Gabi Ramirez, 25, Fresno, CA
Backstory: Soccer star turned kitchen appliance salesman/street busker
Song: “The A Team” – Ed Sheeran
I can ignore Gabi’s awful shirt and Violet Parr haircut because I really appreciated his tone. Ed Sheeran songs can sound so pretentious when someone other than Ed Sheeran sings them (unless you're this beauty). Unfortunately, Gabi’s problem wasn’t sounding overly emotive—it was sounding utterly bland. He didn’t really do anything with the song to make you wish you weren’t listening to Ed’s version. Oh, Ed. Ruining Voice contestant chances since 1991.
Sorry Gabi, You’ve Been: Socc-blocked
Paula Deanda, 24, San Antonio, TX
First Single: “Doing Too Much” at age 16
Opened for: Rihanna
Song: “The Way” - Ariana Grande
Come for the flowy pants, stay for the whistletones. Paula’s flageolet register is what spurs Blake and Shakira to turn around. Shakira immediately connects with Paula, calling out some of her issues but promising to help her improve them. Blake discusses the family he has that lives near where Paula lives, which is super interesting, Blake, which is apparently enough to convince Paula to pick Team Blake. It certainly feels like Shakira had more to offer her, but maybe that just means we’ll see a steal next week. If you win a contestant from a flimsy pitch, you're likely to ditch him/her later on.
Jake Barker, 28, St. Petersburg, FL
Eyes: Bluer than a Smurf in Ravenclaw
Backstory: Amateur singer turned YouTube singer turned bartender-singer
Biggest Hurdle: Crippling stage fright
Song: “When I Was Your Man” - Bruno Mars
Watch out, Christina Grimmie -- we’ve got another YouTube “star” in the house, and he’s got gigantic hair and a hoodie-vest! Jake overcomes his stage fright for what he calls his first public performance, and he certainly nails it, offering a riff-heavy take on Bruno Mars. Usher spins, and then Adam and Shakira follow (though, surprisingly, they don't turn immediately after the One Big Mid-Song Trill Jake Perfected In The Shower). The dude is totally elated that three judges turned, grinning like a child with a Lunchable. All three actually make compelling, non-bantery cases, but Jake makes a solid decision going with Team Usher.
Potential-o-Meter: 8 — You can tell Usher adores him and will likely bring him to the live rounds if he delivers in the battles.
Luke Cooper, 27, DeQuincy, LA
Heartwarming Backstory: Former addict who changed his life and left his band for his newborn son!!!
And He: Does good work at a hospital!
Song: “Radioactive” – Imagine Dragons
Boy oh boy, if I’ve ever been disappointed by someone not getting any chairs to turn this season, it’s Luke Cooper. He seems like an all-around fantastic, put-together guy, and he’s super cute in a weird, tattooed nurse kind of way. Unfortunately his voice had a bit of that Matthew-McConaughey-Eating-Peanut-Butter lip-smack to it, and nobody turned. Luke looked like he took the criticism well, but he likely won’t return since he claimed this would be his “last hurrah” in music. Oh well. Goodbye Luke. I’ll see you next time I go to DeQuincy, which I imagine has a really kick-ass Dairy Queen.
You’re a Monster If: You didn’t get misty when he tearfully sees his son in the holding room.
Ria Eaton, 19, Billerica, MA
Backstory: Former dancer who went against her family's wishes to become (gasp!) a singer
High Stakes: If the chairs don’t turn, she’ll continue being an ear-piercer at the mall.
Song: “Cups (When I’m Gone)" - Anna Kendrick (right?)
Do people like Ria? Am I alone in my distaste for her? I didn’t really care for either her voice or overall persona. I can’t ignore Ria’s weird cerebral charm headband thing, nor can I get past the smile wherein she just knows how much you loved listening to “Cups” last summer. The real highlight here is Adam and Usher teaming up to help Shakira score Ria, while poor Blake is left to fend for himself (I felt bad for Blake for a hot minute before he made a SISKEL AND EBERT reference, as if that was legitimately the first duo he could think of, as if Adam and Usher pumping up a crowd is equitable to two kindly gentlemen reviewing movies on a Sunday afternoon). Ria ignores everyone else, thankfully, and chooses Team Blake, and I’m immediately reminded of season two’s RaeLynn. Uh oh.
Potential-o-Meter: 5.5 -- I will not miss you when you're go-o-one.
NEXT: Someone is actually from Alaska