‘The Voice’ Live Playoffs: Sasha Allen Emerges as a Frontrunner

Sasha Allen performs on "The Voice" (NBC)

The second half of “The Voice” playoff round featured Teams Blake and Shakira, and though it was two hours of coaching and singing and jolly good times, it was really all a build to one thing only: Sasha Allen. Like night-one of the playoffs, in which everything culminated in powerhouse Judith Hill, Tuesday night’s suspense was reserved for Judith’s main competition, the gorgeous mom who sings with beautiful agony. Everyone who came before was reduced to nothing.

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That’s partially because half of Shakira’s team and three-quarters of Blake’s are pretty run-of-the-mill characters. Blake stocking his team with all country artists may be fun for him, but for non-country spectators, it’s just redundant. Shakira has more of an interesting mix, but besides Sasha, only Karina Iglesias was keeping me awake.

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Blake Shelton’s team kicked off the night by training for their group sing of Little Big Town’s “Boondocks.” To loosen them up, he took them out for karaoke. Now, maybe it’s just me, but shouldn’t these people be trying to NOT be associated with karaoke? That word alone is like the kiss of death on these shows. And yet here they are, singing classic rock to one another in a padded room.

Later, Shakira took her group to meet her choreographer, Hi-Hat. They worked on singing “We Are the Champions,” and guys, the choreography? Of the four of them standing in a circle looking at each other and doing squats? Great stuff. There was also lots of signing together without much harmony or individualized parts. Not sure that bringing in that choreography friend was the best idea at this stage in the game.

The coaches’ duet had Shakira and Blake singing Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now.” Blake sounds pretty good on anything, especially a country song. Shakira, however, just doesn’t blend. Her voice is so yodely and shrill, it’s not meant for a soft-rock country duet.

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The performances:

Team Shakira:

Shakira’s best two singers are steals from Adam Levine; the other two are people no one else saw anything in. So naturally, the two steals are the ones who are inherently more interesting.

One of her originals is Garrett Gardner, who, in case you’ve forgotten (how could you?!?) didn’t make it out of the Blinds last season, but came back. So basically the most defining thing about this guy is that he doesn’t know when he’s not wanted. All of the commentary about his “Imagine” had to do with the amazingness of his perseverance, and the American dream and anything being possible if you try try again. Although Usher checks out for a minute, and tells Garrett he was happy to see him “at a computer.” He meant piano. And he’s right about that. Garrett was more alive in this song than he’s been on this show. Too bad it was one of those untouchable songs you just shouldn’t cover ever. Adam basically said so.

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Kris Thomas gets Bruno Mars’s “When I Was Your Man,” a song that last week was masterfully covered by Candice Glover on “American Idol.” Candice actually sang it more manly. Kris was nervous, which Adam pointed out, though Shakira said she adored her wide-ranged guy.

Karina Iglesias has a voice that does not match her look, and I wish they’d stop with the spiky hawk and the whole rocker act. I mean, she sang Al Green! That’s some pure smooth sexy-time music right there; it’s not rock. And she sang it right on. Adam lamented that he had ever given her away.

Finally, who we’ve been waiting for: Sasha Allen. Shakira gives her “Oh! Darling” and tells her to get sexy with it. She does. And she just delivers and awesome blues. On Monday night, Adam kept saying that Sasha is Judith Hill’s main competitor. But Sasha’s even better than Judith. She hits these notes that sound like they’ve been dragged through the mud, then stepped on, and then get up and shake themselves off and wail. All the commentary focused on what an idiot Adam was for giving her up in the first place. Shakira says Sasha has one of the best voices she’s ever heard in her life. And Usher puts not one, but both feet up on his console.

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Team Blake:

All country, all the time. That’s all that needs to be said about Team Blake.

You mean, the saxophonist in the marching band was bullied in school? There’s a shock. Holly Tucker fills us in on this painful bit from her past, and confesses to Blake that she’s not pretty like other lady singers. But Blake tells her she’s strong and a role model, and that solves that problem. She sings “How Do I Live” which is a total waste, because Holly had heretofore been an exciting contestant and suddenly became pageant queen. She does the glory note and all. She looks good, though. Adam tells her over and over that she’s beautiful (and better looking than Blake).

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The Swon Brothers did a deep country cut, “Fishin’ in the Dark,” which all of the other coaches said they’d never heard before. The guys asked Usher if he’d ever gone fishing in the dark, and Usher replied, “Some times, in other ways.” How did that not get bleeped? Anyway, Shakira said it made her feel comfortable and at ease, and Blake was just ecstatic that he managed to stump the other coaches with how very country this all was.

Blake’s secret weapon is Justin Rivers, a guy you never remember is there, a voice you keep forgetting exists, and then out he comes and makes everyone notice. Every time! Unfortunately for him, Justin spent a lot of time in his intro talking about his wife and how he wants to have babies with her, so there goes half his potential fan base of middle-aged single moms. He sang “Meet in the Middle.” Usher compared his experience to the experience of people who go to hip-hop shows and don’t know what’s going on. Blake said Justin knows what he’s doing.

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I am so tired of hearing about how Danielle Bradbery has only sung in public the (now) four times she’s appeared on this show. I’m also tired of them showing her singing that annoying Taylor Swift song “Mean” in her Blind Audition. Ugh, this whole situation is insulting to everyone else: Taylor Swift imitator shows up and does better than all of you, and she doesn’t even try. It’s just rude. Blake gives her a song from his own salad days, “Maybe it was Memphis.” Her voice is tinny in her upper register, but everyone just loves it. “In the wise words of my friend Blake Shleton,” says Shakira, “’Holy crap.’”

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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