‘The Voice’ Season 4 Premiere: How Did the Two New Coaches Do?

Usher and Shakira on "The Voice" (NBC)

When the last season of “The Voice” ended, it was winter outside. Not much about the weather has changed in three months, but in the world of “The Voice,” it’s time for a new season. And with it, comes new judge-mentors.

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Without Christina Aguilera’s diva-dom and Cee Lo Green’s animal-whisperer weirdness, the only personality-related precedent left to focus on among the coaches is the jokey rivalry between Blake Shelton and Adam Levine. And so new judges Shakira and Usher jumped right in to the preexisting feud, taking sides and fueling the flames.

With the Adam-Blake dynamic rooted in years of experience, the newbies felt like latecomers trying to be included in an inside joke.

Though the group dynamic has not yet found its footing, individually, the new judges provide some fresh fodder for us in the audience. For instance, in the opening group number of “Come Together,” Shakira failed at replacing Xtina’s ridiculous vocals, but added her own twist by playing harmonica. And Usher dropped the name of Justin Bieber a few times and sat with his knee folded up on the chair. All new!

Meanwhile Adam and Blake were their usual selves. Adam: perfect balance between douchey and adorable; Blake: married guy with a creepy old-man vibe.

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But it’s not all about the coaches. Tonight was the first night of blind auditions, AKA the weeks where no one changes their clothes.

And as usual, they were chock full of sob stories and weird surprises. Twins! Asian country singer! Girl who felt out of place because she had crooked teeth!

Eleven people sang for a spot on a team; eight of them succeeded.

Starting with: The Morgan Twins. An identical pair from Rochester, New York, not only dress alike, but they sound like one voice. That part’s cool—Shakira described it as a single voice with a “chorus effect.” All four judges spin for them, but it’s Blake who wins them over by making some gross sexual innuendo about twins. They chose him, one of them said, because he “seems so genuine”—in that he didn’t try to hide the fact that he was enjoying an erotic fantasy about people who are related to each other. Adam joins in when he jokes that Blake’s wife Miranda is going to kill him. For choosing to work with two girls who are likely neither bisexual nor interested in participating in incest. So then what’s the problem, exactly?

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So Blake’s scorecard so far has one act, and one mention of Miranda Lambert.

Hairdresser Jess Kellner comes out and does that “indie” affectation so popular on this show. She sings “meant to bae” and “tayuk my hand” and “boyit I can’t help falling in love with you.” Adam and Blake are normally suckers for this, but only Shakira and Usher turn their chairs. And while Shakira points out the “little obstacle” of her pitch being off, and tries to win her over because she also happens to be female, Usher is the one who gets Jess .

Shakira gets her first snag with Mark Andrew of Eden Prairie, Minn., who sounds an awful lot like a Minnesotan from last season, Nicholas David. Even though Adam’s critique was that he doesn’t sound like anyone else. Mark had a band, but sadly his drummer and guitar player recently died, so now he’s on his own, making Shakira feel more passionate about someone than anyone except her boyfriend ever has. That’s enough for her to win Mark over Adam.

Blake scores his first country singer in Danielle Bradbery, a 16-year-old average singer who suffered in school because her teeth weren’t straight. The bullying storyline has dropped to a new low. And she even sings a bullying themed song, Taylor Swift’s “Mean.” Adam, Blake and Usher spin, and Usher tries to get her by offering Justin Bieber tickets. But this aspiring country girl sees right through him when he refers to Nashville as a state. And so to Blake she goes.

Usher does better with Vito, who sent a message directly to Usher by singing Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend.” Usher is the only one to spin for the formerly homeless kid whose mom has two months to live.

Christian Porter does a coffeehouse version of “Sexy and I Know It” and though the era of the white-guy-with-guitar may have passed on “American Idol,” three judges spinning around for Christian proves otherwise on the “The Voice.” Adam, an actual white-guy-with-guitar, however, does not spin, because Christian is “so unique and different, maybe I’m just not ready for it.” Which has to be a lie. Anyway, Christian chooses the other white-guy-with-guitar, Blake Shelton.

Kris Thomas sings “Saving All My Love,” and all the judges think he’s an average female instead of a pretty amazing male. Only Shakira hears some potential and spins for him.

The best-for-last spot goes to Judith Hill, who has sung duets with Michael Jackson but still needs a reality show to help her become famous. How does that work? Seriously, music industry, get it together. She’s insanely good, doing “What a Girl Wants,” in a soulful r&b way that has never been done before. And now I’m really missing Xtina, because someone like Judith isn’t coming out here to put her amazing spin on “Hips Don’t Lie,” so where is the vocal powerhouse coach we need on this show? Adam tells her she sang as well as Christina, and then threatens to light himself on fire if she doesn’t choose him. Thankfully, she does choose him, thus preventing the dawn of a new era of crispy-charred-white-guy-with-guitar.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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