And we’re back! After a quick three-month break, The Voice is looking for its sixth champion, beginning with a fresh round of blind auditions in front of Adam, Shakira, Usher and Blake. Here’s what happened on premiere night.
Of course, every season has to start with a coach performance, and we have to say Blake and Shakira make an even better pair than Blake and Christina did. They sing Shakira’s “Whenever, Wherever” and Blake’s “Boys Round Here” and improve both songs. Then Usher starts the whole group off on Maroon 5’s “Love Somebody,” which infamously I once screwed up royally in front of Adam (it was his fault, really). That segues into Adam performing “Without You,” which he needs to record immediately. This needs to have happened yesterday. And we close with pyrotechnics, because this show loves those.
Batting leadoff this season is19-year-old YouTube star from New Jersey, Christina Grimmie. You know she’s going to get button pushes, because her audition was leaked awhile ago. Christina sings Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” and immediately gets the attention of Shakira and Usher, followed closely by Adam. Blake seems like he’s going to stay out of the fight, then changes his mind and makes it a four-chair affair. Time to see how the coaches have sharpened their negotiating skills.
“You’re more comfortable than I am up there, almost,” Adam tells Christina. Shakira says she might have been “hormonal and sleepless” during Season 4. Christina makes the choice of going with defending champion Adam, who calls himself “king of the four-chair turn.” Uh, dude, that’s the kind of statement that – while true thus far – is usually promptly followed by someone disproving it.
Carson and his Kia go to pick up T.J. Wilkins in South Central Los Angeles. T.J. comes at us with Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets.” Before he even starts performing, Blake has “a feeling,” and slams his button after just a sentence. Adam is apparently motivated by this (or his known love of Elton John) to do the same. Usher joins the party, too. Then we get our first zinger of the season.
Adam: Everyone seems to be from where Blake is from, which is apparently everywhere in the country.
He and Usher then enjoy Shakira’s pronunciation of “bullets” for a moment before it’s decision time. T.J. signs up with Team Usher, which is the absolute right move for him, especially when we find out after that he’s looked up to Usher “for a long time.” Could he be this season’s Trevin Hunte – the soulful R&B artist who also has a moving personal story that endears him to the audience? We’ll see.
Here comes Kristen Merlin, who has a really awesome name and sort of reminds us of Beverly McClellan if Beverly did country music. Kristen sings Sugarland’s “Something More,” since she once performed with them. Surprisingly, Adam is the first one to turn for her, followed by Shakira. Adam might be faux crying when he pitches to Kristen. Blake tries to sort of explain why he didn’t jump in, and of course he endores Shakira because he loves to stick it to Adam. Shakira’s the first person to pull the Miranda Lambert card this season, and it works.
16-year-old Tanner Linford looks like he’s a lot younger than that. He looks like he’s not out of middle school yet. So in essence, this is exactly where he needs to be. Tanner – who might have raided Pip’s wardrobe minus the bow tie – surprises us by choosing Rihanna’s “Stay” as his audition song. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get anyone to turn around for him. It’s another case of an artist that isn’t quite there because they don’t have the experience yet. That’s become a common theme with this show, and we’d like to gently suggest that some of these teenage artists might do even better if they waited a year or two more before competing. They can’t all be Danielle Bradbery or Jacquie Lee.
There’s a guy named Biff. How cool is that? He’s Biff Gore and he’s singing “A Change Is Gonna Come,” which Will Champlin absolutely owned last season. Biff’s version draws the immediate attention of Adam and Blake, then Shakira and finally, after some delay, Usher. Seeing those four chairs turn makes Biff emotional, and understandably so. We also must give props to Biff’s wife, who’s at home expecting their sixth child while her husband is on our stage. That’s a sacrifice for their family so that he can pursue his goals.
After finding out Biff is a pastor, Adam begs him to save Blake. Shakira tries to say that Adam is too busy planning his wedding to be a proper coach and Usher is preoccupied with his acting career. Adam’s rejoinder to that is a bit lacking.
Adam: Shakira, she’s got like a baby or something.
Thankfully, Biff has our humor base covered, too.
Biff: ‘You’ve got to pick Usher, because he’s got a six-pack.’ I’ve got you beat Usher, because I’ve got a keg, man.
He eventually chooses Team Usher, which we can’t blame him for at all. (And see, Adam? Don’t brag about winning four-chair turns, because then you lose one.)
Next, we finally get a duo! Yes, they still allow duos on this show. Miranda Dawn and Chris Hawkes make up Dunn & Hawkes, which is not to be confused with Brooks & Dunn. Or season one’s Elenowen, which they remind us of with their version of “I’ve Just Seen A Face.” Adam and Shakira make a simultaneous turn for the duo, with Adam enthusing that they’ve just given the best performance ever on the show and seeming like he might explode if they don’t pick him as their coach. It’s pretty freaking adorable, and it wins him the duo. Let’s see if they last longer than his last highly-praised duo, Midas Whale.
Shakira: I don’t know if Blake was trying to help me because he likes me or because he hates Adam.
Leo Gallo is our next performer, and there’s a lot of talk about his dance skills, but as we know that doesn’t get you far on a singing show. Ambitiously, he’s chosen “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, which you may have heard about a billion times already. The song does not showcase his vocals as well as he thought it would, and Leo strikes out. At least he got a tweet from Robin Thicke, though!
Jeremy Briggs can not only sing classic rock and roll, he’s also a former baseball player and current public servant, so basically he can do everything except make Julienne fries. Jeremy’s version of “Bad Company” reels in Blake, who will have to fight Shakira for him.
Shakira: I’m hungry.
Blake: We’ll fix you a sandwich.
Adam: (facedesks, laughing)
Jeremy shocks Blake by joining Team Shakira, and apparently he surprised himself, too.
Second-chance artists are becoming commonplace on The Voice, and this year it’s Jake Worthington, who auditioned unsuccessfully in Season 5 and is now back for more. This time, he draws Adam, Blake (who recognizes him), and Shakira (who gets yelled at by Blake). It’s pretty obvious that Jake is going to Team Blake no matter what either of the other two coaches have to say, and he becomes the first member of Team Blake.
Now it’s Karina Mia, who looks like she’s the fashion cousin of Sarah Simmons, and who’s singing “Beneath Your Beautiful” like the distant vocal cousin of Xenia Martinez. Blake tries to convince Shakira to push for Karina, but she doesn’t want to, and in fact neither does anyone else. It’s lights out for Karina.
Our final artist of the evening is, unsurprisingly, another home run (because who would want to end the episode on a downer?). Her name is Bria Kelly, and you’ve already seen her audition, too. She also opened for Miranda Lambert, apparently. Bria doesn’t have to utter more than a note of “Steamroller Blues” before Adam and Blake decide they want her. Shakira comes into play a few moments later, and Usher is the last person to spin. Everyone gives Bria a standing ovation, which to our eyes (and ears) makes her the super-early favorite. Usher agrees with us, and pours the charm on thick, winning Bria’s allegiance. Never mind everyone else tripping over their words.
Blake: She’s a stud.
Adam: That’s working against you, buddy.
At the end of the night, Team Adam picks up 2 of 12 artists, Team Blake picks up 1, Team Shakira picks up 1 and Team Usher picks up a leading 3.
This opening installment of the show proves that Season 6 is going to be an eclectic one. We already have a number of question marks (in a good way): a young up-and-coming artist who could be a powerhouse (TJ and Bria), an older artist looking for a breakthrough (Biff), a duo (Dawn & Hawkes), a second-chancer (Jake). These are all good stories that audiences will be interested in, in addition to the actual talent of the artists. The best seasons of the show have been when we have amazing artists that the TV audience also loves as people, and we might have that here. But this is only the beginning…
Blind auditions continue tomorrow night on NBC. Stay tuned all season for our recaps, interviews and news behind the scenes here and by visiting BFTV’s sister site, Big Red Chairs (bigredchairs.com).