The judges get extra-picky; a season 4 reject returns for another blind audition
The judges showed off their pickier sides as the second week of blind auditions came to an end. They stressed idiosyncrasy over mere technical prowess. Make it special. Make it your own. Make an artisanal pizza while singing the Whitney Houston catalog while patting your head and rubbing your tummy.
We saw two four-chair salutes, one for a returning season 4 contestant who overcame personal tragedy, and the other for the night’s final showstopper. There were no surprise semi-famous contestants, and no changes in the show’s format. Is it me or are all the contestants’ pre-performance self-pep-talks all starting to sound the same? This could change my life. This is my one shot. This is the opportunity of a lifetime. I think they should ax the voice-overs and just blast “Lose Yourself” instead.
Favorite moment: Christina makes her first vocal demonstration of the season, hitting insane high notes in Ariana Grande’s “The Way” with a single effortless breath. The unfortunate student? Macey Estes. Though Macey didn’t advance, she did impress the judges with her Voice-themed rap.
Best unintentional pick-up line: “I will put you in some different positions. Professional positions,” said CeeLo to contestant Olivia Henken.
Now onto our new recruits…
WILL CHAMPLIN, 30, of California, is the son of Chicago member Bill Champlin.
Sings: “Not Over You” by Gavin Degraw
Verdict: The judges took their time on this one. At almost the last moment, Blake, then Adam and CeeLo turned around. “You have a really incredible voice, bro,” said Adam. Blake changes up his pitching style to a curt plea “Hey Will, I love you.” Will chooses Adam.
STEPHANIE ANNE JOHNSON, 29, of Washington, is an opera-trained lounge singer on a cruise ship. She’s away eight months a year and says she’s “ready to get back on land.”
Sings: “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” by KT Tunstall
Verdict: Stephanie’s voice is quite the sleeper hit. Starting off inconspicuously, she belts out a powerful run that has Christina and CeeLo moving. “We could feel the attitude right through the chairs,” says Adam. Stephanie says she wants to sing “indie-soul.” She chooses Christina, saying, “You haven’t had a winner yet and we’re gonna fix that.”
SAM CERNIGLIA, 25, of Illinois, works in customer service for Groupon. He says he’s here today in honor of his two sisters who are very sick.
Sings: “It’s a Beautiful Day” by Michael Bublé
Verdict: I was really excited for Sam because the show has been needing a crooner variable. Blake praises his depth, calling him “a complete vocalist.” “You sound like a gentleman,” said CeeLo. Sam chooses Blake.
NEXT: If at first you don’t succeed …
JAMES IRWIN, 31, of Missouri, was a contestant last season, but had zero chair-turns. At the time, he and his wife had tragically lost their twin baby daughters, but are now parents to a healthy baby boy. James came back after working extensively on improving his voice. “I didn’t feel like I gave them the best version of myself,” he said.
Sings: “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M.
Verdict: James garners the first four-chair salute of the night. “I think you captivated all of us, intrigued us,” said Adam. CeeLo complimented him on a great song choice. Blake noted James’ improvement from last year. But James went with Adam because “I’m a rocker at heart.” What an awesome turn of events for James to go from no chairs to all chairs. Carson foreshadowed his performance: “An artist makes Voice history.”
OLIVIA HENKEN, 25, of Kentucky, has entered over 100 contests and is tired of not finding her big break. She works for her grandmother as a tax preparer.
Sings: “Two Black Cadillacs” by Carrie Underwood
Verdict: Christina makes the first move, followed by CeeLo. Blake didn’t budge and I see why, as Olivia’s performance didn’t really stand out for me. She describes her style as “country with a little rock to it.” Between Christina and CeeLo, Olivia chooses Christina. Blake seemed a bit worried afterwards. “When a country artist makes it on another team, that scares me.”
R. ANTHONY, 33, of Florida, used to sing with a gospel trio but gave it all up to raise a family.
Sings: “Hall of Fame” by The Script
Verdict: Christina turns first, and it looks like R. Anthony is firmly hers until CeeLo turns at the last possible second. “That was cold-blooded,” said Adam. R. Anthony chooses CeeLo. Backstage his adorable daughter runs into his arms.”I’ve always felt like the underdog and now my daughter’s getting to see me do something amazing.” Swoon.
The producers do another skippity-do-dah of these chosen contestants:
–Keaira LaShae chooses CeeLo
–Amber Nicole chooses Christina
–Emily Randolph chooses Blake
JUSTIN CHAIN, 23, of Alabama, suffered from a devastating head-on collision while he was riding his motorcycle. He shows Carson photos of his hospital stay and his long list of injuries sounded just horrific. But thankfully he says he’s fully recovered. “I was given a second chance, and I don’t want to waste the rest of my life,” he said.
Sings: “She’s Country” by Jason Aldean
Verdict: Justin’s voice is a country confection. Blake makes the only move, calling the rest of the gang “idiots.” But it’s clear they all know Justin was made for Blake.
ASHLEY DUBOSE, 23, of Minnesota, is a single mom that works as a programmer analyst.
Sings: “Diamonds” by Rihanna
Verdict: Mere seconds into her first vocal run, all the judges clamor for her. Christina moves first in the second four-chair salute of the night. “Your voice cuts like a razor through this entire place,” said Adam. (Kudos on the apt metaphor). “I really would personally like to dethrone Blake Shelton,” he later adds. CeeLo makes an interesting pitch: Instead of promising coaching during the competition, he promises connections and how Ashley can look forward to “ultimately becoming a part of my life,” because he keeps in touch with former team members. CeeLo would be quite the resume reference. “It’s not about competitiveness for me,” says Christina. Blake urges her to not be dissuaded by his country music specialty because it’s about “the partnership.” And tonight’s best for last goes to Adam once again. “We have the same taste in music,” said Ashley.
What did you guys think of these auditions? More importantly, off the top of your head, do you still remember any standouts from last Monday and Tuesday? And did James deserve that four-chair salute? Sound off in the comments.