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Only three spots remained in the final round of the playoffs on NBC's The Voice Tuesday night. The focus was on Team Usher, and Usher, like the other judges before him, watched each singer on his team perform solo. Every singer had hopes soon to be realized or dashed. Coveted Top 12 slots were on the line for live shows starting April 21 that will introduce fan voting to the mix.
Recall that Usher recently acquired a new vocal weapon when he quickly used his steal to snag Josh Kaufman, that after the Indy singer lost in his second "battle" round to the powerhouse-voiced Delvin Choice. But the way in which Usher stole Kaufman led to believe he would be a shoo-in for the Top 12.
Kaufman was the last to appear Tuesday night—after a two-week hiatus from appearing in the show's episodes—and wasted no time in showing that he's arguably Team Usher's best vocalist. Covering Bruno Mars's "It Will Rain"—available now on iTunes, of course—Kaufman was subtle and soulful, revealing an array of control techniques through his falsetto and chest voices.
If Kaufman backtracked anywhere, it was stage performance. The dramatic drop to his knees was a nice touch, but he'll want (read: need) to enhance his presence in spades before viewers begin voting. After he finished, host Carson Daly called his appearance the performance of the night, and each coach had nothing but praise for Indy's soulful, bespectacled hope.
Blake Shelton disclosed in the wake of Kaufman's showing that he and his wife, country star Miranda Lambert, watch the show at home—and that Shelton has to keep himself and their dogs quiet when Kaufman, a Lambert favorite, is on. Shakira, The Voice's version of Paula Abdul as cheerleader, relayed that she's one of Kaufman's biggest fans this season, while the singer's original coach, Levine, looked visibly impressed, saying, "Hold on, let me just remove the dagger from my heart." With Indy's hometown voice up for elimination, Usher fairly quickly quelled fears that Kaufman would not move on, choosing him second among his three singers moving on to the show's live rounds.
Now, instead of performing to earn the love of their coaches to stay alive, contestants will have to impress America. Kaufman definitely owns a Top 5 voice going into the live shows, and he has a charming storyline behind him, with this competition serving as his last shot at "making it" in show business. He's been performing small gigs and working as an SAT tutor to support his wife and three young children (ages 6, 4, and 2). But each contestant has a backstory, and now voters will determine who has the complete package.
These are the human barriers who could upend Kaufman's bid to win it all:
Probably the best overall voice in the competition. His high register is nearly as good as his lower one, a special feat even only a few superstars have. As he moves about the stage like a natural, every note he sings seems so effortless. Per Usher, "There's not a more unique voice on The Voice." An infectious smile, loud hairstyles, and dapper style also set apart his likability factor.
At 44, Lewis is the oldest contestant left in the competition. And musically she's also the wisest, having worked with none other than Celine Dion, one of the world's most popular and powerful voices. Everyone loves the showiness of vocal-competition performers belting out and holding long, high notes—and no one on this season of The Voice compares to Lewis and her ability to soar vocally.
Her voice is merely half of those Choice and Lewis own, but Grimmie has something nobody else on The Voice can boast: more than 400,000 Twitter followers, 2.5 million YouTube subscribers, and the experience of opening for Selena Gomez on that pop tart's Stars Dance Tour. When the live votes come into play, her pre-built fanbase could take her all the way.
Kelly is the show's youngest competitor left at 17, but her voice is that of an old (robust) soul. Her blind audition was flawless, and she's done this reality-show thing before, having reached the semifinals on America's Got Talent. She'll be able to impress both demographics of voters: Teens will eat up her spunk and similarities to themselves, while adults will respect her for favoring renditions of songs they grew up on.
Photos via NBC.com
The Voice returns April 21 and 22 at 8 p.m. on NBC.
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