'The Voice' recap: The blind auditions are a wrap
"The Voice" wrapped up its blind auditions Monday night, with the four coaches -- Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green, Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton -- choosing from highly worthy final candidates to round out their teams of 12 apiece. From here, host Carson Daly explained at the show's end, the teams will proceed to the "battle rounds," in which two contestants from the same team will face off in one-on-one competitions to leave each coach with six artists by the time the live shows roll around.
As a "Voice" rookie this season, I need to ask, is there still button pushing and chair spinning once we move on from the blind auditions? Or will the fancy red thrones be static from here on out? Please fill me in on what lies ahead, "Voice" returnees.
So at the beginning of Monday's fifth and final set of blind auditions, each of the judges had two slots to fill, except Green, who had three. With whom did they fill them?
Whitney Myer, a 25-year-old singer from Reno who tours in a band with her dad and her uncle and just wants "to make a viable living off singing," spun all four judges. But Levine, who spun first, made the most heartfelt plea. "I want you so badly on my team," he said, later adding, "You can win this thing. I know you can," and promising to do everything in his power to help her.
The judges' responses to Myer pretty much sums up their differing styles, wouldn't you say? You have Levine flattering and pleading and expressing devotion in a way that sounds genuine. You have Aguilera dismissing the other judges with a wave of a hand (sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively) and parading her own resume before the contestants while saying things like, "I'm simply the best." You have Green sitting back with that Cheshire Cat smile of his and flirtatiously saying things like, "I pushed my button for you," as if that's all he needs to say, which it often is. You have Shelton expressing sweet admiration and sounding honest and sincere: "Choose me. Don't choose me. I'm a fan of yours. I really am."
You can see how each judge might have their appeal.
The Shields Brothers, a couple of rock-and-roll siblings named Rory and Tristan who live on a farm with their folks in Rixeyville, Va., had – their father bemusedly noted -- never even had part-time jobs, preferring instead to work on their music. Before they went on, one of the brothers said, "We want to punch America in the face with rock and roll, because we think America needs to be punched in the face with rock and roll." Nice. They sang Billy Idol's "Dancing With Myself," and sounded like something you might hear in a high school battle of the bands. But Green spun for them and seemed pleased to have them on his team. OK …
With the next contestant, Cheesa, a woman from Honolulu with a family-struggle back-story and a so-so voice, Green (urged on by Levine) made another questionable selection, proving himself to be an unpredictable judge of talent.
Lex Land, a classically trained singer who does jazz gigs for extra cash and works at a music camp for girls that she said helps both the campers and her feel validated and empowered, spun around Green, Levine and Shelton, and then started nervously messing up on pitch. Shelton zeroed in on the fact that she sounded like she had three different vocal styles, and suggested that one of them, in particular, might be a winner. Land picked him as a coach, later saying she has noted the same disparate tendencies in her voice and hoped to find a clear vocal path.
Orlando Napier, a 25-year-old from Los Angeles who admitted to a feckless past -- partying too early and too long and too hard, landing in jail after a fight -- is clearly ready to turn things around. He played piano and sang "Waiting on the World to Change," spinning Levine just seconds in. No one else spun, however, so Levine's team of 12 was the first to be complete.
"I love my team so much," Levine said. "I believe that I have the strongest overall team." I actually think he just might.
Shelton and Green each had one spot left to fill. Aguilera had two. And ...
Aguilera nabbed Lee Koch, who works at a bakery and said he wants to be a "musician who bakes, not a baker who pursues music." He plays a mean harmonica, too.
Then Green snagged Wade, an 18-year-old fan of "old school" musicians like Al Green, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, who did a solid version of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab," completing Team Cee Lo.
Shelton completed his team with Adley Stump, a Tulsa, Okla., sorority girl who had been singing for only 10 months, but who gave a raspily rousing rendition of "Last Name." Aguilera had been vying for Stump, too. But Shelton won Stump over by telling her country music is about "telling stories" and "learning how to sing with honesty," not just vocal gymnastics. So even though Stump is an Aguilera fan, she went with her heart: Shelton.
"I think the winner of 'The Voice' this year is going to be on my team," Shelton said. "I have no doubt about that." Maybe.
After a few contestants failed to impress her, Aguilera made her final pick, too: Sera Hill, a 24-year-old hotel worker who said Aguilera has long been among her "inspirations." The two dueted on "I'm Going Down."
And the blind auditions are a wrap. I'm sad for a couple of the contestants who didn't make it on Monday night's show -- David Dunn, who won over the crowd, if not the coaches, and Preston Shannon, a real-live, old-school blues and R&B singer from Memphis, who prompted Levine to comment: "He should have been on somebody's team." But hey, we'll only shed more talent from here.
Which coach do you think has the strongest team heading into the battle rounds?
-- Amy Reiter