The Voice recap: Blake Shelton and Ariana Grande go head-to-head for an artist
Big news out of night five of The Voice season 21 Blind Auditions: Ariana Grande is a fan of From Justin to Kelly. She calls it "iconic." As a human adult woman who owns From Justin to Kelly on DVD and has watched it more times than I would care to share (just like so, so many times — the tie skirt, the hovercraft race, TIMELESS, I love it all), this news really made my heart grow three times as big. Kelly Clarkson tried to knock her feature film debut, but we will not allow such blasphemy here. Anyway, there are more auditions to be had and more spots on teams to be filled up. We're getting down to the wire, people. Let's sing.
Ryleigh Plank / 20 / Fort Myers, Fla.
"Anyone" by Demi Lovato
This song choice is certainly a sign of confidence — it's not an easy one to tackle. Ryleigh's voice has so much character and emotion to it; she nails the storytelling element here. By the time she hits the chorus with those big power notes, both Kelly and Ariana have pressed their buttons. Ariana tells Ryleigh that her performance "brought [her] to tears," and she could tell she was "singing from a really real place." There were some sharp notes, but nothing they couldn't work on together. John Legend notes similar "execution issues" as to why he didn't turn around. Kelly praises Ryleigh's "rad as hell" look and her "cool vibe," but Ariana's already won her over. Ryleigh Plank takes the 10th spot on Team Ariana.
Jershika Maple / 24 / Killeen, Tex.
"Can You Stand the Rain" by New Edition
Jershika Maple — a security guard who sang backup vocals on season 17's Rose Short's tour — breaks out the New Edition for her Blind. She has a cool, compelling lower register, but it's not until she belts a bit that John and Kelly turn their chairs. John says that it was clear Jershika was "ready for this moment" and that she delivered a "powerful" and "electric" performance. Kelly is a fan of both Jershika's voice and her personality, calling her "a light" and "an amazing addition to the show." She thinks song choice will be super important to highlight her particular skill set. Jershika decides to join Team Kelly.
Manny Keith / 31/ Miami, Fla.
"Break My Heart" by Dua Lipa
Manny Keith is a huge Ariana Grande fan who tells us he's performing for his late mother, who encouraged him to get into dancing and singing even though he was an introverted kid. He has a nice pop/R&B voice, but it's only the cowboy who turns his chair. He calls him an "incredible singer" and apologizes that he's now stuck with "the eight-time champion of The Voice" as his coach. Ariana, bummed to hear she missed out on someone who loves her music so much, vows to steal Manny — whose tone she likens to J.C. Chasez — at a later date. Blake's pretty pumped to have someone who is a real entertainer with lots of stage presence on Team Blake. He really is putting together quite the eclectic bunch.
Austin Percario / 25 / Los Angeles, Calif.
"This Town" by Niall Horan
Wow, wow, The Voice focuses Austin's entire pre-audition package on the fact that he's had a hard time believing in himself as a musician — he was once in a boy band that didn't go anywhere — and about how landing The Voice would be the vote of confidence he needs to keep going AND THEN HE GETS NO CHAIR TURNS. That is really cold, The Voice. Austin is very obviously and incredibly nervous. Ariana wishes he had selected a more dynamic song because she didn't really hear what he could do until the end. John suggests raising the key in a song like that because his lower register really gave his nerves away. He thinks with a few adjustments, Austin could be great and encourages him to come back.
KJ Jennings / 21 / Austin, Tex.
"Put Your Records On" by Corinne Bailey Rae
KJ studied jazz performance at the Berklee College of Music, and you can see that jazz background come out in her vocal choices in this performance. John and Blake both turn, but with John's jazz background, this seems like a no-brainer. Blake calls out one of KJ's runs in which she went down because it was so surprising. He could sense some nerves but can tell KJ will be "killer" once she gets past those. John calls her voice "charming and inviting" and loves how she brought her "jazz sensibility to pop music." But mostly, he just enjoyed seeing how much KJ obviously enjoyed being on stage doing what she loves. Yep, KJ joins Team Legend. And based on the fact that John Legend is dragging Blake's "win cam" so well — even Blake says John's selfie win cam is hilarious — it seems like a great choice. I mean, his musical talents are cool, too.
LiBianca / 20 / Minneapolis, Minn.
"Good Days" by SZA
LiBianca spent most of her life in Cameroon, where she found musical inspiration in afrobeat music and African drumming. She picks a super ambitious and intricate SZA song, and it gets the attention of both Ariana and Blake. John thought the song made it "tough" for them to get an understanding of what her voice can do, but Ariana, oh, Ariana is excited about LiBianca. She loves that she showed off her lower register for the majority of the song and then went high at the end, making a real emotional impact. "I'm obsessed," she tells her. Blake knows he isn't the obvious choice here, but he was impressed that LiBianca knew how to "pick her moment" and that she had so much control over her lower register. He also says that he simply wants to "help [her] be the best at whatever [she] want[s] to be." And that sentiment right there is what wins LiBianca over. She says she had prayed for a sign from God to help her make that choice, and Blake's offer to help her be her best is that sign. LiBianca goes with Team Blake, and Ariana is shocked. "God was speaking through our cowboy," John Legend says. Who knew! This could be a pairing to watch out for.
Jared Brasher / 26 / Huntsville, Ala.
"Drunk on Your Love" by Brett Eldredge
Jared played baseball in the minor leagues for a few seasons and, after that ended, decided to pursue his other big dream: music. His Blind Audition will be his very first time performing in front of an audience, which truly is a bold choice. Unfortunately, it seems he needs some of that on-stage experience. He's super nervous and lacks control. No one pushes their button, but all the coaches give him props for being so brave. Blake tells him he has "a great country voice" but that he just didn't seem "comfortable" up there. He needs to learn how to control his voice on a stage like this. John thinks he needs some practice and finesse, and he'll be on his way.
Sophia Bromberg / 16 / San Rafael, Calif.
"Heather" by Conan Gray
Sophia's in recovery from an eating disorder and suffers from anxiety but finds a lot of comfort in music. She has an insane range — even hitting some whistle notes — and Kelly, John, and Ariana are all interested in getting her on their teams. "You have so many people in your throat box," Ariana says, impressed by Sophia's performance, vocal control, and versatility. John calls it a "riveting performance" and wants to help Sophia find the best way to use all of her tricks. Kelly describes the whole thing as Sophia having the ability to "paint with [her] vocal cords." Sophia, who at times sounds a little like our newest coach, joins Team Ariana. "Shocking, party of none," Kelly jokes, pointing out how obvious that outcome was.
Wyatt Michael / 24 / Fredericksburg, Va.
"Mack the Knife" by Bobby Darin
It's always fun when a jazz standards/big band singer is in the mix. Wyatt's voice is crisp and clear, and it is perfect for this genre. Ariana and Kelly love what Wyatt's doing, so both press their buttons. Blake is a fan of this genre but wanted more personality to come out of Wyatt's voice. John thought it was "a little too spoken sounding," and he wanted a better feel for Wyatt's full singing voice. The women on the panel, however, are into it. Ariana loves that Wyatt had such a "balance between paying an homage to that era" and doing something more modern. Kelly is excited at the chance to have someone on her team who really stands out. "No one has this vibe on the show," she tells Wyatt. Plus, she thinks they'd sound pretty great dueting in the lives, just FYI. Wyatt joins Team Kelly.
Alexandra Stojack / 20 / Cincinnati, Ohio
"The Way I Am" by Ingrid Michaelson
Alexandra tells a very compelling story about having to stop singing and dancing at one point because of a medical condition for which she eventually had to have brain surgery. After the surgery, she was able to start singing again. It seems like she has a cool tone, but her nerves are really apparent throughout the performance. She doesn't get any coaches to push their buttons. Kelly was worried because there were a lot of pitchy moments. Ariana tells Alexandra that she can tell she has technical skills, but she was "not in the control seat" during that performance.
Brittany Bree / 26 / Monroe, La.
"Call Out My Name" by The Weeknd
This mom of two has been singing in front of large church crowds since she was 5, but this will be her first foray out of gospel into a secular song. You can tell Brittany is confident and in control by the way she lets the song build. The coaches always talk about dynamics, and this performance HAS IT. Brittany earns four-chair turns. Ariana calls her "unbelievable" and says she loves the "soul" and the "texture" in her voice, as well as the intention in her vocal choices. John understands what it means coming from singing from the church and wants to help Brittany um, navigate — go ahead, clink your glasses with Ariana and Blake — that transition. "You can go so far," he says. He wants her to do it with him. Kelly calls her a "storyteller" and says that if she doesn't make the finale, "something's wrong." Blake tries to woo her with his tenure on the show and says he would "be honored" to have her on Team Blake. It doesn't take too much deliberation — this four-chair turn picks Team Legend.
Throughout the episode, we also got a look at two one-chair turns. The first is Portuguese singer Sabrina Dias singing "Garota De Ipanema" and landing on Team Legend. John is a fan of that song and loves that Sabrina found a way to bring "some edge to it." Xavier Cornell performs a cool, stripped-down version of "Teenage Dream" and earns a spot on Team Kelly. Kelly thinks Xavier could be a "dark horse" in the competition. One more night of Blinds, people! Get ready to close out these teams. And, with any luck, a little more of the coaches bringing back the "Welcome to Team Legend" theme song. Ariana and Kelly added some welcome accompaniment, and that song DOES NOT QUIT.
TEAM KELLY: Girl Named Tom, Kinsey Rose, Carolina Alonso, Gymani, Jeremy Rosado, Holly Forbes, The Cunningham Sisters, Jershika Maple, Xavier Cornell, Wyatt Michael
TEAM LEGEND: Jonathan Mouton, Jack Rogan, Samuel Harness, Joshua Vacanti, Paris Winningham, Keilah Grace, Samara Brown, Janora Brown, KJ Jennings, Sabrina Dias, Brittany Bree
TEAM ARIANA: Katie Rae, Katherine Ann Mohler, Vaughn Mugol, Chavon Rodgers, Jim and Sasha Allen, Raquel Trinidad, Hailey Mia, Bella DeNapoli, David Vogel, Ryleigh Plank, Sophia Bromberg
TEAM BLAKE: Peedy Chavis, Wendy Moten, Lana Scott, Hailey Green, The Joy Reunion, Carson Peters, Kaitlyn Velez, Berritt Haynes, Clint Sherman, Manny Keith, LiBianca