The final week of The Voice's blind auditions began with Shakira seemingly the biggest loser and Blake Shelton on a roll.
The first battle began with Kat Perkins from Minneapolis. Perkins – once a country yodeler and now a nanny – sold her pipes on Fleetwood Mac's Gold Dust Woman. Perkins' soulful Southern flavour wowed Shakira and Adam Levine, while Usher's eyes lit up during the “loooonnnng note!” In the end Perkins decided Levine was the choice.
Just as appreciative was Paula Deanda. The Texas native had a recording contract as a teenager but was later dropped. Capitalizing on this second chance with Ariana Grande's The Way, Deanda had Shelton and Shakira fighting over her. “I see a victory in your future,” Shelton said which was enough to win Deanda over. Later on Shelton also secured Cali Tucker, the niece of country legend Tanya Tucker.
What the four judges didn't appreciate much was Gabi Ramirez's voice. Ramirez, employed at a kitchen appliance store, should put music on the back burner after his cover of Ed Sheeran's The A Team was far from Grade A. The panel gave constructive criticism but agreed Ramirez wasn't that dynamic. They also treated Luke Cooper with kid gloves as he missed the mark with Imagine Dragons' Radioactive.
The first big surprise was Jake Barker who decided his first open mic night would be in front of four accomplished musicians and millions watching. Barker admitted he never performed onstage before but shone on the Bruno Mars ballad When I Was Your Man. Usher, Levine and Shakira were shocked it was his first time but loved his voice and trills. Shakira and Usher fought hard but Barker opted for Usher.
Shakira also missed out on Ria Eaton. After describing Eaton, 19, as a pearl in an oyster, many thought Eaton – who performed Cups (When I'm Gone) – would go with Shakira. However Shelton ended up with the teen whose family has had a string of bad luck.
Another eye-opening moment came when Cierra Mickens soared on Gnarls Barkley's Crazy. The soulful belter caught Shakira and Shelton's ears with Usher coming in under the wire. Shakira walked over to Mickens to show her some love with the hope of winning her. It worked.
Despite Tyler Montgomery failing with Stevie Wonder's I Wish, the duo of Alaska and Madi worked wonders. The Civil Wars' Barton Hollow was nailed by the tandem with Shelton and Levine wanting them. Shelton's comparison to The Pistol Annies didn't hurt with the two being Shelton's second-to-last selection.
Perhaps the quirkiest contestant was Ddendyl. The daughter of a bagpipe player, Ddendyl turned heads with a gospel-tinged performance of Ben E. King's Stand By Me. The mixture resembled Lorde, Dido and Norah Jones which caused Shakira to push the right (and only) button.
Finally, Josh Kaufman's old soul resonated with the foursome on George Michael's One More Try. “Damn!” Levine uttered afterwards, saying he got “goose bumps.” After all four made their case, Levine seemed thrilled Kaufman “trusted me with his talent.”