Eight hours into this season’s Blind Auditions, and I think we can all rattle off the coaches’ speeches by heart. Gwen will tell you that she’s “just a girl,” but also a nurturing mother who’s been in a band since she was 17. Adam will “fight for you,” and, oh, he’s been on The Voice for nine seasons. Pharrell won last year, and he thinks your voice is truly unique and “other.” And Blake, well, he might not be the obvious choice, but he can introduce you around Nashville.
This show’s format may be running out of steam, but many of tonight’s contestants were a breath of fresh air.
First at the mic is Darius Scott, a 23-year-old from Dallas, Texas, who’s already self-funded and produced his own album. He pulls no punches when explaining how hard it is to make it as an independent artist. This is no sob story, though. I immediately like Darius, because he comes off as one of the few contestants who isn’t selling the made-for-TV version of himself. Also, his take on Usher’s “You Make Me Wanna…” is sexy-smooth perfection. He doesn’t need to pull out any tricks — though he’s certainly capable of hitting any note he wants to hit, as Adam puts it. Everyone but Blake turns for him, and Darius goes with fellow producer Pharrell.
If Darius is totally real, then the next singer up to bat, 20-year-old Korin Bukowski, is his complete opposite. “Hello, Earthlings” she announces in a Wednesday Addams dress. Her take on Andrew McMahon’s “Cecilia and the Satellite” shows off what Gwen calls her “character voice” — Korin has a wide range and a bright tone, though she elongates her vowels in such a way that it almost sounds like she’s singing with a British accent. Whatever she’s doing, it works for her: Gwen was the only coach to turn, but one turn is all she needs.
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After Korin comes another totally different artist. Krista Hughes, from Coal City, W.Va., is the type of classic country singer who’ll make you forget people even wrote this type of music after 1975. She has a rich, deep tone that pairs perfectly with Bonnie Raitt’s “Angel from Montgomery.” All four coaches turn and, once she’s done, Gwen shouts “Thank you for being good!” and all but falls to her knees in supplication. Krista’s sound would complement any of the teams, and they all fight for her; but she’s a country singer, and therefore contractually obligated by both The Voice and the ghost of George Jones to join Team Blake. It’s become increasingly obvious as the Blinds continue that Blake is competing on Country Idol this season, while the rest of the coaches fight among themselves for everyone else.
Up next is 15-year-old Chance Peña. Chance is just a sophomore in high school, but he’s already playing bars and restaurants up to eight times a month. His take on Ed Sheeran’s “I See Fire” is obviously well practiced: He has a powerful tone, and he hits each note with precision. There wasn’t a whole lot of emotional resonance behind his performance, but apparently enough to make Adam Levine turn his chair.
Following Chance, it’s 31-year-old Viktor Király’s time to shine. Viktor was born in New York, but he’s spent the past 16 years living in Budapest, Hungary, where he’s already a bona fide pop star. Viktor came to fame through another singing competition: He won Hungary’s version of American Idol, Megasztár, in 2008 and even has a single featuring D.M.C. Viktor doesn’t just talk a big game. His take on Donny Hathaway’s version of “What’s Going On” has Adam pressing his button before Viktor even finishes the first line. All the other coaches quickly follow. When Blake gets to see who’s singing, he exclaims, “That guy is white?!” Everyone puts up a solid fight, but Viktor chooses his first champion, and joins Team Adam.
NEXT: Blake bonds with the children