Usher and Blake Shelton helped four singers on their teams inch closer to their dream Tuesday night when they selected them in The Voice‘s final knockout rounds. But their tough choices amidst strong performances – much like the previous night featuring singers on Team Shakira and Team Adam – also meant heartbreak for talented singers who won’t be at the live shows next week.
Team Blake kicked things off Tuesday with country artists Savannah Berry and Justin Rivers. Berry earned praised for her country version of “As Long As You Love Me,” but Blake chose Justin for his powerful performance of “The Climb.”
“I really thought Savannah was going to win that,” Blake said. “But Justin dug down, knowing that this was his last chance and he did it.”
Later, Blake got major pushback from Adam after choosing country singer and marching band member Holly Tucker, who performed “Live Like You Were Dying,” over Luke Edgemon, who performed a smooth, jazzy version of “Teenage Dream” that both Adam and Shakira loved.
“Let me explain why you’re an idiot,” Adam told Blake after his pal sent Luke home. “He’s a whole unique thing. He’s original, he’s different.”
“He has a point,” Shakira said.
Blake also paired country ingenue Danielle Bradbery, 16, against former gymnast and aspiring pop star Taylor Beckham, 17, because he felt the young singers both have a “confidence issue.” Yet Danielle, who never performed in front of an audience before the show, gave a rousing version of “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” which wowed the judges more than Taylor’s performance of “Russian Roulette.”
“What really blows my mind about Danielle is she never seems nervous,” said Shakira.
Blake agreed with his fellow judges and chose Danielle. “It was an easy decision as a coach,” Blake said. “It was awful as a human being.”
In his final pairing, Blake put blues crooner Grace Askew against a country duo from his native Oklahoma, The Swon Brothers. Although Grace has been a favorite, Usher deemed her performance of “I Can’t Stand The Rain” by Tina Turner, “a little loose.” The Swon Brothers earned kudos for their version of “Drift Away,” but the judges wondered whether they played it too safe.
Blake agonized over his decision, but ultimately chose The Swon Brothers “just because I can kind of get a better grip on what’s happening” with them, he said. Their win means Blake will have an all-country team heading into the live playoff rounds.
Usher paired Josiah Hawley and Jess Kellner in his first-ever knockout round – and they seemed to underwhelm the coaches. Jess performed “You Gave Me Something” to generally positive praise, while former model Josiah got some criticism for his version of Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” – and his hot looks may have cost him.
“I wanted it to be a little bit stronger,” admitted Adam. “It’s almost like you have to escape the way you look, because you’re a super handsome guy.”
Usher ultimately chose Josiah, because he “felt the grit” of the performance.
Later, indie rocker Michelle Chamuel faced off against former model Audrey Karrasch. Usher had Michelle doing push-ups to help control her energy, and apparently his suggestion paid off. Her performance of “Raise Your Glass” charmed the judges.
Although Usher told Audrey he liked her song choice of “How To Love” by Lil Wayne, he chose Michelle and explained: “I felt like the song helped me know more about you.”
In another pairing, Usher put R&B singers C Perkins and Vedo together. Perkins got the crowd energized with his upbeat version of “She Ain’t You” while Vedo, who is grieving for his mother who passed away from cancer shortly after the blind auditions, gave a clean, heartfelt performance of “Everything I Do (I Do It For You).” Although the judges liked Perkins energy, Vedo’s strong singing and vulnerability were more impressive.
“Vedo won the round because of the way he was able to lock in and not make it about anything other than the emotions,” Usher said of his choice.
In his final match-up, Usher paired Latin pop singer Cathia – a steal from Shakira – against soulful Ryan Innes, who turned all four chairs during his blind audition.
It turned out to be the biggest surprise of the night: Although Ryan was the frontrunner, Usher chose Cathia for her confident version of “Mr. Know It All,” while the judges were slightly disappointed in Ryan’s version of “I Don’t Want to Be.”
“You were a steal, but in rehearsal I was really blown away by the voice,” Usher said. Later he added, “I felt like Cathia really deserved a chance to move on.”
The Voice‘s live playoff round kicks off on Monday.