ABC's interactive singing competition, Rising Star, concluded its live head-to-head singing duels Sunday night with four contestants advancing after the East Coast vote and one additional singer being saved after the West Coast broadcast. Three other acts were sent home.
Maneepat Molloy, Shameia Crawford, Audrey Kate Geiger and Joshua Peavy advanced to next week's quarterfinals. Dana Williams was saved by the West Coast vote and also advanced to the quarterfinals. Morgan Higgins, Karen Hornsby and the group Unselfish were sent home.
For the duels, two acts were selected to go head-to-head, with a coin toss determining which one would sing first with the wall up. The winner of the coin toss got to decide the order of performance. Viewers who downloaded the Rising Star app were asked to vote “yes” or “no,” just as they did in the audition round. The competing act then sang with the wall down and had to beat the mark set by the first contestant in order to raise it.
The one-hour show aired live on the East Coast, but viewers on the other side of the country had the chance to “save” the performer with the highest-combined percentage of votes who hadn't won his or her matchup.
Host Josh Groban and the Rising Star "experts" -- Kesha, Ludacris and Brad Paisley -- presided over the duels. The "experts" were allowed to vote. So were West Coast viewers, even though they watched the show on delay.
The experts also mentored each contestant before their performances. The ultimate winner receives a contract with Capitol Records.
Here are the highlights from Sunday night:
Morgan Higgins vs. Maneepat Molloy: The experts agreed that Higgins waited too long to show off her range when she auditioned and that she needed to come out swinging this time. Her version of Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” collected 45 percent of the vote, including a "yes" from Paisley, who noted that Higgins was a “pro,” but the 17-year-old still needed a lot of work. The performance didn’t impress Ludacris, who thought Higgins held back and didn’t give it her all. Kesha called the performance “very convincing,” adding the singer “came a long way.”
Ludacris felt Molloy’s voice was “more pure” than her competitor, but she didn’t have as much “energy.” Before Molloy's performance, Ludacris and the other experts urged her to be in the moment. The 16-year-old raised the wall with her version of Sara Bareilles’ “Gravity,” racking up 66 percent of the vote. Kesha voted “yes,” but admitted that she didn’t want to see either singer go. Brad was not as pleased with the performance, calling it “pitchy.” He voted “no.” Ludacris voted “yes.”
Shameia Crawford vs. Unselfish: Crawford, who had to wait for the West Coast to save her last time, chose to go first. Kesha was “on the fence” about her song choice, the standard, “Cry Me a River,” but agreed she “killed it” in rehearsal. Brad’s only suggestion was that Crawford needed to get her nerves under control. She managed to do that and collected 70 percent of the vote. Afterward, Ludacris called her presence “unprecedented.” Kesha agreed, adding the full-time musician and Georgia native “looked stunning” and “set the bar high” with her singing voice. She voted “yes,” as did Paisley.