Christina Aguilera is back in action for season 10

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March 01, 2016 at 04:35 AM EST

It’s a new season and a new crop of talent for The Voice, but “queen” Christina Aguilera is back in the house (er, Stage 12), reclaiming her red chair-slash-throne for another round of battle with the boys, Adam Levine, Pharrell Williams, and Blake Shelton.

The tenth season welcomed back its O.G. (original girl) coach to the seat previously occupied by Gwen Stefani — who’ll now serve as a Team Blake advisor — and her return, she said, was motivated by the “opportunity to give back to someone else.” And while we’ll be seeing names like Gwen, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Tori Kelly, Patti LaBelle, and Miley Cyrus on the roster for future episodes, the blind auditions opener was all about the happy hopefuls…and of course, the increasingly snippy relationship between Adam and Blake, which kicks off with Blake’s open invitation for any other member of Maroon 5 to take first chair instead. Ouch.

But enough about all their bromantic antics; let’s talk about the talent pool that had everyone racing for their buttons tonight:

Kicking things off on a strong note, literally, is Paxton Ingram, a 23-year-old student of the school of Michael Jackson, who teaches hip-hop to make ends meet while he chases his life-long dream of being a whole-package performer. He can sing; he can dance; and, apparently, he can thrill all three of the Voice fellas into giving him a shot — especially Blake Shelton. His soulful rendition of Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own” has Blake’s fist pounding the turn key from the first line. “Man, I don’t know that I’ve ever recognized true greatness so quickly,” Shelton explains of his enthusiastic tap. Blake’s spirited spin was enough that, even though Pharrell was the name Paxton initially checked during his pre-audition interviews and is “at a loss for words” over what he’s heard from the singer, Paxton ends up choosing Blake (whom Adam Levine lovingly refers to as “Hillbilly Shrek”) because of his rapt and rapid enthusiasm. “There is nobody that is more surprised that Paxton chose me than me,” Blake says, echoing the entire watching world, before reminding everyone that, though he’s into honky-tonk by day, he can moonlight as a budding pop star’s mentor for this guy. Fair enough.

Next up on the wowing block is Caity Peters of Long Beach, Calif., a 21-year-old who’s trying to break free of the familiar mold set by her lawyerly fam. It’s taken her a long time to convince her ‘rents that strumming her acoustic all day is an actual means of making a living, but here she is, belting out Labrinth’s “Jealous” and earning a turn-around tap from all four coaches. While Christina Aguilera tries for the go girls grab and Adam and Blake split hairs over whether she’s on the “cusp of greatness” or nah, it’s Pharrell’s praise of her show-appropriate intensity that ultimately wins her over to his team.

Then comes the heart-warmer. Nick Hagelin, 28, out of Atlanta, has been a professional ballet dancer for a decade, and thanks to a little wifely encouragement (and one cutie patootie little boy, who’s defying all the odds himself), he’s breaking out into his own “sweet beats.” And while teaching his kid to walk without the assistance of mechanics will always rank as his biggest accomplishment — sob — he’s so ready for the biz. Just not the record deal he already had which would’ve required him to pretend he was single and ready to mingle (’cause, yeah, he’s not about that life). While his performance of Adam Levine’s “Lost Stars” did not earn him a bid from its originator — who admits he just can’t get past his own version to enjoy this — he does get an early nod from Christina, followed by last-minute chime-ins by Blake and Pharrell. He joins Team Pharrell, not because Blake may or may not have inadvertently compared his work to the KFC menu with all that spice talk, but because he considers Pharrell “the Quincy Jones of our generation.” Team Pharrell’s going strong with two right off the rip, which makes him clap-along happy (had to).

Not every blind audition got a coaching bid, though. At least 17-year-old Maddie Poppe of Clarksville, Iowa is able to stay amped to have gotten her shot, fit with a hug from Blake Shelton. The giddy at-home-video-making high school senior spends most of her stage time (after belting out an admittedly pitchy variation of “Dog Days are Gone” by Florence and the Machine) soaking in the surrealism of the moment. While Pharrell offers some sage advice for how she can improve for the next round of auditions, she’s too nervous to absorb, like, a single word from the stage. So Adam pinch-hits for her and offers her his seat instead. Between now and next year, if Maddie can work out some of that “finesse” Pharrell outlines for her, she’ll be all set for a second effort.


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A rotating chair-full of judges search for the next great superstar singer on this NBC reality show.
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