Blake Shelton: 'The Voice' Country Competitor
Blake Shelton: 'The Voice' Country Competitor
When The Voice went looking for a country music star to fill one of its chairs, it found the perfect choice. Maybe even the only choice - because there's no hotter star in the country genre right now than Blake Shelton. He has 11 number-one singles, is a two-time CMA Male Vocalist of the Year and multiple Grammy nominee, and is married to multiple CMA Award winner Miranda Lambert. That's a resume other musicians dream about having.

Once he came aboard The Voice last season, Shelton established himself as not only a phenomenal musical talent, but an entertaining TV personality. His banter has contributed to some of the reality show's most memorable moments, be it a running joke about a fishing trip with Christina Aguilera ("Yeah, I'm gonna drown you," he told her) or his ability to be self-deprecating ("I know I'm country, I couldn't understand one word he was saying," he quipped after opera singer Chris Mann's blind audition).

"I just want to have fun," he told me during a recent interview, and he is the most fun of the four Voice coaches to be around. Case in point: knowing that I'm a die-hard Team Adam supporter, he not only dared me to wear a Team Blake T-shirt, but his publicist actually sent me one. When I wore it to a taping, he then complimented me on my choice of wardrobe. He always seems to get the last laugh.

While his professional success is awe-inspiring and his sense of humor side-splitting, Shelton's greatest accomplishment is what he's done as a coach and as an individual. For one, he's free of ego. There's a Hollywood Reporter interview in which an executive producer recalled working with Shelton on Clash of the Choirs, where the country star made his coaching debut overseeing a choir from his native Oklahoma. The producer asked Shelton which luxury hotel he wanted to stay at; Shelton responded that he just needed four parking spaces for his tour bus.

The other thing he noticeably lacks is smoke and mirrors. When Jermaine Paul told the coaches during his blind audition that he was looking for a coach who would keep him, Shelton responded that was something that Paul had to earn (and he has, as one of two semifinalists for Team Blake). And although he had a soft spot for Raelynn, he didn't let that or her being a country artist impact his tough decision to let her go from the competition. "[She] just didn't have a good performance," he said afterward. "It wouldn't be fair to Erin [Willett] to pick her." It was a difficult move, but the fairest one as a coach, and he owned that choice.

He has continued to support his artists long after he's expected to. Following season one, he took runner-up Dia Frampton on tour with him, and lent his vocals to the song "I Will" on her album Red; they're still in regular contact today. After Gwen Sebastian left the show, Shelton took her out on tour with him; she sang backup for him during his appearance at the Stagecoach country music festival this past Saturday.

Shelton has also shown a particular sensitivity toward the younger musicians in his care, acting almost as a father figure and conscious of how much pressure and attention they must handle at a young age. He gave season one semifinalist Xenia the unconditional support to come out of her shell and leave behind her self-described "shy girl" reputation. According to Xenia, he taught her "that my love for music was greater than my fear."

This season he made headlines when he spoke out on Twitter against particularly snarky comments that were made by a blogger about Raelynn. He was unafraid to come to the defense of one of his artists, and unapologetic about saying something. "We all have a job to do," he told me, "and I know that bloggers and critics do, but I just have a hard time with somebody ripping on a kid." Regardless of one's opinion on the actual issue, it was commendable to see Shelton stand up for a member of his team.

To really understand just how much Shelton has really done as a coach, you only have to ask the artists that he's worked with. When I caught up with Frampton during a recent Los Angeles tour stop, she spoke about how grateful she was for his ongoing support of her. Xenia told me how Shelton connected her with one of her favorite artists, Jon McLaughlin. "He surprised me and got a hold of him, and told him about me," said Xenia, who went on to duet with McLaughlin.

The artists of Team Blake season two speak of Shelton with the same appreciation for his time and effort. "Everything that I had hoped a coach would say [Blake] said," Naia Kete told me in a recent interview. "I wanted somebody to get it, and he totally got it. You never forget a moment like that.

"What I love about him is he really is who he is. What you see on TV is what you get when you meet him in person. I feel lucky to have gotten to know him."

As someone who's gotten to know Shelton over the course of two seasons on The Voice, I share that sentiment. Allow me to tell my story because it reinforces how great of a person he is: when he and I first met back in season one, he took an interest in me as an individual, though he certainly didn't have to. When I doubted myself, he encouraged me. And every time we see each other, he asks how I'm doing. He's a music superstar and he's the funniest guy in the room, but most importantly, he cares about everyone, down to this reporter at the end of the press line.

There are many reasons why Shelton belongs on The Voice's coaching panel. He clearly knows the music business. He's got the entertainment part down without breaking a sweat. He truly coaches, going above and beyond his job description. The show wouldn't be the same without him. Hopefully, he'll stay in that big red chair for a long time to come.

You can see more of Shelton as The Voice semifinals air tonight at 8 PM ET/PT and tomorrow at 9 PM ET/PT on NBC.

For more on The Voice, you can follow my Voice-exclusive Twitter at @bigredchairs.

Image courtesy of Warner Music Group