Gwen Stefani is reclaiming the swiveling red chair for The Voice Season 17, marking her fourth coaching stint on the singing competition. But it won’t be an easy road to victory for the No Doubt frontwoman, who’s squaring off against a trio of rivals with plenty of accolades to recruit prospective artists.
John Legend has momentum on his side after triumphing in Season 16, his first coaching spot — plus the soul icon can flaunt his status as the world’s first “VEGOT” winner (The Voice, along with an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony). Pop star and vocal virtuoso Kelly Clarkson, now a Voiceveteran with three seasons of experience, reigned supreme the previous two years. And Blake Shelton’s coaching resumé speaks for itself: The country singer is now the show’s last original coach standing, having appeared in all previous 16 seasons — and winning six of them. But that prestige makes Shelton an obvious target: Expect Legend, Clarkson and Stefani to pool their influence and team up against The Voice‘s most decorated coach.
Given Shelton’s formidable presence and the recent success of both Legend and Clarkson, Stefani may prove to be the wild card of Season 17. But that role befits such a mercurial artist — one who’s had equal success in ska-punk (the bratty, hooky early singles of No Doubt) and mainstream pop (quirky solo hits like the hip-hop jam “Hollaback Girl” and the yodel-laced dance tune “Wind It Up”). Stefani’s catalog is a cocktail of ingredients that few artists could manage to meld: Who else has graduated from playing punk shows to collaborating with Dr. Dre (“Rich Girl”), co-starring in a Martin Scorsese film (The Aviator), co-writing country songs (Shelton’s 2016 cut “Go Ahead and Break My Heart”) and headlining concert residencies in Las Vegas?
That vision of shapeshifting and exploration has propelled Stefani through four solo LPs (including her most recent, the 2017 holiday album You Make It Feel Like Christmas) and six records with No Doubt (including their 2012 comeback, Push and Shove). Throughout, she’s hopped in and out of the Voicestable: appearing as a coach on Seasons 7, 9 and 12, and as an advisor on Seasons 8 and 10. But as the only coach in the current line-up without a win to her name, she’ll enter the series’ upcoming installment with added motivation.
“It’s a whole new game this season — Gwen Stefani is back,” Clarkson says in a teaser for the new season. “It’s the blondes against the bros, y’all!”
The Voice executive producer and show runner Audrey Morrissey expects the new episodes to meet their usual quota of fun. “Having all returning coaches creates a very warm, easygoing yet competitive environment,” she tells Rolling Stone. “We’ll have lots of laughs, lots of love and lots of hard-fought wins!”
For the first time in Season 17, coaches will each have one save and one steal in the Battle Rounds. And they’ll enlist music industry heavyweights to prepare their artists for the high-level competition: Clarkson will pair with Normani, Legend with former Voice coach Usher, Shelton with Darius Rucker and Stefani with will.i.am.
The Voice Season 17 premieres with a two-hour episode on Monday, September 23rd at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.