Monday night’s episode of “The Voice” marked the first round of the playoffs — and so for the first time this season, the top five artists from each team competed live for their share of America’s vote.
“The power shifts to America,” coach Blake Shelton said. “The singers need to connect with the audience. They have to give Grammy performances.”
Only three artists from each team will advance in the playoffs, so the stakes (and the pressure) have never been higher.
“I think this is the strongest overall talent of any ‘Voice’ season I’ve ever been on,” Aguilera said.
But the evening’s performances started on a high note — specifically a note from Adam Levine, as the “Voice” coach and his band Maroon 5 performed their hit “Sugar.”
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Monday night’s episode featured singers from Team Pharrell and Team Blake. First up: Team Blake’s gruff-voiced rocker Sarah Potenza, who took up the huge task of singing Lynyrd Skynyrd’s classic “Free Bird.” Blake Shelton even helped compose a special arrangement of the rock classic for her performance.
“I like you explored the different sides of your voice,” Pharrell Williams said. “Great song pick.”
Team Pharrell’s Caitlin Caporale stepped into the big shoes of Beyoncé, singing “Best Thing I Never Had.”
“I can’t say bad words,” Adam Levine told Caporale. “But I’ll say this right now: that was blank-ing awesome.”
Next up was Hannah Kirby, who belted out what Shelton called “a classic song she can put her own twist on”: Carole King’s “I Feel The Earth Move.”
Coach Christina Aguilera got to her feet during Kirby’s spirited performance. “I think that was my favorite performance so far,” she said.
Lowell Oakley sang “Jealous” by Nick Jonas, earning plaudits from Levine for stepping “outside your comfort zone.”
Mia Z likewise broke out of her typical style. Known for her poppy vocal range, the 16-year-old delivered a low-key take on the bluesy song “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers.
“I love that it wasn’t some cliché pop song,” Aguilera said. “I got inspired. I was thinking, ‘I wanna sing that song in my set.’”
Koryn Hawthorne, only 17 years old herself, summoned the musical influence of her minister father with an inspired performance of the gospel classic “How Great Thou Art.”
The judges were wowed by her performance. “I’ll just go ahead and say it,” Shelton said. “Welcome to the top 12.”
Corey Kent White performed with a heavy heart. His grandfather passed away after watching White succeed in the knockout rounds.
“The good thing about us artists is that we have something to dump all that emotion into,” Shelton told him. So Shelton asked him to sing the Garth Brooks version of “To Make You Feel My Love,” Bob Dylan’s classic ballad.
“The mark of a great country singer is to move people with the story and your emotion,” Shelton told the competition’s only country-styled artist. “That’s what makes you special and makes you stand out, and I’m proud of you.”
Shelton challenged his indie artist Brooke Adee to expand her vocal range by singing “Love Me Like You Do” by Ellie Goulding.
Team Blake’s Meghan Linsey sang a fiery rendition of “Love Runs Out” by One Republic, impressing the judges with her powerhouse pipes.
“You have to know how proud I am of you,” Williams told the singer. “You’re living proof you should not give up on your dream.”
Sawyer Fredericks, the competition’s youngest singer at age 16, closed out the night with the slow-burning “Trouble” by Ray LaMontagne.
“It’s so crazy how your soul is so much older than you are,” Levine said. “When you’re hearing this man-voice about this man-situation from a 16-year-old kid, it’s like — what?”
Judging by the cheers in the studio, the audience agreed.
“The Voice” returns with singers from Team Adam and Team Christina, plus a performance from Sia, on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. ET / 9 p.m. CT.