by Lyn Jensen
Teams didn’t fill up on The Voice Tuesday night, even though fourteen people auditioned and twelve got on a team. Next week brings the final two nights of auditions, but this line-up of judges is producing some unexpected choices and–very–fresh bickering:
1. Aaron Gibson fits the white-guy-with-guitar stereotype, and he sings a stripped-down “Losin’ My Religion” in a deep gravelly voice. Alicia and Miley must like that voice, because they turn about halfway through the audition. Then Blake joins the bidding at the last minute. As for Adam, he says, “I’m jealous of your voice,” and I understand, because it’s the opposite of Maroon 5’s vocalist. Alicia hardly gets to say anything while Blake and Miley argue. She’s dominating the debate, saying things like, “For a chick, I’ve got a gravelly voice, too,” and Blake’s asking her, “When do you breathe?” Gipson picks Miley. Blake suggests, “He picked you so you’d shut up!”
2. Simone Gundy is a black woman from Arlington, TX, but she’s done musicals in Houston. She provides a splendid example of classic old-school R&B with her rendition of “I Who Have Nothing.” She gets Adam and Miley’s attention right away. When the song’s over, they both run up and hug her. The audience is pulling for Adam, and even Blake–in his bickering bro-mantic way–is pulling for Adam (probably to keep Gundy away from Miley). Plus Gundy’s ten-year-old son wanted her to pick Adam. So she does pick Adam, giving him an R&B singer.
3. Unsuccessful audition–Samantha Landrum, a Mississippi ingenue, if that term may be applied to a singer.
4. Blake wants a real hard country singer but so does Alicia. Josh Gallagher is a country singer from Nashville. He looks like a pirate (big guy with a dark beard) but he’s got a soft Southern voice. (This season’s shaping up to be a season of soft, breathy voices.) Blake actually turns around before the final line, but then Alicia turns on the last line. I’m not overly impressed but Alicia and Blake argue hard for him. Alicia says, “Country, the blues and soul are all brothers.” Blake says, “I want to help this next generation of country singers.” Gallagher picks Blake. (Cheer up, Alicia, maybe you can steal him because I predict he’ll be an early cut.)
5. Gabriel Violett was on Broadway in the musical Spring’s Awakening but now he’s reduced to modeling adult “one-sies” while trying to transition to popular singing. Despite his Broadway experience, he has a soft voice. (Alicia calls it a “beautiful warm low voice.”) Alicia pushes her button and turns her chair right away. Just when it looks like this is going to be a one-chair turn, Blake pulls one of his buzzer-beaters. Blake needn’t have bothered, however, because Gabe picks Alicia.
6. Piano man Michael Sanchez looks the part–like a member of the Rat Pack back in ’62 or so–but he’s got a low soulful bluesy voice. (He’s white–or Hispanic, if you prefer–but he sounds black, singing Bill Withers’ “Use Me.”) This is a one-chair turn, because the judges sit idle until Alicia pulls a buzzer beater. They’re all astonished by who they see. Miley says, “I thought there was a big beard waiting.”
7. Darby Ann Walker is a young blonde with a big black Western-style hat, and she’s an Alicia fan. (There are a plethora of Alicia fans this season.) She’s got a soft delicate chirpy voice, and says she wants to be an “indy” artist. (“Indy” used to mean “independent,” as from a record label, but now it’s a genre.) Miley and Alicia turn around for her, but so does Blake. Miley comments how she and Walker both have a shaky vibrato (a little like Dolly Parton) and somehow that turns into them singing “Jolene” together. Does this mean she’s headed for Team Miley? But she’s an Alicia fan–so she sings “No One” with Alicia, too. (The judges have been playing around with Blake’s “I’ll be your Honey Bee” song all evening, but Darby doesn’t sing “I’ll be Your Honey Bee” with Blake. At least, nothing that made the edit.) Walker finally does pick Miley because, “Our voices have a lot in common.”
8. Austin Allsup is a son of rock history. His father, Tommy Allsup, played back-up for Buddy Holly and was not on the fatal plane flight of Feb. 3, 1959, only because he lost a coin flip for the last seat to Richie Valens. Austin sings “Wild Horses” for his audition but in a way that sounds more like the Eagles than the Stones. Blake pushes his button about three-quarters of the way, and it’s a one-chair turn. Not only that, Blake and the Allsups have a little history themselves. They met at a show several years ago, and Blake played around with his “Austin, I Love You” hit by bro-mancing and kissing young Austin. Adam listens to this story and says, “Sometimes you don’t turn around and don’t know why, and this is why!”
9. and 10. Montage: two male vocalists, Christian Fermin and Preston James, go to Team Blake.
11. Khaliya Kimberlie has an unconventional backstory. She’s part Mescalero Apache and lives with her parents on the reservation in New Mexico. She’s also gay, but not boyish, and she’s only 16. She sings country, leading Miley and Blake to push their buttons at almost the same time. Miley likes her low tones, and Blake and Miley argue, but Khaliya picks Miley.
12. Unsuccessful audition–the guy tried for a Southern-fried “I Would Walk 500 Miles” and the judges weren’t impressed.
13. Halle Tomlinson is one more Alicia fan auditioning this season. She was once one of the children on the Barney show, now she works at the School of Rock. (Remember Dalton Rappatoni, the Season 15 American Idol third-place finisher? He was a School of Rock employee, too. I wonder if they know each other.) She brings a soft subtle quality to “New York State of Mind” that attracts Alicia and Blake right away. Adam, who sits this one out, comments, “A different approach to the song, but also some things to work on.” Alicia likes Halle’s “unique style” and Halle does pick her.
14. I don’t remember returning contestant Nolan Neal from Season 10 but the judges do. Miley mentioned earlier she expected contestant Sanchez to have a big dark beard, now here’s a guy who does have one. He sings a stripped-down “Tiny Dancer” and he’s got a big pretty voice that at times approaches Elton John’s tones. He attracts Blake and Adam on the “Dancin’ in the sand” line, Miley on “Softly, slowly,” and Alicia on “Count the headlights.” All four judges love him. Adam proclaims, “You’re going to be the first guy who went home last season and won this season.” Miley compares his singing to her father (Billy Ray Cyrus). Alicia comments on his classic sound, and Blake (like Adam) proclaims, “You’re gonna win this thing!” Nolan’s from Nashville so he’s picking Blake or Miley, right? He picks Adam! Obviously he’s going to be on the others’ “steal” lists should Adam fall out of love with him. Adam babbles, “He’s so improved, his high register is ridiculous. I can’t wait to unleash that beast!”
The judges are apparently looking for teams of twelve this season. So far the talent line-up looks like this:
Team Adam: R&B vocalist Simone Gundy, former boy soprano Billy Gilman, Sinatra fan Riley Elmore, Billy Joel fan Andrew DeMuro, WGWG Brendan Fletcher, Nashville singer Nolan Neal, gospel-flavored Bindy Liebowitz, and Selena fan Elia Esparza.
Team Blake: various flavors of country in Josh Gallagher, Sundance Head, Gabe Broussard, and Dan Harper, second-gen TX rocker Austin Allsup, reggae-flavored Ethan Tucker, alto Dana Harper, and unknown qualities Christian Fermin and Preston James.
Team Alicia: alto We McDonald, Alicia Keys fans Lauren Diaz and Halle Tomlinson, gospel-flavored Jason Warrior, country rocker Josh Halverson, Broadway actor Gabriel Violett, Maroon 5 fan Dave Mosian, Puerto Rican singer Christian Cuevas, and soulful piano man Michael Sanchez.
Team Miley: R&B vocalists Ali Caudwell and Sarayah, Alicia Keys fan Darby Walker, female rocker Sophia Urista, teen vocalists Khaliya Kimberlie and Courtnie Rameriz, You Tube face Carly Metzer, Cajun singer Lane Mack, and WGWG Aaron Gibson.