‘The Voice’ Recap: Top Eight Try Amped and Ambitious

The top eight pulled out all the stops -- or rather, props -- for their amped-up performances on The Voice on Monday night, which included fire, feathers and blinged-out cowboy boots. Usher even donned a pair of black eyeglasses for two hours to channel his remaining contestant.

Blake Shelton, whom host Carson Daly introduced as a “rarely sober national treasure,” kicked off the Memorial Day episode with a performance of his hit “Boys ‘Round Here” with Gwen Sebastian. Shelton and Adam Levine both still have all three of their artists, while Usher and Shakira are still in the competition with one each. Here’s how the top eight singers performed (full versions of the songs this time):

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Team Adam

Judith Hill was nothing short of spectacular: With a mohawk as momentous as Sarah Jessica Parker’s Met Ball hairdo, the former Michael Jackson duet partner reinterpreted “#ThatPower” by will.i.am and Justin Bieber. “That hair is badass -- I guarantee you, Adam has been on the phone with Cee Lo [Green] this week!” said Shelton, along with his usual praises for Hill’s vocals. It was the first cover of a current chart-topper that Hill has done, and if it’s a teaser of what her post-Voice sound could be, then that sounds good to me.

Sarah Simmons was assigned Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” as a chance to experiment with her artistic side. She played with her falsetto changes as she did with Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” a few weeks ago, but strained to authentically channel the emotional connection that the dark song calls for. Usher nodded to the seized opportunity to showcase another texture of her voice and her ability to restrain her usual power.

Amber Carrington seemed hesitant to take on Adele’s hypnotic hit “Skyfall,” but it’s Levine’s way of telling her that she can sing bigger than she thinks, and can succeed well beyond her country wheelhouse. Wearing a classic black gown and dripping in jewels, she rose to the ambitious challenge. Usher accidentally called her Adele, and Shakira praised her successful high notes. “She’s still a country singer, no matter what you try to do, Adam!” joked Shelton.

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Team Blake

Holly Tucker, who has been taking college courses while competing on Shelton’s team, chose to showcase her attitude with “Done” by The Band Perry. With a fierce approach like Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats,” Tucker’s powerhouse vocals definitely outshone those cowboy boots that were covered in bling. “There were big notes in this song, and you hit them and took them up to another level,” said Usher, while Shelton noted that her sass had the song “begging for mercy” by the end of it.

The Swon Brothers, the first duo to ever rise this far in the competition, challenged their harmonizing skills with “Seven Bridges Road” by The Eagles, dedicated to those affected by the Oklahoma tornado tragedy. Bordering bluegrass, the performance included a starry ceiling and a live campfire onstage, but the brightest moment of the song was the a cappella closing. “Those classic Eagles harmonies really suited your voices,” said Shakira, while Levine pointed out a few minor wrinkles of the performance -- only to then apologize for being silly and doing so.

Danielle Bradbery attempted “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days)” by The Judds at Shelton’s request, though she wasn’t initially familiar with the track. Yet while swinging on a fully constructed front porch in a pair of red sequined cowboy boots, she sweetly sold the track with the purity of her voice that shines in the country genre. “Regardless of what happens on the show, you are so important because you’re a country music artist that’s waiting to be born,” praised Levine. “It’s staggering.”

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Team Usher

Michelle Chamuel wanted to tap into her vulnerability with Bruno Mars’ “Grenade,” opening with only minimal accompanying instruments and a set of mirrors -- a motif of Chamuel’s since her breakout moment with Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors.” The dynamic performance grew into an orchestrated anthem that got Levine excitedly out of his seat. Besides the usual praises, Shakira also commended Chamuel on her “stage presence, which is always strong, but now you’re exuding a lot of confidence.”

Team Shakira

Though it’s always a risk to cover a hit originally sung by a coach, Sasha Allen was assigned “Without You” by David Guetta and Usher. With just a hint of her Broadway roots, she earned Usher’s congratulations and once again proved that she can hold a place in today’s music scene, even if it’s against Shelton. “I started comparing myself to Sasha as a singer, and that’s not good [for me],” said Shelton. “I think you bought Shakira another week, for sure.”

Throughout the episode, the season’s divas Hill, Chamuel, Sims and Allen championed Rihanna’s “Diamonds,” and the remaining country artists Carrington, Bradbery, Tucker and The Swon Brothers joined for Sugarland’s “Something More.”

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With a performance by guest mentor Sheryl Crow, the two singers with the lowest votes will be sent home Tuesday night at 9 p.m. on NBC.

What did you think of tonight’s performances? Will the winner of The Voice be a pop diva, a country girl or a sibling duo? And whose cowboy boots were better: Bradbery or Tucker? Sound off in the comments section below.

Ashley Lee