The three weeks of Blind Auditions on The Voice always make for interesting television. Although they are not as competitive as the Battle Rounds that follow them, and although we get a large dose of many singers who then will lose their Battle Round and never be heard from again, we do get an idea of which singers will be the best, and which will be the fan favorites.
This year, we also got to see the new coaches’ chemistry at its best. In the past, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton have had to carry the friendly banter by themselves, as Cee Lo Green would often do his own thing and Christina Aguilera just wasn’t funny or likeable. Usher and Shakira have been social butterflies by comparison, and all four coaches have gotten along very well. Soon, we will get to see Usher’s and Shakira’s coaching chops in action.
But first, the teams need to fill out the rest of their roster spots. Going into the final week of Blinds, Shakira had already gotten nine singers; Usher and Adam each had eight; and Blake only had won seven. Jeff Lewis started off the show with Usher’s “U Got It Bad,” approximately the billionth time a contestant sang a coach’s song this year. It took almost the whole song before Usher, Blake and Shakira turned around. Predictably, Lewis picked Usher. Lewis was followed by 45-year-old Shawna P., who sang “She Talks To Angels.” I wasn’t particularly impressed with the sound of her voice, but Shakira told her there was nothing like her on American radio. Adam reminded Shawna he was actually from America, but Shawna picked Shakira as her coach.
One of my favorites of the night was 18-year-old Caroline Glaser from St. Louis. For allegedly never having performed for more than thirty people, she did fantastically. Her unique, charming voice and version of “Tiny Dancer” attracted Blake and Shakira. Blake won her over by appealing to her songwriter leanings. I believe Glaser will have the potential fan support to go far in the competition.
Next, we see a young man named Cameron fail to turn a chair with his “As Long As You Love Me,” proving that dancing during a blind audition is a high-risk, high-reward play – you can excite the crowd more easily, which might persuade a coach to turn around, but you can also run out of breath quickly, as Cameron did. After Cameron demonstrated for the coaches, Adam summed it up perfectly: “We can’t hear that!”
Deputy Sheriff Michael “Big Country” Austin persuaded Adam and Shakira – but not Blake, who would have been the obvious match – to turn with his cover of “Somebody Like You” by Keith Urban. We see Blake telling Usher “It’s pitchy” before the end of the song, but Adam mercilessly mocks Blake out for not turning before Michael picks Adam.
All four coaches turned around in order from left to right for thirty-year-old mom Sasha Allen. She wowed all of them with “Not Ready to Make Nice,” starting the first real fight for a contestant all night. Predictably, Blake played the country card (it being a Dixie Chicks song), and Shakira played the girl card. However, Adam’s speech to her about how The Voice changed his outlook on music, and how magical she is, won Sasha over.
Jamila Thompson – Usher. Amy Whitcomb – Adam. Justin Rivers – Blake. Michelle Raitzin – Blake. If NBC can’t be bothered to show us more than five seconds of each of them, we don’t have to worry about them until the Battle Rounds.
Cuban-born Mary Miranda seemed to be Shakira’s from the start. The seventeen-year-old Latin singer has a beautiful voice, she sang “Como La Flor” by Selena, and, of course, she’s a Latin singer. Despite Blake and Usher turning at the end of the song, clearly teaming up to steal her from Shakira, Mary became the eleventh singer on Shakira’s roster. But Blake soon found his eleventh singer in country singer Grace Askew. Another one of my favorites, Askew also turned Shakira with her unique, sexy rendition of “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” but Blake was too enthusiastic for the pairing not to happen. I hope to see her outlast her country competition on #teamblake, but it won’t be easy.
Ryan Innes concluded Monday’s episode with a very soulful cover of John Mayer’s “Gravity.” All four coaches turned their chairs in due time – Adam’s coming just a smidgen earlier than the others. Mr. Levine smacked his button right after the first word of the song, not something the cautious coach usually does. Innes had Blake at the second “Gravity,” and Usher and Shakira were soon to follow. The producers made it seem like a big shock that Innes chose Usher and not Adam, but I wasn’t surprised, for two reasons: Usher was the only team with fewer than eleven singers at the time, and Innes’ talents and soulful style most closely align with Usher’s.
Tuesday’s episode began with Mark Lennon, another older contestant at 49 years old (something I admire about this show), and someone Carson Daly apparently admired in his teenage years… None of it mattered, as he was not very good and nobody turned their chairs. But Jersey rocker Jacqui Sandell changed the mood, getting Blake to turn right away with her sultry rendition of “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac. Usher turned as well, but Jacqui made Team Blake the first full team.
And just as Blake’s team fills up, country singer Amber Carrington appears. Amber’s was the last scarring backstory of the Blinds, having lost her mother to breast cancer. Meanwhile, her version of “Good Girl” caused Adam to sit up quickly. He didn’t have any competition for Amber, who he believes will be “one of the biggest surprises of the competition.” This left Usher and Shakira with the only remaining spots. Luke Edgemon, an R&B singer with gospel roots, turned both of these coaches with remaining spots with his “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” I thought he would lean toward Usher, but Shakira convinced Edgemon with the argument that he could use a coach of a different genre – and supplemented that argument by doing the inevitable and mimicking the signature Usher one-leg-up-on-the-chair thing. This left Usher with whoever was left over. This turned out to be Jessica Childress, and it’s clear Usher decides early on he is going to turn around for her beautiful “Marry You.” He riles up the crowd and stands on his chair before pushing the final button of the Blind Auditions.
Here are the finals rosters of twelve singers each:
Team Adam: Judith Hill, Midas Whale, Sarah Simmons, Karina Iglesias, Duncan Kamakana, Warren Stone, Patrick Dodd, Agina Alvarez, Michael Austin, Sasha Allen, Amy Whitcomb, Amber Carrington.
Team Blake: The Morgan Twins, Danielle Bradbery, Christian Porter, The Swon Brothers, Holly Tucker, Trevor Davis, Savannah Berry, Caroline Glaser, Justin Rivers, Michelle Raitzin, Grace Askew, Jacqui Sandell.
Team Shakira: Mark Andrew, Kris Thomas, Tawnya Reynolds, Cathia, Garrett Gardner, J’Sun, Monique Abbadie, Brandon Roush, C. Perkins, Shawna P., Mary Miranda, Luke Edgemon.
Team Usher: Jess Kellner, Vedo, Josiah Hawley, Taylor Beckham, Chelsea M., Michelle Chamuel, Audrey Karrasch, Orlando Dixon, Jeff Lewis, Jamila Thompson, Ryan Innes, Jessica Childress.
The Battle Rounds begin next, and the audience was given a sneak peek of some of the Battles at the end of Tuesday night’s episode. From what I could see, we know at least five of the pairings: Christian Porter vs. The Swon Brothers, Team Blake; Judith Hill vs. Karina Iglesias, Team Adam; Josiah Hawley vs. Jeff Lewis, Team Usher; Mary Miranda vs. Cathia, Team Shakira; and Taylor Beckham vs. Jess Kellner, Team Usher. In a quick clip of the upcoming action, Cathia complains to Mary Miranda that she sang on Cathia’s chorus. The producers conveniently follow this up with a shot of Usher saying, “We have a bit of a catfight starting here,” even though he is not their coach, leaving us to speculate which two of Usher’s females might also be throwing down.
I wish we could have all been witness to a Morgan Twins vs. Swon Brothers four-part harmony battle, but no dice, as we were shown The Swon Brothers in the studio with Christian Porter. Otherwise, here are three potential battles that I would like to see made a reality:
Warren Stone vs. Michael Austin, Team Adam: Every year Blake must whittle down his number of country artists by pitting them against each other in the Battle Rounds. This year, #teamadam has four country artists of its own, so we’ll see if he adopts the same technique and makes this duo a reality.
Monique Abbadie vs. Shawna P., Team Shakira: With Mary Miranda battling Cathia, who will Shakira’s other talented Latin artist, Monique Abbadie, battle? I can envision her singing a duet with Shawna P. Shawna describes her style as “Earthfunk,” and Monique’s voice sounds to me like it could lend itself to funky music. Can Shakira come up with some Latin-funk song for the two of them? Of course she can!
Ryan Innes vs. Jessica Childress, Team Usher: A male-female duet is inevitable on Team Usher, which features seven women and five men, and this would be the most entertaining. We all would assume Innes would win, but I think it would be a closer, more interesting battle than you would realize and the loser could easily be stolen, a la Trevin Hunte vs. Amanda Brown from last season.