TEAM BLAKE: HOLLY TUCKER VS. LUKE EDGEMON
The songs: Luke chooses “Teenage Dream” and Holly chooses “Live Like You Were Dying”
The knockout: In a bid to shake things up on Blake’s team, Luke not only opts to sing Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream,” he also re-arranges it into something heavier and more seductive so that he can show off his “fist-like” voice. That it does, but the bigness of the space has the double-edge of downsizing his finger-snapping intimacy. It comes off as a lounge song for the wrong lounge. Not Holly, whose Tim McGraw cover (and my eighth grade jam) is high and clear and very, very controlled. It barely missteps.
The verdict: Usher is first to point out that Luke’s transformation of his song may have made it hard for people to connect with. Shakira disagrees and reminds us how amazing she thinks Luke is -- while Adam reminds us that Holly just came out and killed it, as we all expected her to. This is the knockouts, Luke, and Blake wanted to see something that was more range-y. He picks Holly, because obviously. The other three judges fume.
TEAM USHER: AUDREY KARRASCH VS. MICHELLE CHAMUEL
The songs: Audrey chooses “How to Love” and Michelle chooses “Raise Your Glass”
The knockout: Audrey wants to prove that she’s an alternative artist who can take risks while blithely unaware of the fact that we just heard Usher tell America that he paired her against Michelle to see which indie artist can deliver the bigger performance. So she covers Lil Wayne’s “How to Love,” which is far from big but is alternative. Usher is thrown off in rehearsals and doesn’t seem much better watching her on stage. Her tone does stand out, sharply, but everything else about it leaves her locked inside the bars. There’s a lot of risk but little personality.
Michelle has the opposite problem, moving in synchronicity with the beat. It is, I think, the first real performance we’ve seen this season, and is all the better for it. (Roommate: “She listens to a lot of Gwen Stefani.”) The vocal isn’t a room-buster -- she sings like she has a rocker’s yowl but doesn’t quite -- but those moves, man.
The verdict: All four love how Michelle balanced the physical and vocal demands of her performance, and Usher tells Audrey that she got to the true value of Lil Wayne’s song. But Michelle is a “thinker” so he picks her.
TEAM BLAKE: DANIELLE BRADBERY VS. TAYLOR BECKHAM
The songs: Danielle chooses “Jesus Take the Wheel” and Taylor chooses “Russian Roulette”
The knockout: It’s almost eerie how well Danielle’s voice fits into Carrie Underwood’s, and it has an eerily adult quality, its muscles already fully formed. Still, it isn’t the most sophisticated thing (she could have ventured into a higher register when there was room), and there’s room to grow in stage presence.
Taylor is slow, torchy and reedy trying to tackle Rihanna. She has her moments when her voice can open up, but too few of them. (Burning question: Why is every contestant so eager to twist a song to fit their sound? Corollary: Do all contestants who are afraid to be a power vocalist now look for ways to avoid that label by swapping it with “artist”?)
The verdict: Usher chides Taylor for her song selection, which he says didn’t give her enough room to show off her talent, while Shakira says Danielle still seems nervous. Both of them had trouble with the lower notes, Blake thinks, but Taylor commits the double crime of also being breathy. Danielle carries it.
NEXT: Two R&Bers fight to the tears