Episode Recap: Season 6 Playoffs, Night 2

The Voice - Season 4

After narrowing down Team Blake last Tuesday, The Voice is putting two more teams on the chopping block Monday. It’s Team Shakira and Team Adam who are being narrowed down from five members to three, with their coach having to decide which two artists are going home.

Shakira’s squad begins the night, with country singer Kristen Merlin batting leadoff after being montaged for last parts of the season. We’re finally getting a good look at what Kristen can do with Carrie Underwood’s “Two Black Cadillacs.” Her take on the song certainly has enough power behind it, including one crazy note in the middle, and she knows to keep moving around the stage rather than just stand there and belt it out. Watching this, it’s even more frustrating that Kristen got montaged earlier, because she’s really good.

Adam and Shakira give Kristen a standing ovation; Adam compliments both Kristen and Shakira’s coaching, calling the artist “at the top of your game.” Blake agrees, saying “That’s as flawless as a live performance can be,” although he rips the crowd for not having any rhythm (not the first time he’s said that). Usher says Kristen is “one of the strongest voices in the competition and consistent.” Shakira tells her artist that she’s made her so happy – so hopefully that means she’ll protect Kristen when it comes to make her decisions at the end of the hour. Even Adam and Blake encourage her to keep Kristen on her roster.

Deja Hall has selected Jordin Sparks’ track “Battlefield,” but her inexperience is showing just a little bit. Shakira has to explain to Deja what being “in the pocket” means and help her with her pitch. Will her youth work against her when she’s stacked up against the older, more experienced artists? Possibly, because her version of the song lacks the intensity of the original, and no matter how much emphatic gesturing she does, it doesn’t quite have the same effect as Jordin Sparks – who was just 20 when the song was released – performing it.

Both Blake and Usher talk about Deja growing up, and both Usher and Adam talk about her learning and growing as she goes along. “I think the place you’re at now is better than any other place you’ve been so far,” Adam encourages. Shakira praises Deja’s performance and her growth. Sounds like she heard something that we didn’t.

Third to sing is Tess Boyer, who’s been around this competition like a ping-pong ball. She started with Usher, was stolen by Blake in the first round of battles, and was picked up by Shakira in the second cycle. So is she going to hang in there or will she finally strike out? Her rendition of “Human” by Christina Perri will decide that. The performance starts out slow, but soon Tess is holding out considerable notes.

Everyone argues over who’s the biggest idiot in their handling (or not) of Tess. Adam does an intentionally bad impression of Blake that Blake quips sounds more like Carson. Seriously though, Usher calls Tess “superhuman” and says she’s “reaped the benefits of this entire panel.” Well, except for Adam.

Patrick Thomson selects “Trouble” by Ray LaMontagne, and he’s going to have to try really hard considering that Tony Lucca claimed ownership of this song with his fantastic blind-audition version back in Season 2. Shakira has the same thought we’re having, though obviously not for the same reasons; she tells Patrick he has to convince the panel that he’s an artist, not just a good singer. The grit in Patrick’s voice is put to good use on the track, but is it enough after we’ve heard strong performances from Kristen and Tess?

Former coach Adam calls this Patrick’s “finest moment.” Usher says he “completely took control of the room, took ownership of the song.” Blake actually thanks Patrick for not picking him as his coach, if only because now he gets to laugh at Adam. “You’re such a dumb person,” Adam retorts. laughing. It’s worth noting that we have not heard a truly critical comment from any of the coaches so far in the evening, and we’re almost halfway done.

Finishing the Team Shakira portion of the program is Dani Moz with her take on Lady Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory.” She and Shakira settle on a stripped-down version of the song. It takes a few moments to get used to, but eventually picks up steam, and ends with Dani reaching a few pretty big notes. Maybe this wasn’t the best song to give the stripped-down treatment, but going that route was definitely best to showcase Dani’s voice.

Adam tells Dani that she was “super-nervous in the beginning and then you put it away.” Blake appreciates the emotion that Dani poured into the song and calls it a “game-changer.” Usher praises Dani’s passion, though he concedes “it wasn’t a flawless performance” because of those aforementioned nerves, and admits that he was brought “close to tears” by what he heard. Shakira refers to Dani as a “true artist.”

With her entire roster having performed, it’s time for Shakira to make her eliminations. To us, this seems much more clear-cut than Blake’s decision last week, but of course it’s drawn out for TV time. The lucky winners are Tess, Kristen, and Dani – exactly who we’d have picked. You have to feel bad for Patrick, though, because Shakira’s use of the word “woman” clued him in to the fact that he was about to be sent packing.

Now we move on to Team Adam, beginning with fan favorite Delvin Choice. He’s gone with “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green, a great fit for his voice – and a song that Adam himself has actually performed, so he’s got the right coach to help him here. The result is a pretty great rendition that’s got even Usher clapping along with the beat, though performance-wise, it’s far from Delvin’s most engaging outing. Considering he could probably make the phone book sound good, however, we’ll give him a pass on the performance part – for now. He’ll have to engage the audience more in live shows.

Blake thinks Delvin has grown “leaps and bounds” over the season. Usher says “there’s not a more unique voice” on the show this season. Shakira thinks he took them on a ride and “drove the whole thing in such a tasteful way. We were just in the backseat, just relaxed and enjoying how great your voice is.” Adam and Blake crack wise about not having turned for Delvin in Season 5, which we bet is going to come up a few more times over the next few weeks.

In our book, Jake Barker gets a gold star for even selecting Maroon 5′s “She Will Be Loved,” which contains high notes that honestly have never been handled properly by anyone not named Adam Levine. Adam is amused, but we also know the song means a lot to him personally, too – so since it’s Adam who has to make the final decision, this is tricky territory. Jake injects a little bit of jazz feeling into his version, and no, he can’t hit those high notes, but at least he’s not trying and over-reaching. Plus, it’s clear the audience loves him and his Guyver-era David Hayter-esque good looks. No, this isn’t even close to the awesomeness of the original, but it’s good, and it’s unique enough that it transcends being just a cover of a coach’s song.

Blake approves. Usher basically just tells Jake that he’s going to get compared to Adam and Justin Timberlake and that he hopes he makes it to the end. Shakira likes the cover when she didn’t expect to. But it’s Adam whose word matters the most here, and he notices the spin that Jake put on it, and he respects that. “I am so beyond proud of the short time we’ve been able to spend together working, because you’re a very talented guy,” he says. We agree.

Kat Perkins likewise swings for the fences with Journey’s classic “Open Arms,” which everybody knows. This is a song everyone is going to have an opinion about. Ours is that Kat is basically the amalgamation of Kat Robichaud and Jacquie Lee. She is definitely a rocker, but she also has pipes that could break something. (We would actually pay money to put her together on stage with Kat Robichaud, and not just because they share a name.) After her performance, there should be absolutely no way that Adam won’t keep her.

Usher calls it “flawless” and declares that Kat is “a sure thing.” Shakira describes the performance as “devoted.” Blake can’t even come up with a joke, which is saying something. Adam thinks this is “only the beginning” for Kat, stating emphatically that “Steve Perry does not screw around,” prompting laughter from the audience.

Morgan Wallen is in the fourth spot, and he’s wanting to go back to country after being stolen from Team Usher, with “Stay” by Florida Georgia Line. With Blake already concerned that Morgan might be “one-dimensional,” Morgan needs to come out and show everything he’s got in his arsenal. We’ve just seen from the dismissal of Patrick Thomson that a cool rasp isn’t enough to move forward.

Having heard that, Usher admits that maybe some of the choices that he made when he coached Morgan weren’t in Morgan’s best interest; you have to appreciate that candor from Usher. Blake compares him to Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots, which seems to make perfect sense, even though Blake can’t name Eddie Vedder. “I’m going to punch you in the face,” Adam quips. Shakira thinks Morgan has improved, and Adam likewise seems sold on Morgan as more than just untapped potential.

That means Christina Grimmie finishes out the night. She comes to us with Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up,” and Adam is trying to focus her a little bit. “Make a plan and stick to it,” he tells her. She seems to have gotten the memo, as she delivers a performance that’s fluid both vocally and in terms of performance (which isn’t easy; this song gets a bit wordy in places). With that, Christina sort of shuts the door on at least Morgan, not because he performed poorly but because she’s just captured a spot in the live shows, and that drops the odds for everybody else.

Blake once again cracks wise about Christina’s tiny stature before calling her the best singer on Adam’s team. Usher compares her to Celine Dion, which causes a momentary freakout, before making a joke about Blake making a joke about the size of Adam’s anatomy. Before the discussion turns R-rated, Shakira praises Christina’s performance as well before Adam tells her that he’s proud that she’s mastered what she wants to do. “Try to criticize something,” he dares the rest of the panel.

So who will Adam keep? Two-thirds of his roster should already be a lock, so it’s really down to just one open spot between three other folks. He selects Christina, Delvin and Kat, which is the best possible combination for Team Adam. Though we will always be curious about how Morgan would’ve developed, and we already miss Jake and his sweet sound.

The Voice finishes its pre-taped playoff phase with Team Usher tomorrow at 8 PM ET/PT on NBC, before moving into its live playoffs next Monday, April 20 at 8 PM ET/PT. We’re off tomorrow because we’ve got something else in the works, but we’ll see you a week from tonight as live shows begin!

(c)2014 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

Tony Lucca Launches Kickstarter For New Album


One of the most talented musicians we’ve ever seen (who also happens to be one of the best people we’ve ever known, too) has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund his new full-length studio album. Tony Lucca, who you probably know from being Team Adam’s finalist on Season 2 of The Voice, went live with his Kickstarter Wednesday morning.

If it succeeds, he’ll be the latest in a line of Voice alumni that have funded albums through the platform, including fellow Season 2 Team Adam members Pip and Katrina Parker.

Having been writing and recording pretty steadily since he left the reality TV world, Tony has put out two strong EPs over the last two years. His first, With The Whole World Watching, was under a deal with Voice coach Adam Levine’s 222 Records label and contained the single “Never Gonna Let You Go,” which he performed on the show last year. That partnership has amicably ended, and so Tony’s returning to his independent roots to release what will be his eighth studio album.

He also just released the acoustic EP Drawing Board on March 18, and – maintaining his status as one of the hardest-working men in music – is currently playing yet another tour, this one with Tyler Hilton. He previously embarked upon the ‘Keys, Strings and Band of Kings Tour’ with Brendan James and appearances by Season 1 Voice finalist Vicci Martinez, and he’s played plenty of solo shows across the country, too.

Tony never stops working hard to bring his fans the best music and live shows that he possibly can, so it’s kind of fitting that we now have the opportunity to give something back to him.

You can pledge to the Kickstarter effort by visiting bit.ly/LuccaKS. For more on Tony Lucca, check out his official website (tonylucca.com) and follow him on Twitter (@luccadoes).

(c)2014 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

The Voice 2014 Tour Is Official Now

The Voice - Season 5

After weeks of vague commercials and speculation, we now have most of the details about the upcoming The Voice summer tour, which was officially unveiled today.

All three Season 5 finalists – winner Tessanne Chin (Team Adam), runner-up Jacquie Lee (Team Christina) and second runner-up Will Champlin (Team Adam) – will participate, as will Season 1 runner-up Dia Frampton (Team Blake).

A fifth alumni will be added to the tour next month “by America via social media,” specifics of which were not disclosed. (You’ll recall just yesterday we offered our suggestions at Fan Voice.)

After the three finalists from the currently airing Season 6 are named, those three artists will also join the tour. Season 6 is slated to end on May 20.

The 31-stop tour begins on June 21 and ends on August 2nd; tickets for all dates except the Indio, CA stop go on sale this Thursday at 10 AM local time via thevoice.com/tour. Here’s a list of all the stops and show dates that have been announced:


San Antonio, TX Majestic Theatre


Grand Prairie, TX Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie


Houston, TX Bayou Music Center


Tampa, FL David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts


Fort Lauderdale, FL Broward Center for the Performing Arts


Orlando, FL Bob Carr Performing Arts Center


Atlanta, GA Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre


Charlotte, NC Ovens Auditorium


Hershey, PA Hershey Theatre


Lowell, MA Lowell Memorial Auditorium


Atlantic City, NJ The Mark Etess Arena at Trump Taj Mahal


New York, NY Beacon Theatre


Baltimore, MD Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric


Toronto, ON Sony Centre for the Performing Arts


Niagara Falls, NY Seneca Niagara Events Center


Mashantucket, CT The Grand Theater at Foxwoods


Cleveland, OH Playhouse Square – State Theatre


Detroit, MI Masonic Temple Theatre


Chicago, IL Chicago Theatre


Minneapolis, MN Mystic Lake Casino Hotel


Milwaukee, WI Milwaukee Riverside Theater


St. Louis, MO Peabody Opera House


Denver, CO Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre


Phoenix, AZ Comerica Theatre


Las Vegas, NV The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino


Indio, CA* Fantasy Springs Resort Special Events Center


San Diego, CA San Diego Civic Theatre


Los Angeles, CA Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE


San Jose, CA City National Civic


Portland, OR Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall


Redmond, WA Marymoor Park

Die-hard fans of the show will know that this is the second time that a concert tour has been launched for the Emmy-winning reality competition. The Voice Live on Tour was a limited tour that played after Season 1 of the show, featuring that season’s finalists and semifinalists (including Dia Frampton). The tour was quietly dropped sometime between then and the conclusion of Season 2 with low ticket sales cited as the reason.

What do you think of a revived Voice tour? Will you go? Do you believe it’s fair to determine the one alumni spot via social media? Let us know your thoughts on the announcement in the comments.

(c)2014 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

Episode Recap: Season 6 Playoffs, Part 1

The Voice - Season 4

We’re now in the home stretch: The Voice playoffs. On a Tuesday. And they’re not live yet. And you’re not voting yet, either. So this isn’t what you’re used to when you hear the word “playoffs” on this show, but it’s happening. How could we kick off the playoffs with only an hour-long show, you ask? Well, let’s find out.

Carson explains that now each of the artists will choose their own songs, starting with Team Blake. All five members will perform and then Blake will have to kick two of them off the show. We definitely wouldn’t want to be in Blake’s position tonight!

Audra McLaughlin starts the night with Martina McBride’s “Broken Wing.” Before she performs, we see her rehearsal with Blake; he advises her to ease off on the falsetto but also admits that he’s basically “nitpicking.” We’re going to do the same for a second; Holly Tucker performed this same song during the Season 4 live shows, and Audra is a strong singer but doesn’t have the same power in her voice that Holly did, nor does she have the same stage presence. That’s not to say that she does poorly – she especially finishes strong – but it’s hard not to compare her to the version that came before.

Usher (thankfully not wearing that ridiculous hat) calls the performance “effortless.” Shakira praises Audra’s effort. Adam quips, “Because I hate Blake so much, it’s hard to say positive things to his teammates.” Seriously though, he wants to see more performance from Audra. The ultimate decision on Audra’s fate, though, rests with Blake, who tells her that “You realize what this moment is. You swung for the fence; I really respect that.” Then he declares that he needs a drink.

Next up is Ryan Whyte Maloney, whose battle we just saw last night. Ryan’s chosen “Second Chance” by Shinedown, which we approve of. Blake thinks it’s a tough song and admits “I’m a little bit worried about him.” He advises him to get rest and be cautious because not everyone is taking the risk that Ryan is. (Which brings us to a thought: this phase must be interesting for Blake, knowing what all his artists are doing and technically having to coach them against each other.)

Ryan definitely brings the rock element to the show, and he holds out some pretty impressive notes; if there’s one criticism we have of his performance, it’s the fact that since he’s playing the guitar as well, he’s stuck behind a microphone stand, which is one of our pet peeves. But other than that, we’re really starting to like this guy.

Usher compares Ryan’s ability to hold out notes to Adam’s (which catches Adam by surprise) and says Ryan is “definitely moving in the right direction.” Shakira thinks Ryan is one of this season’s “biggest surprises.” Adam, still flustered by Usher, quips that he wants a “bro-vorce” before getting serious. “It seems like Ryan has the most incredible professional moments combined with still some rough edges,” he says. Blake agrees, declaring this performance Ryan’s best so far. Could Ryan pull out a surprise win on a team that’s once again predominantly country? Meanwhile, Blake quips that Ryan is what Adam would sound like “if he was a man.” Yeowch.

The middle spot in line belongs to the artist Blake stole at the end of yesterday’s episode, Madilyn Paige. She opts for “Clarity” by Zedd featuring Foxes, and that’s a really tall order, because everybody knows Season 4 runner-up Michelle Chamuel owned that song when she performed it – and Michelle had performing experience that we know Madilyn lacks. And honestly, that shows here. Her performance isn’t bad, but she doesn’t get the lyrics out with as much conviction as Michelle did, and she fails to enunciate completely in a few spots. She’s got a lot of work to do, but then again, she’s 16.

Carson goes first to Madilyn’s former coach, who calls it a “good job” and we’re a little surprised that he doesn’t mention Michelle. Shakira calls out some “pocket issues” but is ultimately satisfied. Adam says what we’d say here: “You’ve got to let it go.” He explains that she’s trying too hard to be perfect and there’s so much stillness because she’s trying to be perfect. And as for Blake, “I couldn’t be more confident and proud that I used my steal on you,” but afterward he also admits he doesn’t think that’s the best she could do.

Next up is Jake Worthington, who’s made such a name for himself since coming back to the show after his first failed audition. He’s country through and through, so it’s no surprise that he picks Jake Owen’s “Anywhere With You.” Blake wants to see more presence from him, and he sort of gets it. It’s a solid country performance, and we know Blake really prides himself on moving country talent forward, so maybe he’s in with a chance here, even as Jake is honest with Usher about the fact that he wasn’t perfect. Adam appreciates Jake’s candor and suggests that he was “jacked up on Mountain Dew.” References to Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby follow. Blake seems to think he’s got to choose between Jake and Audra, and that’ll be a tough decision.

If you’re doing the math, we’re now down to Sisaundra Lewis, who we feel pretty comfortable saying Blake will not get rid of. He seems to love her and the producers must, too, as they keep placing her in featured spots during the broadcasts. Sisaundra has chosen Billy Joel’s “New York State Of Mind,” also known as the track that Bryan Keith was unjustly eliminated on after he sung the heck out of it. Is anyone really surprised that Sisaundra takes this song to crazy levels? She’s sort of like this season’s Jacquie Lee in that sense – that she’s known for her power. And judging by the crowd reaction, there’s no way she’s going home, making the competition tighter for everyone else.

After Usher and Adam wonder how Sisaundra landed on Team Blake, and after all the coaches praise her thoroughly (with a little minor constructive criticism from Adam), it’s time to see which two artists have to pack their bags and which three will stay on board. After Jake gives the best speech ever given by a Voice contestant ever, Jlake selects Sisaundra (obviously), Audra, and Jake. Not necessarily how we would’ve played it, but pretty much how we expected Blake to, and now we know who he’s bringing to the live portion of the playoffs.

The Voice playoffs continue Monday at 8 PM ET/PT on NBC. If you missed it this morning, check out our fresh interview with Carson Daly.

(c)2014 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

Carson Daly Dishes On Season 6

The Voice

Whenever we need an answer about The Voice, we can always go to Carson Daly. The show’s host – and one of its producers – has served as the link between the hit singing competition and its audience, explaining the various changes and listening to our questions and concerns. So when we found Carson at The Voice‘s red carpet Thursday, we welcomed the chance to ask him about the alterations in Season 6 and how the Emmy-winning series has evolved over the last three years.

First, about replacing the knockout rounds with a second set of battle rounds. “We loved it,” Carson told us. “I think it was a little simpler, a little cleaner. People understand what the battles are. The competitive factor of bringing two people together to sing one song, but to share it also, that dynamic of competing but sharing works well. So to have people advance, and then it’s like a playoff system. You get even better people in the second round of that. I think that was a smart thing to do.”

For those of you disappointed in the change eliminating the one part of the show where the competing artists get to choose their own songs, don’t lose hope. He told us that’s still a part of the process. “You’ll see that, yes,” he said. “[In the] playoffs, they do that.”

Making alterations has become a regular happening when it comes to The Voice; producers have shown that they are willing to introduce changes each season, and just as quickly discard those changes the following season. The result is a show that is ever-evolving, rather than its counterparts whose structures stay mostly the same. “I think we continue to just make small choices that reap benefits,” Carson reflected.

“Usher and Shakira are back, and they’re stronger in their chairs than they were [in] Season 4. We learn a little more about editing. More and more people who want to make good music finally have the courage to try out for the show. Every time we all get together to make a new season, it’s just a little bit better.”

What does he think has made this reality show rise to the top of a hugely competitive field? “We just felt like we had something different to offer,” he said. “And we attracted great talent right off the bat. When it was going away [in Season 3], we created the Steal. That was something that we tweaked. We always tweak the format a little bit to try and make it better.”

We also asked Carson about one of the biggest parts of his on-camera duties – working with the artists and their families, particularly during the blind auditions, where you can see him in the room with each contestant’s loved ones while they perform for the superstar coaches. He really does care about these folks, and so it’s not easy when someone doesn’t get a chair to turn around. “My heart breaks,” he told us, adding that “I want these people who come here to have a good experience. But equally, when someone gets a button, that’s why you see me [so excited].”

Carson’s not afraid to say that there have been instances where he disagrees with some of the biggest names in music. “I’ve said it on camera. They usually cut it out,” he revealed. “As a producer of this show, I’m in like the executive rooms where I know who’s been invited. And we try and put some of the best singers in front of our coaches. So I walk in knowing we’ve got a good group.

“And there are times in that two minutes [of their audition] where people clam up, get nervous and they don’t get a chair to turn. I know they had an off day. And I’m just like ‘Oh, man.’ And I’ll tell them, they come in the room and I’m like ‘You know what, honestly, I think they got it wrong.’ I don’t think the coaches always get it right. That’s part of the show.

“But,” he added with a smile, “those people come back.”

The Voice playoffs begin tonight at 8 PM ET/PT on NBC, with the live playoffs starting on Monday, April 21. For more on Carson, be sure you’re following him on Twitter (@CarsonDaly).

(c)2014 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse, Examiner, and Fanbolt with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

Episode Recap: Season 6 2nd Battle Rounds, Part 3

The Voice - Season 4

The Voice is just steps away from turning control over to you at home. In fact, we’re less than two months away from crowning a new champion. But before we can do that, there are more battle rounds and more scenes of Chris Martin that we need to get to. So, here’s Monday night’s fight card!

1. Team Shakira: Dani Moz vs. Clarissa Serna, “Perfect”

Shakira matches her “powerhouse singers,” looking to narrow it down to just one on her team. Their choices include Pink’s “Perfect,” Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory,” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Catch My Breath.” They go with the Pink tune, which has already been performed by Vicci Martinez and Niki Dawson (from season 1) and Katrina Parker (season 2). Shakira approves, saying she thinks it “has the right style to showcase the power of their voices.” Although, there’s only been one really surprising song choice yet, so…Chris Martin wants to see a little more performance, and Shakira wants less nerves.

From the jump, it’s clear why Shakira paired these two together; not only do they sound fairly similar, they even look like they could be related. The result is a battle that basically comes down to personal preference, because they share the same strengths and both seem to have taken Chris’s note about performing more toward the audience. Adam praises “major improvement on both sides” but also hits on the nerves issue. Blake votes for Dani, and Usher (still with that ridiculous hat) agrees. That brings it back around to Shakira, who chooses Dani.

Winner: Dani Moz

2. Team Adam: Kat Perkins vs. Dawn and Hawkes, “Suddenly I See”

With this “really tough” pairing, Adam thinks Kat has the power to counter the duo. He hands them two classic rock songs and KT Tunstall’s “Suddenly I See”; he does love his classic rock. These three have an actual discussion about the tunes that goes beyond ‘Well, which one do you like better?,’ which is cool to see. Then Kat freaks out over Chris Martin, enough to get Adam to joke about it. We’re further amused by how these guys don’t get the usual “It’s the [insert descriptor here introduction from Carson Daly. He just announces them and leaves it at that. Ah, well, we know who they are by this point anyway.

This is a battle that sounds perfect and looks terribly mismatched. Kat looks like she’s liable to go over to Dawn and Hawkes, kick over their mic stand, and break the guitar, but of course she’s not like that. It’s another one of those examples of why The Voice‘s central concept is still true: don’t judge an artist by their look. This one’s actually hard to call, because she has great energy, and Dawn and Hawkes are one of the stronger duos we’ve seen on the show. Blake says it was almost like the duo was backing Kat up, and votes for her. Usher echoes that, saying Dawn and Hawkes need to “take command of the stage more.” Shakira makes it three for three, saying that Kat “stood out.” That kind of makes Adam’s decision obvious: it’s Kat. And Adam says what we’ve all known since Season 1, that “if it’s not a duo that blows everybody away, it’s going to be tough to get through.”

Winner: Kat Perkins

3. Team Usher: Music Box vs. Melissa Jimenez, “Song”

Usher has his first chance to coach Music Box after stealing her from Team Shakira, and he’s paired her with one of his strongest artists, Melissa. Their song choices are “Girl On Fire” by Alicia Keys, “What A Girl Wants” by Christina Aguilera, and “Only Girl In The World” by Rihanna. It’s kind of clear what Usher wants to see from these two ladies, who very easily settle on the Alicia Keys track, which meets with Usher’s approval (although you wouldn’t know it from the initial non-reaction he and Chris Martin give). Chris wants both artists to “inhabit the lyrics more” and Usher backs him up by reminding them that “individuality in covers is so important.” His comments make us wonder once again if allowing artists to perform their own music at some point is a good idea; then you’d definitely see individuality.

While nobody can touch the power and sass that Alicia Keys imbued the original with, these two ladies give a solid if imperfect effort. One of the things we love about Melissa is that she never loses her ability to enunciate even as she’s belting out crazy notes; we can always understand her. She’s met a great partner in Music Box, who matches her energy level. Shakira calls the battle partly great and partly not so great, and because Music Box used to be on her team, votes for Music Box. Adam points out that he actually performed part of that song with Alicia Keys, and thinks Melissa had more good moments. Blake agrees with Shakira and uses the situation to get a jab in at Usher’s hat. (Someone steal that hat and hide it, please.) Usher gives the win to Melissa, who appears stunned by that decision. Trust us, girl: you earned it.

Winner: Melissa Jimenez

4. Team Blake: Ryan Whyte Maloney vs. Kaleigh Glanton, “Easy”

Team Blake finishes up early, with two people he hasn’t quite figured out. Kaleigh misses former battle partner Noah Lis (so do we, Kaleigh!), and Ryan can’t believe he pulled off a Tina Turner song. “I seriously burned calories watching that,” he quips. Blake hands them their short list of songs: “Easy” by Rascal Flatts, Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose,” and Train’s “Drops of Jupiter.” Man, we remember that Seal song from Batman Forever. Sadly, these two take the least surprising tune, the Rascal Flatts song. Blake advises Kaleigh about traveling to Falsetto Land. That doesn’t sound like an interesting place to visit.

Maybe the mic volumes were turned down a bit for this battle, because both these two are hard to hear at times over the band. However, what we can hear sounds pretty good. Usher says he’s a fan of this particular song; who’d have thought? He goes on to say that he felt that the artists were supporting each other, and that he votes for Ryan because he thinks Kaleigh held something back due to being nervous. Shakira says a similar thing with the same endorsement. Adam likewise sides with Ryan, making it a clean sweep before we get to Blake. Blake eloquently tells us that this decision “blows” before choosing Ryan.

Winner: Ryan Whyte Maloney

5. Team Adam: Brittnee Camelle vs. Jake Barker, “Climax”

It’s the battle of people stolen from Team Usher, and that’s why this is a battle. Both of them saw this coming, as they’ve become friends over the course of the season. There’s no shortage of presence between these two artists, although Adam offers them each a piece of constructive criticism before he even hands them their song choices. Those options are “Climax” by Usher, “Beautiful Soul” by Jesse McCartney, and Justin Bieber’s “Beauty and a Beat.” Brittnee originally leans toward the Jesse McCartney song, which we would’ve probably chosen, but ultimately the duo comes around to performing an Usher song in front of Usher. It’ll be interesting to see what Usher thinks.

Adam and Chris advise Jake to be confident in his falsetto, while Adam wants Brittnee that there were a few moments in rehearsal that were “a little bit flat.” Chris gives the same piece of advice he gave to Music Box and Melissa, to “inhabit the song.” When the battle starts, we sadly are deprived of Usher’s initial reaction shot, but he seems impressed with the performance as it goes on. We’re certainly impressed by it. We’d let them go through a couple more songs. Carson goes first to Blake, who jokes about Jake wearing Usher’s shoes, and compliments the falsetto he was so worried about before giving him the Shelton seal of approval. Usher laughs about having to comment on one of his songs done by two people who used to be on his team. Asked who did it better, he replies, “Me.” Shakira thinks Jake rose to the occasion and votes for him as well. It’s decision time for Adam, who elects to keep Jake. Darn it, why didn’t Blake push his button?! And why is everybody crying?! Now we’re crying.

Winner: Jake Barker

6. Team Usher: Bria Kelly vs. Madilyn Paige, “I’ll Stand By You”

Wrapping up the evening is the battle of the two adorable singers (which sort of explains why it’s placed at the end of the show). Usher wants to help Madilyn get over her nerves; he doesn’t have that concern about Bria, but he thinks she needs to work on her control. For the two of them, he’s offered “Red” by Taylor Swift, “I’ll Stand By You” from The Pretenders, and “The First Cut Is The Deepest” by Sheryl Crow. Wanting to avoid country, the girls opt for the Pretenders classic. And then Usher makes everybody, including Chris Martin, get a little workout in. Watching the girls rehearse, Chris points out to Usher that of course Madilyn is intimidated, saying, “I couldn’t do this at age 16, are you kidding me?”

It’s already known that the loser of this battle will be stolen by Blake, so it’s kind of anticlimactic. He’s already intently staring through introductions like he’s plotting. This contest is as cute as you thought it would be, and it plays out pretty much the way you’d think, too. Both singers have strong moments and others that betray their youth. Shakira doesn’t name a winner; Adam wanted to see more from both artists, and Blake concurs with that sentiment. “I definitely don’t think anybody really stood out,” he admits. Usher ultimately wants to keep Bria, so Blake gets Madilyn. Blake has shown an ability to work well with younger artists, as well as an interest in doing so (see: Xenia Martinez, Danielle Bradbery), so this is a win-win all around.

Winner: Bria Kelly and Steal: Madilyn Paige to Team Blake

The Voice begins its playoffs tomorrow at 8 PM ET/PT on NBC. That’s right, the playoffs are starting on Tuesday. For more on the show, you can check out our interviews with Adam, Blake, Shakira and Usher from Thursday’s special event, and our editorial on why Adam and Blake must be a part of Season 7 this fall.

And most importantly, we finally have information on this summer’s The Voice Tour! You can visit NBCTheVoiceTour.com to see what’s been teased so far about the new tour, featuring eight artists from a roster of “past stars and this season’s finalists.” We already know four of them – Season 1′s Dia Frampton and Season 5 finalists Tessanne Chin, Jacquie Lee and Will Champlin – so start guessing who those other four will be!

(c)2014 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

Adam, Blake, Shakira and Usher Talk Before The Playoffs

The Voice

Live playoffs for The Voice are just two weeks away – and so BFTV snagged a few quick words with coaches Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Usher and Shakira about potential changes in their strategies, what they’ve learned from being coaches, and who might stick around for this fall’s Season 7.

While you’re watching tonight’s battle rounds, know that yes, they really are as agonizing as they look on TV. “That’s the worst part of the job,” Blake told us. “Anything that’s in between the blinds and the live shows sucks for coaches, because the first thing we do is beg these people to pick us and be on our teams. Then we kick half of them out, [and] then we kick half of them out again.”

Ultimately, sometimes picking a winner is less scientific and more relying on gut instinct. “That’s really what it comes down to,” he continued. “Because everybody did great. There were just great performances across the board, and you kind of just go, ‘Out of these five, [which] three do I think have the best chance of winning this thing?’”

What kind of strategy changes do the coaches foresee going into the live playoffs? “I just look at everything he’s doing and I try not to do it,” quipped Adam.

“Which is why he hasn’t won as many times as I have,” retorted Blake.

“I’ve only won one less time than you have,” replied Adam, “and I told you, I’m going to win this one again.”

The million-dollar question, though, is less who will win Season 6 and more who will still be around for Season 7, which begins shooting in the fall. With Pharrell Williams having been announced as the replacement for the exiting Cee Lo Green, we asked Adam and Blake if they intend on keeping their big red chairs for at least one more cycle. Neither of them are sure quite yet.

“There’s definitely going to be a Season 7,” Adam told us. “Whether or not I’ll be on it, I’ll have to check my schedule.”

“I hope to be,” said Blake. “I hope to hell I am.”

We asked Shakira and Usher, who are completing their second season coaching, what they’ve learned so far from the experience. “So much,” she told us, giving a special mention to her team’s advisor. “I was able to bring Miranda Lambert as a mentor, and that was an extraordinary process of [being able] to observe her and to kind of learn from her. She’s an amazing artist. That’s one example of the many things I’ve learned being at The Voice. And also learning about myself through [the singers] and through their own process.”

“This has become routine in a lot of ways. and for us we’re kind of re-living all of what the passion of being an artist is about,” added Usher. “That’s what I learn or am actually just reminded of. Like ‘Man, I remember the first time the lightbukb went off in dealing with a certain thing or a certain hurdle I had to jump over.’ And helping them find it.”

For all the Voice coaches, the bottom line is making a difference in the lives of the artists that they’re working with. “I’m going to be supporting my team a hundred percent,” said Shakira. “Just doing it in every possible way. Psychologically, morally, nourishing them and nurturing them from a human standpoint.

“But also artistically, I hope to be able to share with them everything I’ve learned over the years, and contribute in some kind of way to the lives of artists and to their careers, so they can continue and pursue their own goals and dreams regardless of what happens.”

The Voice continues season 6 tonight at 8 PM ET/PT on NBC. For more on the show, you can also check out our editorial on why The Voice can’t afford to lose Adam Levine and Blake Shelton. Stay tuned tomorrow as well, as host and producer Carson Daly gives us his input on the show’s growth and development.

(c)2014 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.