'The Voice' Recap: Live Playoffs, Night 1
'The Voice' Recap: Live Playoffs, Night 1
John Kubicek
John Kubicek
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
The Voice is going live. After weeks of Blind Auditions and Battle and Knockout Rounds, we're down to the Top 16 and it's time for America to vote.

In the Live Playoffs, the four members of each coach's team will perform over the next two nights, and on Wednesday, one singer from each team will be eliminated, getting us down to 12. Who will survive, who will fall and what will Cee Lo Green wear when he performs this week?

This is The Voice live blog!

The coaches are all dressed like normal human beings, which is a nice change of pace from season 3 with Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera. Tonight Adam Levine and Usher's team will perform. This means six women (including the kick-ass Michelle Chamuel), plus Vedo and Josiah Hawley. I have to assume the gender inequality is going to help Vedo and Josiah's chances.

The top two vote-getters on each team will automatically move on to the Top 12 and the coaches will have to pick between the other two to decide who goes and who stays.

Shakira wins me over even more by saying she's happy she can just enjoy tonight's show "like every other mortal in America." Seriously, can we keep her forever on The Voice?

Team Usher: "Black and Gold" by Sam Sparro

Usher takes his team to a boxing gym to train on breathing and endurance. Singing and exercising while tossing medicine balls? Usher may have stumbled onto the next hot workout fad.

For the first group performance, they're all dressed in black and gold, which is way too literal for me. Parts of it work surprisingly well given how many different styles Usher has going on. The MVP for me (and the audience) is Josiah Hawley, who gets plenty of screams from the ladies in the crowd. This dude's gonna ride his good looks all the way to the Top 8, easily.

Amber Carrington: "Stay" by Rihanna

She's very likeable and sweet, and adding a little country flavor to this powerful song is an interesting idea. Amber sets the bar impossibly high for everyone else in this competition. Her emotion, power, control, restraint and everything else are spot-on. This is simply stunning and could cement her as a solid frontrunner. How was Adam the ONLY coach who turned around for this girl? Adam closes the crique by saying "You could literally not have done a more incredible job." I agree.

Josiah Hawley: "Starlight" by Muse

Josiah likes having Usher as a coach almost as much as he loves really, really deep V-necks. The song is great and he definitely has the voice and looks to be the lead singer of a successful rock band. I'm also very in love with his expressive eyebrows. They put Robert Buckley's to shame. Everyone agrees that it was a solid performance and that Usher is a surprisingly strong coach. All of his weird, unique teachings are actually paying off.

Sarah Simmons: "Angel" by Sarah McLachlan

Oh no, she's singing the sad dog song. She's dedicating it to one of her best friends who died in an accident last year. It's haunting and beautiful and insanely powerful, as expected. There's no denying that she has a special voice, and she adds a little rasp that I like. But to be honest I'm kind of over the novelty of her just singing sad songs every week. Yes, she's fantastic, but I'm just not sure I see the commercial potential in her making people cry all the time.

Cathia: "I Have Nothing" by Whitney Houston

C'mon, Usher, you've got the only Latina singer of the night and America is voting for the first time, so it's time to go back to Spanish. Usher's weird coaching technique for her involves dancing the waltz to capture the rhythm. She puts her whole heart and soul into it, which is impressive, but it's a terrible song choice. Cathia is no Whitney and, as Shakira says, picking this song is like "walking on holy ground." It also hurts that she's competing against Team Adam, which is full of girls who can out-diva Cathia any day of the week.

Adam Levine and Usher: "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder

It's time for the two coaches to perform together! This makes me happy, mostly because it means tomorrow Shakira and Blake Shelton will do some weird Latin/country fusion thing. I don't get this weird Stevie Wonder renaissance going on. Two weeks ago he was the theme on Dancing with the Stars, last week Glee did a tribute episode and now this duet. It's good, but I don't like it when you put professional performances like this on a live competition show. Save it for the results! Also, anyone who bet Adam would be shirtless loses.

Caroline Glaser: "The A Team" by Ed Sheehan

She dropped out of college to be on The Voice. The performance is very cool and comfortable. She's a real singer/songwriter type, playing her guitar. She also has a current, marketable sound. It'll be interesting to see how she does on a team filled with more technically-driven singers like Sarah and Judith. It's not really a "MOMENT" like Sarah's performance, but that doesn't mean it's worse. The critique gets hijacked by Blake's ongoing and intrusive Starbucks product placement and Carson making a joke about dimples that I'm fairly certain was a reference to phone sex.

Vedo: "Against All Odds" by Phil Collins

Why is Usher sabotaging his team with such awful song choices? Vedo has no idea who Phil Collins is (nor should he), but it's obvious that the only reason Usher chose this song is for the emotional manipulation, playing into the fact that every single performance has to be about Vedo's dead mom. To the show's credit, they don't actually mention her at all, which I assumed they would do every time. The problem with this song is that it highlights that he's probably the least talented pure singer of all the eight performers tonight. Shakira avoids saying anything mean with this gem, "Who am I to say anything here? I'm just a little ant in the infinity of the universe." Why isn't Shakira on every TV show?

Team Adam: "Shake It Out" by Florence and the Machine

Adam's Angels take a trip to his stylist for fashion advice. This is the total opposite of Usher's workout training style. The whole thing is very purple. It's also kind of all over the place. Judith outsings everyone and I actually think Caroline manages to hold her own. The most surprising part is Sarah, who is just not very good. She should stick to sad songs. I'm also confused about the structure for the episode. It seems unfair that both of Judith's performances come in the last 30 minutes of the show while Josiah Hawley was done in the first 30 minutes. They should either start the show with both group numbers or put them both in the middle of the show, but not one at the start and one two before the end.

Michelle Chamuel: "True Colors" by Cyndi Lauper

Even though they've alternated the coaches' singers during the whole show, they switched it up for the final two, probably so the Chosen One Judith Hill could perform last. Yeah, I'm calling shenanigans. But who cares, because it's time for the awesome, quirky chick to get sensitive. Usher literally holds up a mirror during rehearsals. The performance is stunning. She makes some interesting choices with her phrasing, a strange, William Shatner-esque spoken word thing, but far more beautiful. Also, it's worth noting she takes her ear bud out almost immediately, so I suspect there was a technical issue, but she was so damn good that you couldn't tell.

Judith Hill: "Feeling Good" by Nina Simone

Ugh, I'm so over this song. Yeah, she'll sing it well, but it's absolutely impossible for me to care with this choice. Adam realizes that Judith and Sasha Allen are competing for the same votes, so his strategy is for her to just focus on beating her. In my opinion, she tries to do way too much with the song and it just doesn't sound pleasant to my ears at all. I actually kind of HATE how self-indulgent and cocky she is. This highlights the fundamental problem with The Voice. Sure, people like Judith and Sarah are technically gifted singers, but when it comes to marketing a successful commercial artist, they are far worse than people like Amber and even Caroline.

That does it for night 1 of the Live Playoffs. On first glance, stolen artists Caroline Glaser and Cathia seem like the obvious choices to go home. And Shakira is the big winner for being entertaining. Also, do you agree that the format for this show was a total mess, with coaches performing at halftime, group numbers spread out, switching up the alternated performances at the end, and then, in the most confusing moment, having Carson Daly recap all the voting options BEFORE Judith even performed?

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(Image and videos courtesy of NBC)