The Top 12 compete in toasty temperatures, perform some Michael Jackson, some Martina McBride... rinse, repeat

By Samantha Highfill
Updated April 14, 2015 at 10:29 PM EDT
NBC

Here’s how you tell a new coach from an old coach: Count how many times they say the word “vote” throughout the course of a live playoff round. I love Shakira and Usher, and I’m sure there are some statistics that say it’s helpful to remind America to dial in, but at this point, I understand that this show is in the hands of America. Oh, and as a backup, count how many times they say “America.”

But let’s get right to the hot stuff, shall we? With a packed house and a broken A/C (that does not affect Shakira’s flawlessness), the Top 12 live playoffs show is definitely action-packed. First and foremost, Carson is much more talkative and unpredictable with a little sweat on his brow. His jacket’s on, his jacket’s off. He’s making jokes about Blake’s hair, he’s going off script. Does anyone else kind of love this Carson?

And this heat brings more than just a super-fun version of Carson Daly. With it, we get our first glimpse at Usher’s bare biceps and the potential threat of a power outage, which, if Usher has anything to say about it, will create a “cool party.” I’m telling you: Add a little sweat into the mix, and these people get crazy.

But enough about the heat, here’s what you need to know: From this point on, America’s votes determine everything, and every week, the bottom two go home, no matter which team they’re on. No more saves and hopefully no more voting debacles. Time to hit the stage!

TEAM USHER: VEDO

The song: “Rock With You” by Michael Jackson

The performance: This week, Usher brings in his personal choreographer to work with his team members, which is fun. However, asking for smooth dance moves on a Michael Jackson song is like asking somebody to sing a Whitney Houston song… oh wait. The end result is entertaining, and Vedo’s vocals are decent, but I just really want to smooth out this boy’s jerky moves. What he needs is some Shakira hip-movement coaching, because right now, they’re distracting. You know what else is distracting? That he’s wearing a leather jacket in this heat. Take it off and smooth it out. That’s all I’m saying.

The feedback: Shakira uses the word “vibey” and comments on what a nice guy Vedo is (bad sign). Blake claims that Vedo’s moves didn’t affect his vocals and that he, in fact, also moves like that (which I might believe), and Usher comments on how Vedo is a full entertainer and how this performance will win him “votes.”

TEAM BLAKE: HOLLY TUCKER

The song: “Broken Wing” by Martina McBride

The performance: Too-much-to-handle hairpiece aside, Holly’s performance is spot-on. All McBride fans know that song, and they know how hard it is, but Holly hits every note. My only critique is that I would’ve liked a little more emotion. As a Virginian born and raised, this is not my first McBride rodeo, folks.

The feedback: Usher thinks that anyone who ever doubted her talent is a “freakin’ idiot,” and Shakira borrows another line from Blake — this one goes a little something like, “Gosh dang girl!” Ugh, her accent is so cute when she does that. Adam restates his love for Holly, and Blake thinks she did Martina justice with her best vocals yet.

Heat update: Carson has removed his jacket and is being fanned by Adam Levine.

NEXT: Garrett takes on a pop hit, Sarah rocks out

TEAM SHAKIRA: GARRETT GARDNER

The song: “I Want It That Way” by The Backstreet Boys

The performance: When I heard this song choice, I screamed, “NOOOO!” But as Garrett starts singing, I try to give him a fair chance. However, I think he changes the song too much. To take such a big pop hit and make it into an angry, rocker version? I’m just not feeling it. And there’s too much happening with the screens in the background. I’m not sure how to feel.

The feedback: Adam jumps on the “Garrett’s a heartthrob” train that I have yet to climb aboard, but in terms of the performance, Adam says he was thrown. Blake thinks Shakira is doing the right thing by challenging Garrett. Then again, he only calls the performance “pretty good.” Usher lets his “no risk, no reward” mantra out of the bag, but even he admits it took him a little by surprise. And from this point on, I can’t tell you what happens because Usher just took off his shirt.

Heat update: The air is back on, and Carson tells Blake to shut up. Like I said, over-heated and slightly ruffled Carson is more fun!

TEAM ADAM: SARAH SIMMONS

The song: “The Story” by Brandi Carlile

The performance: My reaction when I heard this song choice? “YESSSSS!!!” And I know what you’re thinking, and it’s not just because I like Sarah. I love this song. I love Brandi Carlile’s version, and I even love the Grey’s Anatomy version (a lot, actually). I just knew this song would show of Sarah’s grit, and that’s exactly what it does. Sarah (and her gorgeous hair) is able to show off the two very different sides to her voice, and the result is so very original and just plain cool.

The verdict: Blake loves the extremes of her voice, mixing gravel and softness, and he also calls this song one of his all-time favorites. Shakira doesn’t know the song but thinks it suits Sarah’s voice, and Adam is too busy being envious of her voice’s refined diversity. Her coach calls her “one of the best singers we’ve had.”

TEAM BLAKE: THE SWON BROTHERS

The song: “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?” by George Jones

The performance: With one brother on piano and the other on guitar, the duo performs a very moving tribute to the late George Jones. Their vocals are on, and though it might feel a little too much like an “In Memoriam,” I think the Swon Brothers succeed in showing off their harmonies and overall vocal ability.

The feedback: Usher thinks it was a great tribute, and Adam admits that this country is country (is it really though?). Blake is very proud and believes that this is the brothers’ breakout moment.

NEXT: Sasha is all alone, Danielle is wasted

TEAM SHAKIRA: SASHA ALLEN

The song: “Alone” by Heart

The performance: I’m glad that Shakira tells Sasha to reel in the Broadway aspect of her performance. The result is another great Sasha performance, but I find myself a little less than satisfied. What is it about her voice that makes me scared to listen to her? I feel like she’s always about to go sharp or something. Maybe I’m crazy. I do think she’s amazing, but I don’t quite understand just how emotional she got with this song.

The feedback: Adam once again admits his stupidity while Usher and Blake laugh at him. Usher claims that Sasha (as always) took us to church, and Shakira says Sasha has one of best voices she’s ever heard. Fun fact: If you vote for Sasha, Shakira will write a song called “My Sasha.” And everywhere, men’s imaginations are running wild.

Heat update: Carson’s jacket is back on. Things appear to be normal.

Another fun fact: Blake bought his entire team new guitars. If I join Team Shakira, can I get that jacket she’s wearing?

TEAM USHER: JOSIAH HAWLEY

The song: “The Man That Can’t Be Moved” by The Script

The performance: In an acoustic performance, Josiah and his tight jeans head into the crowd for an intimate feel. And the result is better than I expected. Josiah sounds good. He really does have a cool voice. Do I think he can compete with the women this year? No. But that man can wear a T-shirt.

The feedback: Adam and Blake both offer praise, and Usher thinks that Josiah showed technique and was able to move the audience.

TEAM BLAKE: DANIELLE BRADBERY

The song: “Wasted” by Carrie Underwood

The performance: As good as Danielle is at Carrie Underwood songs, I’m a little disappointed when Blake gives her another one. I would love to hear something a little different from this girl, seeing as how she has a ridiculous range. That being said, this is not an easy song to sing, and she makes it look like a delicious piece of red velvet cake. Too specific?

The feedback: Shakira is amazed by Danielle’s lack of nerves and calls her a 16-year-old Margaret Thatcher, a mini Iron Lady. Danielle has no idea what she means, but she smiles. Adam thinks that Danielle is the one to beat, and Blake would like us all to know that this all-American girl is the real deal.

TEAM ADAM: JUDITH HILL

The song: “You’ve Got A Friend” by Carole King

The performance: Acting as her own accompaniment on this song, Judith climbs behind a white piano to belt out her raspy rendition of this classic. I’m such a fan of Judith, but I’m a little worried that our expectation of greatness means that she will never be able to truly surprise us, and where’s the fun in that? Also, I think Judith’s blind audition might still be my favorite performance of hers.

The feedback: The coaches all think that Judith is amazing. Week after week, they expect a top-notch performance from Judith. Adam takes things a step further by claiming Judith is the most talented human being in the competition for the combination of her voice and the fact that she was her own accompaniment in that song. So I’ll ask you again, are our expectations set too high? What should Judith do next?

NEXT: More Michael Jackson, more Martina McBride

TEAM USHER: MICHELLE CHAMUEL

The song: “Call Your Girlfriend” by Robyn

The performance: Decked out from head to toe in leather, Michelle hits the stage with her dance moves. I have to say, I’m really into Michelle. I think she’s a lot of fun. And I think her vocals are strong. Unfortunately, I have a hard time hearing her in this song, and the final product is slightly anticlimactic.

The feedback: Shakira thinks she’s cool, Adam just loves her, and Usher adores both her and her energy.

TEAM SHAKIRA: KRIS THOMAS

The song: “I’ll Be There” by The Jackson 5

The performance: More MJ! Focusing less on the dance moves, Kris gives a solid performance. His falsetto is a little too breathy, and I’m starting to think that his vibrato is too much for me, but all in all, it is a good (albeit possibly forgettable) performance.

The feedback: Adam admits that the song is very high, but he thinks Kris rose to the task. Blake thinks Kris proved himself, and Usher is a little confused with his version of the song. But like Ursher always says, “No risk, no reward.” Regardless, Coach Shakira is proud.

TEAM ADAM: AMBER CARRINGTON

The song: “I’m Gonna Love You Through It” by Martina McBride

The performance: Another Martina McBride song leads to another killer performance! Picking a song that hits very close to home, Amber gives us another powerhouse vocal. The girl is unstoppable, and I think she has just the right amount of country in her voice. In my opinion, she won the McBride battle tonight.

The feedback: Blake thinks she did both Martina McBride and country music proud, and Usher believes her voice defies the laws of gravity. Adam thinks Amber is “mind-bogglingly” good, and she continues to impress him.

Heat update: Everyone has finally stopped talking about it, so I’m guessing the room is back to about 70 degrees Fahrenheit at this point.

And that’s where we’ll leave you! Who had the best performance of the night? Is Amber the one to beat? Is Judith going to burn out, or is she just beginning her journey? And which Michael Jackson performance was your favorite? More importantly, all four coaches are yet to give a standing ovation. Which performer do you think will be the one to get them to their feet first?

Tune in tomorrow night for some Lady Antebellum and what I really hope is a performance — but not a reenactment of the video — of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.”

Samantha on Twitter: @samhighfill

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