The Top 10 let their hair down and deliver the fun, unexpected performances we've been waiting for

By Samantha Highfill
April 14, 2015 at 10:27 PM EDT
NBC
S4 E18
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It’s getting to be that time of year on The Voice where if people don’t start mixing things up, we get bored. Luckily for us, it seems these coaches know exactly how much diversity is needed to pique our interest. From Shakira’s crazy awesome hair to some much-needed uptempo performances, and so many uses of the word “sexy” that I won’t even try to count, the Top 10 took to the stage tonight to have a little bit of fun.

Starting out with a performance of Maroon 5’s new single “Love Somebody,” Adam Levine’s band kicks off the evening with a white backdrop and a lot of blue lights — think Carrie Underwood’s projection dress done right — during which Adam performs quite a few Cassadee Pope-esque hand raises. By the time he finishes singing the song he wrote to me, it’s time for Carson to catch up with the coaches.

Here’s what we learn: Due to Joel Madden’s busy schedule with The Voice Australia, Shakira has brought in her chair buddy, Cee Lo Green, to help her team this week. Or as she calls him, the sexiest coach in the history of The Voice. Adam’s tattoos disagree, but I digress. Other lessons: Usher is a glass half-full kind of guy, and Blake’s family is doing okay in the tragic situation in Oklahoma. Also, Carson Daly is not not awkward when dealing with tragedies… but let’s get to the performances!

TEAM BLAKE: HOLLY TUCKER

The song: “How Great Thou Art”

The performance: Bringing her gospel experience to the stage, Holly chooses to perform a religious song and show America another side to herself. The vocals are good, and I see what she was wanting to do, but I find myself a little bored about halfway through the song. I want something a little more out of the opening number of the night. Does that make me a bad person? It has nothing to do with the gospel element of the song whatsoever, I promise.

The feedback: Usher thinks it’s an “incredible statement,” but feels that it’s a bit of a departure from what he has come to expect from her. Shakira commends Holly’s serious control over her instrument, and Adam appreciates the pristine quality of Holly’s voice, no matter the song. Blake feels the song is strangely appropriate for tonight and claims he’s never heard her “sing so strong before ever.” He says it’s her most important performance so far.

NEXT: Judith Hill sings Michael Jackson

TEAM ADAM: JUDITH HILL

The song: “The Way You Make Me Feel” by Michael Jackson

The performance: When Adam tells Judith she’ll be doing a Michael song, she immediately gets emotional about paying homage to a man she is so grateful to. She’s scared people won’t see the difference between exploiting him and celebrating him. But after she gets on stage in her red jumpsuit and delivers a soulful rendition — complete with backup singers for the MJ backup singer — of one of my favorite Michael songs, I think it’s clear what she wanted to do. The only thing crazier than Judith’s hair is her vocals. Apart from her blind audition, this is my favorite Judith performance thus far.

The feedback: After Carson gives a very awkward therapeutic interlude, Blake can find absolutely nothing bad to say about Judith’s performance. Usher, as a lover of MJ himself, shares Judith’s feelings of missing him, and Adam is confident that America is ready to accept both Judith and her amazing celebration of a pop legend.

You guys know what time it is: Say hello to Christina Milian’s red hair! Up in the skybox, she gets Josiah to tell a story about being one of six kids before wholeheartedly creepin’ on him, and then she, too, proves that she isn’t great at dealing with tragedy, stumbling over her words as she tries to squeeze in a plug for helping those in Oklahoma.

TEAM BLAKE: THE SWON BROTHERS

The song: “How Country Feels” by Randy Houser

The performance: With a crazy backdrop, The Swon Brothers take things back to their country roots, but this time they pick up the tempo. The result is probably a lot of fun for country music fans, and I do like their sound. However, in the end, I’ll tell you how country feels for me in this moment — lackluster and repetitive.

The feedback: After asking the Oklahoma boys to say a few words for their fellow state folk, Shakira tells the brothers once again that they make her feel good. Adam can’t get over Zach’s crazy Scream face, and Blake thinks the boys are starting to have something happen.

TEAM ADAM: AMBER CARRINGTON

The song: “Break Away” by Kelly Clarkson

The performance: For the record, Adam Carlson and I picked a Kelly Clarkson for Amber when we had to rank the top 12 in last week’s print edition of the magazine, so I was very excited when I heard the song selection. And so, with yet another inexplicably over-the-top backdrop, and the assistance of one very powerful fan, Amber is able to pull off another great performance. I really love this girl’s voice, but I have to admit I was hoping for a little bit more from this song, though I can’t pinpoint what I’m missing. A lot of help I am. Who can help me out?

The feedback: Blake thinks Amber can “wear some wind good” and thinks the Kelly Clarkson song was a good call. Usher is literally blown away by the performance and commends Amber on her incredible talent and personal arrangement of the song. Shakira agrees that Kelly Clarkson is in Amber’s wheelhouse, which Adam considers to be high praise. He loves Amber. Period.

NEXT: Sasha Allen finds her groove

TEAM SHAKIRA: SASHA ALLEN 

The song: “Next to Me” by Emeli Sande

The performance: Cee Lo is back, y’all! And he’s flirting with contestants! Yay! With this performance, Shakira finally gives Sasha a more recent radio hit to have some fun with. Although I always get a little of that Broadway feel from Sasha, she definitely shows a new side in this performance, and she has Shakira on her feet.

The feedback: The boys all agree that it was time for Sasha to do something uptempo, and Shakira is SO happy. Her happiness is briefly interrupted when Carson creeps on Sasha (what is it with these hosts tonight?!), but the camera quickly comes back to her so that she can express just how proud she is of Sasha.

*Christina Milian talking Twitter, stuttering*

TEAM USHER: JOSIAH HAWLEY

The song: “Clocks” by Coldplay

The performance: I feel like this is Muse all over again. Josiah does a lot better than I expected when I heard the song choice, but choosing a Coldplay song is almost mean on Usher’s part. I commend the effort to grow your artist, but Josiah’s voice is not high (or strong) enough to do a Muse song or a Coldplay song. Those bands are staples.

The feedback: *Carson makes an awkward joke about ladies loving him* Shakira and Adam agree that “mere mortals” can’t really attempt to sing Coldplay. They also agree that Josiah did a good job and that he raised the bar last week, but Adam also feels that Josiah was visibly uncomfortable at times. Blake wants more lyrics to really dig into, and Usher just wants to continue to nurture Josiah’s voice. But will he have the chance?

TEAM BLAKE: Danielle Bradbery

The song: “Heads Carolina, Tails California” by Jo Dee Messina

The performance: Another contestant letting go and having fun, Danielle finally gets to act her age with this upbeat country song. I would’ve liked to see a little more personality in the performance, but Danielle’s vocals are something worth noting. The girl is good. Her hair is not (not tonight at least).

The feedback: Usher agrees to go to either Caroline or California with Danielle (that’s called success, honey!), and he loves her ability to make country cool. Adam thinks her nonchalance about seeing Sheryl Crow is what makes her cool, and Blake simply thinks she’s amazing, no matter what kind of tune she’s singing.

NEXT: Which contestant used to sing in a screamo band?

TEAM SHAKIRA: KRIS THOMAS

The song: “Adorn” by Miguel

The performance: Handing out another current radio hit, Shakira hopes to see Kris get his sexy on with this Miguel song. But despite CeeLo’s best efforts, I can’t seem to find Kris’ swag. I think it might be one of his best vocal performances, but it gets lost in all the uncomfortable happenings of Kris Thomas attempting to be sexy.

The feedback: Adam and Usher agree that Kris’ voice is incredible, but they could see him thinking during that performance, and that is what really kept him from being sexy. Shakira comes to Kris’ defense and wants the boys to give him a break for being nervous. Usher tries to say that nervousness is not what he’s talking about, but they have awakened the beast! Shakira finishes giving her love to Kris while Adam and Usher literally hide behind their chairs from the fiery Latina.

TEAM ADAM: SARAH SIMMONS

The song: “Mama Knows Best” by Jesise J

The performance: The former lead singer of a screamo band, Sarah is sending this song to all the jerks who didn’t treat her right in relationships. The result is a performance so full of cool, sexy, rocker-chic everything that the coaches can’t even stand it. Watching Adam watch Sarah has become my favorite part of this season. It’s as if he’s trying to decipher how she does what she does, and he never quite gets it. My other favorite part of this season? Listening to her move from rasp to falsetto back to rasp (and through minor keys) without taking a breath. This girl makes what she does look easy (and fun).

The feedback: While Adam freaks out, Blake spends the next few minutes screaming about how sexy that performance was. He thinks Sarah has turned a corner. This girl’s a rocker. And as Usher puts it, “If you got it, you got it.” Adam, still fanning himself, thinks Sarah just gave the performance of the night. “Sexy!” yells Blake.

TEAM USHER: MICHELLE CHAMUEL

The song: “Just Give Me A Reason” by P!nk

The performance: After Pharell commends Michelle as one of those “genius monster singers” with a long career ahead of her, she hits the stage in her elastic(?) pants to sing yet another P!nk song. I would complain about the fact that she’s already done P!nk, but it just sounds too good. I feel like I still can’t hear everything that I want to hear in terms of her voice tonight, but it’s no secret that Michelle makes her team proud with this performance.

The feedback: Adam is a fan, and Blake loves how dramatic Michelle is (plus he envies her squatting abilities). Usher tries to make the argument that that is the performance of the night because there’s “nothing on the stage but you.” I love Michelle, but what did he just say?

That’s it! Here’s to hoping everybody leaves their hair down (literally for Shakira) and keeps us on the edge of our seats for the rest of the season, because that was downright fun! So who wins your vote for performance of the night? What about sexiest performance of the night? And, of course, who’s in danger of going home this week? Sound off in the comments!

Samantha on Twitter: @samhighfill

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A rotating chair-full of judges search for the next great superstar singer on this NBC reality show.
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