The Voice season 17 blind auditions begin with returning coaches Blake Shelton, Kelly Clarkson and John Legend. In the wake of Adam Levine’s abrupt departure from the show, Blake gal-pal Gwen Stefani takes a seat on the panel. Carson Daly returns as host. The season premieres tonight (Sept 23). We’ll be live blogging all the Blind Audition performances right here.
The last artist of the night looks like an obvious Team Blake recruit. Cory Jackson grew up on a farm in Arkansas and is a country music enthusiast. He’s singing “Galveston” by Glenn Campbell and although his voice is just okay on this song, Cory has some serious charisma. This is just a bit of an awkward audition song, but I can hear potential. This almost sounds like something from a Broadway musical, but Blake, Kelly and Gwen all end up turning their chairs. Despite being appreciative of Kelly and Gwen’s kindness, obviously Cory chooses to join Team Blake. And that’s a wrap for tonight!
Elise Azkoul – Million Reasons by Lady Gaga – 28 – Atlanta GA – Elise is proud to be Middle Eastern and Lebanese. Congrats girl. That admission will probably cost you votes from certain US regions. She comes from a big musical family. Her paternal grandfather write “Last Dance” and “It’s Raining Men.” He recently died, and Elise is still mourning. The nervous singers are auditioning tonight. Her lower register is shaky. But when she finally hits some high notes, Gwen hits her button. Kelly loves her retro sixties style (so do I!). Gwen loves her tone. “You just got to get the confidence,” she says.
Royce Lovett – 30 – Tallahassee FL – Royce’s got his name because his mother “really wanted a Rolls Royce.” Huh. He grew up in the sticks. “I grew up singing and rapping to the wind.” Lauren Hill playing the guitar changed his life. “Black boys didn’t play guitar!” He LOVES reggae. He’s married, with a young son named Levi. C’mon Gwen hit that button for your reggae boy! He’s got a great voice, very unique and is a solid guitar player. Gwen turns! Oops. Blake hits his button. She mad! Heh. She dances around the stage as he finishes his song. Kelly says, “One being the obvious choice!” John thought there were pitch and control issues. Gwen didn’t know his gender and adds, “This is my lane!” She calls his voice “animated.” Let’s mix it up. I think Blake hit his button to troll his girlfriend. Blake notes his lake playlist…but then admits “Oh screw it!” Yep. Trolling. Royce Picks Gwen.
Next to the stage is 16-year old Emily Vass. Aside from singing, she’s also a talented sketch artist but has a rare disease that causes her to believe injuries are worse than they actually are. After months of physical therapy, she’s back to singing and ready to audition for the coaches. Performing “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift, Emily just doesn’t have the confidence to convince the coaches to turn their chair. They assure Emily she has potential and encourage her to return next season.
Hello Sunday (Duo) (13 & 14) – This is Me from The Greatest Showman – Hm. Why aren’t we seeing this singer at first. OH BECAUSE IT’S A DUO. They are very young, and frankly aren’t nearly ready. Pitch issues EVERYWHERE. Practice more girls. Come back in a few years. WHAT??? After a girl screeches out a high note Kelly hits her Button. Uhm…. It turns out, they met at summer camp. Chelsea, one of the singers, has been in performance arts schools all her life. STAY THERE GIRL AND PRACTICE MORE. Kelly loves harmony singing. She thinks she can help them. That’s good, because they need it. Blake chimes in to say it’s a good match. Kelly can’t believe Blake is giving her a compliment.
Up next is Max Boyle, a singer-songwriter from Ohio who is the youngest of six kids. He kept his singing to himself through most of his childhood until joining a gospel choir in high school. Max is singing “Wayfaring Stranger” by Johnny Cash and as he belts it out A Capella, John and Kelly spin their chair. As the music kicks in Max begins to work the stage and show off his falsetto. It’s not until halfway through the performance that Kelly looks down and realizes John has blocked her! Neither Blake or Gwen turned their chair so Max automatically joins Team Legend.
Shane Q – Tennessee Whiskey by Chris Stapleton – 28 – Sacramento CA – NBC released a preview of this audition earlier today. Shane works as a special needs driver by day. He was a shy kid, but broke out of his shell after he started singing. Shane receives a 4 chair turn and uhm. It’s a little surprising. He sings with a sweet, high tenor. But, his runs are undisciplined and he hits some sour notes. But the coaches go crazy here nevertheless. John notes his “gospel flavor.” Gwen mistakenly namechecks San Francisco as his hometown. Oops. Blake says he made “San Diego proud.” Har har har. He goes on to rather bizzardly recite a hyperbolic review from God-knows-where, hyping his skills as a coach. It reads like it was written by Blake’s publicist. Maybe it was! “That’s a lot of arrogance from somebody that just lost The Voice,” snarks John, who happens to be the reigning winner of the show. “I love going in and out of genres,” Kelly says, explaining why she believes she’d be good for him as a coach “You’re going to be in the finale,” she declares. Hm. But in the end Shane Picks Team Kelly. Girlfriends gotta stop predicting people are going to win. But it was the “cross genre” remark that got to Shane. “That’s exactly what I want to do,” he says.
Alex Guthrie – Love and Happiness – Age 25 from Marietta, GA plays guitar and was in a commercial with former The Voice coach Jennifer Hudson. It takes a bit, but Kelly and Gwen eventually turn. Kelly’s waiting for a glory note. She finally gets one, sorta. Alex has a solid blues voice, but it doesn’t pop. He does voice work and background singing for a living. He’s used to blending into the background. Gwen says she knows how to work with someone like him–she can help him organize his versatility. Alex Picks Team Kelly. Alex also opened for Kelly a few years ago (they didn’t meet) so he had to pick her. After, Kelly chats with Jennifer on the phone, who seems to remember him very well. She says hi to the rest of the crew.
Will Breman was up next for his chance at joining a team. Living with Asperger’s has made the social aspect of life hard for Will, but music, as it does for a lot of artists, helps him get through that. He decided to rearrange the Spice Girls classic “Say You’ll Be There” into a chill vibe rock song that caught the attention of John first, followed quickly by Gwen. Both Kelly and Blake sat this one out. All the coaches loved his take on the song that everybody knows, but it was basically a done deal once Will proclaimed John as one of his major influences and then sang his song “Ordinary People” with him! Yep, so Will easily chose to join Team John.
Rose Short – Preach by John Legend – Age 34 from Killeen,Texas. Rose was a correction officer for 8 years. At times, she was in dangerous situations. The job was hard. She quit! She’d rather perform. She’s close to her family. They’re all here to LOUDLY support her. She’s not afraid to cover John and is confident she’ll do it justice. Kelly and Gwen turn. Kelly tries hard to get her. Blake makes a joke that she sits in Adam Levine’s old chair, which is possessed. When Rose hits the chorus, Kelly hits her button. The singer has a big voice, but it’s generic and a bit paint by numbers. Gwen calls her voice “ridiculous” yet “tasteful.” Gwen thinks she’d learn a lot from HER. Kelly says she “annihilated” the original singer, and then remembers who she was covering. oops. “You could win this show,” Kelly says, TOTALLY overselling this woman’s talent. John assures her she slayed the song, but overthinks anytime a hopeful covers his songs. Blake jokes that she’s in Adam’s old chair which is “possessed.” Gwen promises to help her “find” her personality. That’s actually a good pitch. Rose needs to find something unique. And…”I’ve been rocking with this lady, she didn’t even know it,” says Rose. Rose picks Team Gwen.
Brennan Lassiter – You Are My Sunshine – Age 20 Country singer from South Carolina sings in church and was raised by her grandparents. Her parents were young and “unfit” to take care of her. She sings a countrified version of the song. It’s a four chair turn. Blake hit his button first. I SHOULD HAVE BLOCKED says Kelly after hitting her button. Brennan sings a slow, bluesy, country tinged version of the song. She’s got an incredible range and a lovely tone. She’s Danielle Bradbery, with maturity and soul.
Kelly BEGS Brennan to pick her while waving her artist around. She reminds her that she won with Chevel Shepherd, a country artist. If Brennan chooses Gwen, she’ll get her and boyfriend Blake, she says. John doesn’t try that hard–“I can help you fulfill your potential” he says. Blake talks up his fellow coaches and says, “They know as much about country music as I do a pap smear.” Hm. Brennan admits that she’s never performed outside of church. MORE BEGGING FROM KELLY. Gwen tries to sweet talk Blake into giving her up. But in the end Brennan picks Team Kelly.
Jay Miah – Never Enough from The Greatest Showman – Age 30 from Tampa, Florida. Jay is a drag queen and does drag bingo on the weekend. However, here, he does not perform in drag. His natural singing voice is higher than most males. But he feels that The Voice is a place that will accept him. He has a pretty falsetto, but he seems very nervous.
He doesn’t have a strong chest voice. This song requires the ability to hit that GIANT GLORY NOTE and he misses. There are pitch problems everywhere. Nobody hits their button, unsurprisingly. Oh. When Kelly discovers this singer is male, she begins slapping her button. “You have an incredible gift,” she says. Gwen is sorry as well. Blake notes that the song’s range pulled him apart. True. The song pick was too ambitious. They urge him to come back – NO TURNS
Jake HaldenVang – Wish I Knew You – Age 24 from Charlotte NC. He’s played rock music all of his life. A guitar player, he used to be in a band with his dad and they played all over the country. They played for 3 or 4 years together. Then he went solo and played in a blues rock band. Right off the bat, he hits the guitar strings. He’s a skilled guitar player and a good rock singer, if old fashioned. He starts off in a high high falsetto. Grab attention right off the bat-smart!
Jake’s got great range, beautiful tone. Gwen, John and Blake turn. Blake thanks him for rocking. Kelly and Gwen thought he was a woman at first. She heard his nerves, as a fellow rock singer, she can help him, she says. John reminds him that he’s the current winner. Blake LOVES his growly chest voice. He’s country, but has won the show with a rock artist. Kelly, who didn’t turn, advocates for Gwen. Jake picks Team Gwen He was clearly enamored with her, so no surprise.
Katie Kadan performs "Baby I Love You" during The Voice Blind Auditions.
NBC released this Blind Audition as a preview. Of course, because she’s a good singer–Katie sings with a strong, muscular throaty alto. She’s like a force of nature. But it’s a first pick because she’s a four chair turn AND Blake blocks Kelly, who is the obvious choice for the singer. It’s the usual thing–Kelly doesn’t notice at first.
Then she freaks out when she finds out. Blake blames John, of course. “I’m going to take you down, Shelton,” Kelly cries, indignantly. We’ve seen this narrative before! John calls her performance raw, thrilling, and full of fire. “You’re perfect for this show,” he says. Gwen compares her to CeeLo. Kelly calls her a revamp of “actual talent.” Blake’s pitch to Katie is pretty weak, “I’ve been to Chicago!” Gwen says, “I can help you be you.” Kelly urges her to choose either Gwen or John.
And in the end, Katie picks John. Smart choice. Kelly promises to block a talented country singer from choosing Blake.
With multiple surprises, plus excitement and tension from the judges, this is a not-to-be-missed sneak peek at the first seven minutes of the new season of The Voice.