Here we are, at the fifth and final night of Blind Auditions for The Voice
season 9. Going into the final round, Team Adam
, Team Gwen
, Team Pharrell
and Team Blake
have 10 artists each. Two of those competing artists are actually duos, but we are going to refer to them in the singular for simplicity's sake going forward. In other words, Pharrell has 11 individuals on his team, but because two of those are a duo, we will say that he has only 10 artists, leaving him room for two more. Same goes for Adam. Make sense? During this final night of Blinds, Gwen, Blake, Pharrell and Adam will have to be prudent about which vocals they hit their buzzer for because they can only add two more artists each.
The Voice Recap: How Many Four-Chair Turns Does Adam Win? >>>
Though Blake Shelton has by far the sexiest and most commercial artist in Zach Seabaugh, and Pharrell Williams has one of the most dynamic vocalists in Ivonne Acero and others, this season has been hyped as the first slated to be won by a female coach
. Granted, Gwen Stefani has already snagged forces of nature Ellie Lawrence and Jeffery Austin, but our readers voted recently that Adam has the best team so far in his eclectic group of performers, including duo Andi and Alex and soloist Manny Cabo. Perhaps the final two picks for each coach will be the ones that determine who will be queen or king of The Voice
The Most Competitive Night of the Blinds
The evening starts off with a reminder of how tight the competition is going to be in this final round of the Blinds. We get some teasers and a bunch of flashbacks to the performances of some of the hottest artists so far this season.
Blake explains that it helps to have his friends nearby, so he's armed himself with several dozen Blake Shelton masks on tongue depressors and handed them out to his quadrant of the audience.
Dustin Christensen ("Downtown Train")
Utah native Dustin Christensen, 35, says music has been inside him since he was knee-high to a cricket. He's legally blind in his right eye -- though it's not clear if that has anything to do with his skill as a vocalist. Clearly, it's an effort by The Voice to create some drama in Dustin's background where none is really necessary. Now, if he were still wearing the pirate patch today, that would be interesting.
Dustin has chosen an '80s song by Tom Waits which hit #3 on the Billboard chart later that decade when it was recorded Rod Stewart. When Dustin hits the first chorus, Blake spins around, followed closely by the other four coaches, and we have our first four-chair turn of the evening. Wait -- what happened to being picky this time? Though, you have to admit Dustin did a great job with "Downtown Train." Pharrell hears John Mellencamp in Dustin's voice. Blake hears Neil Diamond, then turns to his quarter of the audience where they are waving their Blake masks. It turns out Dustin can't resist multiple Blakes.
Result: Dustin chooses Blake
Berdine Joseph ("Hey Mama")
Berdine is 19 years old from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where they speak French and Creole. She opens her introduction speaking in Creole about her humble beginnings in Haiti. She's wearing a gorgeous head scarf and colorful earrings. She was teased throughout her childhood until she was recognized for her vocal ability when she tried out for Annie.
It's a tight choice. She sounds good, but do the coaches think there might be better performers in the next 15 minutes? Apparently, the coaches are willing to forego what Berdine has to offer in exchange for a peek at what's behind doors two through 14, and no chairs turn.
Dustin Monk ("Bright Lights")
Wait, didn't we already see this Florida native perform? No, that was Team Adam's Viktor Kiraly who looks just like Dustin. Let's see if he does as well as Viktor did. Dustin says he focused on his music in order to deal with his mother's prescription drug addiction. He moved to Florida and joined a band for a while, then became a barber. He says he may look hard rock, but he loves soul and blues. He sure sounds hard rock to me, though.
Adam hits his buzzer. Blake listens intently, while Pharrell focuses hard until he almost goes cross-eyed. Finally, Blake swings around. Dustin goes with the coach who professes to have a lot in common with him in addition to their tattoos.
Result: Dustin chooses Adam
Christina Grimmie Presents Chambray Designs by Kohl's
Christina Grimmie from season 6 of The Voice appears on the screen to announce that she'll be talking to us about the wardrobe choices we'll be seeing on stage this season. If you've been reading my recaps for the past three seasons here and on our America's Next Top Model page, then you know this about yours truly: I love fashion. I especially enjoy watching how the artists' fashion, hair, make-up and accessory choices improve over the course of the season. Of course, we know they are getting professional advice from experts provided to them by NBC and The Voice minions, but nonetheless, it's awesome to watch.
What's in style this year, Christina? Denim in fantastic colors and in varying degrees of distress. It looks like Kohl's is sponsoring Grimmie's segments, which means they are most likely selling the styles we'll be seeing as well.
Chase Kerby ("The Scientist")
What a sweet, sweet man, that Chase Kerby from Oklahoma City. Chase has been working at his mother's candy store for the last five years. He's cute and a major draw for female customers to the candy store. He's been in three bands since he was 17. He says all his friends are married with kids while he's working at a candy store, so this opportunity on The Voice is a big deal to him.
His voice doesn't seem that large or differentiating enough to turn a chair, but Gwen presses her button anyway.
Result: Chase is on Team Gwen
Dawson Daugherty ("Problem")
Dawson, 17, knows how to hang-10. He's a surfer from California and has competed in championships. His youth pastor got him into singing. He's got a mop of curls on the top of his head and wears classic black glasses and a heart of gold, if his exploits with the needy of the world are to be believed (which it sure looks like they are).
He's chosen Ariana Grande's "Problem" for his Blind Audition. That's a pretty tall order for such a young guy, and his voice is whispery and gentle. No one turns a chair.
Shelby Brown ("Stars")
From the tiny town of Elberta, AL, 16-year-old Adele look-alike Shelby Brown works in a taco shop that sells clothing, bait and tackle, and gasoline. She's stinking adorable, but the town is so small that the only performing venue is the local bowling alley, where she has twice won the annual karaoke competition.
The moment this powerhouse hits the high notes of "Stars," Blake and the rest of the coaches swing their chairs around. Country music oozes from her appearance, her accent and her commentary. The judges fall all over themselves to woo this young artist. Adam and Blake argue over who has the most music from The Voice downloaded on their iPod. Blake says he has butt loads. True confession: since I've been covering The Voice, most of my music is iTunes recordings from The Voice. Is anyone else out there like Blake and me? Shocking the hell out of everyone is Shelby's coach choice. Team Adam is now complete.
Result: Shelby chooses Adam
Amy Vachal ("Dream a Little Dream")
Twenty-five-year-old Amy Vachal from Brooklyn, NY, credits her father as inspiring her to be the musician she is today. Mr. Vachal used to sing in a Grateful Dead cover band when his daughter was as young as 3. She's also into painting, which she says is an extension of her music.
Guitar-clad Amy saunters onto the stage and begins to sing, inspiring the first goosebumps of the evening. All three remaining coaches pound on their buzzers before she gets very far into her performance. Gwen begs Amy to overlook how handsome Pharrell and Blake are and to become her own beautiful Pocahontas, fairy princess, angel-like singer in this competition. Pharrell says he would be unbelievably appreciative to help Amy create a new genre of music. Blake tells her he's just happy that Amy is on The Voice this season. I'm with Blake.
Result: Amy chooses Pharrell
Blaine Mitchell ("Drops of Jupiter")
Wait a cotton-picking minute, people. What is this, another repeat performer? Didn't we already see this guy? No, that was Blaine's doppelganger, Tyler Dickerson. Blaine, 24, is from Fort Worth, TX, and he's a lot cuter than Tyler, but can he sing as well as his predecessor?
Well, well, well. Blaine kicks the poo out of "Drops of Jupiter." He is dynamic, adorable and has incredible passion and energy. This is the second goosebumpy performance of the evening.
Blake does everything but propose to Blaine. Gwen says she's played in bands with men her whole life and that makes her a good choice for a coach. For a moment, it looks like Blaine will surprise us all by choosing Gwen, but then he goes for Blake, completing Blake's team. Now the only teams yet to complete are Pharrell's and Gwen's.
Result: Blaine chooses Blake
Summer Schappell ("Strawberry Wine")
Summer was raised by her grandparents and has opened for big names such as Little Big Town, LeAnn Rimes and Josh Turner. Hailing from Redding, CA, the 21-year-old has been performing since she was about 14. She's also recorded an album, but it's prohibitively expensive to continue to do that on her own, though her grandfather says they will live under a bridge and eat garbage if that's what it takes to keep Summer performing.
She's fantastic. It is a magical performance. Her voice is sweet and sultry, but it takes over half of the performance before Pharrell and Gwen hit their buzzers. Neither Gwen nor Pharrell are country singers, but they are both excited to have the chance to work with Summer. Summer makes her choice and Gwen's team is now complete.
Result: Summer chooses Gwen
Caroline Burns ("A Thousand Years")
With only one more spot available and 18 minutes left on the clock, 15-year-old Caroline Burns takes the stage. I'm thinking this has to be a sign that she isn't going to turn a chair; otherwise, we'd have nothing to do with the remaining 10 minutes of the show, but here we go. A diminutive waif from Hollis, NH, Caroline usually gets to order off the kiddy menu at restaurants. Pharrell is the only coach left. Caroline has a big voice with great control over her range.
Pharrell doesn't turn his chair. The judges are kicking themselves. Pharrell says he already has someone with a voice like Caroline's. What's disgusting is that if she had performed in one of the previous two installments, she would have made it to the next round. Pharrell promises her that if she comes back next season, she'll get a four-chair turn. She agrees to take him up on that offer. Hopefully, she means it.
Three More Artists Go Bust
Next, we have a review of Pharrell's team followed by a vignette of three performers that don't make Pharrell's car swing around. Andy Buckner, Justin Harden and Adam Melchor try their hardest and receive comments and advice from Pharrell, but none inspire him to press his buzzer. That means the next artist has to possess the magic Pharrell is looking for.
Sydney Rhame ("Photograph")
Georgia native Sydney Rhame, 16, started writing songs when she was 5. Her biggest fan and number one roadie is her father, Rhett, who has MS. Taking the stage in a burnt orange short suit, Sydney's voice is exquisite. Her range is fantastic and very well controlled. She has a unique vibrato and a rich tenor. After Pharrell hits his buzzer, Blake can't stand being unable to watch Sydney's performance. Blake stands and watches her sing. Adam does the same, as Gwen peeks around the side of her chair.
What is it about this episode and all the goosebumpy performances? This is the third one of the night, but the first that brings tears to my eyes. Well done, Lady Sydney.
Result: Sydney is on Team Pharrell
Previewing the Battle Rounds
The final two minutes of the Blind Auditions' final installment preview several performances coming up during the Battle Rounds, when each coach will pair their artists against each other while performing together. Only one of the two will remain on that coach's team, but the losing artist can be stolen away by one of the other coaches. Joining the coaches to advise the artists for this intense round of competition are mega performing artists who give the competitors the experience of a lifetime and advice that could make or break their careers.
Blake Shelton's team will be advised by Brad Paisley. Adam Levine invites John Fogerty to lend his lengthy lifetime of experience. Missy Elliott joins Pharrell Williams to coach his team. Last, but not least, Gwen Stefani invites Selena Gomez to advise her artists during the upcoming round. From the previews, it looks like it's going to be a kick-ass round.
All Four Teams are Complete
Adam has added Dustin Monk and Shelby Brown to his team. Blake has captured Dustin Christensen and Blaine Mitchell. Pharrell has Amy Vachal and Sydney Rhame. And Gwen has completed her team with Chase Kerby and Summer Schappell.
airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8pm on NBC.
(Image courtesy of NBC)