Just in time for me to bemoan the artist montage, rail against NBC’s CET (Crack Editing Team™), and basically give plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t watch, The Voice returns for Season 12. I’d prefer that they just have one season over the course of the fall and spring, but I’m not in charge; and the network is in the business of making money. The show is something of a cash cow, so they will run it into the ground if the ratings are good and the money rolls in. That’s why, in my opinion, we have two seasons from September to May.
Last night’s premiere, as in seasons past, began with the blind auditions. If you’ve never seen the show, it’s when the contestants come on stage and sing while the celebrity coaches have their back turned to them. I guess now is a good time to mention that the coaches for this season are: returning winner from last season Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Alicia Keys and back for this season, Shelton’s lady love, Gwen Stefani. The goal of the contestants is to get at least one coach to turn around based solely on their vocal performance.
Sadly, three artists on the night did not get anyone to turn around. Skyler Harris, Branden Martin and Shaun Chrisjohn gave their all on songs by Adele (“One And Only”), Travis Tritt (“Here’s A Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares)”) and Ray LaMontagne (“You Are The Best Thing”), respectively. Unfortunately, while the coaches thought each of them had some potential, none of them pushed the button to make their seats turn around.
In order of appearance, here were the eight contestants who will move on to the next round:
Joshua Hunter, who goes by the name JChosen, lead off the night with Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing.” He rated a four-chair turn, as he gave a really good performance of a song that is truly recognized as a Gaye classic. Once again, the history is proven true; the first artist of the season always gets at least one coach to turn around, and often it is three or four chairs. JChosen deserved his chair turns though, and picked Gwen as his coach in what qualified as a shocker.
Next up was Lauren Duski who sang Jewel’s “You Were Meant For Me.” Lauren just moved to Nashville and loves country music, but wanted Gwen to be her coach. While Gwen, Adam and Blake all turned, she chose Blake as her coach. I thought it was a very good performance, if a somewhat surprising coach choice.
Every season has its share of return contestants, and this season isn’t any different. The first one of these to reappear is Johnny Hayes, who didn’t get a chair to turn last season. He returns to sing “Try A Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding. Before the first verse is finished, Adam and Gwen have turned around. It would have been a great performance had he stopped after that; but he had to try and do the ad-lib section like in Redding’s version. There are damn few singers that will touch the big O on that, and Hayes isn’t one of them. But it didn’t matter, as he’d already secured his place in the next round. He picked Adam as his coach.
Next up is Anatalia Villaranda, who sings Bruno Mars’ “Runaway Baby.” Villaranda certainly had the energy for this performance, but I have to admit I didn’t see a four-chair turn coming. Nevertheless, all four coaches turned for her. She chose Alicia as her coach, and it is my hope that she can teach Anatalia some nuance. She won’t be able to power through every song as she did this one.
Next to be heard and approved was Stephanie Rice, who sang “Piece By Piece” by Kelly Clarkson. Rice gave a pretty good performance, though I think other people who watched along with me on Facebook thought more of her performance than I did. Blake and Gwen battled it out to be Rice’s coach, but in the end Gwen got the nod.
Mark Isaiah was the next artist to go through. He performed “Mercy” by Shawn Mendes. The song suited him well, but it didn’t really showcase his voice. Gwen and Adam turned for him, but it was Adam that the youngster chose. Time will tell if he goes far in this competition.
Apparently, the show lowered its age limit from fifteen to thirteen beginning this season. We learned this during the lead-in to Brennley Brown, who is fourteen years of age. Brown sang Keith Urban’s “Stupid Boy.” For fourteen years old, she was pretty good, but I thought her youth would get the best of her because no one had turned through a good two-thirds of her performance. Alicia and Blake turned toward the end of the song. Brown went with Shelton as her coach. Not sure how long she will last.
The final artist to perform was Felicia Temple, who sang “All I Could Do Was Cry” by Etta James. It was nice to see an Etta James song performed that wasn’t “At Last.” Temple did this one justice, with possibly the best performance of the night. Alicia, Gwen and Blake all turned for her, but once she sang with Keys on her hit “Fallin'”, it was a wrap. Temple picked Alicia as her coach, in the least surprising move of the evening.
That’s a wrap-up for the first night of the blind auditions. Tonight’s show promises more of the same. We’ll see if the contestant montage rears its ugly head during the show. I hope it doesn’t, but it most certainly will at some point. As for tonight’s contestants, there are a few good ones who could make it to the live shows, but there are battle rounds and knockout rounds to get through before then.
(photo from Creative Commons via Eva Rinaldi-available for reuse).