"The Voice": Rivals Break Blake's Lock on Country

Awkward rejections were cheek-by-jowl with vindicated second chances Monday night

By Sam Schulz
|  Tuesday, Apr 2, 2013  |  Updated 6:00 AM PDT
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"The Voice": Rivals Break Blake's Lock on Country

Lloyd Bishop / NBC

Usher managed to woo a country singer away from an unhappy Blake Shelton.

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Unexpected coach selections, cringe-inducing rejections and vindicated second chances — "The Voice" offered up those and more in spades at Monday's blind auditions, as the coaches clambered all over each other to nab their favorite singers.

And after a night that was heavy on the honkytonk, one coach managed at long last to woo a country singer away from Blake Shelton.

But that feat didn't come before a few more comfortable fits.

Aspiring 17-year-old gymnast-turned-R&B-singer Taylor Beckham won three coaches over with her raspy, soulful rendition of Mary J. Blige's "I'm Going Down."

It was R&B star Usher, whose starry-eyed excitement over her performance melted his usual cool, whom she wound up choosing.

"Having anyone fight over me is an incredible honor, but Usher and Shakira? Really?!" she exclaimed after she left the stage.

And when Cuban-American former child star Monique Abbadie took on Shakira's own hit "Loca," she had a lot riding on it.

"I really hope to prove to my parents that I'm chasing this dream for a reason," the flame-haired 20-year-old said.

She did just that, winning Shakira — and all the other coaches — over with her unusual stylistic take on the song, her rhythmic playfulness and what Shakira called her "contagious" energy.

Monique, unsurprisingly, wanted to be mentored by the woman she called "my idol" and had a momentary fangirl meltdown as they hugged.

"You're my idol, you're my idol!" she cried.

Shakira lost out on another Latina when she neglected to hit her button for Karina Iglesias, a youth music teacher with a tough rock and roll snarl and a take on the Melissa Etheridge hit "I'm the Only One" that had Adam and Blake make a last-minute decision to take a gamble.

"I've been wanting to say these words ever since I started watching the show: I'm gonna pick Adam," Karina said.

"'The Voice' needs a singer like that," Adam said of her afterward.

And of course, there were country artists who, as country artists tend to do, pick Blake.

Zach and Colton Swon, self-identified Okies from Muskogee who had performed together since childhood, tore through the Tom Petty standard-bearer "American Girl" and wound up on Team Blake.

So did 19-year-old Holly Tucker, a Texan college student eager to break out of college marching band anonymity and take the spotlight. She sang the much-covered Bob Dylan song "To Make You Feel My Love" — Garth Brooks' version was her touchstone, Blake rightly noted — and drew praise for what Shakira called her "honest" performance.

But by the time Holly picked Blake, he was gloating — and the other coaches were vowing to win country singers of their own.

"I feel like a cat playing with a mouse," Blake noted with satisfaction.

He hadn't yet then gotten a surprise that night, though.

One of those surprises came courtesy of high schooler Garrett Gardner, who had shown up at the blind auditions last season, when he was still grieving the death of his father, and failed to turn any chairs then — but had taken some of Blake's advice to heart.

This time around, with a grungey reggae-tinged take on the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army," Garrett scored a spot on Team Shakira, plus some praise from the two returning judges who were glad to see him back.

"You're so much stronger than you were," Adam told him, saying he was "overjoyed" the 17-year-old had returned. "He's a proud papa right now. He really is."

But another hopeful chasing a comeback after tragedy didn't have such luck.

After her debut country album went gold, Julie Roberts had her second record flop, got dumped by her label, lost her Nashville home to a 2010 flood and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

"I still have my voice," she vowed, and she intended to prove it on "The Voice" by singing Blake's own song — and hoping he would remember her from a time they'd met.

Julie failed to turn any of the coaches' chairs. When Blake turned at the end and instantly recognized who had just sung him his own song, he looked crestfallen.

"I should've known that was you. Dadgumit. I'm sorry. I'm sorry," he said, looking embarrassed and apologetic. As he explained later, "she just kind of fell through the cracks in the business, and it's not fair."

"What are you gonna do next?" Carson Daly asked Julie after she left stage.

"Get a glass of wine," she laughed.

Among the many surprises of the night, though, were two more pleasant ones than Julie's and Blake's awkward reunion.

One of them came from Michelle Chamuel, the 26-year-old frontwoman of electro-pop outfit Ella Riot. "I think I represent nerdy people," she said, and she credited music with being one of the avenues in which she could shed her introverted tendencies.

The out lesbian's cover of "I Kissed a Girl" was praised by Shakira as "fierce," while Adam said she looked ready to "stomp the earth."

Both were stunned when Chamuel chose Usher as her coach. Her explanation? Her gut, she said.

And Adam was particularly stunned at the end of the night, when he picked up a singer he had all but conceded Blake would win.

South Carolinian firefighter Warren Stone, a would-be Blake protégé if there ever were one, gave a performance of the Zac Brown Band's "Colder Weather" that drew praise from all the coaches — including some of Blake's trademark sage observations about what makes country music special.

"That song right there is a harder song to sing than you made it sound like," Blake told Warren. "It's almost like you're telling a story, and that's the thing that separates country artists from the rest. We're storytellers."

With that remark, how could Warren not pick Blake?

Even Adam was surprised when Warren chose instead to join his team, but it didn't take long for him to start gloating about his win over Blake.

Two other hopefuls headed home disappointed Monday, though, when the coaches declined to turn around for raspy-voiced Landon Medvec or for Brazilian 23-year-old Sam Alves, whose take on Nina Simone's "Feeling Good" didn't win over anybody, even though multilingual Shakira expressed her apologies in Portuguese.

Blind auditions continue on "The Voice" on Tuesday.

"The Voice" airs on NBC on Mondays and Tuesdays at 8/7c.

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