the voice season 12 episode 1 recap

The Voice Season 12 Premiere Recap: Love Isn't Just In the Air, It's On the Air

She’s (holla) back!

After two seasons off, Gwen Stefani returned to the coaching panel for Season 12 of The Voice, and host Carson Daly was quick to address the elephant in the room. No, not her new-since-last-time relationship with fellow coach Blake Shelton, an actual guy in the room in an elephant costume. (Hardy-har-har.) Self-proclaimed “third wheel” Adam Levine had so much fun teasing the couple that Blake told him he could “go back to not mattering,” prompting Alicia Keys to step in and gently referee. (But seriously, the fellas’ ribbing of one another continued to be so entertaining that it’s a wonder they don’t already have their own sitcom. Better yet, a musical comedy?)

Of course, the premiere wasn’t really about the coaches, it was about the contestants singing their lungs out. So, without further ado, here are the eight vocalists headed from Monday’s Blind Auditions to the Battle Rounds, ranked in (obviously debatable) order from least- to most-promising.

Lauren Duski, “You Were Meant for Me” (Team Blake) | This Michigan native, who chose Nashville dreams over dental school has for sure a lovely voice (and managed to rock a dress from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Collection, too). But her sorta-wobbly performance suggested that she was less Jewel than a diamond in the rough. (I would’ve hit my button for Skyler Harris instead. Anyone else?)

Johnny Hayes, “Try a Little Tenderness” (Team Adam) | Returning from Season 11, the landscaper poured his heart and soul into the Otis Redding classic to which he and his missus fell in love once upon a time. And it was a romantic story, for sure, but I’m not a thousand percent sure that his rendition would have made Duckie dance around a record store. (I kinda preferred Shaun Chrisjohn.)

Stephanie Rice, “Piece by Piece” (Team Gwen) | With her smoky voice and the pain that the disowned lesbian daughter of a preacher poured into her well-selected Kelly Clarkson cover, the Texarkana native couldn’t help but spark a sweet-natured lovers’ spat/turf war between Blake and Gwen.

the voice season 12 episode 1 recapJChosen, “Sexual Healing” (Team Gwen) | From the first note, this “little country boy from Albany, Georgia” had Adam’s chair swiveling, with the rest of the judges not far behind. He even made Alicia — and probably more than a few viewers — blush when he nailed Marvin Gaye’s randy growl. (See photo at right.)

Brennley Brown, “Stupid Boy” (Team Blake) | Thanks to a rule change, the 14-year-old was grownup enough to compete in Season 12, and made the most of the chance, belting out her Keith Urban number with a confidence and maturity that belied her years (and brought to mind early LeAnn Rimes).

Mark Isaiah, “Mercy” (Team Adam) | After hearing him sing Shawn Mendes, Daly declared, “This kid’s a star,” and was he ever right. The formerly-pudgy collegian performed with passion enough to suggest that he’s most definitely a teen idol in the making. (Heck, there are probably shrines being erected for him as you read this.)

Anatalia Villaranda, “Runaway Baby” (Team Alicia) | The 16-year-old powerhouse exploded onto the stage with a voice, not to mention a personality, that was far bigger than her 4’9″ frame. Honestly, I was surprised that she didn’t get the four-chair turn much earlier than she did in her performance. (What were the coaches waiting for?!?)

the voice season 12 episode 1 recapFelicia Temple, “All I Could Do Was Cry” (Team Alicia) | A New Jersey nurse who beat cancer, this Alicia fan — known on the talent-show circuit as Felicia Keys — readily demonstrated that she has a voice that was made for raising roofs and sending hearts soaring right along with them. Not just dazzling but daz-za-ling — so much so that Alicia performed an impromptu duet of “Fallin'” with the showstopper on the spot. Probably too early to call her a frontrunner but definitely one to watch… closely.

So, what did you think of the premiere? Grade it in the poll below, then hit the comments with your picks for best performer/performance of the night.

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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67 Comments
  1. Paula Marsh says:

    Sigh. Where’s Slezak? ;(

  2. Justin Fields says:

    Slezak I disagree with your ranking. Mark and Natalia were very shouty. Brennley was boring. I do agree with Felicia being 1st though. I thought Lauren, J and Stephanie were also really good and Johnny was good if a bit aggressive.

  3. TiredofTripe says:

    Two comments:

    1) Fourteen is way too young for any singing show. (Sixteen is too young, too.) I have a feeling that Ms. Brown may crumble under pressure, yet somehow outlast better contestants like Camile Velesco did on “American Idol.”

    2) Michael Sleazak seems to have had a nervous kerflooey since it dawned on him how tough it was going to be not to recap “American Idol” anymore.

  4. Florence+TheMachineRulez!!! #TeamMariah says:

    What? Lauren was INCREDIBLE! Her and Felicia owned the night!

  5. J. Hyacinth says:

    …. WHERE’S SLEZAK?! I’m sure you’re just fine, but I’m missing his point of view :(

  6. Kimmy Moores says:

    Lauren at the bottom?
    Brennley higher than Lauren?
    To each their own…but man I’d swap the wobbly remark between the two of them entirely.

  7. Kaba says:

    Lauren last?
    Me and Slezak are gonna need to talk about him taking a hiatus cause nope nope nope nope.

  8. Pretzel says:

    Thought this premiere was as lackluster as this review. I pretty much muted all the judges’ fake banter. Felicia was fantastic. Where is slezak?

  9. Sylvia Smith says:

    Show was alright not the bset by far. Blake and Gwin should get back to work and do their job and leave there relationship at home.
    Very unprofessional antics. I tuned in to watch the talent. Not watching those two.

    • TiredofTripe says:

      “The Voice” only cares about the judges.

    • Leah says:

      I agree with Sylvia. I watch for the contestants. Not the Gwen and Blake show. They need to get over themselves already.

    • Gayle Gillespie says:

      Gwen & Blake are being so unprofessional. Their personal life should not be part of the show. I am very disappointed as they are acting like a “team” and siding with one another which is an unfair advantage for the other coaches. If things don’t change my favourite show will be no longer. Sad to see it turn to the “love boat” rather than a true talent show which should be about the contestants rather than the coaches.

      • christine harris says:

        I stopped watching because of this

      • Jan Uhlenhopp says:

        I totally agree, they were sickening, Gwen pushed her button when Blake would, never mind the contestant, sitting on his lap , made me want to throw up, she needs to stay in her own chair, I finally turned the channel and if it continues, I’m done and it is my favorite show! Maybe get rid of Gwen?

      • James says:

        totally agree! I love the bickering and bantering between Adam and Blake but when they’re putting so much attention on Blake and Gwen, it takes it away. I don’t know how many times I rolled my eyes last night before I stopped paying attention to the show. Unfair to the contestants and other judges because this is a great show!

      • John Anthony says:

        Love in bloom Gayle! All this comment regarding Blake and Gwen is jealously from small people. A grown-up watches this show mostly to see how early they can pick the winner. Blake and Gwen will not win the show so why does it bother you that The Voice producers pick their interactions to be part of the show? Come on Gayle, love somebody and keep your attention on the performers. It’s alright to critic only 18 minutes of singing competition in a two hour production as well as the performers ability to use all ranges of the voice with precise control. Which performer do you think best accomplished this thus far?????? I’ll certainly respect your opinion!!!!!!!

    • christine harris says:

      Agree ..I turned cause it gets old…

  10. guest says:

    Does Michael Slezak still write for Tvline as he hasn’t done many recaps on other shows and I thought for sure he would be back for The Voice? I Hope so… he does a great job

  11. Barry says:

    So happy to be back, hello to everyone and hope you guys are having a great year so far.
    Weird, Lauren last, really? She was easily second for me. But for the most part there were some people that I really loved.
    I’d rank them:
    1- Felicia
    2- Lauren
    3- Anatalia
    4- JChosen

  12. Barry says:

    Wait, I just realized… Mr. Slezak is on hiatus? That explains the lack of Gwen shade in the article, I was getting worried.

  13. Angie_Overrated says:

    Oh, I cannot agree with Lauren Duski in last place. I’d put her top 2. That voice is special. So pretty and I don’t normally like the country chicas.
    The rest looks about right, but I wasn’t too jazzed with Mark Isaiah.

    • MC says:

      I thought that Mark was really struggling and straining to hit the notes. It was not pleasant to my ear, but the coaches love to over-praise the younger singers.

    • MC says:

      Lauren is certainly good, but raw. She needs more confidence and less blandness (as Gwen hinted). Lauren should look at early Olivia Newton-John (see “Let Me Be There” for a frame of reference) for inspiration.

  14. Ruth says:

    Fantastic show. Lots of happiness which this world needs.Coaches like a family

  15. Smokey says:

    Some were just ok but won’t last long. Some were fairly good but but many more waiting in the wings. JChosen was the one that sounds like he’ll be a tough match in the Battle-rounds and knock-out rounds if the songs are anywhere close to his style/wheelhouse.

  16. Greg Cantin says:

    Based on Charlies’s rankings, how can I believe anything he? she/ writes?

  17. Sharon L Rael says:

    I was really moved by Stephanie Rice’s singing and story. Surely Michael would agree. Who is this critic?? The youngest girls will be gone after the battles.

  18. Becky says:

    Where is Slezak? Only reason read this review!

  19. Carol says:

    Don’t think Gwen should be throwing herself on Blake all the time, we all know her feelings, let him be the coach he always was, GREAT…. She is not a country gal, don’t want to watch her…
    Contestants were good.. Blake showed favoritism, not good…

  20. Imagecrafters says:

    I still miss Slezak’s reviews

  21. Peggy says:

    I guess it is just me but I enjoyed the recap by Charlie Mason, especially the “Duckie” comment which was close to what my husband and I commented. I also think the interactions between the coaches is what makes this show fun. To me the highlight of the show was Felicia, I had to rewind her performance and watch it again.

  22. Dolores Dalessandro says:

    Love Gwen back

  23. Bob says:

    So much improved with Miley gone !!!

  24. Voice Fan says:

    I loved the banter between Blake and Gwen. Because Gwen, Adam, Alicia and Blake are all in their 30s and 40s, the banter is different than when Miley Cyrus had to have all the attention on her and acted like a spoiled child. Without Miley’s influence, Alicia is acting more like a grownup and not like a weed smoking hippie from the 60s. Alicia is wearing makeup and more fashionable clothing. My complaint is that they wasted the viewers time with backstories and bad performances from three or four contestants who didn’t even turn one chair. It is painful to watch. I’m not worried about the level of talent. Only four can go into the finals and the first night we’ve only seen performances from eight out of 36 contestants.

  25. PFitzDC says:

    Is Slezak gone? Say it ain’t so, TVLine!
    Lauren was a top 3 fave for me. I’m surprised that the new guy ranked her last.
    JChosen–I could NOT understand why he got a 4-chair turnaround. He was “pitchy” through the whole piece; too sharp.

  26. Yeah…will NOT be watching the Voice this Season 12. The 2 Gwen & Blake being SO UNPROFESSIONAL!!! PLEASE.The whole world knows you’re a
    Couple. The PDA sitting in the lap, etc…
    NOT RIGHT!!! Hello Producers????

  27. Rhonda Barry says:

    I really prefer Miley cirius over Gwen

    • Vee n says:

      Anyone is better than Gwen with her buck teeth plus she is too old and should be raising her kids. After all she has never made it big and a little late now. Blake must be blind and no wonder he cannot write songs like he did in the past.

  28. Patrick says:

    The one thing I am most happy about is the fact “Trashy Mae” Cyrus is gone ! Now I can watch it again !

  29. Lizzie says:

    Lauren Duski was a captivating cross between Joni Mitchell and an angel; when she started singing I stopped and listened to it all the way through, then replayed it. That’s kind of my own test, during the blinds whether or not I want to listen to them sing twice. I hope she stays around quite a while.

    Stephanie Rice – really good, should have chosen Blake. Gwen will not help this young woman, but hopefully Gwen will focus on fashion and stage movement, and then Blake can steal her This is an example of not needing to hear such a personal backstory, I feel badly for her and her family, but regret that the Voice and other shows like to put so much personal information out without getting permission from the other people in the family or whoever is involved in the backstory.

    Mark Isaiah – guy has boyband written all over him, glad he chose Adam, that’s exactly the right coach.

  30. Catheirne McKenzie says:

    WAIT DIDN’T ANATELLA SING “TIGHTROPE?”

  31. Justin Fields says:

    8. Brennley Brown
    7. Mark Isaiah
    6. JChosen
    5. Anatalia Villaranda
    4. Johnny Hayes
    3. Stephanie Rice
    2. Felicia Temple
    1. Lauren Duski

    • John Anthony says:

      I do not see Casi Joy listed so this must be a partial list or completely void of the least bit of knowledge regarding the vocal abilities of these performers.

  32. P. Pope says:

    I thought it was boring. Thought Skylar was great but didn’t get a chair. I think Gwen/Blake act juvenile. She looks at Blake to see if he’s going to turn then she does. Their “romance” is distracting and not professional on t.v. . It’s not the “Dating” show.

    • Vee n says:

      Blake needs someone his age without baggage and with a great personality like his which Gwen is far from that and a crappy dresser.

  33. Sandra Ashby says:

    I think that Felicia Temple and Stephanie Rice were the best on the show Monday night.

  34. Gailer says:

    Welcome Charlie mason

  35. Logan Lawrence says:

    (My own opinion in chronological order)

    JChosen — Every season I tend to shy away from the 1st performance of the season for whatever reason…(I think it has to do with me feeling as though producers are trying to pimp him/her up & imply that he/she is a lock for at least the Live Playoffs, whether we like it or not.) However, this season I don’t care. JChosen’s voice was so crisp and clear. His little runs and melisma and quiver that he added at the beginning of the song and the low and high notes he hit…It was pleasant to just bask in and appreciate his performance.

    Lauren Dusky — SENSATIONAL. So soft and raw and tender and perfect. Without a doubt the best of the night and one of my favorite Blind Auditions ever. (Why she was ranked at the bottom here absolutely baffles me. I guess America agrees with me since Lauren was 1st this season to crack the Top 150 on iTunes already…)The only single of the night that was a MUST BUY for me. Also, thank you Lauren for not only choosing a song NEVER performed on the show before, but also changing it up.

    Johnny Hayes — Johnny’s raspy high note was solid and definitely the highlight of this performance. Other than that, I felt slightly disconnected and as though some notes were forced because Johnny was running out of breath. Also, while he was moving around a bit, I wanted to see him go more crazy/ really let loose, especially on the “Squeeze her, tease her, never leave her” part. I think this performance was average and probably the most forgettable of the night.

    Anatalia Villaranda — Once again, I wasn’t as impressed as some other people were by this performance. On a positive note, I think “Runaway Baby” is a difficult song to sing, and I applaud Anatalia for being vocally solid and not going astray pitch-wise very much. However, there wasn’t much identifiable about her voice and some notes were a bit on the whiny side for me. I definitely need to hear more from her (probably a ballad to hear her raw voice) before making a solid judgement.

    Stephanie Rice — Stephanie’s story was one of the few over the Voice seasons that actually got to me/ caused me to tear up. I was truly inspired (not to sound too much like Gwen–love you Gwen!), but I hope it also doesn’t turn too much into a repetitive sob story over the season. There are things I LOOOVED and things I disliked about Stephanie’s voice… Loved: the rasp on “1500 miles” and when she went so soft on “He’ll love her.” Didn’t care for: some affected words (i.e. ‘past’ sounding more like ‘bast’). Nevertheless, I felt her deep connection to the song. There is something special about Stephanie and I hope we get to hear more of her vulnerability.

    Mark Isaiah — This kid has a GREAT voice. His pitch was so solid and his voice was incredibly clear and strong. However, the performance was SO similar the original that I was turned off/ distracted from just how good this kid is. I need to hear something more definitive in his voice that sets him apart from Shawn Mendes so that I know Mark can also be a success on the radio. I agree with Carson; Mark has “superstar” potential, but I need the “artist” to come out in him.

    Brennley Brown — I’m probably most conflicted about Brennley. On one hand, I think I really like her voice. It’s got something different that the average young-country-girl-type. Yet, there were some things about her voice that made me question whether she’s ready for The Voice yet. I think she’ll begin to struggle as time progresses throughout the competition. I hate the idea of a 14-year-old on the show, but at the same time, chances are I might’ve turned for her performance anyway.

    Felicia Temple — For a woman who didn’t know whether singing would ever be an option for her again, Felicia’s voice was very strong and powerful. This performance was very, very good. I like that Felicia still left room to hear improvement/ even more incredible things in the competition’s future. The best is yet to come with this woman, and I have no doubt she will continue to impress. I’m expecting a trajectory that will lead Felicia into the Top 12, if not, the finale.

  36. Sherry Smith says:

    I never understood why the judges did’nt turn for Brandon Martin. He can sing any country song and has even wrote some.He impresses me alot what a Voice .

  37. Bea Davis says:

    Blake and Gwen are getting on my nerves

    • Vee n says:

      You are so correct. Gwen is not entertaining at all and just wants to show herself but there is nothing to see — just an old woman made up with buck teeth.

  38. Lee says:

    Lesbian on Gwens team – Her choice of life is hers! But cry about it – turn off. Don’t need to know about your personal life (gender preference) to determine if your a great singer or not.

  39. Vee n says:

    Please when is Gwen Stefani going off the show as she is ruining it. Never saw such an ugly self-centered woman. It is all about her and not the subject which are the contestants. She puts on a fake laugh if something is not centered about her. Blake must need glasses. I had never heard of her until the “Voice” and, yet, she repeatedly refers to how she would perform – where did she perform. Also, a fashion icon – I would not wear those costumes for halloween. Get rid of her so the audience could concentrate on the purpose of the show.

  40. K says:

    I miss Anatalia