Oh, it’s on now.
This season, “The Voice” has taken a turn into mainstream country – partly because of the popularity of coach Blake Shelton and partly because of the collapse of “American Idol,” previously the singing competition of choice for the older, Southern, country-loving voting block.
With last week’s elimination of one-time front-runners Judith Hill and Sarah Simmons (as well as the ridiculous faux brouhaha over Adam Levine’s sarcastic “I hate this country” quip), it became crystal clear who was now watching the show and what kind of music they like. So the coaches and artists adjusted.
There isn’t going to be a Danielle Bradbery coronation. Sure, the adorable 16-year-old country phenom is still a strong contender for Team Blake. But, the other coaches, who all only have one remaining artist on their teams, decided to fight and had everyone singing country-ish songs last night. Usher even brought in Taylor Swift to make a surprise appearance at Michelle Chamuel’s rehearsal of her hit “I Knew You Were Trouble.”
This might spell trouble, trouble, trouble for Team Blake.
1. MICHELLE CHAMUEL, “I Knew You Were Trouble” (Team Usher): “That was so emotional!” says Taylor Swift, after she walked into Chamuel’s rehearsal. She delivered more drama than the original (who knew that could happen?) and roughed it up, even staying on key during the most raucous of runs. The crowd went wild and justifiably so. Sales of the single landed her in the iTunes Top 10, giving her a bonus that will undoubtedly keep her in the competition this week.
2. SASHA ALLEN, “Ain’t No Way” (Team Shakira): The Aretha Franklin classic is clearly part of Sasha’s life and she owned it in a way that only someone who has performed it for years can. Adam Levine called it “the best performance you’ve had by far,” which was true. The Brooklyn mom is definitely coming into her own at exactly the right time. “Nobody could do that song except for Sasha,” Shakira said, calling her voice cinematic.
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3. SASHA ALLEN, “Before He Cheats” (Team Shakira): Here’s where Shak’s gamesmanship really pays off. Not only does she give Sasha the Carrie Underwood smash to tackle, but gives her the key to approaching the country hit, by giving it some New York attitude. The result is more Shirley Bassey than Underwood made even more dramatic by her ripping off her dress, which even flummoxed Blake Shelton. “I guess there’s more than one Sasha Fierce,” Usher said.
4. DANIELLE BRADBERY, “Shake the Sugar Tree” (Team Blake): She really is adorable, even when she wobbles a little, due to nerves. Her take on the Pam Tillis song is effortless, as if she wrote it herself minutes ago, playing off its innocence. “You are already so great at what you do,” Blake says, adding that her performances are like watching “a star being born.” So true.
5. MICHELLE CHAMUEL, “Somewhere Only We Know” (Team Usher): It’s always a risk to take a ballad and slow it down even further, but Michelle made it work. She replaced Keane’s playfulness with her own desperation, creating the emotional payoff that made the long build worthwhile.
6. DANIELLE BRADBERY, “A Little Bit Stronger” (Team Blake): She took a risk doing the Sara Evans anthem, which requires a bit more power than she usually displays. There was a little sense of her worrying about the big notes at the end during her performance, though she did end up nailing the big notes. Danielle wanted to show that she could match the other competitors with a big vocal and she mostly did.
7. AMBER CARRINGTON, “I Remember You” (Team Adam): Turning Skid Row into a Carrie Underwood-esque country anthem is no small feat, but she managed it easily, even when encircled by a ring of fire. (Maybe it’s Adam Levine’s nod to last week’s controversy?) “You’re willing to take those risks,” Adam said. “Amber, you’re incredible.”
8. AMBER CARRINGTON, “Crazy” (Team Adam): She started out the Patsy Cline classic with some odd rearranging, but when she settled into the main part of the song, it was as elegant as her breakout Adele performance.
9. SWON BROTHERS, “Wagon Wheel” (Team Blake): It’s weird how the Swon Brothers seem to understand what they should be doing to stay in the competition more than their coach. Their pick of the current Darius Rucker hit was smart, showing how they could fit in on country radio right now, while still using their throwback harmonies. “There’s nobody else who sounds like you guys,” Blake said. “That’s a really good thing.”
10. HOLLY TUCKER, “When God Fearing Women Get the Blues” (Team Blake): It seems like the pressure is really starting to get to Holly. Her take on Martina McBride’s lighthearted hit wasn’t very fun and she struggled with the low notes.
11. SWON BROTHERS, “Okie From Muskogee” (Team Blake): Blake gave the Merle Haggard classic to the brothers from Muskogee as a bit of a dare, something he pointed out himself, saying 10 percent of the public will complain about the hard-core country choice. Maybe you want to give them a song that will show off their voices rather than make some sort of cultural statement? In any case, the problem wasn’t the choice, it was that Zack Swon got a little too excited with the vocals and went off key.
12. HOLLY TUCKER, “My Wish” (Team Blake): She tripped over the opening verse of the Rascal Flatts hit and never quite recovered, practically sealing her exit this week.
BOTTOM TWO: Swon Brothers, Holly
WILL BE ELIMINATED: Holly
SHOULD BE ELIMINATED: Holly
ACTUALLY ELIMINATED: Holly