Sadness, success, and one mispronunciation of Shakira’s name

By Adam Carlson
April 14, 2015 at 10:38 PM EDT
Trae Patton/NBC
S4 E4
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It’s another night in Voice-land, and here’s what we know so far: Good singing comes from good struggle; if there are any musical genres left in America, they’re country and everything else; and our fearsome foursome is actually, like, a good judging panel.

No joshing: With the second week of the blind auditions now behind us, it’s clear that Blake and Usher and Shakira and Adam are a stacked deck of personalities, handling the rococo formal requirements of both the genre and The Voice’s particular spin on it — be both judge-y and supportive, half-and-half constructive and comedic; know nothing about the contestants but connect with them immediately — with a high-sheen celebrity. So yeah. I’m about it.

Other tidbits, as per The Daly: Shakira has seven contestants on her team so far; Adam and Usher have six each and Blake, five. Also those quick snippets that made you think Blake and Adam had changed clothes? They were lies: The judges don’t ever change clothes. (Don’t you read the comments?) Also, way to pre-fab your gloating, Blake — just because NBC acts as if country music were the music industry’s most inscrutable mass entertainment. And also, who is “Shick-ira”?

CUT TO: “Let’s hear some singers!”

First is 20-year-old Audrey Karrasch, a former Ford model thanks to the power of the Internet. But her years modeling in New York re-enforced a lack of self-worth, which she worked to reclaim with a move down to the musically “very wide and diverse” Charlotte, North Carolina. The Voice is a chance to be recognized for her singing and not her looks (err, “attractiveness”). What does she sing? She sings “Price Tag” and the whole crowd starts playing along. Audrey’s hair is amazing! Audrey can do anything!

Blake turns and then Usher. Shakira and Adam are bizarrely able to resist the performance. Audrey is a little too too, sure, but she’s also playful and spot-on with the song’s vibe. Blake speaks first but then it’s Audrey’s turn to speak and and she is snipping at Adam to can it because he couldn’t even turn around. Blake is “really excited,” but Usher tells Audrey that she’s got a smooth voice and great articulations, plus she’s totally his girl. She goes Usher.

Then comes Brandon Roush, from Louisville (which he pronounces correctly, with a double-emphasis on the ou in “Lou”) and sporting a great head of hair. He sings “With a Little Help From My Friends” with a power-rock twist. Would I listen to it on the radio? No. Would I spin my chair around? Oh yes.

Shakira hits her button first, making Brandon’s family cra-a-azy backstage while the three men abstain. She loves the depth of his voice, but Adam offers another reason they might connect: His hair is “beautiful.” And then there’s this weird moment where it comes out to the judges that Brandon works with autistic children and everyone awwws, but isn’t it against the show’s rules to touch streams like this, between backstory and stage? It should be. Bonus points: Brandon’s “You want me, well I love you” to his new mentor.

NEXT: Orlando Dixon and America

Betsy Barta, 22 and from Minneapolis, started singing when she was a kid, but would freeze in front of a crowd. At some point, with almost no context, we’re told that she and her guitar player decided to see if they could “survive on the street playing music.” Were they homeless? Did they survive? Questions and questions but no answers. Up on the stage, Betsy busts out a version of “Set Fire to the Rain” that puts her pretty voice at odds with the vampy StairMaster rhythm of the song. And I like the song. Unfortunately the judges agree — probably because of my opinion and the invisible political calculus that makes up each of their teams — and no coaches turn around. They all praise her, more or less, but Betsy begins to cry and crumble a bit. Not Adam: “I’ve got to hug you. You can’t be sad.” And he does. He hugs her!

That rejection ushers in more: Jewl Anguay (“Battlefield”), Ginette Claudette (“No One”), and Chris Johnson (“I Won’t Down”) all fail to make an impression.

The next contestant, meanwhile, comes overloaded with impression-making traits: Patrick Dodd lives in Memphis with his family, has shoulder-length dreads, and won an award on Beale Street. He’s a veteran crowd-pleaser. For proof, look no further than his song choice, “Walking in Memphis,” which I sang much too vehemently in my truck as a teenager. His singing faces are eh but his performing is a straight-up match between voice and song, all warbly and booze-covered.

Shakira clearly loves it and sells herself hard (“Don’t underestimate a 5’3″ Colombian girl!”), but Adam also has passion, remember, and he appreciates a white guy with density and rasp when his own voice is so simple and raspy. (Oh, Adam.) A commercial break stalls the tension and then it’s all Adam.

After a trio of chosen ones — Trevor Davis, wearing a fedora and singing “Keep Your Head Up” (Team Blake); C. Perkins, singing “Because of You” (Team Shakira); and Agina Alvarez, singing “Beautiful Liar” (Team Adam) — it’s back to Orlando Dixon, and the night’s most heart-swelling moment.

What we know about him is this: His parents divorced when he was a child and he grew up without a father figure — although he and his dad have a relationship now. Also, “it can be stressful” trying to make ends meet for his family and a singing career could hopefully be a step up. This is underlined by Orlando tearing up on camera. He picks “So Sick” for his performance number and it’s decent, no doubt, though his lower register isn’t great. But it was the slow realization that none of the judges were buying it coupled with that shot of Orlando’s sister prepping herself for disappointment that had me pretty flattened…and then, at almost the last possible moment, Usher spun around. Orlando’s sister and I collectively freak out while our smooth-smilingest judge lavishes smooth smiles on Orlando, telling him he has great tone and that he should expect to be pushed going forward. Orlando replies, “Please do.” (Yes please.)

NEXT: Savannah Berry and Taylor Swift

Back where the stakes are lower — although not really, because this is the final performance slot of the night and so miracles are promised — Savannah Berry, from Texas and 17, gets ready to perform. Savannah’s been in the spotlight before, having turned a stint as a YouTuber and a presumably definitely winning cover of Sugarland’s “Stuck Like Glue” into a duet with the duo for the ACM Awards.

Off that background, her voice is, obviously, full and powerful on a cover of T-Swift’s “Safe and Sound.” But was I the only one who was put off by her spin on the song’s lullaby hush? She opted instead for a bigger-than cover that never drew back from the end of the stage. You could argue that that sort of thing doesn’t play well on a nationally televised singing competition, to which I would counter, Don’t sing it? But powerful and loud carry the evening, and the latter half of the performance pretty much devours the first half anyway. Savannah even nails the falsetto. Okay, okay — I’ll swap my side-eye for claps.

All the judges save Usher spin around and Blake is just “fascinated” by her voice. Did he mention that he was married to one of Savannah’s musical influences? And did he also mention that he and Miranda were considering adopting and that Savannah is at a very adoptable age? In between all of this buttering-up, Adam and Shakira can hardly make their own cases, though they do try. Shakira reminds us that Adam and Blake have been doing this for three seasons already so they may very well be deaf. She, on the other hand, is both fresh and hungry. Adam even waves his little arms! Bonus points: His “I know you’re new at this, but it’s terrifying how good you are” to Shakira. But it was Blake all along, breaking the broken tradition from last night of country performers not going to the country coach.

In case anyone forgot, Blake won Favorite Male Artist once, from something. The foursome walk off together beneath Daly’s voiceover about the coming (final!) week of blind auditions. They’re totally all friends.

That’s it for this super-speedy episode, and for week two. Are you as high on the judges’ as I am? Did the eliminations feel extra painful or am I just sad? And can we all agree — as I and Melissa do — that last night’s Michelle looks like a more striped version of Top Chef’s Carla?

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