by Lyn Jensen
When The Voice is having auditions, each two-hour episode typically features eight contestants that at least one judge turns a chair for. Add some featured contestants that don’t get picked, a montage of (three) successful auditions, and the air time’s filled. Already this season we’re seeing a trend for teens and country singers.
1. Morgan Frazier, 22, a pretty blonde country singer, has been living in Nashville since age 16, and has played shows including at Tootsie’s, the world-famous Nashville cocktail lounge. She tries to sing “I Want You to Want Me” as a ballad. Even though the audition runs 90 seconds it feels like she’s taking forever to finish. Gwen wants her though, and so does Blake, who pulls one of his buzzer-beaters. Gwen thought her audition was “ridiculously creative” (I didn’t). Blake gushes about a cross between Marilyn Monroe and Emmy Lou Harris. Of course the Nashville girl picks Blake.
2. Amanda Ayala, a teen rocker who’s been influenced by Joan Jett and Pat Benatar, sings “Mississippi Queen.” She attracts three judges–Pharrell, Blake, and Adam. Gwen stays out of it, although Ayala previously said that was the judge she wanted. She picks Adam because he’s the one who’s in a rock band.
3. Jeffrey Austin with bright red hair sang in high school musicals but has been working at a PR job since school. He likes John Legend and Adam Levine, but his performance only attracts Gwen. Blake thinks the other judges may regret not turning, so mark Austin as a potential steal.
4. Lindsay Elm is a teen from the rural agricultural community of Vacaville, California, and she wears a hat and plays guitar, a little like a female version of last season’s Sawyer Fredericks. She sings a lively song, Meghan Trainor’s “Lips Are Moving.” Gwen likes her right away. Adam and Pharrell quickly follow. Blake takes his time, but joins in towards the end. It’s a four-chair turn. Lindsay’s a Gwen fan, so she picks Gwen.
5. Manny Cabo, an aging rocker of 45, could play a tough guy in a crime drama. He does a big showy metal power ballad, Whitesnake’s “Here I go Again.” He gets Adam’s attention right away, and the other three judges join in before the song’s over. Blake raves, “You turned the place into a hair band concert . You don’t have hair but you’re doin’ hair band music!” Pharrell raves, too, “Your voice just kept going into different dimensions!” Gwen likes his power and control. After all that, Cabo chooses his fellow rocker Adam. Blake says he’s sorry to have lost an eighties’ rocker.
6. Matti Davis, a 16-year-old TX girl, sings “It’s too Late, Baby” in a whiney nasal voice–like Carole King–except she makes King sound good by comparison. For some reason Gwen and Pharrell gush over her and fight over her. They’re actually up on the stage getting in her face about it, while Adam gets cozy with Blake and watches the show. Pharrell wins the argument but Gwen vows to steal if she can. Frankly this doesn’t sound like anybody who’ll come close to winning, and Gwen would be advised to save her steal for several other possibilities.
7? One of the unsuccessful auditions is Caleb Lee Hutchinson, a country singer whose voice and style are much more mature than his 16 years. He shows some similarity to Garth Brooks on Brooks’ hit, “Miss the Dance.” You’d think Blake would grab him but Blake advises him to work on improving his voice for a few more months and then come back. We’ll watch to see if he returns in season 10.
7? No, a montage: black R&B singer Cassandra Roberson goes to Adam, while Pharrell adds young Daria Jasmine and female vocalist Riley Breeder to his team.
7 (for real). Chris Crump is from TX and likes Creed. He sings an Ed Sheeran song, “Thinking Out Loud.” He says he’d like to work with Pharrell or Adam–then all four judges whip around early. Blake likes the “warmth” in Crump’s voice. Pharrell likes his “self-identity.” Gwen thinks he was “really intimate” and Adam thinks he can connect to a large audience. Blake gets the guy.
8. Tyler Dickerson is a singer who’s obviously destined for Team Blake. He reminds me a little of Idol season 4 runner-up Bo Bice. He came to Nashville at 15, and for a while was being mentored (managed and produced) by John Rich of Big & Rich. Then the record company he was signed to closed and he faded. His song choice is “Hard to Handle,” a song that originated with Otis Redding and has already been performed by artists ranging from Tom Jones to the Black Crowes. Dickerson attracts one judge–but that one judge is Blake, who remembers him. Blake tells the others how this guy was once hyped as the next Travis Tritt, and he suggests to Dickerson they get busy on “some Travis Tritt.”
9. Tonight does squeeze in one more audition. It’s a country duo, Jubal and Amanda, who ensure themselves of a memorable TV moment when he proposes to her after the audition. When this happens Adam hints, “Blake’s an ordained minister.” (What? Was that what he did before he got a record contract?) That may be rushing things a little–but the couple is ensured of more TV time because both Gwen and Pharrell want them. It’s Pharrell who gets the first duo The Voice has seen in more than a season. Pharrell talks about how he can coach them in either Southern rock or country. BTW they sang “Seven Bridges Road,” which Jubal’s father wrote for the Eagles.
The judges will probably finish filling their teams over the next two episodes. Let’s take a look at the field so far:
Blake–Barrett Baber, Chris Crump, Blind Joe, Emily Ann Roberts, Tyler Dickerson, Ms. Morgan Fraiser, and Nadjah Nicole.
Gwen–Jeffrey Austin, Kota Wade, Ellie Lawrence, Noah Jackson, Tim Atlas, Hannah Ashbrook, Lindsay Elm, and Braiden Sunshine.
Adam–Manny Cabo, Cassandra Roberson, Amanda Ayala, Jordan Smith, Regina Love, James Dupree, and Keith Semple
Pharrel–Matti Davis, Mark Hood, Ms. Riley Breeder, Daria Jasmine, Evan McKeel, Ivonne Acera, Zach Seabaugh, Amanda and Jubal, and Siahna I’m.