At "The Voice" blind auditions are, from left, Blake Shelton,… (Trae Patton/NBC )
The fifth night of "The Voice" blind auditions started with coaches old and new congratulating themselves on their chemistry and going in for a group hug with host and "fifth Beatle" Carson Daly. It ended with those same coaches engaging in a knockdown, drag-out fight for a coveted singer. In between we saw a fair number of talented vocalists take their turns behind the big red chair-backs in hopes of making them spin.
By evening's end, Usher had added pop singer/dancer Jeff Lewis, who'd been signed to a record deal at Interscope only to have it abruptly shelved and was looking for another break. The Dallas, Texas, golf course worker took a risk by singing Usher's own "U Got It Bad," and enticing not only Usher but also Blake Shelton and Shakira to vie for him. Ultimately, and predictably, Lewis said, "I gotta go with my man, Usher."
Usher also snagged Jamila Thompson, a briefly glimpsed R&B vocalist, and soul singer Ryan Innes. It was Innes who prompted the aforementioned four-way coach tug of war with his "Gravity." Adam Levine hit his button practically the first second Innes opened his mouth and rallied hard to get him, calling him "electric" and saying he was "dying to be part" of Innes' career. Shakira complimented the singer's "refreshing" confidence. And Shelton laid it on thick, saying listening to Innes sing was the "most fun" he'd had all day. But Usher won over the onetime medical student from Provo, Utah, by telling him he wanted to win with him.
Shakira, meanwhile, snapped up gritty-voiced veteran rocker Shawna P., who, at 45, said she'd been working at her music longer than many of the other auditioning singers had been alive. Levine had also made a halfhearted effort for Shawna P., who sang "She Talks to Angels," but she went with her "gut" -- and perhaps her hips, which she said she was hoping Shakira would teach her to move -- and picked the show's sole female coach. "I'm representing 40 and up, y'all," Shawna P. said triumphantly after she'd made her choice.
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The Colombian superstar also picked up 17-year-old Cuban singer Mary Miranda, whose "Como La Flor" turned Usher and Shelton as well. The two male coaches didn't seem to have a prayer, though Shelton enjoyed the chance to crack wise, saying he'd been thinking, "She's really good, but I don't understand anything she's saying, but then it dawned on me nobody can understand anything I say either." Shelton said he thought he could help Miranda get to the "end zone," but of course she picked Shakira anyway.
Don't cry for Shelton, though. He beat out Shakira for twinkly, dimpled, coffeehouse-singing college-frosh Caroline Glaser, who sang "Tiny Dancer." And he did it by interrupting Shakira and telling Glaser (falsely, it appeared) that his fellow coach was selling her a line she'd used before when she told her she'd been waiting to hear a voice like hers. Levine called Shelton on his "dirty tricks," but the damage was done. The trick worked in Shelton's favor.
Shelton also picked up two others who got little airtime -- country guy Justin Rivers and pop singer Michelle Raitzin – and then tangled again with Shakira for bluesy country singer Grace Askew, who calls her style, which she showed off on "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'," "bluntry." "I think you and I could make history on this show together," Shelton said. "I'm afraid if you pick Shakira, you'll be history." The line may not have been nice, but it was effective. Shakira clearly dug Askew, but Shelton came on so strong -- "I love you, Grace!" he hollered -- the newbie coach seemed to surrender without much of a fight. When Shelton tried to do his little victory dance, Shakira demanded a kiss instead. And rightly so.
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And Levine? Well, he pulled out some of his own dirty tricks -- and his trademark hard sell, and came away with country-singing deputy sheriff Michael Austin, whose "Somebody Like You" failed to spin Shelton. ("Pitchy," Shelton contended.) He also snapped up "college music major" Amy Whitcomb, who had only a brief flash onscreen. And he pulled off a big win with pop singer Sasha Allen, a classically trained pianist (and mother of two) who has sung backup for Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys and John Legend. Allen spun all four chairs with her take on the Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready to Make Nice." "I could not be happier," Levine said of Allen after she chose him. "She could win the whole thing."