Here we are in the third week of blind auditions for “The Voice”. If you can currently pick half of the already-selected team members out of a crowd…well, you”re a better person than I. Having 64 participants may yield a vast and varied talent pool, but will also render more than half barely identifiable when the Battle Rounds start. Toss in the fact that each audition since the premiere has thrown in a montage of accepted contestants, and “The Voice” runs the risk of muddying up the waters before it even leaves the audition phase of the competition. Leaving the audience unable to bond with finalists seems like an unwise move.
So let”s see if anyone stands out tonight. Blake Shelton could use the most help, as he only has seven members on his team to date. Christina Aguilera has ten, and Adam Levine and CeeLo Green each have eleven. As always, I”ll be keeping a running diary of the auditions. As always, all times are EST. As always, if a contestant”s sob story doesn”t pass muster, I reserve the right to assign them a role in one of the 300 television programs premiering this week. Let”s press some buttons, people.
8:00 p.m. “Blake has been more selective, only picking seven,” intones Carson Daly while explaining the composition of the teams at the present time. Well, that”s a euphemistic way of putting it. Daly saying “Blake has seen most artists straight up reject up him” might have been more accurate.
8:02 p.m. Our first artist of the day is Michelle Brooks-Thompson, a 28-year mother from Massachusetts. She sings for her customers at the bank. After her husband failed to make it in the NFL, she started a cupcake business so she would no longer be a broke girl. “It”s as if I”m trying out for a team,” she says before heading onstage. To continue the football analogy: Let”s hope there are no replacement coaches in place of the usual four. Things could get ugly.
8:03 p.m. Brooks-Thompson chooses to sing “Proud Mary,” employing the arrangement deployed originally by Ike & Tina Turner. Even before the song kicks into high gear, Levine and Green press their buttons. “That”s your girl, Christina!” screams Shelton to his fellow judge. Green”s smile is a mile wide as Brooks-Thompson works the stage. At the final moment, Aguilera also presses her button. Great performance there. I”m guessing Shelton didn”t press his button because he didn”t think he had a shot.
8:05 p.m. “I”m impressed by things I can”t do. You seem almost supernatural to me,” gushes Levine. Aguilera tells Brooks-Thompson that she was having too much fun not to push her button. “You made it new, and you made it fresh,” praises Green.
8:07 p.m. “I really thought about who I wanted to work with and develop my artistry,” says Brooks-Thompson. And unlike many contestant that have second-guessed themselves once presented with multiple options, Michelle Brooks-Thompson becomes the twelfth member of Team Adam. That”s a solid get for him.
8:13 p.m. Up next, Diego Val, a Miami native originally from Peru. He contracted a disease at age eight that threatened to remove his ability to walk by disintegrating the bones in his hip. In the hospital, his mother gave him a guitar as a way to raise his spirits. Now, he sings for kids in hospitals. “When I was a boy, I had a dream. I had to fight for this,” he says before going onstage. The dude sings for kids with cancer! You expect me to snark on that? You must think me a cruel creature.
8:15 p.m. With acoustic guitar in tow, Val performs Neon Trees” “Animal”. Halfway through the performance, he segues into Spanish, which impresses/surprises the judges. Green presses his button, which relieves me to no end after that pre-taped biography. If NBC put a guy onstage that performs in hospitals for sick children, only to have him get no votes, I would have crawled into a hole and never emerged.
8:17 p.m. All the coaches seemed to enjoy the performance, yet all seem fine with Green having Val on his team. Aguilera brings up this season”s twist, enabling each coach to snatch up two contestants eliminated in the Battle Rounds. “That”s a good point, Christina!” cackles Levine. I wish the coaches did this more often during the auditions. Psychological warfare is fun! In any case, Diego Val becomes the twelfth member of Team CeeLo.
8:24 p.m. Moving right along, we meet Lauren Brooke. Her father built her a stage in their house for her performances. A real-life Rachel Perry, everyone, albeit with one one (straight) father. Still! Brooke battled dyslexia as a child, which translated into her being often too shy to perform. After that, she joined the crew of a nuclear submarine that disobeyed a direct order from The White House before taking refuge on a sparsely populated island.
8:26 p.m. Brooke tells the camera she”s a country artist before heading onstage. PAGING BLAKE!
8:27 p.m. In that country vein, Brooke selects Carrie Underwood”s “Cowboy Casanova”. I”ll confess to not knowing this song, but there are some tricky vocal runs in the verses that make this a bold choice as an audition piece. But it”s not bold enough, or perhaps too bold, as no coaches press their buttons for her.
8:28 p.m. “There were some pitchy things. And the pitchy things get to us,” says Levine. “Everything you did today was fixable,” assures Aguilera. Aguilera”s Oversized Handheld Fan seems disappointed.
8:32 p.m. A music teacher, Suzanna Choffel, is next. No sob story. It”s really refreshing. Just someone who simply wants to take her career to the next level. This feels downright subversive.
8:34 p.m. Choffel plays a rather lovely version of Fleetwood Mac”s “Landslide,” simultaneously taking care of both Lindsey Buckingham”s guitar and Stevie Nicks” vocals. Levine presses his button within seconds, and seems transfixed by her. For his part, Shelton turns around about halfway through. What”s great about this performance is how patient she is with it, letting the notes unfold as slowly as needed to make the song resonate.
8:36 p.m. “I knew that was a grown woman singing that song,” quips Green upon seeing Choffel. “I thought that this [performance] had Adam and Blake”s names all over it,” says Aguilera, explaining why she didn”t press her own button. (The fact that each coach seems to how each contestant might select his or her mentor is a strong argument in favor of switching up the coaches each season. This type of passive decision won”t happen when the two sides aren”t as familiar with one another.) “I just wanna be the guy who gets you where you need to go. And I think that could be the finale of this show,” says Shelton.
8:38 p.m. “I had y”all two in my vision, so this is a toss up,” says Choffel. But in the end, Suzanna Choffel becomes the eighth member of Team Blake. That”s another great pairing in a night full of them so far. I can see all three selected contestants flourishing the best on those three teams.
8:39 p.m. SUCCESSFUL BLAKE MONTAGE! After securing Choffel, Shelton is on a roll. A montage roll. In quick succession, we see 16-year old Michaela Paige and Ryan Jirovec become the ninth and tenth members of Team Blake. Neither seemed terribly impressive, but we also only hear each of them sing four notes. So In Blake We Trust, I suppose.
8:43 p.m. “This is the voice…in your head!” Sorry. I was just imagining a singing competition on Chiller TV.
8:44 p.m. Straight outta Louisiana, it”s Dez Duron. He missed out on a chance last season when none of the coaches turned around for him. But now he”s back, because he”s SO PRETTY. I think. That appears to be why the coaches seemed so upset last season. On a show called “The Voice”. Sigh.
8:45 p.m. On his second attempt to woo the coaches, Duron selects Hall & Oates” “Sara Smile”. Shelton presses his button within moments, and cackles with delight at seeing The Loveliest Man In The World before him. Aguilera must sense a tremor in The Force (or, you know, somewhere else) as she turns around with a look that denotes sinful thoughts. Even Aguilera”s Oversized Handheld Fan seems to be in heat. Eventually, Green joins the two in support of Duron, and starts humping his chair. OK, I made that last part up.
8:47 p.m. “I was on it. I was on it,” says Aguilera, theoretically talking about pressing her button for Duron this time around. But it”s unclear. Duron has modest hopes for his music career, most of which involve actually owning a car in Los Angeles. “I”m sure you can get a ride from one of the four thousand girls screaming for you,” says Levine, who seems to vastly overestimate the number of people in that small studio audience. Green commends Duron”s commitment to improve over the past year. Aguilera hopes to make amends for not pressing her button last season and wants to help take him all the way through this competition. Shelton compares Duron to both A.C. Slater AND Elvis Presley, which makes a strong case for Shelton being drunk.
8:51 p.m. Before making his decision, Duron praises all three coaches with equal aplomb. But in the end, Dez Duron becomes the thirteenth member of Team Christina. If you think he hasn”t been spending the last year dedicated to making this moment a reality, you”re kidding yourself. I don”t mean that in a sketchy way, either. I mean that I could easily see him thinking to himself after last years” disappointment, “One year from now, I will be good enough to make her turn around.”
8:56 p.m. A self-professed CeeLo Green fan, VJ, is our next contestant. Like Choffel, he”s a music teacher, although VJ teaches conservatory students instead of toddlers. Like Choffel, there”s no drama here: Just somebody who wants to take his career to the next level…by singing “Forget You.” Uh oh. This…this could be a bad idea. This isn”t “Cupid singing ‘The Cupid Shuffle”” levels of bad. But it”s close. Still, I”m rooting for him because he”s wearing a bow tie. And The Doctor has told us all that bowties are coooool. And now I want a “Doctor Who”/”The Voice” crossover episode. It”s possible that I need some coffee. Or whatever Shelton is drinking.
8:59 p.m. The performance starts. Uh oh. GREEN IS NOT PLEASED.
9:00 p.m. This is about as mediocre as I feared. It”s just not up to par with the other performances tonight, and Green”s stoic face somehow makes it more difficult to stomach. As you might surmise, no one turns around for VJ.
9:02 p.m. “I can”t think of an odder song for your particular voice,” notes Shelton in the aftermath, in one of the more blunt assessments of the season to date. “When you said ‘forget you”, it sounded like you were saying, ‘I”m sorry”,” piles on Levine. Green ultimately decides to come up onstage and show poor VJ how this song is really performed. Green even spouts out the original (non-radio friendly) lyric at one point, which I assume is allowed in bleeped fashion because we”re now out of the 8:00 hour. VJ may not be on Green”s team, but at least he got a bit of coaching from his idol. “I bet he forgot that he didn”t get picked!” surmises Green after that impromptu performance.
9:08 p.m. A native of New Orleans, Alexis Marceaux, is up next. And if you think she doesn”t have a Hurricane Katrina story, then you must have just tuned into “The Voice” for the first time. “Everything was torn apart. It was complete chaos,” she says over video footage she took upon returning to her home after the storm. I”d make a “Treme” reference here, but unlike my other HitFix colleagues, I haven”t had time to watch that show yet.
9:10 p.m. We have our second Fleetwood Mac song of the night, as Marceaux launches into “Go Your Own Way”. It”s a bit flat in the beginning, but takes off in the chorus. The long notes therein lead Green to press his button, which seems to throw her off a bit. Nothing after that moment is as strong as what comes before. “First of all, rocker chicks turn me on,” says Green, who likes the lower registers more than I did. (But know what? Let”s trust Green”s opinion over mine. That”s probably an excellent plan.) No decision-making drama here, as Alexis Marceaux becomes the thirteenth member of Team CeeLo. Unlike previous pairings tonight, I can”t instantly see where this collaboration might lead. That”s not a bad thing, mind you.
9:14 p.m. ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL CONTESTANT MONTAGE! Not unlike Depeche Mode, “The Voice” just can”t get enough when it comes to these, apparently. Sam James becomes the thirteenth member of Team Adam, Laura Vivas becomes the twelfth member of Team Christina, and Lelia Broussard becomes the eleventh member of Team Blake. Shelton likens Broussard”s performance to one his wife Miranda Lambert might give. Since I only heard two seconds of her singing, I have no idea if this is true or not. “The Voice” is asking us to just take Shelton”s word on nearly every single one of his team members tonight.
9:19 p.m. As we march towards fully-stocked teams across the board, we meet 17-year old Motown- and soul-influenced singer Brandon Mahone. Mahone”s mother moved him to Indiana from Chicago to keep her son safe from the violence cropping up in their neighborhood. Now, they live in Indianapolis, where all they have to worry about are Colts fans still upset that Peyton Manning no longer plays there. That”s still a problem, but a much more manageable one, I imagine.
9:21 p.m. Mahone honors his influences by singing The Temptations” “I Wish It Would Rain”. Levine is on board after a few notes, with Green turning around a few moments later. Aguilera eventually joins the fray, with Shelton the lone holdout. Now that? That might be the first single I download from iTunes. Was it the best performance to date? I”m not sure. But I definitely felt that performance more than any other so far this season. Something about the mood and vibe of it just connected. Then again, like Mahone, I”m a huge Motown fan, so that probably explains it.
9:23 p.m. “What made me press my button was hearing the emotion of your performance,” says Aguilera. “At age 17, it sounds like you have a lot of experience in your voice,” praises Green. Levine is impressed that Mahone didn”t choose an obvious track from the era, but instead sounded like a true student of soul music. Levine puts his finger on what I loved most about the performance: It was a song we rarely, if ever, hear in these singing competitions. The idea of using a semi-obscure track as an audition song is high-risk, high-reward…but it paid off beautifully here.
9:25 p.m. After absorbing all that praise, Brandon Mahone becomes the fourteenth member of Team Adam. That”s another great pickup for Levine. Prediction Time: there will be a lot of Team Adam team members finding themselves on other teams after they cannibalize each other during the Battle Rounds.
9:31 p.m. Back from commercial break, we meet yet another Nashville-based contestant: Jeffrey James. He tells the camera that he”ll be performing “A Little Less Conversation,” which will make any ensuing Elvis Presley reference by Shelton actually makes sense this time.
9:33 p.m. Levine points at Green almost instantly after the performance starts, as if to say, “This is all you!” Halfway through, no one has pressed his or her button, even though each coach seems to be enjoying the performance quite a bit. I”ll confess a bit of shock that no one is turning around here. This is a semi-travesty.
9:35 p.m. “Dude, I know you”re shocking that no one turned around, because you”re really good,” says Levine. I agree! Shelton only felt connected during the last note of the song, at which point it was too late for him. I”m not sure why, since said note was uttered during the song. Bah. Whatever.
9:36 p.m. UNSUCCESSFUL CONTESTANT MONTAGE! I”m too bummed about Jeffrey James to even acknowledge this. I just did the caps lock out of professionalism.
9:41 p.m. OK, I”ve got some coffee and a new attitude after commercial break. We meet our next contestant, Jordan Pruitt, who once had a record deal with Disney and had two songs reach the Billboard charts. (After that, she fought with Connie Britton for record sale supremacy in Nashville.) Her parents note that she wants to transition into more “adult” music, which apparently includes inspiration from one Christina Aguilera. If Pruitt”s parents have made her come to audition with “Dirty,” I will feel extremely uncomfortable.
9:42 p.m. How many alien ships had to crash to Earth for Pruitt to construct that jacket?
9:43 p.m. Pruitt performs Katy Perry”s “The One That Got Away”, and you can tell she has years of experience onstage. She”s working the audience like a pro. Remember how Pruitt mentioned her love of a certain coach? Well, guess who is first (and only) one to turn around? Aguilera, who is actually dancing along to the performance. Luckily, Pruitt doesn”t explode into a fireball upon seeing her idol.
9:44 p.m. “I have been waiting for you, Jordan,” praises Aguilera, pointing out several technical details that stood out for her in Pruitt”s performance. Bonding over shared musical tastes and shared sartorial preferences, Jordan Pruitt becomes the thirteenth member of Team Christina.
9:50 p.m. We”re at the final contestant of the night, Terisa Griffin. (Thank you, “The Voice”, for putting every contestant”s name up onscreen. I wouldn”t have gotten that “Terisa” spelling right in a million years.) Carson Daly asks what she”ll do to make the coaches turn around. “I”m going to let them have it. I”m going to leave it on the stage!” she says. “That”s the greatest thing I”ve heard,” says Daly, who apparently hasn”t had a conversation in quite some time.
9:52 p.m. Griffin walks onstage and launches into Adele”s “Someone Like You”. That”s a bold choice, but Lord she”s got the pipes for it. The coaches seems to be focusing extra hard on what they are hearing, all listening for what she”ll do in the chorus. All four coaches are imploring each other to press their buttons. At the last moment, both Aguilera and Shelton turn around. FINALLY. That shouldn”t have taken nearly that long.
9:54 p.m. Drama turns to pure elation as Griffin finishes her performance. “OK, lemmee tell you what happened,” says Shelton, who tells Griffin that he decided at the last minute to throw his own hat in the ring after imploring Aguilera to choose Griffin for herself.
9:56 p.m. Griffin wants to know what each coach will do for her. Griffin has attitude to spare, that”s for sure. And when Aguilera flubs her answer, we get the unexpected yet totally delightful result that Terisa Griffin becomes the twelfth member of Team Blake. Griffin may or may not be a contender for the ultimate prize. But she will definitely be good television, that”s for sure. “Blake definitely has his hands full,” notes Green. That”s amazing coming from someone that picked Domo for his team.
Updated team rosters, ranked in order of strongest to weakest…
Team Adam: Bryan Keith, Joe Kirkland, Samuel Mouton, Loren Allred, Nicole Nelson, Melanie Martinez,Brian Scartocci, Alessandra Guercio, Adanna Duru, Collin McLoughlin, Benji, Michelle Brooks-Thompson, Sam James, Brandon Mahone (Total: 14)
Team Christina: De”Borah, Devyn Deloera, Adriana Louise, Aquile, Nelly”s Echo, Lisa Scinta, Marissaann, Beat Frequency, Paulina, Joselyn Rivera, Dez Duron, Laura Vivas, Jordan Pruitt (Total: 13)
Team CeeLo: Daniel Rosa, Trevin Hunte, MacKenzie Bourg, Domo, JR Aquino,Nicholas David, Avery Wilson, Todd Kessler, Ben Taub, Emily Earle, Mycle Wastman, Diego Val, Alexis Marceaux (Total: 13)
Team Blake: Terry McDermott, Gracia Harrison, Eric Musicman, Julio Caesar Castillo, 2Steel Girls, Liz Davis, Kelly Crapa, Suzanna Choffel, Michaela Paige, Ryan Jirovec, Lelia Broussard, Terisa Griffin (Total: 12)
Mahone”s enough to put Team Adam on top, for now, with little movement elsewhere on the rankings. I have a feeling Dez Duron will last longer than Terisa Griffin, and I have a feeling I”ll probably throw something heavy into something breakable when that happens.
And now individual grades…
They Stood Out: Brandon Mahone, Terisa Griffin
They Scraped By: Jordan Pruitt. I didn”t hear anything close to what Aguilera heard. But I wouldn”t be surprised if Pruitt gets substantially better down the line with good coaching and the right material.
They Got Robbed: Jeffrey James. That just didn”t make any sense. I didn”t see him as a top-tier contestant, but he certainly was better than many that have found teams thus far.
What did you think of the sixth blind auditions? Who impressed the most? Which team currently has the deepest roster? Do you have any favorites to go into the finals yet? Sound off below!