After the show took a detour last season with Usher and Shakira, Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green sat down in the spinning chairs once again, alongside Adam Levine and Blake Shelton – and the group’s chemistry instantly returned.
Xtina debuted a new look, but still sported her favorite accessory: a hand-held folding fan. Cee Lo rocked a henna head tattoo and channeled Michael Jackson in a “Thriller”-style outfit. And Adam and Blake rekindled their bromance by hugging it out at one point after hurting each other’s feelings. “We’re like the Beatles, but better,” quipped Adam about the reunion. Ah, just like old times.
But big-name stars and spinning chairs aside, what makes The Voice refreshing is that it doesn’t bring bad singers out onstage during the blind auditions to humiliate them. Because how many of us really feel good about ourselves after watching someone’s soul get crushed? While not everyone is stellar, no one ever walks away a loser. Perhaps that’s because the coaches offer contestants both constructive criticism and encouragement, making things human by shaking their hands or giving out hugs instead of aloofly sitting behind a banquet table.
Case in point: When 15-year-old Matthew Brea – who was mourning the loss of his little brother – failed to turn any chairs with his take on the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” you could tell the judges felt bad about dashing a young boy’s dreams. Christina gave him a hug, Adam encouraged him to try out another time, and Cee Lo went backstage to tell the heart-broken teen not to give up on his dream.
Overall, it was a positive night, with each judge picking up at least one person for his or her team.
But Adam may have gotten more than he bargained for in Nic Hawk, who referred to himself as a mix between Amy Winehouse and Jesse J, “except a man” – and who did little to hide his attraction to the Maroon 5 singer. After delivering a bouncy performance of Blu Cantrell’s “Hit ‘Em Up Style (Oops!),” Nic had to choose between “handsome” Adam and, well, Cee Lo, who both hit their buzzers. “See, Adam, my only problem is, I don’t know if I’d be able to focus, because you’re so good looking,” the spindly hopeful said, making the usually cocky coach blush. But, duh, Nic still picked him, leaving Blake a bit jealous that he’s not longer the only Bromeo in Adam’s life.
Adam also wound up with 54-year-old Donna Allen, who used to be part of the Miami Sound Machine with Gloria Estefan, and 22-year-old Rivers Cuomo look-alike James Wolpert, a computer geek who dropped out of college to pursue music.When James pulled off a four-chair turnwith his rendition of Jack White’s “Love Interruption,” Blake admitted he was expecting “some long-haired guy with a beard” to be behind the raspy, soulful vibrato. When Adam declared that James could easily take it all, he and Blake started sparring over the would-be winner. Of note, Adam and Blake are the only two judges who have won – Adam once, and Blake the last three times – and Adam was quick to point out that, like in basketball, it’ll be nearly impossible to pull off a four-peat. And with that, Adam scored another artist for his team.
But have no fear, Blake picked up his own potential winner, 21-year-old pageant girl-turned-country singer Shelbie Z., who left beauty pageants behind when people started giving her a hard time because of her weight. Her rowdy rendition of Gretchen Wilson’s “Here for the Party” immediately perked up Blake’s ears, despite him saying he was going to “mix it up” this season rather than pack his team with country artists. “Welcome to Team Blake,” he said, before fellow chair-turners Christina and Cee Lo even had a chance to argue their cases. And, yes, their words proved futile anyway, as Shelbie couldn’t wait to be on Blake’s side.
Neither Christina nor Cee Lo were left empty-handed either.
Christina – who’s gunning to be the “first female coach to win” – picked up 20-year-old Matthew Schuler, whose pastor parents run a church out of his basement and who turned all four chairs with the first few notes of Young the Giant’s “Cough Syrup.” She also scored 33-year-old working musician Josh Logan, who expertly belted out Alex Clare’s “Too Close.” Adam noted, “You sounded a lot like the dude that sings it, and that’s about as legit as it gets.” Not to be outdone, Blake declared he had a “man crush” on Matthew, who seemed perplexed by the admission.
As for Cee Lo, he landed 29-year-old glam rocker Kat Robichaud, whom Adam referred to as Raspy McRasperson, and 17-year-old Caroline Pennell, a shy singer-songwriter with a lilting voice who named Florence and the Machine and Norah Jones as influences.
Our only complaint of the night was when show sponsor Starbucks got a free ad in the form of 24-year-old barista Delvin Choice, who works at the coffee shop and spit out brain-washed lines like “Starbucks’ motto is: To create an inspiring moment through each cup of coffee” before literally singing the praises of the chain’s mocha cookie crumble frappuccino. Thankfully, despite the connection, he didn’t make it through.