The final week of blind auditions on The Voice kicked off strong Monday for Team Blake and Team Adam, as each coach earned four more artists and battled for the night’s strongest singers.
It was also an evening of memorable and falsetto-filled soul performances, capped by 38-year-old Josh Kaufman, an academic tutor from Indianapolis, who stunned with his passionate version of George Michael‘s “One More Try,” earning the night’s only four-chair turn.
So inspired was the singing, that Adam Levine was standing up and pumping his fist in excitement before the song was even over.
“Damn badass,” Levine enthused. “That is such a tough vocal to conquer. I was goosebumps.”
Coach Blake Shelton was also moved. “Amazing. Awesome. Incredible,” he said, followed by Usher who told Kaufman if he wanted to be known as a soul artist, he needed someone who keenly understood the genre – him.
Shakira quickly made her own pitch, calling Kaufman the real deal. “I would love to have an artist like you who is already so mature vocally, but just needs mentoring and support.”
But Kaufman, who said he was pondering giving up on music for a “responsible job” to support his family, was wooed by Levine‘s energy and chose him as coach.
Shelton was not left behind, showing his strong suit, country music, by picking up a sassy and cowboy boot-clad teen duo, Alaska and Madi. He paid them a high compliment after they confidently performed The Civil Wars‘ “Barton Hollow.”
“When I hear you guys sing, the only thing I can compare it to is The Pistol Annies. I’m married to one of those,” Shelton told the Tulsa, Okla., singers and who could not resist picking their Okie homeboy as their coach.
It was girl power all around for the match of Cierra Mickens, 23, of Eagle River, Alaska, the daughter of an Air Force chaplain, who earned major love from Shakira with a dazzling R&B turn on Gnarls Barkley‘s “Crazy.”
Usher came up strong with artist Jake Barker, 28, of St. Petersburg, Fla. Barker dazzled the coaches when he admitted that his turn on The Voice stage marked his first time ever performing in front of a live audience.
Previously, he’d drawn attention to his singing through a video he posted on YouTube. That was so successful that it landed him a manager and time in N.Y.C., where he recorded but never launched a career. Now, as a bartender, he still writes music, but said his stage fright had gotten in his way.
He earned three chair turns singing Bruno Mars‘ “When I Was Your Man,” offering a falsetto that Usher called “incredible,” noting that Barker was “one of the greatest voices on my team.”
Barker was already looking forward to his mentorship. “I’m so excited to work with Usher. Hopefully, his swag rubs off on me.”
Also moving ahead Monday were: Paula DeAnda, 24, of San Angelo, Texas, Ria Eaton, 19, of Billerica, Mass., and Cali Tucker, 29, of Arrington, Tenn., for Team Blake; Kat Perkins, 33, of Minneapolis, Josh Murley, 29, of Kerrville, Texas, and Austin Ellis of Annapolis, Md., for Team Adam; Ddendyl, 25, of Washington, D.C., for Team Shakira; and Tess Boyer of St. Louis, Mo., for Team Usher.
The Voice continues Tuesday with season 6‘s final night of blind auditions.