The ferocity of the coaches' fights for their favorite singers only intensified as the numbers of spots on their teams dwindled, as blind auditions entered their last week Monday on "The Voice."
Adam and Blake used their muscle as former "Voice" champs to woo an impressive array of singers, while Shakira campaigned relentlessly, showing off her drive to win, and Usher stealthily persuaded would-be team members, too.
Their fervor couldn't wrest the first artist of the night, Kat Perkins, from Adam's clutches. Maybe it was their shared love of tattoos; maybe their shared rocker backgrounds. But the 33-year-old nanny and band vet from small-town North Dakota, who impressed all three with her growling performance of Fleetwood Mac's "Gold Dust Woman," picked defending champion Adam as her coach.
The next contestant to turn the coaches' chairs — Paula DeAnda, a Latin pop singer from Texas who'd had a couple of pop hits as a teen before her record label dropped her — seemed a sure bet for Team Shakira. She even hinted as much as she headed onto the “Voice” stage to sing Ariana Grande's “The Way,” remarking that she loved that Shakira was on the show. After her performance, which earned chair-turns from Shakira and Blake, she gushed over the Latin pop star some more, remarking, “You're so beautiful!”
But ultimately, despite Adam's efforts to nudge Paula toward Team Shakira, she picked Blake as her coach. “I've never really explored my country roots, even though I'm from Texas. I just felt in my heart that I should go with Blake,” Paula said.
Shakira lost out again with the next performer, Jake Barker, an R&B singer whose stint on the “Voice” stage was his first performance in front of an audience. Ever. Anywhere. Unless you count YouTube, where the erstwhile New York City bartender regularly posts videos of his music. Barker's falsetto croon on the Bruno Mars hit “When I Was Your Man” earned chair-turns from all the coaches but Blake, but the 28-year-old wanted to get his coaching from Usher, who knows a thing or two about falsetto and YouTube stardom.
Shakira's pleas weren't answered with 19-year-old dancer-turned-singer Ria Eaton, either, who covered “Cups (When I'm Gone)” with a distinct, raspy sound and won chair turns from Blake and Shakira toward the very end of her performance, just as she seemed resigned to going home disappointed. But Shakira lost out once again to Blake, who remarked that Ria “just doesn't sound like anybody else.”
Redemption for Shakira finally came from Cierra Mickens, or rather, from her own stage drama effort to win the powerhouse for her team. Explaining that her life was at a crossroads, the wry Alaska-raised singer took to the “Voice” stage with a big decision at stake: Keep pursuing a music career, or head to law school. She performed the Gnarls Barkley hit “Crazy” with a clear, strong belt and a playful growl that would have won over CeeLo Green himself, were he in a red chair this time around. Instead, she won first Shakira, then Blake and finally, in a super-last-second button-push Blake slammed as a “technical foul,” Usher too.
The men's pitches were nothing next to Shakira's, though: Shakira, fed up with being snubbed all night, walked onto the stage to plead with Cierra personally. “This is one of the most important decisions you're going to make in your entire career. I just want to tell you how much I believe in you. You are a superstar,” she told her — which seemed to seal Cierra's decision. She picked Shakira as her coach, giving Team Shakira its first member of the night.
But Blake got another team member next, with the night's only duo, Alaska and Madi. The teens were destined for Team Blake from the moment they were introduced: The Oklahoman girls had met when they were 12 and together had won a singing competition called American Kids — a contest Blake himself once won, back when he wore an impressive mullet. The pair were prepared to head their separate ways to college if their career as a duo didn't work out — but for now, anyway, it seemed it was going to.
Their twangy, spirited take on the Civil Wars' “Barton Hollow” won over Adam and then Blake. “I know I'm screwed,” Adam conceded, before making his pitch anyway. But even without the American Kids and the Oklahoma connection, his pitch was no match for Blake's comparison of the girls' sound to that of his wife Miranda Lambert's band the Pistol Annies', and they picked him as their coach.
Shakira scored her next and final diva of the night with Ddendyl, a small-town, airy-voiced lounge singer and one-time opera singer whose haunting, lush cover of Ben E. King's “Stand by Me” strangely didn't turn any chairs but Shakira's — and she turned almost instantly, comparing her voice to Norah Jones'. She was delighted not to have to fight for her on her team, though Ddendyl's obvious talents could wind up much sought-after in the battle rounds. “I'm so happy you're part of my team now; I feel like we're going to do great things,” Shakira told her.
The last big get of the night, though, was 38-year-old husband, father and philosophy tutor Josh Kaufman, who took on George Michael's “One More Try” — a song choice fraught with meaning, given his sense that he had just one more try for a music career. His soulful, nuanced take on the song riveted all four of the coaches, starting with Adam, who pressed but button in the first few moments of the performance. “That was goosebumps, man, that was unbelievable,” Adam told him.“I think you're the real deal. I'd be devastated if you didn't pick me as your coach, because you are the artist I've been waiting for.” His remarks touched off rounds of praise from the other coaches, too — but Josh picked Adam as his coach.
That finished out the penultimate night of blind auditions on “The Voice,” on which Adam also picked up singers Josh Murley and Austin Ellis, Usher picked up Tess Boyer and Blake picked up Cali Tucker. That meant that Tuesday, as blind auditions were set to wrap up, the coaches would finish fleshing out their teams, waiting for the perfect performer to fill their final spots.
“The Voice” airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8/7c.