alter ego.
Amber Carrington (who is actually good friends with American Idol alum Katharine McPhee) was asked to add a touch of bluegrass to Skid Row's "I Remember You." The perfectly pitched performance earned the stamp of approval from Shelton: "At least [Levine] brought it back to country, and that was a smart thing on his behalf, and it's something that people will want to own, and that's really smart, too." Carrington then opted for "Crazy" by Patsy Cline, venturing into the sacred ground of the genre to create a major country moment for herself. Inspired by the Opry performances that taught her everything about country, she strategically spotlighted her alto range while introducing the ethereal textures of her voice, usually overshadowed by pop diva moments. Again, Shelton saluted the traditional rendition.
The singer with the lowest votes will be sent home Tuesday at 9 p.m. on NBC. The episode will feature a guest performance by season three champion Cassadee Pope.
What did you think of tonight’s performances? Will a country act take the title this season, or will a female powerhouse's constant belting pay off? And who won tonight's boot wars: Allen's sparkly knee-highs or Bradbery's sweet baby pink pair? Sound off in the comments section below.