The live rounds of The Voice technically kicked off last week, but this week marks the first time viewer votes are all that stands between the contestants and elimination. Last night, each of the top 12 artists sang for America – and the bottom two will go home tonight, regardless of team.
It wasn't an easy task, considering the studio's air conditioning crapped out right before the show started, leaving everyone – contestants, coaches and the audience – sweating it out for the first 35 minutes or so, during a record-breaking heat wave in Los Angeles. "If it reaches a certain degree in here, the lights could go out," host Carson Daly half-jokingly warned.
While artists like Vedo and Garrett Gardner powered through the pain with high-energy performances – wearing leather jackets, no less – coach Usher couldn't seem to handle the heat, stripping down on-camera at one point and acting out of it through most of the show. Case in point: When Carson asked him a question about his team, the R&B singer rambled about what would happen if the sprinklers went off.
It's hard to tell which team has a leg up at this point, but each has at least one standout performer who's the whole package.
On Team Adam Levine, that honor goes to former Michael Jackson duet partner Judith Hill, who bucked convention and played her own accompaniment on piano without any help from the band on Carole King's "You've Got a Friend." Of all the contestants, she's easily the most seasoned, effortlessly delivering a smooth, soulful performance with just a hint of rasp. "Playing and singing at the same time is a gift and a talent that can't be taught, and it makes you the most talented person in the competition," Adam said. (Show producers also heavily pushed Team Adam's Amber Carrington by creating an emotional pre-taped package about her late mother and giving her the coveted "pimp spot" to close out the night.)
The next best was Blake Shelton's Danielle Bradbery, who tore through Carrie Underwood's "Wasted." Her performance and pitch were near-perfect, but we couldn't help but be distracted by the song choice. It's quite a stretch for a 16-year-old to sing about a woman leaving an alcoholic lover: "I don't wanna spend my life jaded/Waiting to wake up one day and find that I've let all these years go by/Wasted." We also felt uncomfortable watching her wobble around in red stiletto boots. They really have to get the age-inappropriateness in check in order to let her flourish. Think: Taylor Swift, guys. (Also putting on a respectable show were the Swon Brothers, who paid tribute to the late George Jones with "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes.")
Our personal favorite, Michelle Chamuel, once again represented for Team Usher, singing Robyn's "Call Your Girlfriend." If gold stars were given out for sheer entertainment value, Michelle would get one right smack dab on her forehead. She's got this jittery geek-chic energy that really shines onstage, and her voice is subtly powerful. It might not have been the best song choice, but we can see why Usher picked it, especially since she described herself as an "electronic/pop artist."
Rounding out the standouts was Kris Thomas from Shakira's team. While Sasha Allen seems to be the fan favorite on the team, her rendition of Heart's "Alone" was too shaky and "theatrical," as Usher pointed out, to be called the best of the night. Kris, on the other hand, did a virtually flawless take on the Jackson 5's "I'll Be There." His falsetto comes so effortlessly that Adam said, "When Michael Jackson was 10, that was high for him but you rose to the task."
Falling into the middle of the pack were Team Usher's Vedo, who did a choreography-heavy version of Michael Jackson's "Rock With You"; Team Blake's Holly Tucker, who did a good but bland performance of Martina McBride's "Broken Wing"; and Team Adam's Sarah Simmons, with "The Story" by Brandi Carlile, which in theory was a great song choice but in practice fell a little short.
Bringing up the rear and possibly in trouble (unless they squeak by on their good looks) were 17-year-old screamer Garrett, who did an awkward rendition of the Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way"; and Team Usher's Josiah Hawley, who solidly sang the Script's "The Man That Can't Be Moved" but who just comes across as, well, fake. Every look, every move Josiah makes seems calculated, like he's posing for one long photo shoot.
In the end, though, it's up to America to decide who stays and who goes. So tell us, who did you vote for?
Previously: Top 12 Revealed Despite Voting Glitch