The Blind Auditions on The Voice
season 9 continue. So far, 19 hopefuls have been welcomed onto coach teams and many more hope to join them. Of those singers, only 29 will have the opportunity to choose a coach and begin the wildest ride of their lives.
As for the coaches, we're excited to have Gwen Stefani back in the red leather chair. So far, she's the leader of the pack, having been chosen by no less than six artists: Kota Wade, Braiden Sunshine, Ellie Lawrence, Noah Jackson, Tim Atlas and Hanna Ashbrook. Right behind Gwen is Blake Shelton with five artists on his team: Nadjah Nicole, Barrett Baber, Blind Joe Bommersbach, Zach Seabaugh and Emily Ann Roberts. Pharrell Williams and Adam Levine are tied at four artists each, Pharrell with Mark Hood, Siahna Im, Ivonne Acero and Evan McKeel; and Adam with Keith Semple, Jordan Smith, Regina Love and James Dupre. Which artist will add the most names to their list in this episode? Let's find out.
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Morgan Frazier ("I Want You to Want Me")
Twenty-two-year-old Morgan from Nashville is first up and recalls her first experience on stage singing "When You Say Nothing At All" when she was 7. Her parents have been investing in her music career since she was 9. At 16, she was allowed to live alone in Nashville to work with a recording company. Her story sets the expectations extremely high.
Gwen hits the buzzer after the first phrase and it's clear that Morgan's tale is matched by her talent. Goosebumps just scampered up my arms, people. Though Morgan has tremendous voice control, you can tell that there is so much more to her ability than the little she gifted us with in this performance. Surprisingly, Blake is the only other coach to turn his chair. I don't get it.
Gwen is the favorite this season, with many viewers hoping she'll deliver the first female-coached winner of The Voice; however, Morgan has to go with her gut and choose the guy with all the country music connections.
Result: Morgan chooses Blake
Amanda Ayala ("Mississippi Queen")
Teenager Amanda from Mahopac, NY, says she was born to rock. She had a hard rock band as a young teen and was able to perform in New York at The Bitter End, a venue where many current recording artists got their big breaks. She says she'd like to work with Gwen because of her experience as a female rocker.
Her performance certainly sounds like what you'd expect to hear in a bar at 3am. I can almost smell the beer on the soles of my shoes. Right before her final phrase, Amanda receives a three-chair turn from all of the coaches except the one she was hoping for. Pharrell comments on her tone and power, and warns her not to look straight in Blake's eyes. Adam is happy that she's from New York because that's his turf. Predictably, she chooses Adam.
Result: Amanda chooses Adam
Jeffery Austin ("Lay Me Down")
Midwesterner Jeffery Austin, 24, is from Chicago but lives in Manhattan. He learned to play the piano and sing from his grandmothers but misses his father the most. When he was 9, his father passed away and never got to see Jeffery in all of his stage performances. He studied public relations and got a desk job in New York. Now he wants to follow his dream of being a crazy pop star.
His tone is rich, his pace is spot-on and his passion is infectious. Gwen is the only coach who turns her chair. This just goes to prove that the logic behind the coaches' choices is hard to predict. Jeffery was a better performer than a couple of the artists that turned chairs during the first two episodes of the season. What the hell?
Result: Jeffery is on Team Gwen
Lyndsey Elm ("Lips are Movin'")
Vacaville, CA, is where kinesiology student Lyndsey hails from. Currently, she's back at home working on the family farm with her folks. Her mother remembers her singing the National Anthem as a kid. A tomboy as a kid, Lyndsey got her first guitar when she graduated from high school. She looks forward to working with Pharrell if he turns a chair for her on The Voice. She takes the stage with her own slowed-down version of Meghan Trainor's current hit song and Gwen turns early, followed by Adam and Pharrell -- and it's our first four-chair turn of the evening. I'm not super thrilled with the slower rendition of "Lips are Moving," but this girl certainly has the chops to get to the next step.
Pharrell taunts Lyndsey with his love for songwriting. Adam tries to appeal to their shared history with basketball. Blake is impressed with her willingness to make her own spin on a very popular song by one of the most successful contemporary entertainers of the decade.
Result: Lyndsey chooses Gwen
Joe Maye ("Word Up!")
Tall, beautiful and chocolate, Joe Maye, 23, from Baltimore, has been writing songs since middle school. His first job was on an entertainment cruise ship, which was corny but made him comfortable on stage. He hopes he will make his nephew proud by winning a chance to be coached by one of the superstar coaches on The Voice. For his Blind Audition, Joe has chosen an '80s song, "Word Up!" He's a sexy guy and I thought he did well, but no chairs turn. The look of disappointment on his face when his performance ends is heartbreaking. Pharrell is right: this fail is due to poor song choice. If he had chosen a Stevie Wonder song, he'd have gotten turns. Damn.
Manny Cabo ("Here I Go Again")
Commercial and freelance photographer Manny Cabo, 45, from New Jersey, has always dreamed of performing professionally. A husband of 15 years and the father of a beautiful daughter, Manny says it's not easy paying the bills with unpredictable freelance work. He loves hard rock and will be performing one of my favorite White Snake songs, "Here I Go Again." Whoo-hoo. Manny presents in a black leather jacket and punk gothic retro waist chains hanging over his backside. He looks rough and tough, but he's well manicured with black fingernail polish and a minuscule soul patch on his chin. His voice is dynamic and high quality. Except for a flat note when he slides into a falsetto, Manny shows that he knows what he's doing when he takes ownership of this song. Once again, we have a four-chair turn and Manny struggles to choose a coach.
Result: Manny chooses Adam
Madi Davis ("It's Too Late")
Sixteen-year-old Texan Madi Davis looks like 30 other female teen performers we've seen on the stage. Madi talks about the hearing loss she experienced when she was younger. After reconstructive surgery, her hearing has improved. It doesn't sound like she has any issues with it these days, so I wonder why they even brought it up. Madi has an Indie voice that turns Pharrell and Gwen straight away. She has a unique sound, reminding me a bit of Jessie Pitts from season 7. Madi's runs are tinkly and beautiful. She stays closer to Carole King's original than Lyndsey Elm's take on Meghan Trainor.
Gwen and Pharrell turn almost simultaneously, and the two compete fiercely for the chance to coach Madi. Gwen and Pharrell leave their chairs and get all up in poor, young Madi's little face. She's a little overwhelmed by their reaction and their physical presence. Adam joins Blake in his chair and the two are glad that this competition between the two junior coaches is no longer going to be a Care Bear wrestling match -- but actually, it still is. Love Fest 2015 is what we're watching here, folks. Pharrell pulls out the 'previous winner' card and it does the trick.
Result: Madi chooses Pharrell
Caleb Lee Hutchinson ("The Dance")
Dallas resident Caleb Lee, 16, looks the part of the cowboy that his wardrobe suggests he is. His accent makes him sound like a baby Blake. As a kid, he loved being a Ninja. He seems nervous when he takes the stage with his guitar, but he sounds a lot like what Garth Brooks probably sounded when he was 3, but that's still a hell of a lot better than the rest of us. Unfortunately, Caleb's nerves get the better of him and he's probably not at his best, and none of the coaches turn a chair for him.
Riley Biederer, Cassandra Robertson and Daria Jazmin Turn Chairs
can't cram all 48 full-length auditions (plus some really great ones that just don't make the cut) into the Blind Auditions' measly 10 hours of programming, so some of the performances are relegated to vignette format. What we don't see in this episode are the successful performances of Riley Biederer of Team Pharrell, Cassandra Robertson of Team Adam, and Daria Jazmin of Team Pharrell.
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Chris Crump ("Thinking Out Loud")
The third Texan of the evening, Chris Crump, 31, from Baytown, was home-schooled and played in a family band, despite how uncool it was at the time. He's a newlywed who left his wedding reception (along with his new wife) to go to the tryouts for The Voice. Chris believes that he needs to provide financially in order to be the man of the family. That's how it is in the South, he tells us.
Chris starts out softly, almost at a whisper. It takes testicles to start out that way. When he switches up his register, it gets powerful but retains the intimacy of his entry. This performance does result in some goosebumps from yours truly. Blake teases him for letting his voice go a little crazy once all the chairs were turned. And ... we have our third four-chair turn of the evening.
Result: Chris chooses Blake
Tyler Dickerson ("Hard to Handle")
Hailing from Denham Springs, LA, Tyler Dickerson, 21, works with his father in a fence-building business. His father says Tyler was born to sing. When he was younger, he was known as The Outlaw Kid when he performed all over the place. At that time, Tyler's father quit his own job and made Tyler his number one priority. That's a lot of pressure to put on a kid. How do people live like that? Tyler got signed to a record label, but then the label went belly-up and Tyler was dropped even though he was performing with John Rich of Big & Rich, who says he was one of the most talented kids he'd ever met. Following losing his label, Tyler was in an accident and flipped his van five times.
Right away, Blake swings around as Tyler moves around the stage while singing.
Result: Tyler is on Team Blake
Jubal and Amanda ("Seven Bridges Road")
Amanda has a music school. Jubal's father wrote "Seven Bridges Road," which was made popular by the Eagles. These two artists are from Tulsa. The couple met 18 months ago and the rest is history. Jubal is a single father with one daughter. Their harmony is pretty dang awesome.
Pharrell and Gwen turn their chairs. After the coaches state their cases, Jubal takes a knee and offers a beautiful diamond engagement ring to his partner. She's shocked and thrilled. She accepts, then the two chat privately before announcing their coach choice.
Result: Jubal and Amanda choose Pharrell
With 12 Additional Artists, Where Do the Teams Stand Now?
We're only six hours into the Blind Auditions, with four more hours remaining and 17 more artists who have to turn chairs to make it to the Battle Rounds. Part three of the Blind Auditions added 12 artists to the mix, but how do those teams stack up right now? Here they are:
Team Pharrell: Eight artists -- Mark Hood, Siahna Im, Ivonne Acero, Evan McKeel, Madi Davis, Riley Biederer, Daria Jazmin and the team of Jubal and Amanda
Team Adam: Seven artists -- Keith Semple, Jordan Smith, Regina Love, James Dupre, Amanda Ayala, Manny Cabo and Cassandra Robertson
Team Gwen: Eight artists -- Kota Wade, Braiden Sunshine, Ellie Lawrence, Noah Jackson, Tim Atlas, Hanna Ashbrook, Jeffery Austin and Lyndsey Elm
Team Blake: Eight artists -- Nadjah Nicole, Barrett Baber, Blind Joe Bommersbach, Zach Seabaugh, Emily Ann Roberts, Morgan Frazier, Chris Crump and Tyler Dickerson
The Voice airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8pm on NBC.
(Image courtesy of NBC)