05/14/2013 at 07:35 AM EDT
Heat was Monday night's theme on The Voice
– even the air-conditioning in the studio gave out for a time.
Despite the setback, the show drew a host of sizzling performances from powerhouse country singers who likely raised their stock for fans at home now voting for the Top 12 finalists.
After 30 minutes without the a/c, a sweltering Usher
removed his shirt to reveal a black tank top and sculpted arms, which set fans screaming. But it was performances from country's Amber Carrington, 16-year-old Danielle Bradbery of Texas and the always-soulful Judith Hill that kept the room hot as the night's competition wore on.
Bradbery sang Carrie Underwood's "Wasted," a grownup and emotional song. "I still haven't found the limit of how far she can go," praised her proud team coach, Blake Shelton
, who later stood on his feet after her performance.
summed it up: "I never detect an ounce of nerves in you. You're like at 16-year-old Margaret Thatcher
, a mini iron lady." Added Adam Levine
: "You're the one to beat."
Singing for Team Adam, another Texan, Amber Carrington, closed the show with an emotional turn of Martina McBride's hit, "I’m Gonna Love You Through It," dedicated to her late mother.
"You did Martina proud and even more than that to me, you did country music proud, you did Nashville proud," Shelton told her. Added Usher: I see you having an incredible career, whether you win The Voice
or you don't."
Judith Hill showed off her musician's chops, accompanying herself on white grand piano as she sang Carole King's "You've Got a Friend." Her stylized version, at once wailing, chasing and soft, showcased her range.
Her coach Levine heaped on his own praise for the performance. "Getting up there and playing the piano and being your own accompaniment is a gift and a talent that can't be taught and to be able to do it with such grace … makes you perhaps the most talented human being in this competition."
Another strong country moment came from Baylor University student Holly Tucker, who also did Martina McBride proud with her jazzed-up version of "Broken Wing." "Your confidence is coming along great," Shelton said. "I know somewhere Martina McBride is going 'Oh my gosh.' "
Michelle Chamuel's turn at the mic included a pop-indie version of the Robyn song, "Call Your Girlfriend," while Sasha Allen offered a dynamic soul vocal on Heart's rock song "Alone" that Shakira called "heavenly." Sarah Simmons' sweetly nuanced cover of "The Story" by Brandi Carlile earned plaudits from Levine, who praised her ability to show the grit in her voice as well as its refinement. "You're one of the best singers we have," he said.
The only duo in the final 12, Oklahoma's The Swon Brothers, did not disappoint for Team Blake, covering the late George Jones's hit "Who's Going to Fill Their Shoes?" How good was it? The duo got a shout out Tweet during the show from Jones's daughter with Tammy Wynette, Georgette Jones, who wrote: "Y'all were amazing and I love that you chose to honor my Daddy. Wishing y'all the best. Awesome."
Garrett Gardner, with his electric guitar ablaze, took on the Backstreet Boys' hit, "I Want it That Way," in a rock performance for Team Shakira that was deemed tepid. "I thought it was pretty good," said Shelton. Noted Levine: "That wasn't my favorite choice. It was cool. I was a little thrown by it. I can't lie to you and tell you it was the best thing that you've done."
Atlanta's Vedo from Team Usher and Kris Thomas of Team Shakira both covered R&B tunes with Thomas using his falsetto with aplomb on the Jackson 5 hit "I'll Be There," and Vedo showing off his dance moves on Michael Jackson's "Rock With You."
The hunky Josiah Hawley, in jeans and T-shirt, came up big with his acoustic guitar turn on The Script's "The Man Who Can't be Moved."