The Voice Season 5 Premiere Recap: You Know We're Here for the Party [Updated]

The Voice - Season 5 Premiere RecapIt’s good to be The Voice right now.

While its direct competitor The X Factor flops around like a fish on a dock, and grand dame American Idol searches for a bucket to bail out the gallons of water left by Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj’s tiresome infighting, NBC’s reality singing competition is gliding through the water like a brainier Ryan Lochte (minus the “JEAH!”-ing and the water-logged docuseries).

There’s the record 15.3 million viewers for its June 2013 finale. There’s Sunday night’s Emmy win as Best Reality-Competition Series. And best of all, there’s tonight’s Season 5 premiere, so laden with genuine talent that Adam Levine found himself declaring “I felt like we were at the end of the season!” — after only the third audition.

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Heck, things are so good right now in the House That Willed Cassadee Pope to Victory that even when things go awry — as in the case of solid but unspectacular Texas teen Jake Worthington — rejection is met with an open smile and an “I’m just so happy to be here!”

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Sure, sure, I’m probably over-enthusiastic thanks to the fact that one of tonight’s most exciting prospects — 54-year-old Donna Allen — is a happy inhabitant of my iPod with her saucy 1987 R&B hit “Serious” (current playcount: 31; terrifying video embedded below). But even without that personal rooting interest, it’d be hard not to catch the same kind of good vibrations from Season 5 that Xtina herself attempted to hijack from three-time champ Blake Shelton in the middle of tonight’s festivities.

Yeah, The Voice might seem more absolutely-positively-must-see if all the investment and time and voting led to a winner who actually ended up at the top of the charts, but not every party needs to lead to some Higher Purpose. Sometimes you’ve got to just relax, sip your sauv blanc and enjoy what’s unfolding in front of your eyes.

And to that end, let me give my personal ranking (from least- to most-promising) of the eight newest contenders for Danielle Bradbery’s crown and sash:

8. Josh Logan, “Too Close” (Team Xtina) | Not quite sure how this rocker dude got three chairs to turn, given that he followed Alex Clare’s original like it was a Martha Stewart pie-crust recipe — and hit more than a few bum notes in the process. Maybe they all wanted Battle Rounds fodder?

7. Shelbie Z, “Here for the Party” (Team Blake) | Former pageant contestant turned hairdresser/pageant coach showed off a sweet personality in her interview package, but her Gretchen Wilson cover, while mostly in tune, was as ordinary as dryer lint at a laundromat.

6. Caroline Pennell, “Anything Could Happen” (Team Cee Lo) | Yeah, I was charmed by the wide-eyed teenager’s giggle after she made eye contact with Cee Lo after his chair turned, and he was right that her voice “sounds like sunshine.” Still, there were some affectations in her phrasing he’ll need to quash if she’s going to be a true contender.

5. Nic Hawk, “Hit ‘Em Up Style (Oops!)” (Team Adam) | Admittedly, Nic’s voice isn’t the most powerful or unique of the eight Episode 1 contenders, but his brazen flirtation with Adam (“I don’t know if I’ll be able to focus ’cause you’re so good looking!”) and fantastic stage presence mean he’ll probably stick in the average viewer’s memory longer than most. His ability to catch a groove like a labrador to a frisbee — labradors do catch frisbees, yes? — won’t hurt him, either.

4. Matthew Schuler, “Cough Syrup” (Team Xtina) | Was it just me or did all four coaches hitting their buttons on the first line of Matthew’s song seem slightly fishy, like they’d gotten a heads-up that a Chosen One was in the house? (Sorry, that sentence was brought to you by the word “cynicism.”) Nevertheless, with Matthew’s warm tone and skill at breathing life into a lyric — as well as his inarguable pop-star looks — it’s kind of understandable why he might be a producer fave.

3. James Wolpert, “Love Interruption” (Team Adam) | I may be exaggerating slightly, but I think I suggested this Jack White tune 147 times in my weekly “What Should the Idols Sing?” articles earlier this year. And yet while James’ fine musical taste made me predisposed to liking him, his explosive pop of gravel and passion on the second verse were the tools that sent all four coaches into a bidding war for the bespectacled college dropout. (Bonus points for showing off a fab vocab in his pre-performance interview, too.)

2. Kat Robichaud, “I’ve Got the Music in Me” (Team Cee Lo) | Dang, Kat’s voice is so gruff and gin-soaked, I wanted to pair it with a couple of olives and a whisper of vermouth, shake it with some ice and pour it into a martini glass. Admittedly, there were a couple of scream-type stumbles toward the end of the tune, but I liked how “Raspy McRasperson” (as Adam called her) executed a ferocious high-kick mid-chorus without ever pausing from her primary vocal task. Or to put it another way: She’s fierce, yo!

1. Donna Allen, “You Are So Beautiful” (Team Adam) | I understood Xtina’s Gospel hand and Adam’s delighted writhing, given all the life experience and world-weariness this 54-year-old former background vocalist for Miami Sound Machine put into her performance. Moreso than any other singer tonight, Donna’s mixture of restraint and attack, nuance and bombast, managed to make it seem like she was tackling a tune that had been written expressly for her. Contestants of a Certain Age haven’t fared too well in making it past Battles/Knockouts the last couple seasons, but if Adam can get past Donna’s lack of bro-ishness, he might discover she could be a magic bullet in his effort to stop Team Blake’s win streak at three.

And with that, let me turn things over to you. What did you think of The Voice‘s Season 5 premiere? Who were your favorite wannabes? Did you disagree with any of the coaches’ or contestants’ decisions? Take our poll below, then expand on your thoughts in the comments!

And for all my reality TV-related news, interviews and recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Dan (Haleyloonie) says:

    Everything is positively positive.

  2. Jasmine says:

    This season is #TeamXtina’s!!!!

  3. Johnny says:

    The Voice sh*ts rainbows and puppies! Everybody is a star!

    • B. says:

      And everybody loves it. Both viewers AND critics… they won an Emmy yesterday if you recall. So your point?? :D

      • Johnny says:

        If everybody loved it, it would have around 300 million viewers every week. Oops. And The Amazing Race won and emmy for 9 years, but that doesn’t mean everybody loved it. They only had 10 million each week. What is your point?

      • Krista says:

        The Emmys are all political anyway, so who cares.

      • Krista says:

        It will also never hold a candle to idol as far as legacy and creating actual success after the show.

        • B. says:

          Nobody gives an eff about Idol these days. Stop living in the past. Even the successful Idol alumni have moved on and have established themselves as artists outside of the show. Time for you people to MOVE ON too and stop creeping on Voice boards and posting hate!!

        • AlyB says:

          I’m a fan of both. There’s room for both and surprise, they have separate boards. It’s not on yet. No reason to hate on The Voice just because you’re missing Idol. It’ll be here soon enough.

        • Lane says:

          sooo tired of idol diehards saying it’s the only show to create stars. What exactly does that have to do with whether or not a tv show is entertaining? People are watching The Voice because it’s entertaining, while tons of people stopped watching Idol last season because it wasn’t entertaining. Besides, producing 2 significant legitimate stars after 12 seasons is not really anything to brag about. IMHO.

      • Tyler says:

        Right now my faves are James, Matthew and Caroline. I hope they don’t get eliminated before the live show as my faves did last season.

        I thought it was interesting that NONE of the non-country singers picked Blake. I don’t blame them. Based on his track record last season, they know that they’ll get cut in favor of a country singer before the live show. Blake has no one to blame but himself. I hope having an all-country team before the live show last season was worth it, Blake. I think you’re going to pay the price for it this season. Right now I think Adam and Christina have the strongest teams.

        • Guest says:

          What about the first three seasons when Blake was cutting his country singers left and right? Or is that not a track record?

          • Tyler says:

            Say what you want to say, but we’ll see how strong Blake’s team is this season. And if it isn’t that strong–then yes, no one cares about his track record from the first 3 seasons!

  4. JuliaK says:

    I wasn’t impressed by tonight – I was surprised that not one judge commented on the fact that James Wolpert performed ‘Love interruption’ as Jack White. That was disappointing. Jack’s voice and phrasing are very specific and unusual. It was really good karaoke/mimicry but Wolpert could easily have done his own version but didn’t have the creativity to do so. As I thought he did a very good copy of a fav song, I’ll be interested to see what he does with other songs. (also I miss shakira very much)

    • Sly says:

      It was actually an ok night I thought. Some overpraise as always (Matthew Schuler, seriously? how many notes were flat?) — but still some good moments. And we always have to keep telling ourselves, its only a reality show, don’t expect anything substantial to come of it — treat it day to day.

      • B. says:

        He was really good… I’m sure you’d be thrown off if ALL FOUR of those coaches turned around at the same time and like 5 seconds into the song!

      • Kaba says:

        Thank God you aren’t a judge. If they fixated a lot of their time strictly on how many notes aren’t hit throughout a performance nobody would get anywhere.
        Rather, the tone, quality, warmth, and rise from the crowd help determine a singers worth.
        It’s The Voice, not Juilliard.

      • Jlb says:

        I agree with the Matthew Schuler comment, over-praised and over-rated.

        • Kaba says:

          Cause, you know, this isn’t the blind auditions.
          If you’re already “tired” or “exhausted” by ones praise at the blinds, you need to stop watching this show immediately.
          How is one overrated at the blind rounds? Get out of here.

  5. Brian says:

    I have a feeling that Season 5 of The Voice will have much higher ratings compared to Season 4. It’s good to see the ORIGINAL Fab 4 back! And the talent this year? Ugh, beyond amazing I must say! 😁

  6. Laurien says:

    Mike, is ‘Reality Check’ coming back? I miss it so much.

  7. Murgie says:

    It will be interesting to follow James Wolpert in this show. I wonder how long it will take for the producers to reveal that he is a cousin to Jonathan Groff and competed in the reality series looking for a performer for High School Musical?

    • Ju says:

      Sure but is that anything new? It’s well known that many of the contestants have had experience or even had record deals before being on the show. Im just a casual viewer, having only watched a few episodes here and there, but does the show pretend they’re complete amateurs like Anerican Idol did?

    • AlyB says:

      There’s nothing nefarious there. Kat was in a band for 7 years. Josh is a working musician. Michael says in his post he has a single Donna put out. Who cares if James tried out for HSM through a reality show casting. Most of the contestants have at least some experience. Very few come in just having sung in front of a mirror. Personally, I think that makes it a better show for us.

    • Guest says:

      The Voice has never hid from their singers’ backgrounds, unlike Idol trying to hide the sexual orientation of some of their singers. Cassadee Pope name dropped Hey Monday in her pre-blind audition setup. Everyone who has ever been a background singer to someone famous will get that brought up, although last season the constant references to being Michael Jackson’s background singer might’ve backfired.

    • Kaley says:

      Also, I’m pretty sure Josh competed in Season 2 of Rockstar

  8. Marianne says:

    I’m really looking forward to seeing what else Kat does. I loved her!

  9. Chablis says:

    Didn’t like Donna at all. Old fashioned but I knew she would be Slezak’s number 1. I really was a little underwhelmed tonight. Hope The Voice doesn’t get caught up in its own legend.

  10. Chablis says:

    And what the hell did CeeLo do to his head? Yuck.

  11. analythinker says:

    Interesting poll results there. Three of Team Adam are in Top 3.

    Although it seems like during blind audition, Team Adam almost always has the most promise, then fades away for some reasons toward the end.

    • analythinker says:

      Eh, correcting myself. Two, not three.

    • Magically Suspicious says:

      Because when the public starts voting, the teenybopper faction comes into play and they push their favorites through. And the mass voter’s favorites are never the diverse, interesting options.

      Just my opinion.

    • tnsmoke says:

      Because every season Adam lets a great singer go and keeps one of those stupid “indie” singers that don’t click with 90% of the voting audience. Adam ALWAYS starts with the best team then makes stupid cuts when the choice of who goes home is in his hands. Then when only who goes home is up to the audience he has no great singers left.

  12. josh hershenberg says:

    get ready for my brother tomorrow night the 24th his name is Jonny Gray and finally you will see what i’ve known my whole life get ready boys and girls!!!!

    • Lee says:

      Why is his last name different from your last name if you’re brothers? And haven’t you heard of punctuation marks?

      • Jess says:

        Um- maybe because its a stage name? Or it’s his half brother or something? That seemed like a strange question as there are lots of reasons for different last names. I do agree with you on the punctuation though. It makes my head hurt.

  13. Pat says:

    I thought it was a pretty awful episode. I maybe saw 2 singers that could potentially make the live shows, but that’s honestly it.

    • MC says:

      ITA. The talent was underwhelming for the most part. I agree with Michael that four turns on the first line for Matthew Schuler was more than a tad suspicious. Oh well, it’s just light entertainment.

  14. AlyB says:

    I was happy to see them all together again. Maybe I’m just. suffering from Big Brother fighting fatigue but it’s just so good to see happy people doing something they love LOL. So far I think I’ll be keeping an eye on Kat, Matthew, Donna & Caroline. I loved James’ song and he pulled me in by the second half but I’m not totally sold in him. The rest were just kind if meh.
    So glad to be back on the boards. Hoping for an interesting season and I think we may actually get one.

  15. Danny says:

    I had a friend who tried out for this season’s Voice. She didn’t make it past the auditions to the live show though. I haven’t seen today’s show yet, but I sure am glad it’s back on the air.
    Q for anyone- How long will ya give Danielle (or the Swon Brothers or Michelle) until you’ve figured for sure she won’t make it. I’ve long since quit thinking the winners of these shows would go on to real good post show careers, but I thought Danielle would break through for the Voice.

    • thedeviledadvocate says:

      Since Cassadee’s WATT is sitting at #26 on Country Radio and Danielle is sitting at #37 on Country Radio, and both are still moving up the radio airplay charts, and Cassadee’s album will debut very soon, and Danielle’s album will debut in about 7 weeks, I think it is more likely both of them will make it, in fact, I think both of them are already far more successful than the first 2 Voice winners and within the next 3 months we will see if they are both more successful than some of the Idol winners.

      As for this season of the Voice. I love Kat. That rock chick has swag, and I hope she goes deep into the competition, and then wins it. I picked the last 3 winners from their audition and this year I pick Kat.

  16. Jon says:

    I thought there were some good performances tonight, but I’m curious about the people they showed who didn’t perform. I caught the girl from the Big Bang Theory, but they seemed to show a LOT of the guy with glasses and the cute baby. I mean, seriously, how cute was that little girl? Anyone know who he is/what’s his story?

  17. Kellie says:

    Christina may be a great singer… however, the banter between the Christina and the other judges seemed SO forced; I could hardly stand to watch it. I wish they’d take that X in Xtina (where the heck did that come from anyway) and X away Christina from the panel. Last season was so much more fun to watch. Could by why they got the emmy too!

    • Arianne says:

      The emmy was won because of Season 3 not season 4, if I’m not mistaken. The cutoff date for submitting was March 21st, season 4 premiered (with Shakira and Usher) on March 25th. I could be wrong though.

  18. achillesheel says:

    did anybody else get burnell vibes from matthew?

  19. Magically Suspicious says:

    I was so happy to hear Blake say he was mixing things up this time, and it seems he meant it because he went for people outside of the country genre. I quit mid-season last time because it turned into Country Idol.

  20. Steve F. says:

    Several things to note:

    Christina looked AMAZING… and even better, she wasn’t as jaded as her last couple of seasons. Guess taking some time off (and being upstaged by Shakira last season) must’ve done wonders. And, the fan returns – but with her outfit, it works!

    Cee-Lo is still Cee-Lo… though I loved the Thriller throwback outfit. And, when he came to console the poor kid that lost his brother, that was touching.

    Let’s see if Blake really will mix things up this season. Much as Cassadee Pope was pop-punk, he molded her into a country artist, with very mixed results (and where’s her album anyway?). Danielle Bradbury turned me off so much, I didn’t even bother with the finale.

    Adam – hope he redeems himself this season. His experiment with his singers didn’t go so well last season (Judith Hill should’ve gone further, goshdarnit!)

    As for night one of the Blind Auditions: Matthew, Donna, and Kat especially stood out. Can’t wait to see when Kaley Cuoco’s sister gets her turn onstage.

    • Guest says:

      He didn’t mold Cassadee into anything. She chose to sing Over You, saw the results, and went from there. Besides, all those country songs she sang during season 3 she just sang them as ballads. There was nothing remotely country-sounding about them when she sang them.

      • HTGR says:

        But I heard (granted you hear a lot of crap about people in the spotlight that has zero bearing on reality) that she was really, really wanting to do a pop album but kept getting pulled more and more toward country until she finally gave in.

  21. Jlb says:

    I miss Shakira, too, I was sad to hear that she was leaving and it’s-all-about-me Xtina was coming. I must say though that she has lost some lard and looks much better.

    • Luiz says:

      I really don’t get the Xtina hate. She said TWICE last night that the show should be about the contestants, not the coaches, when Blake and Adam kept trying to be the center of the show with their jokes. She (ok, maybe Cee Lo too) was the only one who didn’t try to switch the focus from contestants to coaches.

      Still she gets the “fame” for being a diva and a b**ch, though, no matter how much she clearly works to become more cheerful and pleasant. It’s so weird.

      • HTGR says:

        good point, she did bring it back to the contestants a few times. and ceelo didn;t get quite as carried away as the other two.
        (i do love shakira though, maybe Blake is overplayed a bit and Adam,CeeLo,Shakira,Xtina would’ve been an ideal season now.) Anyway CeeLo and Xtina definitely do seem to be totally rejuvenated, especially Xtina who had seem a born worn out and snippy at times last go around.

        • Luiz says:

          You’re right! Xtina is so much better than she was in season 3! At one point, I thought she didn’t care at all about the show, now she seems so invested!

          I totally agree with you. I miss Shakira, too, but I don’t want Xtina to be fired, she’s a great addition to the show and a great coach. A panel with Xtina, Cee Lo, Adam and Shakira would be AWESOME! But people love Blake, he’s actually taken Xtina’s place as the coach with the biggest paycheck on the show, so I don’t think he’ll be out anytime soon.

  22. HTGR says:

    Great start to the season. I wasn’t as blown away by Matthew though as they judges were and well as people here were either (looking at the poll). I’m not a big fan of that Cough Syrup song though which might not help.

    • HTGR says:

      Not that I’m saying he was bad by any means, don’t get me wrong, just that he didn’t seem “ALL THAT”/going absolutely nuts over him to me at all.

  23. Diane Bottazzi says:

    Mr. Slezak, I agree with your rankings of round one auditions of the Voice 100%. And thank you so much for all of your kind words you’ve written about my sister Donna Allen. The “SERIOUS” video made me LMAO seeing it again after all these years.
    Diane B.

  24. Name That Tune says:

    Right now, this is the best singing competition show out there. But I will probably limit my views to YouTube highlights of the best performances. ‘Cuz all of the fillers bore the heck out of me. That said, I enjoyed Donna’s performance. It was a nicely nuanced performance of an old standard.

  25. Jake says:

    I feel like Michael goes insane and loves every old person on this show. Donna was good but not amazing. She has potential though.
    For me, it was all about Shelbie and James. Loved her voice and personality, and loved his voice (his personality might take some getting used to). While Josh hit plenty of bum notes, he reminds me of Chris Rene (X Factor Season 1) in terms of his tone, and I think he’s got loads of pop potential.
    The others I found less than impressive, and did not understand the Matthew Schuler love at all. I found it especially easy this episode to tell who wouldn’t get a chair to turn – based on backstory, I thought the young boy who lost his brother was a shoo-in, but his vibratto was just too much.

  26. BLAKE X100000000.I support team blake.