As the blind auditions come to a close, the coaches fill out their octets with fresh blood and a few familiar faces
Welcome back to The Voice, the new singing competition with a set of rules so complicated and arbitrary they make Calvinball look logical. Last week, NBC’s latest reality experiment debuted big: 11.8 million people watched its premiere, while 6 million more feasted their eyes on an encore presentation of the show. That meant the pressure was on tonight. Could the series’ second episode keep last week’s viewers interested while also winning over those who were tuning in for the first time, curious to see what all the fuss was about?
I’d answer that question with a medium-strength “yes.” It’s true that The Voice managed not to lose too much momentum in Episode 2. But that may have been chiefly because these two hours were so overstuffed that the night’s big twist — eight singers who initially had been rejected were given a second chance to wow the coaches — came and went in the blink of an eye. I’m not saying that the show should have saved these redos for a whole other episode; three weeks of blind auditions would have been too much of a good thing. Still, the end of the team formation round felt rushed and a bit anti-climactic, especially since we only saw one singer get turned down twice. Hopefully they’ll work out these kinks before the show’s inevitable second season.
But I digress. Let’s get down to what really matters: the nitty-gritty details of Blind Auditions: Back 2 Tha Hood. Carson Daly, a veteran who started emceeing when baby Brian was just a twinkle in Mr. Dunkleman’s eye, started off by reminding us that The Voice is searching for America’s best “undiscovered singers.” (Uh… how exactly does NBC define “undiscovered,” do you think?) He reiterated a few of the competition’s labyrinthine rules — for a full rundown, check last week’s recap — without mentioning others, like the fact that here, duos are for some reason treated like solo singers. Then we met the night’s first hopeful, backup vocalist Cherie Oakley.
Cherie’s straightforward country rendition of Miranda Lambert’s “Gunpowder and Lead” failed to move any of the coaches — including Blake Shelton, who happens to be engaged to Miranda — until she hit her last big note. That final belt was powerful enough to persuade Christina to punch her big red button and welcome Cherie onto her team. Though Adam wondered whether Cherie may have been too aggressive with the song, Xtina literally waved his comments away as if to say, “THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A VOICE THAT’S TOO BIG! CREOLE LADY MARMALAAAAADE!” At least the lady is consistent.
Cherie was followed by 19-year-old Devon Barley, who’s cute as a button and apparently also a prodigy; he’s somehow already in medical school. (Perhaps he got an early leg up because his parents are both “in the medical field,” sorta — Dad’s a chiropractor and Mom’s a dietician.) He sang Jason Mraz’s “I”m Yours” so smoothly that I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t pop up on an upcoming episode of The Mellow Show with Jack Johnson. Both Adam and Cee Lo wanted him; because Devon must secretly have a playlist that’s just “Sunday Morning” on an endless loop, he chose to join the Maroon 5 frontman’s squad. As Devon rejoiced backstage with his parents, Carson quipped, “You couldn’t be further away from practicing medicine now.” Oh yeah, Daly? What if instead of singing, he was making people sick on purpose?
NEXT: “Lemme get that name for you. You dropped it.”29-year-old Josh Hand thought whining the words to “Paparazzi” without bothering to sing the song’s actual melody would be wacky enough to secure him a spot on this show. He was wrong. 16-year-old Raquel Castro, whose hair is so lustrous and long it probably possesses healing powers, had better luck. Her overly dramatic take on “Bleeding Love” charmed Christina, who has quickly proven herself to be the most predictable coach. (Later on in the show, she was similarly won over by teenager Julia Eason‘s melismatic “Mercy.”)
I was immediately sold on the next contestant when Carson revealed that her name is Emily Valentine. Then the camera revealed that she’s got a tattoo of one of those Chinese lucky cats covering her entire left foot, and I was a bit less enamored. Emily sang Pink’s “Sober” without nailing every note, especially the high ones, but she showed enough potential to get both Blake and Cee Lo to turn around. Really, though, Emily was a winner solely because her performance catalyzed the best exchange of the night — right after Cee Lo ever so casually mentioned that he happens to be friends with Pink, Adam bent down, mimed plucking something off the ground, and said, “Lemme get that name for you. You dropped it.”
We breezed past the next two who made it through, Niki Dawson (who sang “Teenage Dream” and joined Team Cee Lo, as did Emily Valentine) and Sara Oromchi (who sang “Imagine” — did anyone else just shudder involuntarily? — and joined Team Blake), then met 39-year-old Tim Mahoney, who’s been trying to build a singing career for 14 years. Adam liked Tim’s appropriately soulful “Bring It on Home to Me,” though he was shocked when he saw the man behind the song. As he told his newly drafted teammate, “I thought you were going to be a girl… and, clearly, you are not a woman. I need a woman for my team. And sadly, you have a penis.” Congratulations, The Voice — the blind auditions are officially a success.
Self-described “Georgia peach” Angela Wolff hoped to impress Blake Shelton by singing a Miranda Lambert song — “The House That Built Me” — and wearing leather pants. Alas, nobody turned around to see Angela’s leg casings until she was done with her ballad… at least this time. (This is called “foreshadowing.”) She was followed by the much more stylish Tyler Robinson, a gay Mormon who knows how to rock a suit. Blake turned around as Tyler hit the chorus of “Hey Soul Sister,” which magically becomes almost tolerable when anyone who isn’t Train sings it.
Holly jolly Nakia is apparently last name-less, though he does have an impressive beard and a boyfriend of 19 years. In a risky move, he elected to audition with the family version of Cee Lo’s signature song. (Ain’t that some shhhh?) Though the arrangement wasn’t doing him any favors — it turns out “F— You” is really made by those cheeky backup singers — Nakia attacked the song with gusto, inspiring first Cee Lo himself, then Blake to turn around. A brief bidding war commenced, but there was never really any question that the big guy would choose to be coached by the “Crazy” singer.
NEXT: Twist!!! (Well, sorta.)
Three more chosen ones — single-named Serabee (Team Blake), Casey Weston (Team Adam), and Justin Grennan (Team Christina) — were briefly shown before we moved on to shy children’s author Dia Frampton. It seems likely that Dia is an older version of Xenia who has traveled back to the past in order to audition for The Voice again. Despite her shy exterior, she was “Bubbly” enough to nab Blake as her coach. In a surprise move, Cee Lo then snagged mama’s boy Curtis Grimes, who had been aiming to win over Blake. Maybe the rejection will inspire Curtis to write another country song.
The last blind auditioners were sister act Tori and Taylor Thompson, two sunny siblings who sound eerily like one person when they sing the same tune at the same time. Christina nailed their sound when she told them that their duet on “Stuck Like Glue” made her feel like she was “listening to a great bubblegum commercial.” They, too, joined the Green team.
But wait! Even though we were out of pre-screened Voice hopefuls, Cee Lo was the only judge who had managed to fill all eight of his team’s slots. Because the ridiculous rules of The Voice may be broken only under penalty of death, something had to be done so that the other coaches could also complete their teams. So Carson allowed the fab four to call back eight rejects who would be asked to “blindly audition” again, even though the judges already knew what they looked like. In the lightning round, Christina selected diva Lily Elise (of course), Blake took rockabilly dad Jared Blake, and Adam rounded out his team with both young Mariah Carey lookalike Casey Weston and Angela Wolff, who sounded a lot better on “Rolling in the Deep” than she had on that Miranda Lambert jam — though rumour has it her knowledge of Adele’s lyrics is shaky at best. Ah well, can’t win ’em all. Finally, the octets were complete. (For an exclusive look at photos of the coaches and their teams, head over to our Inside TV blog.)
But the competition itself is only beginning. Next week, even more famous people (howdy, Reba!) will stop by to advise the singers as they prepare for the “Battle Round” of the competition, which pits two teammates against each other and challenges them to sing the same song at the same time.
Do you think the novelty of The Voice might wear off now that the blind auditions are kaput? Are you looking forward to the arrival of more stars, or do you worry that next week, the series might suffer from celebrity overkill? And most importantly, at this stage in the game, are you rooting for anyone — either a contestant or a coach?