It’s amazing what an Emmy can do for your self-esteem! “The Voice” returned Monday for its fifth season with some major spunk and a roster of seriously talented performers, who had coaches Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green, Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton’s big red chairs spinning all night.
The coaches’ reunion was the most major part of the season premiere. The show opened with the four coaches reuniting on stage, singing “I Love Rock and Roll.” It was the perfect kick-off to their unmatched chemistry (sorry Shakira and Usher, but you guys just didn’t have it). Christina and Cee Lo also used that moment to unveil a new hairdo and a new head-do, respectively.
Throughout the night everyone reminisced about getting back together, and Christina tried to use last season’s absence to her advantage, courting singers with her fresh/refreshed coaching after a needed break. That strategy might be working for her. It’s already looking like Blake might be unseated as reigning three-time champ, with Cee Lo and Christina both snagging some incredible acts.
Cee Lo won the first two singers of the night: the ‘70s glam rock Bowie-loving Kat Robichaud and 17-year-old indie accented shy girl Caroline Pennell. Kat inspired Cee Lo, Xtina and Blake to turn around pretty much simultaneously, but really, she was a match made for Cee Lo. For example: “Teach me about David Bowie and Queen,” Blake said. Kat also provided us with the first dead/absent dad story of the night. Cause it wouldn’t be “The Voice” without deep sadness and the possibility that a ghost made those coaches turn their chairs around.
Cute little Caroline’s “Anything Could Happen” was as indie girl as it comes, which is usually perfect Adam fodder. But it looks like he decided to maybe stop collecting teenage Florence Spektor-Gouldings? Whatever, he’ll get her in the steal. Blake and Cee Lo made the pitch, and after a brief and subtle debate about whether Caroline emulates or imitates, she landed on Cee Lo’s team.
Fifty-four-year-old Donna Allen, a former backup to Gloria Estefan, inspired Adam and Xtina to turn around with a soulful “You Are So Beautiful.” Blake strongly encourages her to pick Christina, so what does she do? Gives it to Adam, who gets on the floor and does pushups. He compares her to a Tina Turner or Whitney.
Donna’s success was in contrast to the night’s rejects, both featured and quickly run through, which were almost all teens. It is unusual and a good direction for “The Voice” to go in. Time for some older folks getting their due. The featured no-chairs were Jake Worthington, a four-wheeler rider and topless fisher from Texas, who inspired Blake to regret his decision with the term “I screwed the pooch.” And later, 15-year-old Matthew Brea, who lost his two-year-old brother from seizures, underwhelmed with Jackson 5. The saddest part about Matthew’s performance was his proclamation before he went on that, “I don’t believe in second chances.” Fifteen and jaded. But apparently not so strong in his convictions, because he promises the judges that he’ll try again next year. Also coming back next year is Delvin Choice, a self-declared “tall sexy chocolate glass of water” and singing barista at Starbucks (that certainly made everyone’s day at Starbucks-sponsored “The Voice”), who had pitch problems on “Closer” but has his hair in a braided updo known as “the lobster.”
Everyone’ favorite of the night was Matthew Schuler, who got an immediate four-chair turnaround while still in his a cappella open of “Cough Syrup.” The judges went all out to convince him to join their teams. Adam winds up stuck on the back of his chair, Blake shakes his hand, and Xtina hugs him. Cee Lo is just sitting there laughing, which does not get you team members. Blake mentions his wife for the first time this season. Also, doesn’t work. Hugs win. Xtina gets him and she raps.
We get a quick preview of Carson’s Kia-based travels to find “Voice” contestants, including what turns out to be the younger sister of “The Big Bang Theory” star Kaley Cuoco, Briana Cuoco, who is informed by Daly that she has scored a blind audition with the judges. Excited for her big break, Briana Tweeted Tuesday: “Wow wasn’t at my phone all afternoon and seeing everyone’s support for #thevoice when I get back is incredible!!! THANK YOU,” she tweeted. “…There are 5 nights of blind auditions – I do not know when my ep will air but it’s comin.”
Then Nic Hawk (not the Showtime gigolo) is introduced. Nic’s step-father left, so he gave up his career to step in and help his family and, yay, more daddy issues. He teaches dance in Dallas, and his repertoire, he informs us, includes twerking. Still not the gigolo. Anyway, he performs “Hit Em Up Style” in the voice of Adam Levine, which gets him the spin he’s looking for. Cee Lo too makes a bid for Nic, but he just can’t compete with Adam. “I don’t know that I’d be able to focus because you’re so good looking,” Nic tells Adam. Who needs focus? He picks him anyway.
There was another Adam emulator/imitator in Josh Logan, a 33-year-old father. But even though Adam spun for Josh’s rendition of “Too Close,” along with Blake and Christina, it was Christina that convinced him to pick her. Why? Because she is “serious in her demeanor,” Josh tells Carson Daly. Christina promised to experiment with Josh, which seems risky, but maybe that’s just what Christina needs to win. Looks like she knows it. Instead of building a girl-power team she can phone in, she’s looking outside her comfort zone by picking up her second male contestant of the night.
Blake insists he too is breaking his mold by not trying to cobble together another country team, but his only win of the night is Alabama’s Shelbie Z., a hair stylist and pageant coach who won 45 pageants before the age of 10. She quit competing because people made fun of her weight. Sad! Shelbie gets Blake, Cee Lo and Christina to turn their chairs around, and though she feigned deliberation (“I have thought long and hard about this” she says after about 10 seconds), she picks Blake.
The last contestant, James Wolpert, is full-on computer nerd/art genius who dropped out of college and works at the Apple Store. He rasps and growls his way through “Love Interruption” and it’s not till he breaks down and falsettos it up a bit that he gets the coaches to turn one by one. Blake can do that creepy finger point to his head all he wants, but this guy is so Adam’s. Christina gives it her best shot, too: “Thank you for showing me why I did come back to this show,” she says. Hey, whatever works to get Christina to stay on this show is fine by me.
Team Blake: 1
Team Christina: 2
Team Cee Lo: 2
Team Adam: 3
Blake’s creepy finger pointing: 2
Blake’s mention of wife Miranda: 1
Watch Monday Night’s Season Premiere of “The Voice” Now: