ABC's interactive singing competition, "Rising Star," began its live head-to-head singing duels Sunday night with four contestants advancing and two other acts being sent home after the East Coast vote.
Two contestants were chosen to go head-to-head; a coin toss determined 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 next contestant 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 votes who didn't win their 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.
All the advancing contestants will compete in the quarterfinals.
The ultimate winner receives a contract with Capitol Records.
Here are the highlights from Sunday night: Lisa Punch vs. Alice J. Lee: Alice went first and sang “Wings,” by Little Mix. She set the bar with 69 percent of the vote. Prior to the performance, the experts agreed the best strategy for Lee was to utilize her voice in order to beat Punch’s theatrics. Afterward, all three agreed she was up to the task. Brad voted yes, noting that Alice was a seasoned pro who had the “soul” and “commitment.” Kesha enjoyed the performance, noting Lee’s “energy was great.”
Ludacris believed Alice did her “homework,” agreeing with Kesha that the singer returned with a lot more energy this time. Lee advanced to the quarterfinals.
Lisa followed with a version of Pink’s “Perfect” that fell just shy of the votes needed to beat Alice, earning 66 percent. Earlier, the experts cautioned her that by performing with the wall down, she would have to work harder at engaging the audience with her vocals, rather than her stage presence.
Ludacris felt the pressure of the competition may have gotten the better of her and voted “no.” Kesha liked the performance, voting "yes" and hoping the West Coast would save her. Brad voted “no,” pointing out that he was looking for someone who was ready and Lisa, unfortunately, wasn’t. Punch was ultimately saved by the West Coast and moved on to the quarterfinals.
Sara Darling vs. Megan Tibbits: Megan accompanied herself on the harp during her audition and just squeaked by, being saved by the West Coast. She started things off with “Summertime,” from the Broadway show “Porgy and Bess.” This time, however, she was “ditching” the harp and playing the guitar.
The experts agreed Megan’s ability to play guitar and sing would work to her advantage in a faceoff against Darling, who only sang. Tibbits set the bar with 71 percent of the vote. Kesha voted “yes,” noting Megan’s voice was “phenomenal,” adding she was “obsessed” with Megan and “dreaming” about her.
Brad thought she did great and admired her command of instruments, complimenting her voice as well. Ludacris felt she deserved the title of “most improved,” saying the switch from harp to guitar was a move in the right direction. Tibbits advanced to the quarterfinals.
Sara, who was urged by the experts to do a better job of showcasing her range than she did in the auditions, chose Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance.” She came close with 69 percent of the vote. Brad voted “yes,” pointing out that Sara’s style of music didn’t “project” as well as Megan, who was more of a “gymnast” vocally, but “what she did, she did really, really well.”
He also offered her a chance to sing with him at the Grand Ole Opry next weekend if the West Coast didn’t save her. Kesha voted “no,” admitting she “panicked,” because she had to make a choice, but couldn’t decide. She did, however, compliment Darling on a beautiful job. Ludacris voted no because he didn’t feel the singer gave it her all. Darling was sent home.
Will Roth vs. Jesse Kinch: Will believed getting his “creativity to shine through” was the key to beating Jesse, and the experts agreed. Roth won the coin toss and chose to go first. He sang Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball,” setting the bar with 57 percent. Because of lack of time, Kesha was the only expert who got a chance to comment, declaring the song choice was “genius.” Paisley gave Roth a “yes,” but Ludacris voted “no.” Roth was sent home.
The experts agreed there wasn’t much Jesse needed to improve on, but Ludacris suggested he make eye contact with someone in the audience. Jesse raised the wall with his version of the Allman Brothers Band’s “Whipping Post,” beating Roth handily with 90 percent of the vote. Ludacris, who voted “yes,” declared he didn’t have to say anything because “America has spoken.”
Kesha, referring to a lyric in the song that states, “Oh, Lord, I feel like I’m dying,” told Kinch, “I feel like I’m dying.” She voted “yes,” as did Brad.
To recap, Alice J. Lee, Megan Tibbits and Jesse Kinch advanced to the quarterfinals.
Lisa Punch was saved by the West Coast vote and moved on to the quarterfinals.
Sara Darling and Will Roth were sent home.
"Rising Star" continues next Sunday on ABC.