Aside from a little case of deja vu, it feels pretty good to have The Voice back on our airwaves. Season 3 starts with our four superstar coaches taking the stage yet again, this time for a rendition of the Rolling Stones’ classic “Start Me Up” – which A) sounds great and B) is a reminder that no other celeb panel on TV has the street cred that these folks do. Although I could do without the confetti. But let’s get to the competition, shall we?
The coaches have 16 spots to fill on their teams this time, up again from last season’s 12 (though they’re going to be going into live shows with one less artist than last year) so they’ve got some work to do. The first person to audition is Terry McDermott, who’s gone from Scotland to New Orleans in pursuit of his musical dream. He performs The Who’s classic “Baba O’Riley.” Blake yells at Adam to push his button; Adam gets Contemplative Face. Finally, at almost the last minute, both Blake and Adam go in, with Cee Lo following suit. Terry joins Team Blake, which ought to be an intriguing combination. Yet Cee Lo is already talking smack, saying that “I don’t think that [Blake] will” do a good job as Terry’s coach. Ouch.
Who’s next? That’s De’Borah, who says she’s “not into the gender thing” and really loves color in her wardrobe, so it’s a little amusing that when she gets on stage, the camera keeps going back to Cee Lo. Her rendition of Train’s “Hey, Soul Sister” gets both Cee Lo’s and Christina’s attention, and De’Borah joins Team Christina. This is news to Christina, who “really had no idea she was gonna pick me.”
Third in line is Gracia Harrison, described by Carson as an “aspiring country artist,” which means that now it’s time for everyone to automatically look at Blake. Oh, and she yodels. Last time, we had an MC and an opera singer, but this time, we get yodeling. Why not? Gracia’s rendition of “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” near-immediately gets Adam’s attention, followed by Blake, and then Cee Lo. Adam is determined to get the first word in before Blake, telling Gracia that “It makes no sense for you to be on my team, and that’s exactly why you should be.” I love my coach’s suspect logic. In the end, Gracia picks Team Blake, while apologizing to Adam. Not surprised by this at all, Adam decides he’s going to throw a fake temper tantrum before breaking out a pretty darn good Blake impression.
Next we meet Garrett Gardner, who’s singing for his late father and bringing us his version of “Have You Ever Seen The Rain.” Adam is singing along with him, but nobody pushes their button, making Garrett the first person to go home empty-handed in Season 3. The coaches think he needs more time and experience. He gets choked up on stage once he mentions his departed dad, and who can blame the kid? Garrett gets a hug from Christina and then Adam stops him to provide a few more words of encouragement. You wouldn’t see that level of compassion on any other singing competition.
After that it’s Devyn Deloera and her eyebrow-raising choice to sing Christina’s “Ain’t No Other Man” with Christina in the room. Well, it worked for Nakia in Season 1, right? It works this time, too, as Christina pushes her button once Devyn proves that she can belt. Adam and Blake decide that they want to challenge Christina for Devyn, who wants to know who’s going to “keep me around long-term.” Never mind that she hasn’t earned that right yet. Devyn picks Christina. I’m more interested in what Adam reveals: that after Season 2, he signed Tony Lucca to his record label. Congratulations, Tony!
Moving on, Bryan Keith is trying to set himself apart from his Grammy-winning father. He does a fantastic job with his rendition of “It Will Rain,” which is Season 3’s first performance to turn all four chairs. And I’m not going to brag here (much), but he becomes the first member of the third-generation Team Adam. To quote Christina, Bryan has a “signature” voice, and I’m pleased to know he’s on my team, because he’s one of my early favorites.
Next we learn the answer to a question that’s been asked a time or two: you can audition for The Voice again if you were rejected before. We find this out when Daniel Rosa, who didn’t get picked last time, comes back claiming to be a different dude. He tries a rendition of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know,” which for me immediately brings back memories of Lindsey Pavao’s haunting version of it. The second time is the charm for Daniel, who garners button pushes from Cee Lo and Blake, and is immediately recognized by all the coaches. Blake points out “It’s not easy to get here the first time, much less the second time.” Respect. Daniel becomes the first member of Team Cee Lo.
Anita Antoinette’s version of “No Woman, No Cry” doesn’t turn any chairs, but she asks the coaches if she can try singing it again a cappella, even though it won’t do her any good. This second attempt goes over far better, earning Anita a standing ovation, and Blake, Cee Lo and Adam all encourage her to come back next year. That’s only partly comforting for her, though, as she takes it as a sign that she could’ve gotten them to push their buttons after all.
We haven’t lost that part of the show where Carson shocks the bejesus out of people by presenting them with invites to the blind auditions, either. Joe Kirkland shows up with his bandmates, performing All-American Rejects’ “Gives You Hell,” and Adam and Blake have both hit their buttons before he gets past the first sentence. Adam laughs at Blake for trying to use his and Joe’s mutual love of vests as a bargaining chip, but it’s not any stranger than Cee Lo’s using sandwiches to bond with Jamie Lono in Season 2. The “vest card” doesn’t work, though, as Joe joins Team Adam.
Hairdresser Jessica Sharpe feels like a “fish out of water,” being that she’s only recently started singing with a cover band and hasn’t been too far from home. Her take on “Son of a Preacher Man” gets Adam singing to himself, but he’s hesitant to push his button, waiting for something else that never comes. Jessica is the third artist of the night to be headed home, although Blake makes her promise that she’ll come back for Season 4 and Christina comes up to reassure her. After Jessica’s audition, we get the obligatory montage of other artists who didn’t make the cut.
The last artist to audition on night one is Trevin Hunte. I feel for the guy, who had his eighth-grade teacher tell him he was “wasting his time” trying to get into a performing arts school. I’ve been there, and so I want to see this dude make a team just on principle. Christina hits her button for him almost right away, followed by Blake and Cee Lo. Blake is so into the performance that he stands up and is yelling at Adam to join the movement, but my coach remains the one holdout. “I think I’m just scared of the three of you right now,” Adam says when Christina asks him what’s wrong with his hearing. Trevin goes with Cee Lo, and I hope his eighth-grade teacher hears about this.
That means it’s all tied up: at night’s end, Team Adam has two members, Team Blake has two, Team Cee Lo has two and Team Christina has two.
There are a couple of things that give me pause about this season, but they’re all production-related. The blind auditions are moving slowly again this year; there were only five auditions in the first hour. Even allowing for commercials, it does make the show feel like it’s dragging in places. It also seems like the stage is even bigger, brighter and glitzier than before, which I can’t say I’m a fan of. What was honestly annoying, though, were the constant bottom-of-the-screen bugs reminding us that there’s another night of auditions tomorrow; it started feeling like promotional overkill.
Having said that, the heart of The Voice is still beating strong, and that’s in the coaches, who continue to show real care and concern for these artists, whether they make a team or not. That warmth is what makes this show so special. No matter whose team you’re on, we can all appreciate that The Voice truly is about making people better and not tearing them down.
The actual quality of Season 3 can’t be accurately judged until we see how these singers mature through the coaching process – but there are some performers thus far that have gotten my attention. I’m a little surprised at how much younger the teams are skewing this season; maybe I’m in the minority, but one of the things I’ve loved about the show is that it’s given second or third chances to artists who were older or further along in their careers like Kim Yarbrough and Javier Colon. Still, with plenty more blind auditions ahead of us, we’re just getting started.
(c)2012 Brittany Frederick/Big Red Chairs. Appears at Starpulse, Examiner & Fanbolt with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.