“The Voice” is a show about singing, but it’s also a show about words, at least during the blind auditions. The coach that a contestant chooses to work with comes down to a magical combination of words that coach uses to woo the singer. It’s so much about what kind of first impression a coach makes with something as seemingly easy as a compliment. And this season, the coaches have to work hard—very hard—to say the right thing.
Adam Levine knows how to use his words very carefully. Pretty much every contestants’ first choice, Adam has a way of turning “you’re awesome” into something truly transcendent. Take Brandon Mahone, who was probably the most unique and interesting audition of the night. The 17-year-old soul singer is a student of the classics, like the Temptations, Sam Cooke and Smokey Robinson. He sang the Temptations’ “I Wish It Would Rain,” and got three spins: Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green and Adam.
Christina offered Brandon something canned in the usual Christina style that comes from too many childhood years in media training. “I was hearing the emotion,” was about as specific as she could get. Cee Lo gave his signature phrase, “I commend you for that.” But Adam was so wonderfully detailed in his feedback, and so complimentary about how Brandon is more than an imitation. “You seemed to have studied what it is to be a singer from that era, that it felt like you were one of them.” And so even though Cee Lo and to some extent Christina are soul singers, Brandon went with a nasally rock singer instead.
Adam also convinced banker Michelle Brooks-Thompson to pick him over Christina and Cee Lo. She impressed them both with her rendition of “Proud Mary.” Christina’s commentary was full of negativity. “I was waiting for a crack or a flaw…,” while Adam’s comment was the most affecting. “I’m impressed by things I can’t do.” That’s how I’d sum up the eclectic mix on his team.
But an amazing, incredible display of extreme complimenting came at the end of the night, when requisite inspirational older lady Terisa Griffin (by older I mean 42, which just means older on this show), had her pick between Blake Shelton and Christina. During her whole performance of “Someone Like You,” Blake was nagging Christina to turn her chair around, and when she finally did, Blake pushed his button just a moment later. Blake seemed resigned that Terisa would just pick Christina, especially since he turned after her. But Terisa, a sassypants who seemed intent on making these coaches work for her, asked what each of them would do for her.
Christina of course prattled on about how it’s all up to the singer, really, blah blah. Blake said he felt like he was in trouble. Accepting his defeat, he told Terisa, “Why don’t you just come out here and punch me in the face and get it over with?” Finally, Blake cracked.
“Look I came in second! I came in second on the button-push. I love you and I think you’re awesome. What else do you wanna hear?”
That was enough for Terisa. “Because you were telling Christina what to do, I’m gonna take you.”
Blake looked completely stunned (and a little frightened). Christina was relieved. And Cee Lo had the best line describing the force that was Terisa: “That’s my momma, my sister, my ex-wife. Everybody.”
With Terisa, Blake managed to add five singers tonight to his team, which was trailing far behind the other judges in numbers. Now we’re getting somewhere. After tonight’s episode, all coaches have at least three-quarters of their teams assembled. It looks like there is an end in sight.
Other standouts tonight: Suzanna Choffel, an earthy 32-year-old music teacher who sounded totally original and yet still Stevie Nicks-esque on “Landslide” (she picked Blake over Adam); and Jordan Pruitt, a former Disney star who’s toured with Miley Cyrus and Vanessa Hudgens, and had two songs on Billboard. After singing “The One That Got Away,” Christina told her, “I’ve been waiting for you, Jordan.” The two Disney girls will work together.
Teams so far
Adam (14): Michelle Brooks-Thompson: non-NFL husband; Brandon Mahone: modern-day Temptations; Sam James: indie boy, no airtime; Collin McLoughlin: biz school dropout; Benji: raspy racecar driver; Alessandra Guercio: “Fame” high school, “Idol” reject; Melanie Martinez: indie teen; Brian Scartocci: single dad; Adanna Duru: 15-year-old, no airtime; Samuel Mouton: reggae in a baseball cap; Nicole Nelson: gospel hippie; Lauren Allred: wedding singer, no airtime; Bryan Keith: raspy guy coming out from under dad’s shadow; Joe Kirkland: band frontman dumped by label.
Blake (12): Terisa Griffin: inspirational older lady, put Blake in his place; Suzanna Choffel: music teacher with Stevie Nicks vibe; Ryan Jirovec: no airtime; Michaela Paige: 16-year-old with a mohawk, no airtime; Lelia Broussard: reminds him of Miranda Lambert, no airtime; Liz Davis: country, legs; Kelly Crapa: 15-year-old, no airtime; 2Steel Girls: mother/daughter duo; Casey Muessigmann: wrestling cowboy; Julio Cesar Castillo: mariachi singer; Terry McDermott: Scottish rocker dad; Gracia Harrison: yodeler.
Cee Lo (13): Diego Val: childhood disease; Alexis Marceaux: Hurricane Katrina survivor; Mycle Wastman: crazy falsetto; Todd Kessler: “Maggie May,” no airtime; Ben Taub: classical, no airtime; Emily Earle: country, no airtime; Avery Wilson: never had a singing lesson but better than Usher; Nicholas David: the Minnesotan Aaron Neville; JR Aquino: Alaskan YouTube singer; Domo: Bronx hip-hop dancer; Mackenzie Bourg: Justin Bieber meets Harry Potter meets gnarly virus; Daniel Rosa: huggable former reject; Trevin Hunte: wailer proving his 8th-grade teacher wrong.
Christina (13): Jordan Pruitt: former Disney star; Dez Duron: season 2 reject; Laura Vivas: Latin pop singer, no airtime; Joselyn Rivera: preemie learned to sing on Barbie karaoke; Beat Frequency: married couple; Paulina: 16-year-old, no airtime; Nelly’s Echo: Nigerian refugee, Lisa Scinta: gymnast, no airtime; Marissa Ann: 15-year-old, no airtime; Adriana Louise: Brooklyn waitress; Aquile: from broken jaw to buttery voice; De’borah: gospel church misfit; Devyn DeLoera: sang “Ain’t No Other Man” and survived.