Time is running out at blind auditions on "The Voice" — not just for the coaches to build their teams but for some aspiring pop stars to find their career breakthroughs. And on Monday night, two talented singers in the "40 and up" category did just that.
So did a handful of still-green teenaged hopefuls, too, and a few hardworking vets looking for a milestone of their own.
And with the likes of teenaged would-be Latin pop stars and coffeehouse crooners up against hard-edged country snarlers with deep roots in the industry, Teams Adam, Blake, Shakira and Usher were set for a diverse cast.
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The night's youngest breakthrough artist was Mary Miranda, a Cuban 17-year-old who delivered a graceful, emotive take on the Selena hit "Como la Flor" that instantly caught Shakira's ear — and Usher's, and Blake's. The wannabe Latin pop star was Shakira's to lose, and Shakira knew it as soon as she began complimenting the teen's performance.
"Oh my God, she's crying just hearing Shakira talk to her. We are so screwed!" Blake remarked.
He was right — but he picked up a teenaged protegee of his own with Carolina Glaser, an 18-year-old college student and coffeehouse folk singer from Kansas.
With a willowy, expressive take on the Elton John standby "Tiny Dancer," she immediately won over Blake and Shakira.
"That was so diaphanous at times and so energetic," Shakira told her. "You are the kind of voice I've been waiting for to hear."
But Blake won over Caroline as soon as he recognized the aspiring songwriter's simple, writerly take on the song. "I aspire to be a songwriter," she explained as she chose him — and he said he was "beyond excited" to join forces with her.
He picked up another unusual singer in Grace Askew, a born-and-bred Memphis 26-year-old sporting a beehive and toting a Dobro. She won over Blake with a playful take on the Nancy Sinatra hit "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" in a style she deemed "bluntry" (that's blues and country).
Blake called her "one of the coolest" performers he'd seen yet on the show. "I am so pumped to have her on my team. I think she's a serious weapon," he said.
But if some of the singers hitting the stage for Monday's blind auditions were looking at their first big shot at a singing career, a slew of others were looking for their second, or third, or fourth.
One of the most sought after was Sasha Allen, a 30-year-old classically trained pianist from New York who had tabled a promising career singing back-up for Alicia Keys and Christina Aguilera to raise a family.
"I put my career on hold to be a mom, but now I want to get back into it," she said, saying she was ready to push past singing background vocals. "I've had brushes with success, but it's always been a brush."
But for the coaches, her take on the Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready to Make Nice" — a song she chose not for its country origins but for its storytelling element — was anything but.
"We are meant to be together," Blake insisted, while Adam called her singing "magic."
Despite a round of bickering by the coaches over who should land her, she picked Adam.
Adam picked up another team member seeking a late-in-life career restart in 43-year-old Michael Austin, a heavily tattooed deputy sheriff.
"Everybody calls me 'Big Country.' I think it's pretty obvious I'm big and I'm country," the burly 43-year-old said.
His take on Keith Urban's "Somebody Like You" won over Adam and Shakira.
"You know who you are, what you love, what you do, and it is a relief," Adam told him.
But although Shakira lost out on Michael Austin, she won a similarly gritty country vet in Shawna P., a 45-year-old who had paid her dues in Nashville after being inspired as an eight-year-old by seeing Elvis Presley live.
"A lot of people at my age would just given up on their dream by now," she said, calling her chance to perform at blind auditions "Elvis-epic" for her. "I've been singing since most of the people who've tried out have been alive."
She chose to perform the hit "She Talks to Angels" by the Black Crowes. "It's just gritty and raw — kinda like me and the way I sing," she explained.
Both Adam and Shakira were impressed, but even comparing her voice to Janis Joplin's didn't woo Shawna to Team Adam.
"There's nobody like you in this competition, period," Shakira told the singer, who chose to be on Shakira's team.
"I'm representing 40 and up, y'all," she said.
And finally, Usher — who also snagged 28-year-old Jeff Lewis, who performed Usher's own hit "U Got It Bad" — also netted an impressive talent seeking a mid-life career breakthrough.
Ryan Innes, a bearded soul singer from small-town Utah, turned all four coaches' chairs with his soulful take on John Mayer's "Gravity" — only the second singer of the night to win over the whole panel.
"That's the most fun I had listening all day today," Blake enthused.
"You showed a confidence which was really refreshing," Shakira said.
But the aspiring soul singer went with Usher — who was surprised at his luck.
For a night when a few hopefuls got their long-coveted late start on a big-time singing career, a few young, too-green artists had to head home.
Jane Smith, 18, didn't turn any chairs with her take on a Florence and the Machine song. Neither did Matt Cermanski, 19, who sang Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream," which the coaches agreed was out of his vocal range. And Cameron's take on Justin Bieber's "As Long As You Love Me" was marred by how winded his enviable dance moves left him.
Blind auditions are set to wrap up Tuesday night, when the stakes will be even higher for the coaches to finish fleshing out their teams.
"The Voice" airs Mondays and Tuesdays on NBC at 8/7c.