The Voice recap: Stripped Down

Team Adam outshines Team Usher in the first round of the live playoffs
Ep. 13 | Aired May 6, 2013

VOICE OF AN ANGEL Team Adam's Sarah Simmons has a breakout performance with Sarah McLachlan's "Angel."

Trae Patton/NBC

Before we get to the excitement that is the first round of live playoffs (yay!), I have something I need to get out, confessional-style: I don't know how I feel about Usher. On the one hand, I think his training methods are really cool, and they seem to produce good results. On the other hand, I really hate when coaches refuse to say anything good about other contestants in hopes that America will somehow side with them. You want to win, I get that. But give credit where credit is due, Usher, and not just to Judith Hill. Another note: If your strategy is giving your team very recognizable songs to sing, I might consider re-working things. Whitney Houston and Phil Collins in one night? I know the motto is go big or go home, but there is such a thing as too big.

Okay, I digress. Let's dive into the madness that pitted the powerhouse of Team Adam against the underdog, Team Usher!

Here's a quick reminder of how things work: It is now your turn to vote for your favorite two members of each team. After the votes are tallied, the coaches each save one member of their team, therefore sending three singers from each of the four teams into next week's Top 12. First up is Team Usher — "team work makes the dream work" — and the all-female Team Adam — giving the best version of oneself "transcends gender" — who take on "stripped-down" performances for their first big-stage experience.

Here's how things go down:

TEAM USHER: CATHIA, JOSIAH, VEDO AND MICHELLE
The song: 
"Black and Gold" by Sam Sparro
The performance: After training in a kickboxing gym with Coach Usher (abs 101!), the team takes the stage in their — you guessed it! — black-and-gold attire in a surprisingly charming, yet sometimes awkward performance.
The feedback: The coaches don't comment on the group performances, so I will. I am pleasantly surprised by the four-part group harmony, though I'm not convinced that there aren't back-up singers helping out. Individually, the vocals are decent, but the solo performances don't mesh as well as I would like. But props for the synchronized finger point at the end of the piece.

TEAM ADAM: AMBER CARRINGTON
The song: "Stay" by Rihanna
The performance: Keeping things simple and about the purity of her voice, Amber kills this performance. Drawing in just the right amount of country influence as well as hair extensions and the perfect amount of eyeliner, this is an Amber I can get on board with.
The feedback: Blake admits that Amber has set the bar very high just before he gets in his first Starbucks plug of the night. Usher calls the performance an "intimate experience" with Amber's voice, and Shakira thinks the performance was "beautiful." Adam, who gives his singer a standing ovation, thinks Amber has lived up to his claim that she's the biggest surprise of this competition. She rocks.

NEXT: The model sings Muse; Sarah is an angel

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