It’s time for a new season of The Voice. Gone are the memories of Sawyer Fredericks. We’ve traded the blonde locks of Christina Aguilera for Gwen Stefani, and those red spinning chairs have all been greased and ready to do their jobs. Our new season starts with Gwen Stefani going country with a cover of Blake Shelton‘s “Neon Light” and Shelton returning the favor by covering No Doubt‘s “Don’t Speak.” This musical synergy continues with Pharrell Williams covering Maroon 5‘s “Sugar” and Adam Levine singing Pharrell’s familiar refrain from Daft Punk‘s “Get Lucky.” But who will get lucky during the new season of The Voice? It’s time to find out.
Mark Hood gets the night started off with his energetic take on Bill Withers‘ “Use Me.” You notice all four judges immediately perk up upon hearing Mark’s soulfully smooth take. Adam and Pharrell turn simultaneously, Gwen significantly after and Blake a little after her. Seeing he has all four chairs does not deter Hood who continues to play to the crowd, dancing and “high fiving the stage” upon completion of the song before completely losing his mind to the judges. During his pre-performance package, he admits that he’s been a fan since the first season and would love to be on Blake’s team, but when put on the spot, he admits he’d like to make music in the style of “John Legend meets Pharrell.” Blake pulls out a Pharrell-style hat to diffuse what seems like a slam dunk, but a conflicted Hood eventually chooses Team Pharrell.
Early in the episode, it looks like old school soul is getting the spotlight. Kota Wade, singer for a band called Bad Wolf, steps up to the plate with Sam Cooke‘s “Bring It On Home to Me.” Gwen, Pharrell and Blake all turn fairly early in the performance, but as the performance goes on there are a few instances where it seems she’s a little out of breath. But her powerful vocals at the top of the performance is what earned the three-chair turn and Gwen gives a hard sell. Blake calls Kota a “modern day Cyndi Lauper,” In the end, it’s an easy decision for Kota, who picks Gwen.
Irish rocker Keith Semple of Chicago’s Seventh Heaven admits to growing up on a steady diet of the Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Bryan Adams and Bon Jovi, so his choice of Bon Jovi’s “I’ll Be There for You” doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Blake tries to get Gwen to turn, but ultimately it’s Adam who turns first, with Gwen getting in during the final note. Semple stayed fairly true to the Bon Jovi original, but may need more dynamic choices moving forward to break out from the pack. Adam goes in for the sell and ultimately wins out of Gwen. Having seen Semple perform with Seventh Heaven, this reviewer knows there’s greater things in store that what we got on this opening night.
From her pre-performance package, you likely had doubts about 15-year-old Siahna Im, who came off as quiet and perhaps not ready for the big time. But as she stated, she’s an old soul and her performance of “Fever” had Gwen Stefani right from the start. Gwen turned a chair after the first three words. Blake and Pharrell follow midway through and Gwen attempts to shield Siahna from Blake. For such a young voice, she’s got the smokey sound deserving of the three-chair turn. Immediately Siahna makes a reference that let’s the other judges know that Pharrell has the inside edge. Despite Gwen’s enthusiasm, it’s Pharrell who wins, especially when he approaches Siahna onstage.
Next up, The Voice gives viewers a chance to see what it’s like for judges as they don’t reveal the identity of the next performer, only allowing the voice to be heard. It’s a good choice as the vocals, while smooth, don’t clearly tip either male or female and given the choice of Sia‘s “Chandelier” as the song, it’s likely everyone was expecting a female. Blake turns first, followed soon after by Gwen and Pharrell, with Gwen appearing truly shocked. Adam is the last to turn as Jordan Smith shows off his tremendous range during the song. Gwen immediately runs up to hug him after the performance. All four judges go all in on Jordan, especially after sharing his stories for embracing his uniqueness, but ultimately Jordan gives Adam the frontrunner he’s longed for.
Nadjah Nicole is next up, and while her fast-paced delivery of Janelle Monae‘s “Tightrope” initially generated little interest amongst the judges, once she hit a few of the high notes and hopped out of the comfort zone, Adam immediately turned. Gwen and Pharrell debated and at the last minute, Blake got in, much to Adam’s dismay. While Adam pushes for Nadjah, Blake makes a solid pitch as well and ultimately Nadjah surprises most by going with Blake.
Teenager Braiden Sunshine had an early start in music with the band Silverhammer and shows he’s well beyond his years with performance of Blues Traveler‘s “The Mountains Win Again.” While solid, it appears that this teen’s voice needs to fill out a little more. At the last second, both Pharrell and Gwen turn. Pharrell admits that there’s some things that need work, Gwen echoes that thought and adds that being a mother will help her in terms of getting to what needs to be done. The youngster picks Gwen.
The final performer of the night ends up being Barrett Baber, a survivor of an airline disaster, who takes on Jeff Healy Band‘s “Angels Eyes.” Adam and Blake turn simultaneously, with Pharrell and Gwen shortly after. With the coaches turned, he upped his game with stage presence and hitting a few notes with force. Adam gives the hard push, Pharrell admires his soul and Blake appeals to his country side. While he offers his appreciation to all the coaches, ultimately he picks Blake.
And so night one comes to a conclusion, with each of the coaches nabbing two performers.
The Best Lines
- While trying to win over Mark Hood, Blake pulls out a hat similar to Pharrell’s, but as Adam Levine astutely states, “Pharrell looks super cool in it, while Blake looks like the captain of the Love Boat.”
- “Let’s be fair. Blake’s not just a bad coach on paper. He’s a bad coach in general.” – Adam Levine, riffing off Blake Shelton admitting he might not seem like the right coach for Kota Wade.
- “I don’t know if I’m happy or really scared.” – Jordan Smith after getting a four-song turn with Gwen Stefani running up to hug him before an introduction was made.
- “This is like a custody battle.” – Blake Shelton, viewing the battle between Gwen and Pharrell to win over 15-year-old Braiden Sunshine.
Night 1 Rankings
8. Braiden Sunshine (Team Gwen)
7. Nadja Nicole (Team Blake)
6. Kota Wade (Team Gwen)
5. Sianha Im (Team Pharrell)
4. Keith Semple (Team Adam)
3. Barrett Baber (Team Blake)
2. Mark Hood (Team Pharrell)
1. Jordan Smith (Team Adam)
***Who were your favorites from tonight’s Blind Auditions? Did we get the top 10 right or is your list entirely different?? Feel free to comment below!
The Voice returns with the next round of Blind Auditions Tuesday night at 8PM ET/PT on NBC.
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