Just a day after winning the 2015 Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program, “The Voice” kicked off its ninth season, doing a blonde-for-blonde replacement with Season 7 vet Gwen Stefani, and getting things going with the Blind Auditions. Last year’s winner, Pharrell Williams, is back facing the audience to construct his new team by ear, as are nine-season vets Adam Levine and Blake Shelton. But right out of the gate and after a few turnarounds, slots for Team Blake remained empty while the other coaches nabbed singers. Was the winningest coach in “The Voice” history in a slump?
Entertainment Weekly recapped “The Voice” Season 9 premiere, noting that it wasn’t until Nadjah Nicole, a 23-year-old single mother from New Castle, Delaware, that Blake Shelton saw his luck turn. And as luck would have it, it turned out to come at the expense of Adam Levine, his bromantic competitor. She performed Janelle Monae’s “Tightrope,” a quick-tempoed verbal barrage that nearly cost her a shot on the show. Not because she couldn’t sing it, but because the song doesn’t allow for much range. Adam and Blake, apparently hearing something distinctive in her vocals, at the last second turned around for Nadjah, so they got to spar for her. Shockingly, even after Adam got Blake to admit he didn’t know who Janelle Monae was, she chose the tall Oklahoman for her coach.
By the end of the Blind Auditions (Part 1), all the judges had two contestants each. No surprise, Blake Shelton got the first country singer to join Nadjah on his team. Barrett Baber of Fayetteville, Arkansas, energized the audience with his rendition of Jeff Healey Band’s “Angel Eyes” and, after a four-chair turnaround, he went for obvious coach.
Another notable of the night: Jordan Smith chose Team Adam after shocking all four judges as the individual making beautiful vocalizations with Sia’s “Chandelier.” No doubt they expected to see a female on stage, but Jordan, a big ole Kentucky boy and shamelessly promoted by the show as “The Very Special Blind Audition,” let them know that he had faced adversity for being different all his life, but he had accepted who he was. Truth be told, there’s strength in self-realization. And with a voice like his, that realization could take him far in life.
As for being different, Team Pharrell picked up perhaps the most quirky gifted talent of the night — Siahna Im, a 15-year-old high school student from Auburn, Washington. She turned three chairs (Adam Levine abstaining) with who performed a very mature “Fever” (Peggy Lee) for the judges. Prior to her performance, host Carson Daly asked what made her want to sing soul music. She answered: “When I was in the third grade, I heard Ray Charles, and that’s when I decided to sing soul music.” Oddly enough, it was Sia’s quirkiness that gave one the feeling that this little wisp of a girl could pull it off — and she did.
“The Voice” Blind Auditions continue on Tuesday night as the coaches build their teams. “The Voice” airs on Monday and Tuesday at 8 p.m. (EST) on NBC Television.