'The Voice' Recap: Playoffs Begin With Blake Shelton's Cuts

Now a previously taped round, singers hit the stage as solo artists for the first time since they auditioned, hoping for a coach's top-3 spot.
"The Voice"

After the blind auditions and a couple battle rounds, The Voice has come to the playoffs -- and just because the round is now previously-taped doesn't mean there isn't plenty of pressure to perform, as it's the first time each singer hits the stage alone since they auditioned for the show.

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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 Blake Shelton's contestants on the chopping block. 

Audra McLaughlin went with Martina McBride's "A Broken Wing," and despite occasionally breathiness during rehearsals, the medical-assistant-in-training championed the country song with impressive high notes throughout. "It's almost, I guess, effortless for you to sing songs like that," praised Usher, while Shakira was moved by her visible emotion.

Ryan Whyte Maloney chose to play along to Shinedown's "Second Chance," recalling when his parents suggested he join the army as a last resort. The former garbageman wasn't perfect, as Shakira pointed out, but Usher compared Maloney's abilities to Levine's, calling it "a breakout moment." Levine noted that "the overwhelmingly positive moments are starting to take over."

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Madilyn Paige sang Zedd and Foxes' "Clarity," a tough song for season 5 finalist Jacquie Lee that actually fit the pure timbre of this season's Team Usher castoff well, despite some rhythm issues. "I'm more aware of what Madilyn is capable of," said Usher, with a nod to Shelton, while Shakira praised her understated yet powerful approach. The only advice? "You gotta let go," advised Levine.

Jake Worthington dedicated Jake Owen's "Anywhere With You" to his longtime girlfriend -- "the only girl who's ever treated me like a skinny guy," he said -- and brought his cowboy hat and his accessible personality to the stage with hollers and gestures. While the repeat auditionee seemed awkward on such a big stage, Shakira called him a star and Levine joked that he was "all jacked up on Mountain Dew out there!" Usher asked Worthington how he think he did, to which he honestly and humorously answered, "I think I was a little shaky at some points, and I know towards the end I got a little off-pitch."

After bringing the house down with every performance so far, Sisaundra Lewis settled on Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind" and blew all the coaches away. "You are our teacher," said a bowing Usher, and Shakira noted the "glamour" that Celine Dion's former concert director exudes onstage. Levine said the beginning was a bit too jazzy in rhythm, but commended that her presence onstage is something that every artist strives for.

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Shelton then announced that his three picks are Lewis, McLaughlin and Worthington. With no steals in this round, Paige and Maloney were sent home.

The playoffs continue to play out on Monday at 8 p.m. on NBC.

What do you think of first playoff performances? Were the right singers sent home tonight? Sound off in the comments below!

Email: Ashley.Lee@THR.com
Twitter: @cashleelee