From left: Shakira, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Usher and host Carson Daly
It was a strong night of dueling performances for Team Adam and Team Shakira
, which are now down to just four acts each after the first night of knockout rounds on The Voice
Making tough choices with powerhouse singers – no steals
, no saves – the judges admitted Monday that playing favorites and saying goodbye was ruining their night. But decisions had to be made.
Amber Carrington beat out quirky duo Midas Whale with a nuanced and powerful turn on Avril Lavigne
's hit "I'm With You." Levine called her the "biggest surprise on my team" and said, "Every day we see you continue to blow us away."
In a second round, Team Adam's Amy Whitcomb and Caroline Glaser paired off in a tough battle. In the end, Glaser outshined her best pal with a performance of Little Talk's "Of Monster's and Men."
But Levine's strongest competitor of the night was Judith Hill of Los Angeles. She performed the Willie Nelson classic "Always on My Mind" with professionalism and style. Wearing a brown draped dress, Hill seemed lost in the emotion of the performance that blew away the judges.
"Not only did you pick Adam as a coach ... but you do a Willie Nelson song! Why don't you just come down here and punch me in the face," Blake Shelton
said to Hill, the obvious winner over Orlando Dixon.
"I loved Orlando but anyone who sings against Judith is going to be the underdog," Levine said afterward.
In Shakira's rounds, Karina Iglesias bested Monique Abbadie in what their coach called a battle of "powerhouse Latinas." Iglesias earned some criticism of being predictable as she rocked out to Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way," growling and commanding the stage with a punk snarl.
Shakira then paired Garrett Gardner, 17, singing Alex Clare's "Too Close," against Tawyna Reynolds, 32, who offered a yodel-filled version of the Pistol Annies's "Hell on Heels." Reynolds showed plenty of sass, but Gardner, playing his acoustic guitar, offered a bit of soul to a rock performance that was polished and confident.
"I see a star in him," Shakira said as she picked Gardner to advance.
Perhaps Shakira's strongest round pitted Sasha Allen against Shawna P. Allen sparkled a white gown as she sang a modernized version
of the Etta James classic "At Last." "You gave me goosebumps twice," said Shakira, who gave her the round.
"Sasha, you have just positioned yourself as one of the frontrunners in the competition," Shelton told her.
Others advancing for Team Shakira included Memphis's Kris Thomas, who won his round over Cuban-born Mary Miranda, who sang an R&B version of Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World.
Team Adam winners Monday included Sarah Simmons, also of Memphis, who came out ahead against Warren Stone of Hannah, S.C.
"Sarah," Levine said before declaring her the winner for her version of "Wild Horses" by the Rolling Stones, "you wear your heart out there every single time you perform and it's a beautiful thing to watch."
The knockout rounds continue Tuesday on The Voice