“The Voice” is back for a third season, and with it comes a whole new slew of blind auditions, daddy issues, and Christina Aguilera’s false-eyelashes. And this season, it’s a search for the needle in an even larger haystack than usual, with judges Xtina, Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton on the lookout for 16 team members each. Monday night, in the first two hours of this week’s six-hour run, each judge ended up selecting two singers each to join their teams. While most were seriously strong candidates for some additional airtime, some standouts were a yodeler, a church misfit, and a former blind audition reject.
First, the Yodeler: Gracia Harrison, an Illinois-based country singer who made an impact on the judges with her good old-fashioned yodel. She wisely chose Patsy Montana’s famous 1935 yodeling classic, “I Want to be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” which most likely meant that when Blake and Adam spun their chairs early in the song, they knew what was coming after the chorus: full-on, hardcore yodels of the highest order. Gracia’s voice was actually pretty nasally throughout the rest of the number, but she delivered with some solid yodeling, at which point Cee Lo joined the other two judges. Adam’s pitch to Gracia was over the top, calling her the best country singer that’s ever been on “The Voice.” (Ouch, sorry, RaeLynn.) Cee Lo agreed. But Blake seals the deal by telling Gracia that country radio is seriously lacking in yodelers these days, and he’s going to help her bring it back.
The Misfit, and there’s always a requisite one, is De’Borah, a gender non-conforming gospel singer who was eked out of her church choir after she shaved her head. Dressed in a neon pink sweatsuit with a turquoise dress shirt underneath, De’Borah sang as energetically as she appeared, with a wobbly but fun vibrato. She’s obviously a match made in Cee Lo heaven (“I know about being a misfit,” he said), but Christina spun around with Cee Lo at the same time. De’Borah then proceeded to make me cry like a baby as she explained how Christina’s song “The Voice Within” inspired her “when I realized I was different.”
The Reject is, like the Yodeler, a new thing on this very young show, as it seemed to be the first auditioner who had already faced the blind panel before. Daniel Rosa tried out during Season 2, but was given the cold spinny chair. Before totally breaking down, this huggable crooner from Riverside, Calif., asked the judges for some constructive criticism, and he took their pitch notes to heart. Monday, he did a slightly country, slightly spoken-word version of “Somebody That I Used to Know” (I know, that doesn’t make sense to me, either), and inspired two spins—Cee Lo and Blake. But everybody recognized him, making for one of the most moving moments of the evening, as Daniel realizes he’s made it, and sits on the edge of the stage and cries, before turning into an adorable giggling mess and picking Cee Lo.
One of the recurring themes in the backstories tonight was fatherly inspiration. Garrett Gardner, a 16-year-old soul singer, lost his musician father two years ago to cancer. His rendition of “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” didn’t inspire any judges to spin their chairs, but his acknowledgement of his dad as his muse inspired so very many sniffles.
Another guy singing for his dad was Trevin Hunte, from Jamaica, Queens. Hunte was told by his 8th-grade teacher not to bother going to performing arts school because he’d never amount to anything. Way to go New York City school system. Now 18, but with an ancient soul, and encouraged by his Guyanese immigrant dad, Hunte sang “Listen,” which is hands down the best audition song in the world, and nailed it. Everyone but Adam spun around, and Adam’s excuse was only that he was “just scared” of the other three. Trevin chose Cee Lo, which obviously was the right move, because Cee Lo gave his commentary afterward to Lady, a giant pink cockatoo.
And Bryan Keith, a Bronx native, came to the show to prove he could succeed without the help of his Grammy-winner dad, Spanish Harlem Orchestra frontman Ray De La Paz. Bryan succeeded fairly easily, garnering four chair spins within a matter of moments into “It Will Rain.” My pick for Bryan’s raspy soul pipes was Cee Lo, but he chose Adam, which made more sense when the two gray-shirted guys hugged.
Speaking of shirts, how many episodes will we have to see the judges wearing the same ones? It remains to be seen if “The Voice” corrected last season’s mishap of having the judges to wear the same thing day in and day out. We may have weeks to dissect the panel’s outfits, so here’s just a preview. Gray t-shirt. White satin pajamas. Black blazer. Boobs. You figure out who wore what.
Teams so far
Adam: Bryan Keith: raspy guy coming out from under dad’s shadow; Joe Kirkland: band frontman dumped by label.
Blake: Terry McDermott: Scottish rocker dad; Gracia Harrison: yodeler
Cee Lo: Daniel Rosa: huggable former reject; Trevin Hunte: wailer proving his 8th-grade teacher wrong
Christina: De’borah: gospel church misfit; Devyn Deleroa: sang “Ain’t No Other Man” and survived