The Voice season premiere recap: A blast from Blake Shelton's past takes the stage
Happy 10-year anniversary, The Voice! Can you believe it? We're 20 seasons in, we've had a whole host of top tier musicians join us as coaches and mentors, there's been so much talk about chair turning, so many laughs, and most importantly, a whole lot of great singing (also some not-so-great singing, but that comes with the territory). What a time! But The Voice is not done yet. Nope, last season's coaches Blake Shelton, John Legend, and Kelly Clarkson are joined on the big red chairs by season 18 judge Nick Jonas, all four of them ready to start from scratch in hopes of leading one member of their team to taking The Voice title. And since season 19's reigning Voice coach champ Gwen Stefani — who won with dimpled wunderkind Carter Rubin — isn't around, nobody has that "well, I won last season" card to play. So, let us begin our Blind Audition journey. Each coach has 10 spots on their team and one block to use in this round. Let's start filling up teams, shall we?
Kenzie Wheeler / 22 / Dover, Fla.
"Don't Close Your Eyes" by Keith Whitley
Oooh baby, we're kicking off The Voice season 20 with a real, authentic, business in the front, party in the back vibe. It feels right for this show, doesn't it? That's right, Kenzie here is proudly rocking a mullet, rocking a very sweet story about owing his musical career to his mother who always sings in the car with him, and rocking a classic '80s/'90s country voice. And you know who cannot resist an '80s/'90s country voice: Emmy Award-winning TV talk show host and, oh right, queen of the music industry, Kelly Clarkson. She's played this game before, so she turns almost immediately as Kenzie starts singing with his deep, crystal clear country voice, and uses her one block to stop Blake from easily taking this kid from her. She isn't alone in her fight for Kenzie though — he gets a four-chair turn. It's sort of a free-for-all fight, but Kelly reminds him that she's won the show twice with country artists, and so Kenzie brings that mullet energy over to Team Kelly.
Dana Monique / 41 / Houston, Tex.
"Freeway of Love" by Aretha Franklin
Dana Monique was the headliner on a cruise ship — which was an excellent way to get her act together as an artist — but had to step back from singing to take care of her kids. Now she's pursuing her dreams again. She has some real power to her voice. Nick turns almost immediately and once Dana shows off her great range, John Legend's in too. She's inspired by singers like Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, and Tina Turner, she says. So once John starts singing some Chaka to her, you'd think it would be game over. But Nick talks to Dana about having something to prove to people, and he thinks they share that drive. He loves Dana because she has "the power of Chaka Khan" but mixed with "the cool vocal delivery of Jill Scott." Dana Monique decides to take a chance on Team Nick. And then one of "Nick's Notebooks" (remember the "Nick's Notes" schtick? It's back in full force) descends from the sky for Dana to take as a team gift, and it truly is a wild time to be alive. Didn't you miss this show?
Cam Anthony / 19 / Philadelphia, Penn.
"Lay Me Down" by Sam Smith
When Cam Anthony was around 12 years old, he made a video of himself singing that went viral. The kid ended up on talk shows and even getting invited by the Obamas to sing at the White House. This definitely feels like a step down from that, but what can ya do? The guy wants to make it to the next level in his career and he's hoping The Voice can help him do that. Oh, friends, his voice is smooth and oozing with emotion. He navigates his runs well and knows how to nicely build-up to the big moments. Nick and John turn at almost the same time, but Nick's slightly ahead and uses his block on John. But it turns out Nick's block doesn't help him win over the soulful singer. Blake turns too, and he promises that if Cam joins his team, he'll make sure he's the only singer on it in his musical lane. Meaning: While all the country singers who end up on Blake's team will be splitting votes and competing for the same spots, Cam will have no competition. That's a hard offer to refuse, so Cam Anthony ends up on Team Blake.
Christine Cain / 27 / Pasadena, Calif.
"Watermelon Sugar" by Harry Styles
Christine grew up loving to perform but stopped pursuing that dream after being bullied in high school. Now she's back, and even though she has like only four performances under her belt, she has more confidence than ever. She performs a sultry R&B version of this Harry Styles jam and both John and Kelly turn their chairs for her. John says he was "captured by [her] tone" and the "crackle" in her voice and Kelly loved that there was such obvious fun in her performance. Christine has a cool rasp that sets her apart from other singers. It doesn't take too much convincing for her to join Team Legend. As a treat, instead of a jacket like Kelly or a bobblehead like Blake or a notebook from the ceiling like Nick, John is gifting his team members an original, improvised song. It's very catchy!
Madison Curbell / 18 / Westfield, Mass.
"Don't Worry, Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin
Madison turned to music because she grew up with a stutter, but it went away any time she sang. Her voice is so pure and lovely to listen to, but she sounds young and as Blake notes, she "needed a little more strength" in her vocals to pull it off. Kelly tells Madison her "head voice was really pretty" and Nick calls the performance "pleasant" but unfortunately, Madison doesn't get any chair turns this time around.
Pete Mroz / 45 / Nashville, Tenn.
"Can't Find My Way Home" by Blind Faith
Well, this situation is a lot of fun. By day, Pete is a golf apparel salesman, but he's been making music in Nashville for a long time and is trying to take it to the next level. He started out writing and performing with a writers round group called the Young Riders, full of musicians playing new music together. After Pete gives a performance that expertly demonstrates how much time and effort he's put into honing his craft — he sounds and plays like the consummate professional — and John and Blake all turn for him, he tells Blake that he used to go by the name Pete Mitchell and was part of the Young Riders. As it turns out, Blake was too. They're old performing pals who hadn't seen each other in 20-plus years. It's very cool and also there's no way Pete isn't joining Team Blake. They're getting the band back together!
Devan Blake Jones / 35 / Denver, Colo.
"Hard Place" by H.E.R.
Devan Blake Jones is a pop-soul artist who has been playing with an afrobeat band, through which he's learned to sing with his "soul and heart" — something that will serve him well on The Voice stage. According to his intro package, the man loves two things: plants and Nick Jonas. The latter is nice to know since Nick Jonas is the only chair turn Devan Blake Jones gets during his performance. It's surprising because the guy has a nice head voice and dang that high note at the end is impressive. Kelly says she was "waiting for one more level" to his voice, but Nick couldn't help himself but turn once he heard Devan "[open] up in the chorus." It seems like a good fit all around to have Devan join Team Nick.
Raine Stern / 22 / Madison, Wisc.
"Electric Feel" by MGMT
It's our first fully-blind Blind Audition of the season, and Raine is rocking her butt off. It's kind of a shame we didn't get to watch all of Raine's performance because this type of song definitely demands stage presence, and it seems like Raine was bringing the passion and the rock-n-roll. John, Blake, and Nick all turn (Kelly seems to be particularly picky this evening, no?) and heap on the praise. Blake is "not speechless all that often," but is when it comes to Raine. He can tell that she must play a lot of instruments — she, in fact, has a nine-piece band that she writes and does arrangements for, and playing around creatively with musical arrangements is her passion. John tells her that the "creative energy was just flowing" from her. But it is Nick Jonas, who calls the performance "electrifying," who wins Raine over with a chat about the musical creative process. Raine's headed to Team Nick.
Madison Marigold / 21 / Santa Clarita, Calif.
"If the World Was Ending" by JP Saxe featuring Julia Michaels
The Madisons are having a tough night on the premiere of The Voice. This Madison has a nice, radio-friendly voice and shows off some cool runs, but fails to win any chair turns. Mostly it comes down to song choice. All of the judges point out that a conversational song like this one is hard to pull off and might not be the best type of song for an audition. Kelly says she was "waiting for [Madison] to go up" into a higher register and that the song didn't allow her to show off "what [she] could do." Ah, song choice, it'll get you every time.
Corey Ward / 34 / Hartsville, S.C.
"Dancing on My Own" by Robyn
Who doesn't love a comeback story? Last season, Corey auditioned with Kaleo's "Way Down We Go" and ended up with zero chair turns, but he did walk away with a renewed sense of determination to achieve his goals. So, Corey practiced and practiced and decided he would be more true to himself and sing emotional songs that come from the heart. This time around, the guy really delivers. There is so much passion packed into this performance, plus he makes some great vocal and phrasing choices. And that bend at the end? Yes, please and thank you. He ends up getting both Kelly and John to turn around for him. Kelly wants to fill her team with people who move her, and the two share a love for Damien Rice. Corey joins Team Kelly.
Victor Solomon / 22 / Peoria, Ill.
"Glory" by John Legend and Common
Well, if you were getting a little bleary-eyed as we rounded hour two of the premiere, Victor Solomon must have woken you up. This man walks on stage and lays! It! Down! He's doing the song that won John Legend his Academy Award in front of John Legend... and gets John Legend to turn around for him. Both Blake and Nick turn around too — how can one resist Victor's range and emotion? — but it's clear to everyone that Victor will be joining John Legend for his Voice journey. Well, everyone except Blake Shelton, who apparently had no idea this was a John Legend song. Kelly will never let Blake live this moment down. Not that John needs to fight hard for Victor, but he does make sure the singer knows that he thought Victor sang that song better than he did and then the two guys duet on "Ordinary People." Victor was born for Team Legend.
TEAM KELLY: Kenzie Wheeler, Corey Ward
TEAM LEGEND: Christine Cain, Victor Solomon
TEAM NICK: Dana Monique, Devan Blake Jones, Raine Stern
TEAM BLAKE: Cam Anthony, Pete Mroz