The top eight contestants remaining on "The Voice" battled for a chance to stick around for the top six — and even if it wasn't clear by the end of the night who would be heading home, it was pretty clear who had most wowed the coaches.
Starting out the night was Judith Hill, whose typically soulful take on will.i.am's "#thatPOWER" began the show on a fiercely energetic note. Shakira praised her passion, and Judith's coach Adam called her "not just a contestant on 'The Voice' but an artist performing a song."
One of Team Blake's three country acts followed her: Holly Tucker, performing "Done" by The Band Perry, with a toughness and attitude that she hadn't yet shown on the show. (This was a woman who last week had performed a Christian hymn.) She pulled off the effort to push past her earnest country comfort zone, and Blake praised her for "owning" the song.
Next up: A glimpse of what a supergroup with the show's four remaining non-country women — Judith, Michelle Chamuel, Sarah Simmons and Sasha Allen — might look like. The foursome's fearsome take on Rihanna's "Diamonds," laden as it was with personal vocal flourishes, highlighted their individual styles and made clear what a tough job viewers had in whittling down the season's crop of singers.
After their number came an act that had other, darker issues on their minds than "The Voice" playoffs: The Oklahoma-bred country duo The Swon Brothers. The pair performed the Eagles' "Seven Bridges Road" and earned their coach Blake's subtle praise as he called them "complicated in a really, really good way."
Sole remaining Team Shakira member Sasha Allen followed with a performance of David Guetta's "Without You" and won praise from all the coaches, including former coach Adam, who called himself a "dummy" for letting her go. Shakira praised her protegee as well and even called her "the epitome of the American woman."
Sarah Simmons, one of Team Adam's three remaining (and very different) divas, was up next with a take on Gotye's indie-pop sleeper hit "Somebody That I Used to Know." Adam urged her to be "pissed off" in her performance — advice she took to heart, to praise from the coaches for its textures and nuances.
Next was a brief break, then a group performance by the other four acts in the competition, all of them somehow country, as the entirety of Team Blake (Holly, The Swon Brothers and Danielle Bradbery) and Amber Carrington took on Sugarland's "Something More."
After that feel-good interlude, it was back to the competition — and some of the stiffest among it, with the night's final three performers: Michelle Chamuel, Danielle Bradbery and Amber Carrington.
The first of those to perform was Michelle, Team Usher's last surviving hope in the competition, and if her performance Monday night were any indication, his hope was a huge one.
Evidence of Michelle's struggles with Bruno Mars' "Grenade" in rehearsals were nowhere to be seen on-stage. Her performance left the audiences and coaches ecstatic, especially her own. Usher, wearing glasses like Michelle's in solidarity, emotionally gushed about what she stood for as she stood on stage.
"You represent true inner beauty," he said. "That performance represented everything that we love about life."
"Thanks, coach. This one's for you," Michelle said, appearing to fight back tears.
Next was another favorite in the competition thus far: its youngest contestant, 16-year-old Danielle Bradbery. The country prodigy (Adam's term) tackled the Judds' "Grandpa," which her coach Blake picked for her to convey her artistry to viewers. With her reflective take on the sentimental ballad, she earned Shakira's praise for being "such a good narrator," while Usher marveled — as the coaches often have — that her performances seem "effortless."
Finally came Amber Carrington, whose own coach Adam broke an in-house "Voice" ban on tackling Adele songs when he had his team member tackle "Skyfall." Despite her reservations about delivering the drama Adam insisted the song required, on-stage Amber delivered it in spades, coiffed and made-up as she was like Rita Hayworth.
As she finished belting out the song, her coach had a grin on his face and his fists in the air in triumph.
"You just took the diva powerhouse vocal of the night, for sure," Blake said. And Adam said that by doing an Adele song justice, which he said had never happened before on the show, Amber had proved to him that she "can literally do anything."
Whether she and her seven fellow contestants will stick around, however, will be proved by the votes, their tallies to be revealed Tuesday.
"The Voice" airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8/7c.