While the judging panel on that other TV singing competition appears more and more dysfunctional, The Voice may have found its funniest and most fun judging panel ever. Even when Adam, Blake, Pharrell, and Christina are acting dysfunctional, they’re good for fun. We got an especially funny two hours on Tuesday as the judges had plenty of time to scheme and bicker. So here’s who and what the judges fought over last night:
1. Radio-friendly pop singer Ashley Morgan, 26, works doing back-up vocals and singing at a theme park (probably Disneyland, given that she’s from Costa Mesa, part of the real OC). For her audition she goes up-tempo, with Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody Who Loves Me.” She gets Blake’s and Pharrell’s interest. She tells the judges, “I want to make music that makes a difference in the world,” and then picks Pharrell. Blake, complaining about losing out, believes, “That girl could win!”
2. I think I got this black R&B singer’s name–she’s Koryn Hawthorne, not Karen or Karyn. She sings a power ballad and hits some big notes, but it looks like the judges are unimpressed until Christina finally turns her chair. Then Pharrell hears a particularly impressive note and pushes his button. We’ve got the first Christina vs. Pharrell showdown! From a neutral position, Adam states, “Bonkers mature for a 16-year-old girl!” Christina and Pharrell both label Hawthorne an “old soul.” Christina also says, “There’s no vocal coach in the world who can convey what you just did.” Pharrell observes the judges don’t have to fight, and hugs Christina. Not to be left out, Adam hugs Blake. Then Adam stands between Pharrell and Christina, like a boxing ref, and asks, “Who do you pick?” The answer: Christina!
3. Puerto Rican girl Lexi Davilla (Where’s Shakira when you really need her? Or J-Lo?) has got Adam and Blake whispering back and forth. Adam turns first, then Blake gets in just under the bar. (Blake probably didn’t want Adam to get away with a one-chair turn.) Pharrell didn’t push his button, but now he seems very interested in this singer. He starts coaching her about breathing and relaxation techniques. Adam argues Blake’s not the right coach for Davilla because he’s a country artist but she’s not. It must have seemed reasonable, because Davilla does pick Adam.
Montage goes by so fast I didn’t get it all: Josh Blackstone to Team Adam, Amoria (America?) Deland and Katelyn Read to Christina, Bev Brooks to Blake.
4. Farm girl Brenna Yeager (Is she related to Chuck and Steve?), from Spokane, WA, is so taken with Miranda Lambert’s “The House that Built Me” that she says she’s even got a tattoo of it. (She doesn’t show it, though.) She’s a sweet girl with a sweet voice, and the song’s incredible, but you’ve got to wonder about anybody who loves any song that much. Adam can’t resist when she sings the line about “You don’t know me from Adam.” It looks like Blake may let Adam have this country girl without a challenge–until he pulls a buzzer-beater. Of course he notes, “That takes a lot of nerve” to sing his wife’s song so well, and he likes that. After considerable bickering, the lady picks Blake, although Adam plainly wanted her very much. Steal, Adam, steal!
5. Jeremy Gaynor is part of West Point’s military band. He says he has to be able to sing all kinds of music–and he shows it by his song choice. He’s African-American, but rather than picking an R&B song, he does one of the Carpenters’ hits from the seventies. It’s “Superstar,” written by Paul Williams, with the “I love you, I really do” hook. “I love you, too!” shouts Christina, but all four judges apparently love this guy. He does pick Christina.
6. Jack Gregori (strange surname for a country singer) is in a country band and has a day job doing law. He’s a big bearded guy with a Western hat–and a baritone that invites comparison to Johnny Cash. He plays up the vocal resemblance with “Ring of Fire.” Adam turns his chair fairly early and no one, not even Blake, challenges him. Adam praises the singer’s “deep baritone, completely on the mark, soulful voice.” Blake tells Adam, “I want to see what you can do with a great country singer,” but I’m suspicious maybe the country expert heard something he didn’t like. Maybe the Cash resemblance was a hindrance as far as Blake was concerned?
7. Here’s another uncommon name that’s hard to get right as it flashes by on the TV–I think it’s Bria Joynee. She’s an African-American girl from a small town in Mississippi, she sings in church, and her mother’s a choir director. She’s got a pretty radio-friendly pop voice. Pharrell and Blake both want her. Blake praises her vibrato and argues she should be on his team because, “You’re a country girl, dammit!” Pharrell says he’d like to help her work on “some things.” She must agree with that argument because she picks Pharrell. He says he’s glad to have her because “I wanted a little more soul on my team.” He must be thinking of coaching her to add some more soulful elements.
8. Brian Johnson, 24, has the kind of voice and backstory that this show’s voters often respond to. He had a rock band called the Rescue until he quit to take care of his ailing father. He’s a heavyset guy and says he always got made fun of in school when he sang, because of his high voice. (When he tells this story to the judges, Adam says, “Same here!”) He auditions with “Reason to Believe,” the second time a contestant has sung a BeeGees song this season. After only a few notes, Adam signals his interest. After a few more lines, Blake turns his chair, too. The next chapter in this bickering bro-mance begins. Adam thinks the singer has an “engaging emotional way, drawing you in.” Blake comments, “So much heart [but] you make it seem so easy,” Pharrell (from the sideline) adds, “Music on radio needs voices like yours, faces like yours.” Despite Johnson’s earlier statement that he likes Maroon 5, he picks Blake. Maybe Blake’s argument, “There’s nobody like you on my team [compared to Adam’s],” worked. Once again we see a running storyline this season: Blake gloats while Adam sulks.
9. Oh, Boy! Another country singer for the boys to fight over! Corey White, from Oklahoma, sings Zac Brown’s “Chicken Fry.” He looks and sounds like a teen but he must be older because he talks about going to school and being in a band for several years. The judges glance back and forth, everybody waiting for somebody else to jump in. Finally Pharrell gets tired of waiting for Blake and/or Adam, and pulls a buzzer-beater. Except Blake pulls one, too! Pharrell argues, “He knows country music but I know all kinds of music!” Adam’s rubbing it in now, getting up to argue “the case of the People vs. Blake Shelton.” When White finally gets asked to make his choice, he says, “Something about those boys from Oklahoma, I’ve got to go with Blake!” Blake crows about his latest team member, “This cool rasp, he’s got everything to be in country!”
Then he lets Pharrell, Christina, and everybody else know, he and Adam made a pact to keep talent away from Pharrell and Christina, and Adam just broke it. What is this, a Survivor tribal council?
Running tally of coaches’ (judges’) teams:
Team Christina–Clinton Washington, America (?) Deland (?), Katelyn Read, promising female pop singers India Carney, Sonic, and Trina Gibson, the soulful Samoan-American Joe Tolo, folksinger Gabriel Wolfchild, R&B vocalists Rob Taylor and Koryn Hawthorne, and military man Jeremy Gaynor (do we count Adam Levine, too?)
Team Adam–Josh Blackstone, James McNiece, Nicholette Morrette, alt-rocker Michael Lear, R&B singers Barry Minnefield, Blaze Johnson, Renee DeBarge, and Tonya Boyd-Cannon, Latina teen Lexi Davilla, and two–two–country singers, Deanna Johnson and Jack Gregori
Team Blake–country singers Corey White, Brenna Yeager, Cody Wickline, Matt Snow, Kelsey May, Brook Adee and (probably) Bev Brooks, bluesy metal shouter Sarah Potenza, folksinger Joshua Davis, Maroon 5 fan Brian Johnson, and R&B singer Jacob Rummell
Team Pharrell–Noel Beebee, folksy Sawyer Fredericks, bluesy Mia Z, bluesy beatboxer Travis Ewing, black woman rock singer Kimberly Nichole, black church singer Bria Joynee, James Brown soundalike Anthony Riley, teenage crooner Lowell Oakley, theme park (likely Disney) entertainer Ashley Morgan,and the country-and-blues blend of Meghan Linsey