As her mic malfunctioned mid-song, the Top 12 finalist kept her cool in the show's first live rounds

By Andrea Billups
Updated April 22, 2014 07:15 AM

Country singer Kristen Merlin was made fully aware Monday night that The Voice competition is now live.

Performing as one of season 6’s Top 12 finalists, Merlin’s mic dropped out for more than a few seconds, leaving her to continue – and exhibit some admirable “show must go on” professionalism – after she had only delivered a little more than half of a touching and intimate version of Sugarland‘s hit “Stay.”

The judges were on their feet and Adam Levine was effusive after Merlin jerked out her ear monitor, took hold of a new mic from a stage manager and continued like nothing went wrong.

“You handled it so gracefully. It was as if nothing happened well done,” Levine praised of the unflappable Team Shakira finalist and the only country artist not on Blake Shelton‘s team. “I would have been in a puddle of my own nerves. I would have been crying. I would have had a thumb in my mouth. That was real inspiring to see you be cool – ice water in your veins.”

Performing for Team Adam, Christina Grimmie appeared more competitive than ever as she commanded the Katy Perry hit “Dark Horse.” Her coach said that even though she was covering someone else’s song, “I might as well have been watching the VMAs.”

Shelton called Grimmie the artist to beat on Team Adam, saying, “You are 100 percent proof that dynamite comes in small packages.”

Sisaundra Lewis dialed it back a bit Monday to show off her control as she helmed the Elton John classic “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” for Team Blake. It sounded much like a hymn and drew praise all around for the powerhouse vocalist.

Usher offered a diva-inspired comparison. “There is only one other voice in that and she would have kicked her shoes off – Patti LaBelle,” he said of her star power. “Your voice is amazing.”

Also nailing down what seems like a certain return was rocker Kat Perkins. Usher dubbed her radio ready as she took on Heart‘s “Magic Man,” making easy work of the hammering Ann Wilson vocal.

“Your voice is dope!” Usher enthused. “It’s so powerful and steady. You know what you are doing. You know why you are here. You really have what it takes to be on radio right now.”

Added Levine: “You’ve done some of the greatest singing there is on earth – Steve Perry, Journey, Heart, all this stuff. It’s impossible to sing these songs and yet you do it with the same power and charisma and proficiency and soul that all these guys did it with and it’s mind-blowing.”

Teen country singer Jake Worthington did Team Blake proud as he modernized Travis Tritt‘s ’90s hit “Anymore.”

“When you sing, I believe every word you say,” Shakira said.

“Honesty, especially in country music, goes 80 percent of the way,” his proud coach noted. “They want to be told a story by somebody they believe. Your approach, you hold it in, hold it in, and finally you erupt. You nailed it dude.”

Closing out the night with style on British singer Sam Smith’s soul tune “Stay with Me” was Josh Kaufman. His easy falsetto glimmered as he showed off his musicianship and left Levine to call himself out for letting Kaufman go from his team.

His coach, Usher, praised him: “You’re an incredible student of music You completely commanded this entire room. So poised, so prepared, so ready. You have completely made this my night.”

The Voice returns with the Top 12 live results show on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET) on NBC, when the “live save” feature makes its return.