The Voice recap: The semifinals begin with the top eight performing

The semifinals kicked off on Monday’s edition of The Voice, a show that saw the remaining eight artists compete for America’s vote, advised by their coaches, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Gwen Stefani and Alicia Keys.

The eight semifinalists each performed a new song on his or her own, and a duet with another artist.

Host Carson Daly announced that in a Voice first, the duets, in addition to the solo performances, were eligible for viewer votes by downloading the song on iTunes or by tweeting, using a special duets hashtag. Both duet artists would each receive one vote.

Here are the highlights of Monday night’s show:

Hunter Plake, representing Team Gwen, kicked off the show with U2’s “With or Without You.” Gwen felt that after proving that he could put his own spin on popular songs, this would be a chance for Hunter to demonstrate his vocal abilities. All the coaches, including Gwen, agreed that it was Hunter’s strongest performance.

Next, it was Team Alicia’s Vanessa Ferguson and Chris Blue teaming up for a duet on Alicia’s “I Got You.”

Team Blake’s TSoul tackled “Ain’t No Way,” by Aretha Franklin, chosen by Blake because it was right in the R&B singer’s wheelhouse. All TSoul needed do was “swing for the fences.” After the performance, Blake said he was proud of his artist for making the most of his time on the show.

Brennley Brown, 15, representing Team Gwen, stepped out of her comfort zone, showing her energetic side on Sara Evans’ “Suds in the Bucket.” Afterwards, Gwen noted that Brennley’s confidence came out in the performance.

Plake returned for a duet with Team Blake’s 15-year-old singer Aliyah Moulden on James Bay’s “Let It Go.”

Blake’s country artist, Lauren Duski, put her spin on Shenandoah’s “Ghost in This House,” which he believed would spotlight her ability to tell a story. After Adam noted that it was refreshing to see an artist sing a song that “doesn’t require much effort,” Blake argued that the tune was actually quite difficult, and praised Lauren for nailing it.

TSoul returned, joined this time by Team Adam’s Jesse Larson for Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish.”

Team Alicia’s Chris Blue returned, getting back to his gospel roots on Tamela Mann’s “Take Me to the King.” Afterwards, an emotional Alicia called the performance “moving.”

Ferguson’s solo performance was “Superstar,” by Luther Vandross. Alicia, addressing the camera, explained that the song would remind viewers that Vanessa – who nearly got voted off last week – deserves to go forward in the competition. Alicia rated the performance “incredible” and “unbelievable.”

Brown and Duski – who went head-to-head as members of Blake’s team in the battle rounds – returned for a duet on LeAnn Rimes’ version of the Waylon Jennings classic, “Good Hearted Woman.”

Larson – Adam’s last remaining artist – returned for a solo performance on Chris Stapleton’s “I Was Wrong.” Adam noted before the performance that Jesse belongs in the competition and deserves to win. Afterwards, he urged the viewers to help Jesse “get to the promised land.”

Aliyah Moulden closed out the show, with a cover of Mercy Me’s “I Can Only Imagine,” which Blake noted was “emotional and inspirational.” Following the performance, Blake called Aliyah “the model Voice contestant,” explaining that she was someone with raw talent who could develop into a polished artist.

The Voice returns Tuesday night at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

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