Move over, Adam Levine. There's a new heartthrob on "The Voice," and his name is Josh Kaufman.
Yes, after Josh's swoon-inducing performances on this Monday's top five live show, he's "The Voice's" new Sexiest Man Alive. And he also may be "The Voice's" new winner, in just one week's time.
Josh started off as a dark horse on Season 6, when — ironically — Adam let the likably elfin singer slip away in the Battle Rounds. But since joining Team Usher, and especially since his game-changing performance of Sam Smith's "Stay With Me" a few weeks ago, Josh has surged to the top. However, it was this Monday that Josh officially went from adorably trilby-hatted dork to full-fledged "Voice" sex symbol.
Flawlessly, gorgeously crooning John Legend's makeout ballad "All of Me" with a string section behind him, Josh delivered not just his finest performance yet, but the best performance of Season 6. His rendition was arguably better than John Legend's original, and as he nailed that perfect falsetto, I could almost hear the collective smitten sigh of a million female viewers. (Not to mention the click-clack of a million viewers, from all walks of life, downloading "All of Me"; I will eat Josh's famous old hat if this isn't top five on iTunes by Tuesday morning.)
Josh's second number, covering OneRepublic's brand-new single "Love Runs Out," had everyone still feeling the love. Adam, admitting he was a "moron" for giving Josh up but still clearly thrilled for Josh's success, called this "amazing." Blake Shelton — who'd already told Josh, "There is no question that you're going to be in the finale" — likened Josh to the ultimate pop-rock lothario, Robert Palmer. Such a comparison was apt. Might as well face it, America's addicted to Josh.
There were many other fine performances this Monday; however, only three of the top five will advance to next week's finale. Josh is no doubt a lock for the top three, but who else will represent? Read on and try to figure it out...
KRISTEN MERLIN (TEAM SHAKIRA)
After weeks of sweet but safe balladry from this spunky singer, it was refreshing to see Kristen finally bring back the long-suppressed sass witnessed during her first audition. This time she belted "Gunpowder and Lead" by Blake's feisty wife, Miranda Lambert, and her energy was endless and infectious as she worked the crowd, looking so elated and excited to be in the semifinals after suffering many setbacks throughout the season. Usher called this performance "amazing." Shakira called Kristen a "rock star" with a "recognizable voice." Blake told Kristen he "loved that feet thing you do, sliding around the stage." This was perfect song for Kristen, and the perfect way to kick off Monday's show with a bang (no pun intended).
Contrasting nicely with Kristen's uptempo first performance was her subsequent interpretation of Jewel's "Foolish Games." Coach Shakira definitely wasn't foolish with her song selections this evening. Kristen was tough but tender, raw but romantic; really, she can always be counted on to deliver a heartfelt vocal, but this was something particularly special. "That's the most connected that I've ever seen you be with a lyric," said Blake. "You give people chills. That's what you do. You are a storyteller," said Shakira. Let me tell you all a little story: This song is also going to do very, very well on the iTunes chart.
KAT PERKINS (TEAM ADAM)
Has the singer for the next James Bond theme been booked yet? Because if not, Kat Perkins is available, and she could win an Oscar with a massive, cinematic voice like hers. Her first number, a brassy cover of Sia's "Chandelier" (the "Mount Everest of singing," according to Adam, and a "beast of a song," according to host Carson Daly) was epic — in the actual, non-slang sense of the word. Such drama! Such pomp! Such circumstance! It was fantastic to see the typically leather-sheathed, fist-pumping rock chick be so elegant, such a grande dame. "I don't know what the hell else you could do this week that would be better than that. You have shown yet another layer of what you're capable of doing," said Blake. Adam declared, "This girl has fought her way through two elimination weeks and deserves to fight her way through the last elimination week. I can guarantee she should be [in the finale]." We shall see. Kat definitely made a good case for herself here.
Kat kept it classy with a powerful cover of the "Frozen" mega-anthem "Let It Go," dedicated to the children she nannies back home. This allowed her to show off her softer side (the family that employs her was sitting in the audience), and while she did struggle with some notes in the middle, she totally brought it home in the end. Was this enough to finally keep Kat out of the bottom two? Probably not, but it was a more than respectable effort. "It was a classic performance. You killed it. You buried it," said Usher. "As far as vocals are concerned, it does not get better than Kat Perkins," insisted Adam.
CHRISTINA GRIMMIE (TEAM ADAM)
Christina has always been a frontrunner, but she (or more specifically, her coach) may have faltered this week, leaving an opening for Kat or Kristen to squeak through to the top three instead. Christina's first cover, of Imogen Heap's "Hide and Seek" (probably better known to mainstream viewers as the song that provided the hook for Jason Derulo's "Whatcha Say") was a major risk. But it wasn't risky because Imogen Heap is a somewhat obscure artist. The risk was the fact that more than half of her performance was sung through a vocoder. Now, I love me a good vocoder, whether it's on a funky Zapp classic or a Daft Punk floor-filler, but on a vocal competition called "THE VOICE," such a bold stylistic choice could've been too alienating. Some naïve viewers may have even thought she was being Auto-Tuned, when of course Christina is a powerhouse whose voice needs no technical tinkering. "I do have to be a little constructive. In the beginning, I was a bit disconnected; I wasn't connected until you actually started to sing without the vocoder," admitted Usher. "When I first heard about you using a vocoder, I was a little hesitant about the outcome, but I think it was pretty cool," shrugged Shakira. Adam defended his decision, saying: "I like to try and push things with my team. We don't want to sit here and do karaoke. We want to surprise people, impress people. People can be uncomfortable a little bit, and embrace some music they have never heard before. I think we are injecting something refreshing and different into this show, and I stand by it."
Christina ditched the vocoder for her second performance, of fun.'s "Some Nights," and while her vocal was strong here (that glory note at the end was everything), there was a lot going on to distract from that. Balloons! Day-Glo drummers! A weird Elvis-does-Vegas jumpsuit! Blake said it was Christina's "biggest departure," but said he "liked the hell out of that." Shakira said, "Regardless of what happens here, I think that you have so much to offer. You should continue doing what you are doing, because you are so creative." This sort of seemed like a passive-aggressive kiss-off, so once again, Adam got defensive, saying: "Sometimes when you are on the show and you want to win, you can lose sight of the artist that you are… You are sticking to your guns and doing what you love, never pandering to get a response. This was a week of unique choices. I'm such a huge fan of that." We'll soon see if viewers were fans, too.
JAKE WORTHINGTON (TEAM BLAKE)
While Christina and Adam took major risks, Jake and Blake stuck to what Jake does best: good-ol'-boy country. Literally: He did Waylon Jennings's "Good Ol' Boys," aka the "Dukes of Hazzard" theme song. It was a bit of a novelty (Jake has struggled with novelty songs before; check out his rejected Season 5 audition for proof), and not exactly the kind of tune that best showcased his vocal range. But it was a fun, feelgood, nostalgic performance that played to his loyal base. Even Usher, who freely admitted that he's not a country music fan, enjoyed this, saying: "You completely sold me on that moment." Adam called Jake "as real and genuine as it gets." Then Blake got up on his soapbox, proudly proclaiming: "You're somebody that needs to be on the radio in country music. We need a young guy who is proud to represent traditional country music the way that you do." I could practically hear bald eagles flying overhead, stars 'n' stripes flags flapping in the breeze, and apple pies caramelizing in Betty Crocker ovens across the U-S-of-A as Blake testified.
Bryan Adams's '80s power ballad "Heaven" may have seemed like a risk for Jake's show-closing second song, but Jake was clearly inspired by the more recent Jason Aldean version. So once again, this was a perfect fit. Despite having some throat issues, Jake actually delivered his greatest, most connected, most heart-warming performance of the season. "I am so proud of you, Jake. I'll be proud to share this stage with you every night for the rest of my life, man," raved Blake. "That's what makes a great country singer. You are the real deal, man. You stand up there and give it your all." And with that, Jake's fate as a top three finalist was all but sealed.
So now, it is prediction time. I think it's safe to assume that Josh (duh) and Jake will make the finals. But who will snag that third spot: Kat, Christina, or Kristen? At one time I thought Christina was a shoo-in, but now I think it will all come down to Monday night's iTunes sales — and Tuesday night's suspenseful sing-off for the Instant Save (although, since that is a Twitter-based gimmick, Christina, with her more than 400,000 followers, would probably prevail).
Is it possible that Christina could be shut out? Or that Kat could pull off a major upset? Or that neither of them will make it, meaning that Team Adam will be knocked out of the running? Tuesday's results show is obviously going to be a real nail-biter, so tune in then and find out.