The Voice Season 8 Premiere Recap: Hand That Rocks the Creedence

The Voice‘s Season 8 premiere featured every type of contestant that typically activates my “No bueno!” response: the wide-eyed teenage boy in a hipster hat (whose parents were barely zygotes in the heyday of CCR, the kid’s alleged fave band); the music-industry vet with a big-time connection to one of the judges; the girl with a backstory that will spawn a dozen “Upworthy” Facebook links ending with the words “And you won’t believe what happens next.”

So how is it, exactly, that I pretty much loved all of the above — and several other auditioners, to boot?

Maybe it’s because beauty — as Madonna so astutely pointed out in “Vogue” — is where you find it. And while contestants’ pre-performance packages can be tweaked, edited, manipulated and cajoled for maximum reality-television impact, what they do in their 60-90 second musical performances stands alone, like the cheese at the end of “The Farmer in the Dell.”

And the good news is, as NBC’s competition juggernaut enters its eighth go-’round (while main competitor American Idol rolls on in Season 14), there seems to be no shortage of talent supply popping up in these 50 great states of ours.

Better still, even the no-chairs-turned auditions this year are giving off good vibrations: Pharrell Williams grabbing a mic and duetting with noticeably nervous teen Bryce Sherlow legit made me dab at the corner of my eye with a Kleenex. (OK, a single salty droplet may have streaked down my cheek. And yes, I want her to come back for Season 9. Way to get us hooked early, Mark Burnett!)

With all that in mind, let’s rank tonight’s Battle Rounds-bound singers in order from least- to most-promising, in a Twitter-esque 140 characters or fewer (whenever possible):

8. Rob Taylor, Luke James’ “I Want You” | If I wanted to hear high notes like that, I’d just put the kettle on Power Boil for 90 seconds.

7. Joshua Davis, Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” | Nothing wrong with this 37-year-old’s bluesy tone, but already the specifics of this performance are getting hazier for me than memories of Christina Milian’s time in the Voice Skybox.

6. Sarah Potenza, Faces’ “Stay With Me” | Gruff husky tone on this highly likable Nashville vet. Dropping to one’s knees at the end of a number, however, does not necessarily demonstrate true soulfulness.

5. Cody Wickline, George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today” | Adorably reticent West Virginia nursing student’s tone got froggy in spots, but his interpretation of this country classic was so emotionally electric it needed child-safety outlet covers.

4. Teeva Gibson, Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful” | Xtina was right that this 16-year-old daughter of two deaf parents needs a little work on technique, but the intimacy of her verses — combined with her explosive glory notes — hinted at a potential Season 8 dark horse.

3. Lowell Oakley, “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” | I’m not ready to board Pharrell’s Hyperbolic Bus of “No One Has Ever Sung Like Lowell Before” just yet. But Lowell’s voice was as rich and luxurious as five-star hotel sheets.

2. Meghan Linsey, Nazareth’s “Love Hurts” | Onetime half of Billboard-charting country act Steel Magnolia showcased a mesmerizingly gritty tone alongside terrific vocal control. If she veers away from country and more toward a rock-blues hybrid, she’s a real threat to stay in the competition well past Easter.

1. Sawyer Fredericks, “Man of Constant Sorrow” (Team) | The depth of this kid’s tone, the originality of his arrangement and the fact that he chose a traditional folk song re-popularized in a very weird George Clooney movie aren’t the kind of attributes you’d expect from a super-shy home-schooled teenager from upstate New York. The delicious juxtaposition, however, is what makes him a real contender for the crown.

On that note, I turn the mic over to you. What did you think of The Voice Season 8 premiere? Vote for your favorites in our poll below, then expand on your thoughts in the comments!

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. Sarah was the best of the night in my opinion!!! I would love if she sang some Melissa Eldridge or feist!!! :)

  2. Tran says:

    Blake Shelton has to be stopped. My money’s on either Team Pharrell or Team Christina to win this season.

  3. KelleyC says:

    Can not wait to see what Meghan Linsey does next:!!!Such a soulful voice and can’t wait to hear more.

  4. RawwkOn says:

    Sawyer is probably the most promising winner, but Meghan might have been the best tonight, she has impressive vocal control.

    • MC says:

      Meghan could be a frontrunner. She was my favorite tonight.

    • HOLY CR**P WHAT??????? Sawyer 15 and that GOOD? He is way better than the other children on these shows! I thought he was a girl he is so pretty! Sweet also! I already have my favorite! Wow Im so blown away! You can tell he is so humble and has no fear on stage either! Im so excited to see more. I also hope Pharell doesnt screw up his song choices.

      • And also, he isnt going anywhere because Christina wants to steal him if he gets thrown by Pharrell.

      • Gailer says:

        Love him! What a difference from the kid on idol

      • Jaszy says:

        Man, I did too. When I saw his picture up top, I was like, that’s a really pretty girl. He’s adorable. I like everything about him, especially his shyness. Obviously, he’s not letting that hinder him in achieving what he wants out of life. Love to see that push through.
        Unlike another 15 year old boy on another similar show, Sawyer’s a definite keeper!

      • page kurtz says:

        I was thinking the same thing, I’m hoping to hear the same upbeat music he preformed in the blinds…a little bit of Creed mixed with folk/country. Wow what a combo! I’m not a fan of country at all but his rendition of this song blew me away.

      • Tima Ebell Anderson says:

        Sawyer is so real; A God given talent cannot be beat; When Sawyer sings I get pulled in and before the song is over I’m an emotional mess; Totally awesome and beautiful; I’m 60 years old and don’t buy many songs on itunes, but I bought this one – I’m a Man of Constant Sorrow – immediately after hearing Sawyer sing it.

        • Tima, I too, for the first time in a while think they could actually have a real star that could get very famous! Sawyer is just unreal. Its so weird. I think he is special. A bright light! Besides his beautiful voice! I was laying down listening to it and thought “just a little bit” tiny pieces of the song almost sounded like John Denver. The vibrato a little. People make fun of John Denver but sorry I love Rocky Mountain High!

  5. Runner says:

    It was great to see Xtina back. I missed her feistiness. I loved Sawyer. Good show.

  6. Andres says:

    For me Sawyer was amazing. Even his name is awesome. He has a great tone to his voice And I can’t wait to see him later in the comptition .
    I wanted to like Rob but his voice went all over the place when he did those high notes.
    I actually like Josh. I thought he had a nice tone to his voice.

  7. kk3thess says:

    Slezak, just saying that you misspelled the name of one contestant. It’s TReeva, not Teeva.

    By the way, I thought that this premiere was worse than last season’s, even though I already love 3 of the contestants. My ranking is:

    8 – Rob Taylor
    7 – Joshua Davis
    6 – Lowell Oakley
    5 – Treeva Gibson
    4 – Cody Wickline
    3 – Meghan Linsey
    2 – Sarah Potenza
    1 – Sawyer Fredericks

  8. John says:

    I’m genuinely shocked that you didn’t rank Cody higher. He and Sawyer were the best of the night.

  9. JT says:

    The experienced singers who NEED this to make a living are choosing Blake who is simply a winner. The newbies who are more concerned with COOLNESS or ARTISTRY are going with Pharrell.

  10. akillesheel says:

    Minority opinion: Sawyer’s great but his tone bothers me a little, possibly due to his voice not having fully developed. Sounded a little whiny (just naturally, not his delivery).

    • Andres says:

      That’s a good point. Sawyer could be facing a huge problem with his changing voice which is why I’m glad he picked Pharrel. Still liked his voice though.

  11. Michael H. says:

    I loved Sawyer! It was incredible how much passion and grit and just feeling beyond his age he put into that song, especially when he’s only 15! Meghan was stellar as well, I’m loving the singers with grit this time around, especially when they’ve got soul, as with Meghan and Sawyer. I thought Teeva’s story was sweet, especially when I can relate to some parts of it. I enjoyed her “Young and Beautiful.” Even thought some parts weren’t perfectly on pitch, it had feeling, and it was sincere, and the high note was gorgeous. Did not like Lowell, thought it was a little toooooo much and didn’t like the excessive growl in his voice. I enjoyed Sarah’s energy, and I want to see more. Cody kind of sorta bored me a little bit. Too many country artists. Did not like Joshua at alllll. Wanted to see more of a open tone in his upper register, and less pinching the e vowel. I heard pitch issues with Rob’s falsetto, especially in the super high parts, and heard the same with his lower register. I am looking forward to see what Christina does with him though.

  12. MC says:

    Great show tonight. There was more entertainment in this one episode than there is in a whole season of AI.

    • Timmah says:

      The talent is much better on The Voice, but I still prefer Idol’s format.

      • MC says:

        I think AI presents some performers as unlikeable (or worse) with their editing techniques. I don’t want to be manipulated like that, although some fans seem to revel in finding villains on the show. The Voice, meanwhile, treats everyone with respect and starts with the assumption that they all love music first and foremost. I love that the singers on The Voice can concentrate on music and not worry too much about how the show is presenting them in an unfavorable light.

        • Timmah says:

          The problem with The Voice though is that they take an excruciatingly long time to select the finalists, then once they get them the show’s over in about 3 weeks. That’s what I mean about Idol having a much better format.

          • MC says:

            I would like it if The Voice added a week or two to the format, but for me AI spends too much time with the finalists. There might be two performers of interest to me each season on AI and that means I have to endure several weeks of mediocrity from everyone else.

  13. Blake for the win again with his, “should we call Usher?” comment. HI-LAR-RE-US!

  14. Ron says:

    Based on Michael’s ranking of Josh and his middling showing in the poll above, it seems like I’m the only one who absolutely loved him. Honestly, I think he was my favorite of the night. He gave me chills numerous times. What he did with that song was gorgeous. I wanted to go out and buy his album half way through his performance. I was actually upset for about 10 minutes after his performance was over because I wanted to keep listening to him sing.

  15. wild_child says:

    Teeva is way too high on that list then again I forgot you liked the teenage girls with the quirky voices.

  16. NotVirgin Mary says:

    I just wish Sawyer would enunciate better because I could barely understand what he was saying. Loved Meghan. Her technique is a little iffy, though. Really happy with the talent this year. Looking forward to Kimberly Nichole being on the show. Love her.

  17. Jim D. says:

    And all of a sudden, none of the artists seem to be buying Adam Levine’s brand of hyperbolic, ego-driven BS, and it’s funny. And Blake even nailed him for it. “That was your pitch? Help me win? Hahahahaha.” Adam looks like a recalcitrant child not getting its way, and Blake looks like the wise old soul. Good luck, Adam…

    • Colton Smith says:

      3 of 4 people at the finale last year , just saying

      • Chris.C says:

        And none of them won, just saying.

        • Colton Smith says:

          because the voice split
          ,still its said alot
          he knows what he is doing

          • analythinker says:

            I agree, even Adam’s pitch is much more personalized and varied for each artist than Blake’s repeated “I won X times” or “I specialize in XX year olds” or “country connection” phrases. It’s getting really old.

          • kelly says:

            I always seem to like Adam’s song choices best, personally. Plus, the songs he picks usually seem more current than most of the other judge’s choices. Every time I get in the car these days I hear something Matt or Chris sang last season, and when they sang them, it was the first time I heard them!

            I agree that three out of the top four last season shows he must be doing something right. If this holds true again contestants who choose him may have a better chance at a long run on the show, with more exposure, experience and coaching opportunities. Pharrel is great, but his song choices and arrangements were odd to me last season, and his contestants didn’t last long at all!

      • Agree, This is just production. The more singers the others choose, the best of the rest goes to Adam

  18. analythinker says:

    I can’t seem to post again, what’s new.

    • Tom22 says:

      The longer they are the lower the odds are from getting through. I seem to get my first one in more easily than any follow ups. One thing that almost always causes a post to be auto-rejected is punctuation where you have multiple periods in a row or periods following other punctuation. Still there are days when I can’t post at all. That’s probably fair because my posts can tend to get a bit long for comment sections.

  19. Faye says:

    I only voted for Sawyer. Most interesting of the night to me.

  20. Sharon says:

    I’d rate Joshua Davis higher than #7, but then I like folk, especially when performed by someone who sings it because he/she feels it, as opposed to people who gravitate to folk because they don’t have big voices. I like the texture in his voice. And I don’t think I’d put Meghan at #2. She did a great job, but there was something about her tone that I found unappealing.

  21. katedfw says:

    Pharrell signing and dancing Happy with the nervous teenager made me cry and yes…Happy! That is what I love about this show. It’s not about tearing people down and being mean…they really love to help!

    I love Pharrell more now than I did before!

  22. Lana says:

    Who got picked on who’s team? It looked like you were going to include it (The word “Team” after Sawyer’s name and song he sang) but didn’t include any of the judges name.

  23. JM says:

    I guess I’m in the minority, but I really liked Rob. I thought his soulfulness and falsetto were strong. Yes, he overdid the falsetto and hit a few bad notes, but the potential for greatness is there, and I think that’s why Christina picked him. Sawyer blew me away. I still can’t believe he’s only 15. Meghan and Teeva were good, too.

  24. analythinker says:

    Trying to post so many times but failed, let me just say this: Meghan killed that! I LOVE Steel Magnolia! Really unfortunate some great folk/country duos had to break up.

  25. Angie_Overrated says:

    Hmmm. I wasn’t into this premiere. I can’t see any of last night’s contestants winning.
    And Blake is full of it. He describes that one woman who toured with him as having “the best voice I’ve ever heard” yet doesn’t turn his chair? Really?

    • analythinker says:

      Hiiii! I hope Meghan can change your mind further along, if Pharrell keeps her around. I love her old band. It’s country, but not too twangy.

      • Angie_Overrated says:

        She’s got a great voice. I agree with you there. I just wasn’t moved for one reason or another. I’m certainly open to changing my mind.
        There were a few with great voices. Contrary to Slezak’s order, I really liked the oddly handsome Jewish dude who sang that folksy-bluesy song. And the hipster chick who sang Stay with Me. All that being said, I don’t think either of them can or will win.

        • analythinker says:

          I loved the people you mentioned too, but yeah… don’t think they’ll win either. Do you watch Idol this year?

          • Angie_Overrated says:

            I didn’t watch every episode, but yeah, Idol is pretty awesome this year. I’m really happy for them. It’s great to see real talent on that show again.

        • analythinker says:

          I only started watching from Hollywood Week, just to keep up with the Reality Check, lol. Pretty good talent this year, I agree.

    • Sharon says:

      I actually wondered whether he recognized her voice. He had a couple of head-tilts and frowning-in-concentration moments that looked like “where have I heard that voice before?” And he was mighty ready with his excuse that he was relieved he was the only one who didn’t turn because he’d be upset if she didn’t pick him as coach.

      • Angie_Overrated says:

        I don’t know how often the main act actually watches / listens to the opening act. I would guess not much, quite honestly, but I don’t know. So maybe he does have a good excuse? Who knows?!

        • Rex says:

          Wait, I thought you were this music industry genius who was ridiculously respected and knew everything? Now you don’t even know if main acts listen to opening acts?

          You’re such an embarrassment.

      • analythinker says:

        I think he didn’t recognize, mainly because of the genre AND because she was in a duo, so he used to hear two voices.

    • WorkingITfor Dollars says:

      Blake’s hyperbole is truly laughable. Every single contestant is the best they’ve ever seen on the show.

      But that said, I can see why he didn’t turn his chair,, because for all his wholesome hickster routine, he very cunning, knows exactly what works for his team to win and what doesn’t. (I don’t think for a second the whole letting craig wayne boyd go and then magically getting him back was not calculated). That singer had a good voice to be sure, but she’s not for him and he knows it.

  26. danin says:

    If you like Meghan you should check out her Can You Duet run w/then partner,Josh Jones.He had a lot of magnetism..and they won.They were really good together.

  27. Tom22 says:

    I’ll enjoy both shows this season but I’ll probably try to focus more on Idol to prevent burn out. With two seasons a year the voice is always on. My daughter who is a freshman in high school found the time to do her homework and sit with me to watch 2/3rds of the Voice. She has no interest in idol.
    “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” is a Cohen brothers classic ! George Cluny had the most major role in it but it was full of characters. I wouldn’t think of it as a George Cluny film as he was just a player in pulling along the reflection and I have a crush on Holly Hunter and can’t watch a movie she’s in without loving it! Odd movie? well maybe it pokes fun at everyday reality and leaves me with a fresh outlook on the world. In my book that’s a great movie, high on my great movies list.
    Aside done, yes it was a fine group of singers and very much in The Voice mode, which is really distinct from the Idol structure keeping the two shows more separate in feel that they might seem as at the basic description level they’re both tv singing talent competitions.
    The Voice is about exposing us to some talented singers for a relatively short season where they really don’t have much time for improvement but often have a book of pre-show material they can expose us to. The younger singers can be helped to grow a following.
    American Idol is a epic story of far less experienced singers for the most part and a sizable portion with no real experience performing to crowds being trained in the fire to sing on a big stage and be trained in the ancillary parts of being a star like being in commercials and doing promotional ribbon cutting type appearances mid week in what must be 100 hour weeks for them (basically when they’re not sleeping they’re working on a strict scheduled from waking to sleeping.

  28. Kelly s says:

    Sarah was good but I have a problem with people who lie. This woman does not look 35, Google her and you’ll find an article from her hometown in RI, stating she graduated high school in 88. 35 , more like 45!

    • Timmah says:

      Yes, the ages shown always make me suspicious. There’s no way that Meghan is just 28. I might buy 48.

    • Angie_Overrated says:

      Even for 42 she looks old. But 42 is definitely more believable than 35. I started lol’ing when I heard that. If you’re gonna pick a dream age, at least try something believable.

  29. Lyn Jensen says:

    Remember when John Keats was who got quoted on the truth of beauty?

  30. Christine says:

    Michael can you please say which team they are on for tonight – I can’t remember all the names and songs but if I knew which team they were on it would be helpful – thanks!!

  31. Didn’t Meghan Lindsay of Steel Magnolia win the show Duets???

  32. patD says:

    The Voice is BACK! Ooo. I have a goooood feeling about this season. That was an excellent premier episode. All of the judges seemed energized (especially Xtina), and focused, most of the song choices were interesting, and I left that episode so impressed with most of the performances that I actually remembered their names: Josh, Meghan, Cody, Sawyer, and Rob were all memorable. That never happens to me early on with A.I. The bona fide talent on this show is so refreshing.

    “Great show tonight. There was more entertainment in this one episode than there is in a whole season of AI.”


    Michael, I couldn’t disagree more with you about Rob. Yes, some of his falsetto was a little shaky (I attributed that to his adrenaline when all the judges started going crazy over him), but it was good more than bad, and his lower register has a smooth, buttery, Luther-like tone. Plus, I liked his song choice. Watch out for that one. Surprisingly (as Country is not my favorite genre), Cody was my fave. It was a tough call, though.

    I never thought I’d type this, but I was actually starting to feel bad for Adam… until Blake’s “Do you want us to call Usher?” Too funny.

  33. Simon says:

    I found the first episode disappointing. I didn’t love anyone. The best team so far is Adam’s.

  34. You can’t compare Voice with Idol. Voice has older contestants and sometimes more experienced ones yet Idol produced more superstars so far. Maybe that is because of age and looks that do matter with voters in the end and that is sad. No voice contender should feel they have to lie about their age. It is supposed to be about the voice. right? I guess not in the end. cute always wins one way or another

  35. Jaszy says:

    Bryce reminds me of Jewel. She’s also very mature for her age. That was a very sweet moment. Feel bad for her, but she’s young. There’s always next year…and by next year, I mean in a couple of months.

  36. Jaszy says:

    I am definitely getting the feels for Meghan Linsey’s voice. Ooomph, just a little nugget of goodness in her voice. She’s dope. And I do remember her from the show Can You Duet.

  37. Jaszy says:

    Ivonne should’ve got a chair to turn. She gave a great vocal, despite the nerves.

  38. Jaszy says:

    I slick thought Sawyer was a girl when I saw the premiere promo pictures. He’s such a cute boy. Love that long hair. Hopefully, this won’t be his peak performance ’cause it’s going to take a lot more to top that! I actually think Pharrell is an amazing choice for Sawyer. You can definitely see the shyness, but hopefully he’ll grow during his journey on the show.

  39. EithanVoc says:

    Wow. That was the most boring show ever. I hate that this show had become predominately super dull balladry that no one

  40. Sawyer was my fav too but the Joshua’s I Shall Be Relased is ranked too low here. I think he is going to do great on this show.

  41. Jon B says:

    That Sawyer kid fascinates me. He seems almost… feral. Like untainted. Like the Little Prince.

    • Birdy says:

      Late reply here, Jon, but you put it perfectly about Sawyer. I think he’s fantastic, and if this is how he is at 15, and he remains untainted, he has potential like crazy. He reminds me of a flower child of the 60s (believe me, I know–I’m that old!)–peaceful, idealistic, etc. And with a voice to break hearts.

  42. Linda Justice says:

    Cody and Sawyer were my favorites
    love them both watch them over and over

  43. Tony says:

    Joshua Davis is awesome! My other favorite is Deanna Johnson from night 2 bought both songs on iTunes!

  44. Elle says:

    love Joshua Davis and Deanna Johnson! Got both songs and both did well on iTunes!

  45. Blair says:

    What A treat to see someone as talented as Sawyer. WOW…Wish him great success.

  46. Melissa says:

    My DVR died ladt week, where’s Sawyerthis week? He cant be gone. If he is what the heck is wrong with you america!!! He’s the best!

  47. angel maynor says:

    Sawyer is a very talented young man. I truelly believe that his voice will take him far. To hear his voice sounds like an angel. God bless him

  48. Maureen J says:

    Sawyer Fredericks- His talent cannot be taught. He is such a natural. It’s been a long time since a singer has captivated my attention like this young man has. I truly hope he will continue to put his music out there for all of us to enjoy.