BLAKE AND SHAKIRA
The song: "Need You Now"
The performance: Much of this recap will be a slow peeling back of Blake Shelton's ridiculata -- his over-exuberance; his tendency to rely on under-ambitious, crowd-pleasing song choices; and his preaching of the gospel of country like he was a pariah. But his duet with Shakira on Lady Antebellum's bedroom burner is a surprise success, with both singer-coaches matching the other, warble-for-warble.
The feedback: This is The Voice's approach to country: If it is going to be generic, it better also be good down to each guitar string.
TEAM SHAKIRA: KARINA IGLESIAS
The song: "Let's Stay Together"
The performance: Given Karina's rocky road to the live shows, Shakira wants her to have A Moment, and she's picked a song to give Karina a chance to display both her vocal power and her personality. What that means for America is a slow but soulful two minutes, with high, clear notes and some swagger. Every other line is pushed until it touches the rafters, but that amount of trying only fuels the amount of her success. I was "Karina Who?" before tonight but not any more.
The feedback: Adam thinks she is amazing and Blake thought that her microphone was going to shatter, given how intensely she performed. Shakira adds in more adjectives: Karina showed off her sassiness, her strength, and her huge pair of lungs.
TEAM BLAKE: JUSTIN RIVERS
The song: "Meet in the Middle"
The performance: Blake really wants to establish Justin as a country artist because Justin has an aggressiveness to his voice that -- what? -- scares Blake. Let your artists breathe, Blake. They have such love to give! They just don't know where to put it! Anyway, Justin also needs to watch his pronunciation -- a good note that is rendered moot by the goodwill that covers over everyone by the sight of a lively, broad-shouldered man in a tight T-shirt clapping his hands and singing along to a pop-country crooner. (Diamond Rio was my jam when I was 13.) Bonus: The song starts up-tempo. Extra bonus: Justin's biceps.
The feedback: Though Usher wants to make an awkward comparison to Justin's first time at a hip-hop concert (already happened, sorry guy), he assures us that he felt as happy as he did out-of-place. Shakira agrees and Adam says he was only happier to see Justin ditch his earpiece at the end. Blake: something something "awesome."
TEAM SHAKIRA: KARINA, KRIS, GARRETT, AND SASHA
The song: "We Are the Champions"
The performance: In the least imaginative and most pragmatic group outing, Shakira takes her team to a mirrored studio to help them rehearse their moves and chemistry. Totally sensible and, perhaps, wise given that the arrangement requires both harmonizing and each of the four to step out into their own spotlights and carry the song, one after the other, as the melody rises and rises.
The feedback: It works!
NEXT: The Voice finds a new star