Were back with The Voice for season 8 after an incredible win by Team Blake’s Craig Wayne Boyd last season. Right off the bat, Blake can’t help but remind us that Craig’s first single debuted at number one on the charts. That means his very first song to hit the airwaves went straight to the top, people. That is a first. I have to admit that I was a Voice virgin when we began the Blind Auditions last season and I have become a die-hard fangirl of the franchise.
My iTunes library is full of my favorites from last season, including Chris Jamison and Adam Levine’s duet “Lost Without You”, Matt McAndrew’s “Blower’s Daughter” and Craig Wayne Boyd‘ “My Baby’s Got a Smile On Her Face” as well as just about everything else by Craig, Matt and Reagan James. Not only are the artist we meet on The Voice unique and inspiring, but their covers of popular songs prove to be better than the originals. I’m back to adding to my collection with this season’s greats and can’t wait to get started.
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The Coaches Rock Out to Lenny Kravitz
Veteran Voice coaches Blake Shelton and Adam Levine return with sophomore Pharrell Williams, and founding coach and Voice powerhouse Christina Aguilera, who open the evening’s events with a rousing rendition of Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way” And we’re off to the races mere moments later as Carson Daly introduces the first contestant.
Sarah Potenza (“Stay with Me”)
Sarah Potenza is a 34-year-old Italian-Americal Rock ‘N Roll powerhouse from Nashville who waits tables and performs with her husband anywhere people will let them. Visually, she reminds me a bit of Dame Edna, but she rocks out almost as hard as Bonnie Raitt, though with less gravel. In the premiere, she delivers a rousing rendition of The Face’s “Stay with Me,” which brings her to her knees and nets her the first four chair turn of the season.
Right away, the coaches are complimenting and wooing Sarah, but she’s gotta follow her dream and her strategy.
Result: Sarah chooses Blake
Lowell Oakley (“Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”)
Nineteen-year-old Lowell Oakley from Durham, North Carolina, is about as teen idol-y as they come. He’s brought his dad, a choir-singing businessman, and his opera-singing uncle Tony with him. Lowell has been singing a cappella and practicing the clean-cut moves of a classic crooner. Lowell’s performance isn’t quite Sinatra, and it just misses the stylistic magic of Harry Connick, Jr., but he does well enough to move forward. It will be interesting to see Lowell venture into other vocal genres going forward.
Adam turns, followed by Pharrell, and both of them get a little dramatic with the pleas for Lowell’s favor.
Result: Lowell chooses Pharrell
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Rob Taylor (“I Want You”)
Rob Taylor from Donaldsonville, Louisiana, is a 22-year-old son of a single mom who suffered a stroke when Rob was in the sixth grade. He learned to sing from his grandparents but turned down the opportunity to study music at Berkeley. He regrets none of it because now he’s on The Voice singing for thousands of music lovers and four of the industry’s hottest performers.
Christina turns almost immediately. When Rob breaks into a falsetto, Pharrell and Adam turn their chairs. All of them go after Rob like they are his only chance to win this thing, but Christina makes the best argument and wants to be part of Rob’s family.
Result: Rob chooses Christina
Ivonne Acero (“Try”)
This 16-year-old songstress from tiny Aguila, Arizona, works in the cantaloupe industry and hides behind dark-rimmed glasses and a set of braces. Visually, she reminds me of Sheldon’s girlfriend, Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik), on The Big Bang Theory. She sings “Try,” but she’s a little flat and she enunciates too much to be artistically interesting. Not far from at least three of the coaches’ minds has to be last season’s Reagan James, whose rendition of the same song blows this little gal straight out of the water.
Cody Wickline (“He Stopped Loving Her Today”)
Fine-featured and handsome, Cody Wickline began his music career singing “Feliz Navidad” in Spanish class. From then on, the 20-year-old Beckley, West Virginia, singer began performing for others outside class. He’s the first in his family to have a heart for music and the first to go to college. The Blind Auditions mark other firsts for Cody, not the least of which is flying on a plane and singing in front of Adam, Christina, Blake and Pharrell. He says he’ll most likely pick Pharrell or Blake if they turn their chairs, not giving Adam any hope for winning his first team member.
Before Cody gets out his first sentence, Adam has already turned. Cody’s voice is sweet and soulful; his trill is distinctly country. As the goosebumps scamper up and down my body, the audience stands in preparation for an ovation. Halfway through the song, Blake turns, followed by Pharrell and Christina near the end.
Result: Cody chooses Blake
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Treeva Gibson (“Young and Beautiful”)
The daughter of two deaf parents, 16-year-old Treeva from Frederick, Maryland, introduces herself in sign language. She herself has lost her mid-range hearing and has to read lips. Though she’s been assured her deafness will never be complete, her heart is still set on being a famous singer. Her voice is soulful, clear and beautiful. Christina turns around almost immediately, followed by Blake who is floored when he learns she has two deaf parents. When she chooses her coach, she does it in sign so her parents will learn her choice at the same time as the rest of the world.
Result: Treeva chooses Christina
Mason Henderson (“Riptide”)
When Mason from Orange Beach comes onto the stage, Carson challenges us to be like the coaches and listen without seeing Mason’s face. All we get is his dark blue jeans and red sneakers. He’s a little overdramatic and no chairs turn.
Meghan Linsey (“Love Hurts”)
Meghan comes to The Voice seeking a second chance at the big life of a performer. At 28, she’s focusing on a solo career after she and her boyfriend experienced significant success as a band called Steel Magnolia. When they broke up in 2011, her life imploded. Since then, she’s been working on a solo career which she hopes to advance with her appearance(s) on The Voice. She admits she’s already opened for several famous performers including Blake. Surprisingly, Blake is the only coach who doesn’t turn around, though he recognizes her immediately after the song ends.
Result: Meghan chooses Pharrell
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Joshua Davis (“I Shall Be Released”)
A 37-year-old left-handed guitarist from Traverse City, Michigan, Joshua Davis reminds me of a young Art Garfunkel. He’s married with a young daughter and another one on the way. His voice is warm and soothing. I can’t place it. It’s kind of like porn in that it’s indefinable, but you know it’s quality when you see (hear) it. That’s how unique and beautiful it is. Blake and Adam turn immediately. Blake says Josh’s rendition of the Dylan classic made him feel like he was curled up next to a crackling fire. Blake, I’m with you. Guess which song will be the first iTunes download for my season 8 collection?
Result: Joshua chooses Blake
Bryce Sherlow (“Cool Kids”)
This Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, native is classically trained in ballet and currently participates In a high school a cappella group that has earned the title of first in the nation. She comes to the stage looking like a fairy princess with braided tresses and a flowy outfit — and you can’t help but want her to succeed, but no one turns. She tells Pharrell that she sang a solo of “Happy” at her a cappella group, so Pharrell asks her to sing it on the spot. He joins her and she’s stiff, but they do a lovely job together. We’ve just witnessed the highest point in that girl’s life to date.
Sawyer Fredericks (“I’m a Man of Constant Sorrow”)
Our final artist for the first evening of Blind Auditions is 15-year-old Sawyer from Fultonville, New York. Sawyer is either a sweet young girl or a boy with the prettiest long blond hair I’ve ever seen. He’s farm grown and used to being around all kinds of animals. He says he’s actually quite shy, but when he opens his mouth to sing a whole new personality emerges. His performances include singing to the chickens in the barn, open mike and farmers markets. Since he’s the final performance of the night, my guess is he’s gotta be good. That’s how they arrange these things.
His first line is, ironically, “I am a man.” If that doesn’t clear up the androgyny question, his voice certainly does. While some voices could go either way, Sawyer’s is most definitely masculine. He is delightful with “I’m a Man of Constant Sorrow” and Christina wants to move in with him with the chickens and cows. He reminds me somewhat of last season’s Taylor John Williams, but with loads more personality. Adam, Christina and Pharrell turn right away, followed by Blake at the last moment.
Result: Sawyer chooses Pharrell
The Final Results
Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera and Pharrell Williams have garnered their first players of the season, while Adam Levine sits all alone, a solo act amid bands of performers. When the Blinds continue for night two, surely Adam will have better luck.
Team Blake: Sarah Potenza, Cody Wickline and Joshua Davis
Team Christina: Rob Taylor and Treeva Gibson
Pharrell: Lowell Oakley and Meghan Linsey
Adam: No one. Nada. Zilch.
The Voice airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8pm on NBC.
(Image and videos courtesy of NBC)