Do you miss Christina? I do. Sometimes. Her truth-bomb critiques were revelatory, and her many strange and jaunty hats always looked so small in comparison to her head, probably because her brain was always swelling up with new world-domination plots. But I'm warming up to Shakira, who has stepped in for her this season. Which other coach can praise a singer's "rump-shaking" abilities with a straight face? Only this lady, whose hips have an honesty policy all their own. Now, if only they could help us critique tonight's auditions...
THE SWON BROTHERS
The story: These Oklahoma boys' parents raised them as a Southern gospel group, so they've been singing ever since they were in diapers. Wait, look -- there's a video of them literally singing in diapers. Aw, mom! So embarrassing!
The song: Tom Petty's "American Girl," played with classic-rock swagger, and delivered with a prefab catch phrase: "You guys just heard your first Swoncert." Quick, somebody print that on a trucker cap.
Best quip: Could these guys steal the whole competition? Blake thinks so. "You guys are gonna be the swinners!" he jokes. Has someone been swigging from his sarsaparilla flask again?
The verdict: The boys go with Team Blake. Sawesome!
The story: This 17-year-old redhead says she trained as a gymnast for the Olympics between ages 6 to 12. And just in case you doubt that claim, there's a photo of her bending so far backward, she could probably paint her toenails with her tongue.
The song: Mary J Blige's "I'm Going Down," performed with extra drama and a few dozen bonus syllables on the word do-ow-ow-own.
Most awkward double entendre: "I know a thing or two about teenage talent," says Usher, smiling. We know what he means, but ugh, it just sounds bad.
Best thing we learned about Shakira: She, too, used to be a gymnast. "I can do my legs behind my head!" she teases.
The verdict: Shakira fights hard, but Taylor gets all starry-eyed over Usher and picks him. But don't worry: She's so sweet, she looks like she wouldn't put those teenage legs behind anyone's head except her own.
The story: When this Brazilian heartthrob was born, his biological parents left him in a box on another couple's doorstep, and that couple raised him to become a would-be superstar. His story sounds so much like a fairy tale, you'd expect bluebirds to land on his shoulders when he sings.
The song: A bluesy rendition of "Feeling Good," which was popularized by Nina Simone and others. Sadly, no buttons are pushed, no chairs turned. Somewhere, those bluebirds are singing the saddest song ever. Twitter-tweet. Sigh.
The verdict: Sorry, he's out. But he has a great attitude about it.
Consolation prize: At least we learned how to say "I think you're a very good singer" in Portuguese. (Thanks, Shakira!)
NEXT: Which coach grew up singing in church? (Hint: it was in a Jewish church.)