Live shows kicked off Monday night on "The Voice" with a few revelatory performances, a few tears and one very unfortunate dead microphone, as the top 12 contestants vied for 10 spots remaining.
Bria Kelly kicked off the night for Team Usher with a take on "Rolling in the Deep" that was more Angus Young than Adele, but while the coaches praised her version's "rock edge" and "fierceness," they also wished she'd sung it in a higher key.
Team Adam's Delvin Choice followed with a take on the Righteous Brothers' jukebox classic "Unchained Melody" that showed off his rich, supple voice and effortless command of high notes. "Truthfully, I didn't concentrate that much on the technique. I just enjoyed it," Shakira admitted.
Her own team member Dani Moz took on Pink's "Just Give Me a Reason," and though she tried to resist the urge to embellish the song with musical theatrics, the belting took over the song's emotional nuance. "I wanted there to be more dynamic," Adam said, to Shakira's protective protests. "You have the sickest range," Shakira told Dani.
Next Audra McLaughlin, Team Blake's resident female country artist, was tasked with putting her own stamp on Juice Newton's "Angel of the Morning." She did indeed imbue the song with her trademark lush, emotive tone, prompting her coach to venture that her plans to become a medical assistant may well not be what her future had in store. (Usher for his part marveled at her ability to hold notes. "I have to pee if I hold notes that long!" he joked.)
Team Usher's old-school soul crooner TJ Wilkins next got the task of performing his first contemporary song yet, John Mayer's "Waiting on the World to Change." Although he struggled a little with the higher notes, the coaches appreciated his energy. "You just have something infectious about you, in a good way," Blake remarked.
Next up was Team Adam's unstoppable would-be pop star Christina Grimmie, whose confident stage strut was matched by her full-throated, propulsive performance of Katy Perry's hit "Dark Horse," which she gave a thrashy ferocity that upped the dance-pop hit's ante. Usher declared her the best singer on Team Adam, while Adam complimented her for having made the song her own -- a feat Christina whooped to learn she'd accomplished.
Veteran powerhouse singer Sisaundra Lewis was next, singing Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," which her coach Blake Shelton hoped would be a vehicle for her to relax and show some finesse. Onstage, she just barely back her usual vocal fireworks to deliver a more nuanced, moving performance whose restraint the coaches praised. "You are incredible," Usher told her, saying the only other singer comparable to her was Patti LaBelle.
Next up was Team Shakira's lone country artist -- and indeed the only country singer remaining who wasn't on Team Blake -- Kristen Merlin, whose task with Sugarland's "Stay" was to convey vulnerability, a task she admitted she'd have a hard time with given how guarded she is. Kristen sang the song beautifully -- at least what the audience could hear of it. Her microphone cut out mid-song, but she gamely kept singing anyway, even though nobody else could hear her, to her coach's horror.
Somebody rushed onto the stage with a new mic moments later, but the save didn't come soon enough; Kristen gamely managed to sing only the last word of the song before it ended. The coaches gave her a standing ovation, praising her grace under fire and her singing alike. Blake called her performance "incredible," while Usher praised the texture and vulnerability in her singing.
Luckily for the next contestants, that was it for the technical difficulties Monday night. Team Adam's resident rocker Kat Perkins took on Heart's "Magic Man," a song whose ferocity she matched with her own trademark grit, strutting wildly around the stage (and the musicians) with proper rock star aplomb. "Your voice is dope," Usher told her, while Blake just voiced his incredulity that Kat, up till she hit the "Voice" stage, had been a nanny by trade.
Blake's own final team member of the night, teen country crooner Jake Worthington, next hit the stage to sing another of the sort of tender ballad that have become his bread and butter -- this time Travis Tritt's "Anymore." Jake's technique and delivery weren't perfect, but his emotional honesty was undeniable. Even he seemed to be tearing up as he sang -- making it hard for his eager audience to resist. "You nailed it," Blake told him afterward.
Jake's one-time teammate and current Team Shakira power balladeer Tess Boyer came next, performing Bon Jovi's "I'll Be There for You." The song's slow burn and fierce commitment were right up Tess's alley, and after she finished her strong performance, Blake conceded his error in having let her go -- and declared her the singer from Team Shakira to beat in the competition.
If Tess gave Blake his chance to kick himself, the night's final performer, Team Usher's soul singer Josh Kaufman, gave Adam his. The former member of Team Adam performed Sam Smith's "Stay With Me," and his dynamic, raw yet nuanced performance, replete with a natural on-stage energy, made the song sound entirely his own. The coaches remarked that he sounded as though he were performing his own song at his own show. "I am so stupid," Adam concluded, while a delighted Usher silently agreed. "You have completely made this my night," he told Josh.
But of those 12 singers who performed Monday night, only 10 will get to stick around, with the winners and losers set to be determined via viewers' votes, iTunes downloads and the same Twitter instant save that helped save would-be losers last season. Who stays and who goes will be announced Tuesday.
"The Voice" airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8/7c.