After tuning in for several seasons of American Idol and The Voice, veteran backup singer and Broadway performer Sasha Allen found herself doing some soul-searching. “My friends were having a conversation, and I was saying, ‘Am I going to let this era of [reality singing competitions] just pass me by? Am I going to think that it’s not the cool way or that I’m too old or come up with all these excuses?’ I decided that I had to give it a try.”
Allen put her misconceptions aside and headed to The Voice’s Season 4 Blind Auditions. After getting all four coaches to turn their chairs (and a brief stint on Adam Levine’s team), Allen paired up with newbie coach Shakira and wound up making it all the way to the Top 5.
TVLine caught up with the 31-year-old mother of two to discuss her most memorable performances — from “Not Ready to Make Nice” all the way to “Bad Girls.”
TVLINE | How did you settle on “Not Ready to Make Nice” for the Blind Auditions?
It was a song I had sung before, and I really liked it. And I wanted one where the coaches wouldn’t be able to differentiate whether I was black or white or young or old. I thought it was neutral enough to make people really have to focus on my voice.
TVLINE | I think it’s safe to say you were a front-runner going into the Battle Rounds, but Adam wound up choosing Amber Carrington over you. Was there a moment of panic before Shakira hit her button and used one of her “Steals” on you?
There was no panic — and not because I [assumed] that I was going to get stolen. The only panic that there possibly could have been — and I don’t remember the exact feeling that I had at that moment — would’ve been the feeling that I hadn’t gotten the chance to show what I was able to do yet. And that would’ve made it all a waste, y’know?
TVLINE | You came roaring back in the Knockout Rounds with “At Last,” which was one of your defining moments this season. Explain your thought process in choosing it.
“At Last” was a song that I’ve sung before, and those kind of songs show a wide range of emotions. You can take your time, be creative with it. And it’s also a hard one. At that moment, after the Battle Rounds, I needed to make a statement and prove something — and “At Last” was the song to do it.
TVLINE | Was it the most difficult song you covered this season?
“Ain’t No Way” was pretty hard. [Laughs]
TVLINE | When the competition reached the Live Playoffs — and the public had their first chance to vote — you went in a completely different direction with the Beatles’ “Oh Darlin’,” and your vocal turned into almost a scream of angst at the end.
Well, I wanted to use some of the same characteristics of how the Beatles did it. They were yelling. They were going all in on that song, but at the same time, I didn’t want to have a growly yell through the whole thing. It’s a different song for a woman than it is for a man.
TVLINE | For Top 6 week, the race was super tight. You chose “Ain’t No Way” for yourself, while Shakira gave you “Before He Cheats.” Was there any intimidation factor in covering Aretha Franklin?
That’s one of those amazing songs that there is no competing with Aretha Franklin, so the best you can do is do a tribute, maybe put a little bit of your own stamp on it. I didn’t have to change the music on that at all; it was perfection as it was. But sometimes the spirit just moves you, and you hear something else when you’re out there singing, and it makes you take the song somewhere else. It’s about knowing where the song is going to go, then finding a tasteful ad lib you can add.
TVLINE | We also have to dish “Before He Cheats.” You really reworked the arrangement from country to more of a rock-soul vibe. Did you ever second guess taking that kind of risk?
Some songs, it’s I can like see it all in my head. I get a visions of “Oh, this would look great on stage,” and that was the case with [“Before He Cheats”]. Plus, if you’re able to sing two songs in one night, I feel like you should show two different sides; show something fun and free and flirty, and then choose a ballad or something maybe a little bit more serious. That makes for an exciting show.
TVLINE | How did you cook up that rearrangement?
We all sat down and talked about how I’m not a country artist, and I am not trying to be a country artist. I didn’t want people to get confused into thinking that that’s where I wanted to go. But “Before He Cheats” is a great song with great words. It’s fun. It’s something people can relate to. So I wanted my version to be that I am not in the Midwest or some Texas bar bashing my man’s car. I would be in a New York bar doing that, so we put a little New York spin on that. [Laughs]
TVLINE | You also tore away your red dress to reveal sparkly black shorts, a black midriff top and thigh-high boots. Do you wish the male judges had commented more on your vocal performance and less on what you did with the outfit?
To me, it was fun and funny. We did it for shock value and I think we succeeded in that. The comments didn’t bother me. I found them funny.
TVLINE | Your final week on the show, you tackled Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.,” maybe one of the biggest, most iconic ballads ever. Why did you choose it?
It’s a great song. And I’m madly in love with Whitney Houston. Her voice was angelic and amazing. She was an idol of mine. So, yes, it is an iconic song and it is an extremely hard song — and like with Aretha Franklin, I cannot compete with them. All I can do is do my best with it and just be really happy singing it. I also thought about the message of the song, which really has to do with unconditional love, and that’s a great topic to talk about. That’s something that touches my heart. I enjoyed it.
TVLINE | Just like in the Semi-Finals, you gave two completely different moods, “Bad Girls” couldn’t have been more different from “I Will Always Love You.” That said, did you have any hesitation about tackling a disco track?
Shakira brought “Bad Girls” to me, and I was totally on board. I thought it was so much fun. I’m not sure if that’s what sent me home, but I really enjoyed myself. I really, really did. If that had been part of my concert, I guess that would just be for a little bit of fun. It’s really hard picking songs. It’s really not easy.
TVLINE | You also had to contend with choreographed dance moves while staying on pitch and being aware of where the camera is. That can’t be easy.
It’s definitely not. I had three days for learning the song, learning the moves, when you’re going to walk, where to stop on a certain beat, etcetera. It’s a lot to remember. I did the best job that I could have done to try to look comfortable.