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'The Voice' Recap: Live Shows Begin With Middling Performances
Usher and Adam Levine showcase their teams as America votes for who stays and who goes

Things always get a little rocky when reality singing competitions move from pre-taped to live shows – and this season of The Voice is no exception, as the majority of out-of-the-gate live performances were disappointing at best. Still, it's finally time for viewers to decide who stays and who goes, as the show enters its first week of live rounds.

Each team now comprises four contestants, who will sing for survival in the live playoffs this week. America will pick two of the three contestants who will move forward to the Top 12, with the third being a coach's save. In the end, one contestant from each team will be sent home. The playoffs – spread out over not one, not two but three nights this week – kicked off with performances by Team Usher and Team Adam Levine.

'The Voice': Rolling Stone's Complete Coverage 

As usual, Usher was reduced to using gimmicks to "coach" his team – from taking the group to a kickboxing gym to teach them breath control to giving Latin firecracker Cathia ballroom dancing lessons to help with her rendition of Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing" to making nerd-rocker Michelle Chamuel sing to her reflection in a mirror while rehearsing Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors." While we're sure some people thought these were ingenious ways of getting results, we just found them to be cheap ploys for Usher to milk his screen-time – and they certainly didn't help create any earth-shattering performances.  

No one on Team Usher particularly stood out, and nerves coupled with poor song choices got the best of almost everyone. Cathia gave a shaky, lackluster performance, and token pretty boy Josiah Hawley once again primped and garbled his words on Muse's "Starlight." Chamuel and R&B singer Vedo both fell victim to poor song choices but made do with what they were given. Over and over we've been reminded that Vedo's mom recently died, and Usher handing him Phil Collins' "Against All Odds" barked right up that same tree. Meanwhile, the usually energetic Chamuel was stripped of any personality while singing the ballad "True Colors." Did she sound good? Sure. But she doesn't have powerhouse vocals like some of the other women in the competition, so what's going to set her apart is her liveliness. And it doesn't seem like Usher gets that just yet.

So, yeah, Usher's team pretty much fell flat, but Adam's fared a little better. Not surprisingly, former Michael Jackson duet partner Judith Hill had one of the best moments of the night with a strong rendition of Nina Simone's "Feelin' Good." But even she didn't completely blow us out of the water, as she was nursing a damaged vocal cord. Country girl Amber Carrington and coffeehouse singer/songwriter Caroline Glaser middled out with acceptable but conventional takes on Rihanna's "Stay" and Ed Sheeran's "The A Team," respectively. But perhaps the most disappointing performance of the night (on Team Adam, at least) belonged to Sarah Simmons, not because she sucked or anything but because all signs pointed to her having a real awe-inspiring moment with Sarah McLachlan's weeper "Angel," but it was just meh. (Which could be blamed on the fact she teared up during it because the song was dedicated to a deceased friend.) 

Tonight, Shakira's and Blake Shelton's teams take the stage. So tell us, who will you be voting for in this first live elimination round? 

Previously: Blake Shelton Picks All-Country Lineup


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