The Top 6 performed two songs apiece on "The Voice" on Monday night -- one self-selected and one coach-chosen tune. But before the performances began, Carson Daly had some very good news for the contestants: Only one of them, rather than the usual two, would be sent home this week.
That was good news for the audience as well, given that the talent has been particularly impressive this year, offering some standout moments. Monday's performances were no exception.
Team Blake's Holly Tucker, a strong singer who may yet be among the competition's weakest remaining links, sang Martina McBride's "When God-Fearin’ Women Get The Blues,” which Blake Shelton said he hoped would show off her "attitude." Tucker got measured praise from the other coaches for her consistency, power and growth. Shelton felt the song was "by far my favorite performance by you this season."
Tucker's own pick, Rascal Flatts' "My Wish," which she chose in honor of her parents, showed off her range and diversity. Shelton said it showed Tucker was "easily the most diverse artist" on his team.
Usher selected Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know" for his sole remaining contestant, Michelle Chamuel, toward whom he said he felt more like a friend than a coach. Chamuel delivered it in her usual passionate style, prompting all the coaches to express their continuing love for her. Usher said she'd shown off her depth, ability and flexible tone.
But it was Chamuel's own pick, Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble," that brought the house down. The audience's hoots and hollers were "easily the most enthusiastic reaction of the night," Daly said. "That's loud, that's like 'TRL' Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync loud." Shelton declared himself to be "so freaking jealous," but Swift, who surprised Chamuel in the studio as she was rehearsing the song, was far more generous. "Oh, my God, that was so emotional," the pop star said of Chamuel's rendition, before moving in for a hug. Indeed it was.
Team Blake country duo the Swon Brothers chose to sing "Wagon Wheel" by Darius Rucker, which came off as fresh and current, as long as you were willing to overlook the cheesy Wild West saloon set and dancing girls. Shakira called it "fun and loose," and Shelton was moved to note that the brothers Swon had a sound all their own.
Shelton's own pick, however, "Okie from Muskogee," didn't showcase the bros' trademark blend much at all. Though the choice was apt in that the brothers are actually from Muskogee and Oklahoma's on lots of people's minds right now, even Daly said the retro tune seemed "almost like a trick."
No matter, Shelton was thrilled, saying that, while 10% of viewers would complain about the song choice, the other 90% were just "hit smack in the heart."
Sasha Allen, of Team Shakira, set herself up with a difficult task by tackling Aretha Franklin's "Ain't No Way," her mom's favorite song, but did a solid job of it -- and looked gorgeous in a satiny yellow gown. Adam Levine, who initially snagged Allen for his team, called it her "best performance by far that you've ever had," an assessment Usher seconded. Shakira, meanwhile, labeled the performance "cinematic." Allen had made her "feel so much," she said, and had left her "entranced" and "spellbound."
The New York-based singer topped even that, in the coaches' view, with her urban take on Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats," which included a ripped-off dress, thigh-high boots and some theatrical stage moves. The male coaches were dazzled. "What guy doesn't like it when a girl rips her dress off, especially onstage?" Shelton said, adding for emphasis, "That was so dramatic and powerful -- and she took her dress off onstage." Usher and Shakira both called the performance "fierce," dubbing Allen another "Sasha Fierce." "You just worked that stage like a star," Shakira said.
Sweet 16-year-old country-star-in-the-making Danielle Bradbery also shook things up when she sang "Shake the Sugar Tree" by Pam Tillis, picked for her by her coach, Shelton. Her pure, effortless tone earned her high marks from the coaches, who tumbled all over one another to show their supreme admiration. Levine insisted he was "not a bandwagon Danielle Bradbery fan," having adored her "from the beginning." Even though she wasn't on his team, she remained, he said, "one of the best" voices in the competition. Shelton added that she was among the female country singers, like his wife, Miranda Lambert, who "were just born with a little something extra that makes their stars shine brighter."
Bradbery was a smidgen less stellar on her own pick, "A Little Bit Stronger" by Sara Evans. She didn't quite seem to connect with the lyrics, perhaps lacking a bit of life experience, but she still collected praise. Shelton advised everyone to "brag on her" because she is "so freaking special."
Another young country hopeful (this season is full of them), Amber Carrington, the only member of Team Adam still standing after last week, managed to make her mark with an unlikely song chosen for her by her coach: "I Remember You," by Skid Row, a glam-rock number released before she was born. After adding a mandolin and a banjo to the arrangement, Carrington stepped into a burning ring of fire and did herself and her coach country proud.
Levine said he lived to try different things and take risks. "I don't feel alive unless I'm taking them," he told Carrington, adding that he was "so happy that you represent my team because you're willing to take those risks." That's what will make her stand out, he said, and "that, for me, is the most exciting thing that I could ever help you accomplish."
Carrington stuck closer to her comfort zone with her own classic, conventional choice, Patsy Cline's "Crazy." The song showed off her silky tone and powerful pipes. Shakira called it a "beautiful rendition of a country classic," and Shelton somewhat begrudgingly deemed it "good." Levine said she was a "breath of fresh air" and a "firecracker" and toasted the "subtlety and simplicity" of her pure voice.
So who will go home on Tuesday night? I'm thinking maybe Holly Tucker. What do you think?