Though Cassadee Pope won Season Three of The Voice only three months ago, it’s seemed like forever for the show’s fans. On Monday night, the show returned to its 8 p.m. slot on NBC, with some familiar faces and some new ones.
The first performance of the night was the first collaboration of Season Four coaches Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Usher, and Shakira, jamming out to the Beatles’ “Come Together.” Usher plays a little bass? Shakira was on the harmonica? You learn something new every day.
New coaches Usher and Shakira had their moments in the spotlight when the contestants took the stage, as well. Shakira was, to my surprise, funnier and more charming than I had expected. Only her first day on the job, and she was already mimicking Blake’s finger-pointing-at-himself thing. Anyone is an improvement over Christina Aguilera, anyway. Usher, too, had his highs and lows in the episode, which will be chronicled below.
Why not have the very first blind audition of the season feature identical twin ladies? asked NBC. Better yet, the Morgan Twins got all four coaches to turn their chairs. I think their singing was a little overrated, and their staying power on the show is boosted by the added star potential of being twins, but don’t get me wrong – they were good. Team Blake seemed like a good choice for them.
Jess Kellner may be lost in the shuffle of other great singers, but don’t forget this one later on, friends. Though she showed obvious shades of Adele that Adam pointed out, Shakira thought her voice was “like silk,” and I found myself agreeing. Kellner, however, chose Usher over Shakira.
Shakira would get her first pupil soon after, though, by snagging Mark Andrew, who soulfully sang “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.” Why choose her over Mr. Levine? “I don’t think my wife would ever forgive me if I didn’t go with Shakira.” Apparently the Universal Law of Adam Levine Attractiveness does not apply here.
I was glad that the next singer, Janetza Miranda, got no chairs to turn, not even Shakira’s (which had turned for each and every artist up until that point). She told Carson Daly that one of the genres of music she sang was Bachata, and when he asked what that was, she gracefully replied, “It’s kind of like, Bachata!” Good for you, honey. Your “Titanium” wasn’t even good. What I did not appreciate was her sobbing onstage like her puppy had just been shot, tears an Adam Levine hug could barely quell. Voice contestants aren’t about all that, girl. Your life isn’t over.
Then came the wonderful Danielle Bradbery. The sixteen-year-old country girl sang “Mean” better than Taylor Swift and came across as Season Two’s Raelynn, without the “sassy” attitude. Usher hilariously bribed her with Justin Bieber tickets, but then got himself in big trouble by declaring that “Nashville is a state.” He would make fun of himself later on, but that doesn’t look good on your first day on the job. Anyway, Usher never had a chance against Blake, who will get another chance to take a pure country singer to the finals. Bradbery is a sweetheart, but if she advances, producers will need to find a more interesting backstory than “I got teased for my crooked teeth.”
Speaking of which, winner of most scarring and heart-wrenching backstory of the night clearly goes to Vedo, who takes us into his home and details his mother’s terminal illness (she could very well pass away during Season Four). Then he sang Justin Bieber, specifically “Boyfriend,” which only Usher turned around for. I was surprised, since singing a coach’s song in the blinds rarely rewards you with that specific coach turning around, but Usher got himself a great singer and didn’t have to fight for him.
Christian Porter was sexy and he knew it as he performed his pop-acoustic rendition of the LMFAO hit. I really liked him, but I fear that when the competition gets tougher, he may fall into the attractive-male-singer-who-sticks-around-a-little-too-long category. After Porter chooses Blake, I believe Blake has two excellent singers who aren’t twins, and better than the Morgan Twins. We’ll see how they all do in the battle round.
I was rather surprised fifteen-year-old Leah Lewis didn’t get a coach to turn around. The Florida girl adopted from China sang “Blown Away” with a unique touch, and Adam pointed out that at only fifteen, she’s going to have an amazing career. I hope she tries out again next season. Then came Kris Thomas, who sang Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love for You” almost entirely in falsetto, turning only Shakira and causing Usher to remark, “You’re a dude! Yo.” At this point, Blake has already reached three performers, Usher and Shakira have two each, and Adam Levine, who usually snags most of the top talent, has still yet to win over a single singer. Don’t worry, fans: it’s because he has a discerning ear. And he always wins some of the best talent in the end.
The producers did not kick their perennial habit of relaying extra-scarring backstories of good singers who then fail to turn a single chair. We are only allowed to root for James Irwin for his one and only segment, during which he tells us how his twin daughters only lived for ten minutes due to health complications. We want to be entertained, not cry if there’s nothing to root for afterwards.
Of course, the best is saved for last. Judith Hill almost seems to have an advantage over every other singer in the world. She was hired to be Michael Jackson’s duet singing partner for the This Is It concert, and was asked to sing at his memorial service. Hill, who has also collaborated with America’s Got Talent winner Landau Eugene Murphy, absolutely killed not-current coach Aguilera’s “What a Girl Wants” and deservedly turned all four chairs. I had a feeling the first night wouldn’t end without Adam scoring at least one (great) singer, and my hunch was right – Hill chose Adam, and no coach went home empty-handed.