The Voice Live Playoffs (Night 1) Recap: True Colors Shining Through [Updated]

The Voice season 4 Amber CarringtonThings we learned on Night One of The Voice‘s Season 4 Live Playoffs:

Shakira is nothing more than “a little ant in the infinity of the universe.” (Her words, not mine.) Usher has either very dubious taste in music or a very sneaky strategy of saddling his two least-favorite team members with a pair of the most overplayed ditties in the history of reality singing competitions. There may have been something stronger than coffee in Blake Shelton’s Starbucks cup. And Christina Milian never fails to disappoint in a live interview scenario. (Her dingbattery is so reliable at this point that I dare say it borders on impressive!)

But enough about those jaunty judges — let’s try and get some focus back on the contestants by running down tonight’s set list with letter grades for every performance. (Just to clarify, America will vote through two members of Team Adam and two from Team Usher, then the coaches will save one of their two remaining “at risk” contestants.)

Team Adam: Amber Carrington — Rihanna’s “Stay” | Here’s hoping Amber getting the dreaded lead-off spot (well, after the disjointed Team Usher group performance) doesn’t leave the country diva in need of a save from her coach. Because, honestly, her combination of technical perfection, vocal clarity, intriguing riffs on the melody and quiet emotional power was the best thing that happened all night. (Plus, girlfriend KILLED IT on the really excellent Team Adam performance of “Shake It Out.”) Bottom line: Season 4 without Amber would be like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup without the chocolate. Grade: A

Team Usher: Josiah Hawley — Muse’s “Starlight” | Shakira was right that this was Josiah’s best performance to date — dude hit most of his notes and didn’t get drown out by the band as badly as he did on his Amy Winehouse cover last week. That said, his tone is as common as a dandelion on your front yard in April, and the way his nose kept hitting the mic drove me bonkers (a shallow complaint, but nevertheless a deeply held one). Grade: B-

Team Adam: Sarah Simmons — Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” | There’s something seriously intriguing about the way Sarah’s voice shreds in certain places and gets all goose-down delicate in others. And while Usher was right that “there were a few little things” (that’s Wuss-anese for “you hit a couple hinky notes, grrrlll!”), there’s no denying Sarah also brought a stark emotionalism (and a Stevie Nicks Collection cape) to the number that was mesmerizing. Grade: A-

Team Usher: Cathia — Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” | Phooey! Getting stuck with “I Have Nothing” is like being forced to order seafood at a restaurant on Mondays: You know you’re not getting anything fresh, and you just have to hope that it doesn’t end in feelings of cold sweats and nausea. Cathia sounded pretty solid on the first third of the ballad, but after that, only about half of her adlibs managed landed in the right spot. Usher’s faint praise was a pretty clear sign that she won’t be the one getting his save come Wednesday — and let’s be honest, she’s gonna need it. Grade: C+

Team Adam: Caroline Glaser — Ed Sheeran’s “The A Team” | There’s no denying her tone’s as bright and intoxicating as fresh lilacs, and yet Caroline’s affected pronunciations and stylized approach hinder the effectiveness of her performances. Even after a second listen, I could only understand maybe 40 percent of the words Caroline sang during the middle third of the performance — and that’s a problem for a gal who wants to reside in the singer-songwriter universe, no? [Side note: I did not appreciate Carson’s leading segue into Blake’s critique, insisting that because Caroline was in the country coach’s “wheelhouse” that he “must’ve loved it.” Don’t put words in Blake’s mouth! Harumph.] Grade: B

Team Usher: Vedo — Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)” | And just when you thought “I Have Nothing” had wrapped up the title for the Night’s Most Played-Out Song Choice, Usher goes and gives “Against All FRAKKING ODDS” to Vedo (who is an aspiring musician but has never heard of Phil Collins — alrighty then). Nevertheless, the guy took his boulder-sized lemon and made a decent pitcher of Country Time thanks to a stripped-down, piano-heavy arrangement and an impressive commitment to his task that upgraded the tired ballad to something that approached the corner of “stirring” and “fairly solid.” Grade: B

Team Usher: Michelle Chamuel — Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” | I’m not gonna lie: I teared up during Michelle’s rehearsal package, at about the exact same time she teared up answering Usher’s question what “True Colors” meant to her. And while her tempo seemed a wee bit off on the opening lines, she quickly yanked out her in-ear monitor and hit her stride, delivering the ballad with a music-box delicacy that was in stark contrast to her rousing “Raise Your Glass” last week. And unlike so many “quirky” contestants we’ve seen on reality singing shows through the years, Michelle’s gawky squats and oversized glasses and general sweet-goofiness fit her as comfortably as an old t-shirt. She’s the real deal — as a singer and a personality. Grade: A-

Team Adam: Judith Hill — Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” | This just in…Los Angeles police have put out an APB desperately seeking the melody of “Feeling Good,” which inexplicably vanished during Judith Hill’s cover on tonight’s episode of The Voice. Okay, I kid, I kid! Well, only partially. There’s no denying Judith’s got huge pipes and an undeniable charisma, but her performance tonight simply tried too hard to put a fresh spin on a standard that’s been done by Adam Lambert, Melanie Amaro, Carly Rose Sonenclar, Jennifer Hudson (in that amazing Weight Watchers commercial), Dez Duron, (most recently) Lazaro Arbos and too many other reality singing show competitiors to list. None of Judith’s melodic choices really captured the celebratory vibe of the number, and I particularly hated the meaninglessness of that elongated pause and exaggerated stomp with her back to the stage after “freedom is mine.” I know it’s easy to take shots at early front-runners, to want to drag them back in line with the pack so they don’t pull too far ahead and ruin the fun of the competition, but in this case, Judith got clearly outperformed by two of her three #TeamAdam cohorts. She ought to be in trouble, but all the early hype (and a powerful showing on the group rendition of “Shake It Out”) mean she probably won’t be. Grade: B

And with that, let me turn things over to you. What did you think of the first night of Season 4 Live Playoffs? Who was your favorite? Who’s going to be in trouble come results night? Take our poll below, then sound off in the comments, and for all my reality TV news, recaps, interviews and videos, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Jenny says:

    The Voice was fantastic tonight. Great show entertaining from top to bottom. I gotta say my favorite moment of the night was True Colors by Michelle Chamuel. Completely raw, real, she truly connected to the song. I think she captivated everyone in the audience and at home. I teared up and shed a few tears. Definitely the strong horse in Team Usher. I also like Josiah, I think he’s improving week to week and I’m looking forward to seeing what else he can do. He certainly is talented, people need to stop giving him a hard time about his looks, he’s damn good looking, deal with it! :P As for Vedo, well he was plain boring tonight I know he can do better. And Cathia, big song for her, even Usher realized it was the wrong song choice, but it wasn’t terrible and that was a huge possibility, she could have failed miserably.

    Team Adam’s Amber was a great surprise. I think she has the potential to be as great as Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson. She can do pop country and rock apparently. She has great stage presence too. You can tell she truly wants it. Judith is a pro, we all know she’s gonna rock it but tonight she fell short. I wasn’t impressed by her rendition of “Feeling Good” at all and I agree with Michael, those walks to the back and exaggerated expressions was trying too hard. I am so over Sarah, I can’t stand her voice. I love “Angel”, but she had a hard time controlling her voice. She’s far from consistent. And Caroline well I’d like to think she’s gonna be eliminated wednesday but she reminds me too much of Taylor Swift and she sang an Ed Sheeran song, I have a feeling she’s gonna make it unfortunately.

    I have to say Usher is an amazing coach. If I was an aspiring singer and went on The Voice I’d definitely pick him. Btw anyone notice Adam looking all kinds of mad during “Superstition”? lol he looked pissed for some reason.

  2. Hey says:

    Wait so Usher stood and looked pleased with Cathia but then after Shakira and Blake got all lukewarm why did he then go lukewarm?

  3. Chris says:

    I give props to anyone who sings a Matt Bellamy song. And while I thought I’d be completely disappointed, I wasn’t. Good job Josiah.
    I’m with you Michael, Caroline has a sweet voice but I couldn’t understand half of what she was singing! If she struggled that much with a song that was otherwise perfect for her; I don’t think she’s ready.
    I honestly felt like Vedo could have done so much more with an over sung song. He has such a lovely voice that had it truly been a stripped down performance – maybe just a beautiful string arrangement and a little less forced stage presence gesturing – it would have been more believable.
    Amber, Judith, and Sarah all did a fine job in my opinion. As far as Cathia, as lovely a voice she has, I’d rather hear her sing in Spanish and stay in that market.
    Michelle – Je ne sais quoi. Get it girl.

  4. kiki says:

    Amber- stood out for me I was so impressed.She really deserves to “stay “and If I were in the Us,I would have voted for her!!It’s funny because she wasn’t in my favorite list at all at the auditions!!!

    Michelle -delivered a sensational rendition of “True colours”,It got me!!!!!It was a break out moment.So raw and emotional.

    Sarah -did a good job but she did a fantastic job in the other rounds as well,so I was expecting but I got chills at times .

    JUDITH-Let’s talk about Judith Hill for a moment.I ABSOLUTELY love the song but Im not sure if that was a good song choice for her.I mean Jennifer Hudson being one of my favorite artists EVER did the song justice in her album “I remember me”(I was just listening again this week).Just go to youtube and check out her live perfomances as well (Live on Dick Clark’s New Yearrockin’ eve) or (live so you think you can dance) or even at Letterman.She was Outstanding!!!!She delivered,she murdered and slayed the song LIVE!Not to mention the weight watchers commercial!!!!
    Also, Melanie Amaro’s(Xfactor) rendition,It was on point and Excellent and her last falsetto note at the end was steallr! and maybe because of all that I wasn’t that impressed by Judith yesterday..The a capella part was so good but then I didnt like that arrangement the has a great voice though and deserves to stay .That I agree but sometimes the coaches and contestants should really be careful of the song choices.

    Speaking of song choices,I thought it was a bad move to choose a Whitney.Didnt they take lessons from Monique Abbadie choosing a Celine Dion song ?There are some songs that just shouldn’t be touched again because it was so overly done by previous contestants and people ALWAYS compare.If you are lucky you break out of the pack but it wasn’t the case ofCatia who has great range and poweful vocals and I was glad Usher stole him but Im afraid she is in danger.
    Also I thought “against all odds” wasn’t a good song choice,especially when Vedo didn’t even know the song.I mean its a double challenge because you have to live up to so many expectations.I think they should have a say in the song choices.He is really good but Usher should really focus on song choices next week.He is a great coach regardless thoughh.

    Caroline,I am not a fan of hers but I suppose she is the most popular girl in the entire competition(social media width) and she is probably not in danger I guess.

    Honestly I think hat Adam’s team is GREAT and it’s too bad that he has to choose between the two who get the lowest votes on HIS TEAM because IM SURE that the overall public votes would have allowed his entire team to be through to the next Live.I don’t like that voting style much I don’t know how can he choose.They are all great!!Amber may be the least popular(social media width) but she was the clear stand out last night(Sarah and Judith being my favorites from the start)It says a lot.

    Favorites of the night :Amber,Michelle,Sarah,and the “Shake it out” performance was solid.I loved it!!Seemed like a Girl band to me!!Im okay with having that every week!!!The “superstition” was so greatly done as well!!I loved it !!!!

    Was Blake doing product placement with Starbucks?

    Now I can’t wait to see Sasha!!!Im so excited about it.I hope Shakira picked a great song for her.

    AMERICA please vote for Amber ,Michelle,Sarah and Judith (she deserves to stay even though I wasn’t wowed) and let me know how can I vote from France If there any ways

  5. What or who is Blue Steel?
    Why was Sarah dressed like a gladiator ?
    Why do the stylists always use that horrible hairdo they gave to Amber last night?
    Why did Vedo have no range?
    Why was a judge sometimes skipped in the critique portion?
    Why oh why dd Judith have that obvious planted, fake, manipulative pretend over the top break before her song ended sad overcome by emotion? She was trying to MAKE a moment and it smelled of Acting 101 to me.
    Why does Michelle need coaching? And from Usher, no less.

  6. Ami Pitre says:

    Amber is AMAZING, I’ve never connected with a song so much. Wow oh wow!!! She stands out in so many ways!!! TEAM AMBER all the way.

  7. starship says:

    The best tonight were Michelle, Caroline, and Josiah. Amber was good, but not perfect.
    Sarah was dreadful, as was Cathia. Vedo was ok, but should be in the bottom 2 with Cathia (really doný know which one Usher would save), and Judith has a great voice, but got stuck with a terribly overplayed song choice (and didn’t do it much justice, either).

  8. LM says:

    Note to Slezak regarding Caroline Glazer: Have you ever listened to Dylan or Springsteen? Can’t understand half of what they sing.

    Carole King and Jodi Mitchell were smiling big when Ms. Glaser sang. Norah Jones saw a a kindred spirit.

    • Ruby says:

      Caroline Glazer is no Dylan or Springsteen though. Those guys earned their right to sing like crap. She’s got a long way to go.

    • NedPepper says:

      They are TRUE sing songwriters. Two of the best song writers in the history of rock. Really?

    • Cagney says:

      hmmm….Joni Mitchell and Caroline aren’t even in the universe to me. Joni had such lovely diction- her lyrics were some of the best ever and the listener did not have to work hard to understand them.

  9. PatH says:

    Michael, Josiah was horrible! I would put him at the worst of the night. I almost couldn’t watch him! He strained on the high notes and was off key on everything else! You should listen again!

  10. Jane says:

    I would send home Sarah and VEDO. This will never ever happen.

    • HitTheGroundRunning says:

      Yeah this and yeah it probably won’t happen. I might give Sarah one more chance and swap her for Caroline. Both have showed signs now of easily going way off the rails though now.

  11. jerrired says:

    I usually love The Voice because of the judges (if I’m being honest), but I have to say this was one of the best overall performance nights in The Voice history. Even the bad ones weren’t that bad, and Usher and Adam actually sounded really good together. The coach performances are usually really ify. I was very impressed by everything and everyone tonight. I hope the show keeps up the momentum.

  12. Ruby says:

    Sarah is actually my favorite, but she WAY oversang “Angel” and I found it grating. Usher’s team sucks, straight up. I really don’t understand why Josiah is even there other than the fact that he’s a “MODEL! MODEL! DID WE MENTION HE’S A MODEL?!” Adam has the best team, hands down, but I agree even Judith’s performance was ehhh. Amber was amazing though, and as much as I agree with you about Caroline’s enunciation and affectation, I still really love her voice. It’s just that EVERYONE tries to sound like that right now.

  13. bingham says:

    Man that clapping during Caroline’s song was annoying!

  14. holly says:

    I thought Amber was by far the winner of tonights performances. I dont get Judith..did not like her over singing. Also, sorry but not a Michelle fan. I thought Sarah was not at the top of her game. Everyone else had a very forgettable performance.

  15. CapitolUno says:

    Sarah Simmons is not going to last long. She was NOT good. Her voice was shaky and she hit so many bad notes. Caroline is not great either. Amber was best of the night and Michelle, but she is too weird for America.

    • HitTheGroundRunning says:

      On the voice, Michelle’s type can last though. Look at how long Melanie lasted and I think Michelle has alrady shown she has 10x the vocal chops. S1 had that somewhat out there rocker make the finale I believe. And look at Nicholas he was a bit out there and went damn far. This is no xfactor or AI.

  16. A says:

    The show is called “The Voice” not “The Speakers”. The band is so loud sometimes I can’t hear the actual voices sing!

  17. Perfik says:

    Wow i’m the first one who don’t like Michelle. Don’t get me wrong – she’s nice girl, but i just can’t stand her voice. I liked her only on the beginning of her blind audition (accapela part).

    1. Caroline – i love this girl
    2. Amber – i don’t even remember her audition, but shes perfect since Battle Rounds.
    3. Cáthia – terrible song choise, but she can sing
    4. Josiah – biggest positive surprise
    5. Michelle – like i said – i don’t like her voice but she wasn’t the worst of the night
    6. Sarah – i loved her first performance on the show – i like her less and less with each another
    7. Judith – What a MESS!
    8. VEDO – Do we need another mediocre r&b singer? I Certainly not.

    Sorry for my lame english – i’m from Poland ;)

    • Spudd says:

      DANIELLE BRADBERY #4 on the itunes chart. She is the youngest and America’s sweet heart favorite. I’m not really a country fan. But I would buy her songs. I would like Blake her “Independence Day’ – Martina McBride to sing. Danielle has that type of voice!

  18. Rachel says:

    Usher’s song-choice responsibility is hereby revoked. His contestants did well in spite of him, unfortunately. Which is a shame, because he’s had some great coach moments so far this season already (I liked the mirror with Michelle! But saddling her with True Colors? Ick.)

    • kaba says:

      You speak as though he provided them with nothing but poor advice :/
      Usher has the ability to pick current music, he did a fine job of picking listenable things during the battle rounds. You’re dismissed

  19. STM1 says:

    Saddest thing about ‘feeling good’ is that the entire list of ppl mentioned above covered the muse version. It felt that Judith Hill was covering the original track which i love much much more.
    and here is my ipod version:

    • Spudd says:

      I liked Judith in the beginning and now she shows off too much! She knows she’s good, that’s why MJ hand picked her to sing with him. O BTW! I like all the groovy people’s comments on this forum. Very well spoken with no profanity. Love you folks and opinions and thoughts.

  20. syb says:

    I Have Nothing, Against All Odds, Feeling Good. I thought I’d slept through Monday and Tuesday and happened upon American Idol. LOL. Yikers, so much for The Voice featuring fresher music.

    I only liked Amber and Caroline, but that might largely have been song choice for several.

    • HitTheGroundRunning says:

      They are awesome songs, but dangerous if you want votes for your contestant, especially the first one.

      • syb says:

        I think the second is the more dangerous, and the dude last night did ok with it I guess compared to most I’ve heard. Good songs or not (I like one of them, or used to) they are done to death on every singing competition show, and therefore are inherently dumb choices IMO. Usher of all people ought to be able to come up with something more interesting. And Adam picked Feelin’ Good? Why? We’ve already heard it on THIS show, THIS season. I think sometimes the judges/mentors/coaches/producers/directors get so caught up in their storylines or bubbles they forget that the audience doesn’t want to hear the same songs over and over and over.

  21. Bessie says:

    If I never hear ‘take a look at me nowooooo ooooo ooooo’ ever again for the rest of my life, it will be too soon!

  22. Daisy says:

    Team Adam rocked. I don’t know who he’s gonna send home. They all deserve to stay.

    Michelle had a breakout moment for me, I really liked her. The rest of team Usher was nothing special for me, but she can become a big suprise if she keeps on going like this.

  23. WL says:

    I look at Usher’s bland team and still cannot believe that he let Jessica Childress go.

  24. Fall says:

    I still find Josiah to be dreadful and I tolerated him on his audition.
    Usher is a terrible coach with those song choices. It only worked with Michelle because the girl knew how to work around the song as it could easily sound cheesy.
    I don’t want anyone from Adam’s team to go – sadly Caroline is most likely getting the boot :(

  25. m4vtcnh says:

    Anyone else listen to the demos of Blake and Shakira’s teams’ playoff performances? I can’t say I’m looking forward to team Blake at all this season.

  26. HitTheGroundRunning says:

    The Blake team intro package tonight it pretty funny.

  27. Sieves says:

    Does anyone else think its unfair that Judith is probably going home tonight when clearly there are other people that should go home first? Honestly I don’t like this pick 3 save 1 crap I think we should be voting 2 off every night starting now. In fact I don’t like the fact that Adam had to get rid of people like Warren Stone and Midas Whale. Clearly Adam had the strongest team, and if they had just voted people off once the top 32 were decided after the Battle Rounds a lot of people on Adams team would have been in the final 8.

  28. Cagney says:

    Thinking about last night’s show while watching tonight’s. I was surprised that Blake was a bit lukewarm while commenting on Amber. His praise was not at the level I thought she deserved. It struck me that Amber , a singer with country roots, was better than any on his country team and he probably knew that too,
    The only one Adam stood up for was Amber. I pray he saves her if needed but I really want her to get America’s vote.
    In the previous season was Adam the only one who chose Amanda Brown during the blind auditions? Or was he the won who saved her? Either way, he made some excellent choices.
    I am so happy Adam chose Amber. She is making my season.

    • HitTheGroundRunning says:

      Believe it or not Amanda Brown got but one chair turned during the auditions and twas CeeLo that did it. Although then he bone-headedly gave her away. CeeLo turned around for all top six I think.

  29. HitTheGroundRunning says:

    mm mm mmmmmm damn I’ve been saying it since the beginning that Sasha is just incredible and the one since the start. Performance of the night. I have to say she is my favorite in the whole shebang.
    I know Michael hasn’t ever been quite on board, God only knows why, but man I’m thinking that has got to change now?
    Her and Karina for top two for Shakira’s team for me. I guess Danielle and Justin for the top two for Blake? Duo wasn’t bad. I don’t really know how to judge country so well.

  30. Kathryn says:

    Trevin Hunte did “Against All Odds” last year and absolutely KILLED it. This performance didn’t even come close. I like Vedo, but he’s out of his league.

  31. Ann VerWiebe says:

    I think every song has possiblities. Michelle nailed it with True Colors – probably just as challenging as Against All Odds.

  32. Jo says:

    I met most of the contestants and they are all beautiful people with powerful voices. I do have preferences and those depend more on me than any of them. One’s opinion of the contestants is a reflection of your own love. What you love about a contestant reflects the love you have for parts of yourself, what you dislike in a contestant reflects things you dislike about yourself.

    • Spudd says:

      1st time here. Great insight! O BTW! I like all the groovy people’s comments on this forum. Very well spoken with no profanity. Love you folks and opinions and thoughts.

  33. jaw says:

    i see some promises in caroline, and i think she’s gonna go far.

  34. Zen says:

    Slezak seriously?? B for Judith? ‘Feelin Good’ was a masterclass performance. Every line oozed soul and class. She played with the melody and the tempo like only a true pro could. And the chords on “it’s a new dawn, a new day” wow. She’s just proven what a real musician she is and what a great ear she has. I really hope the public get her. I haven’t been so excited about a reality show contestant ever. I don’t even know why she’s on the show.

  35. He estado siguiendo mas o menos las actuaciones de los participantes
    en este torneo de The Voice 2013. Entiendo que entre los participantes
    hay muchos con muy buenas condiciones para ser estrellas muy sobre-
    salientes del canto y actuacion. Me inclino a pensar que seran los siguientes.
    AMBER, MICHELLE, SARAH, JUDITH. Buena suerte para todos ellos.