Something sort of miraculous happened on The Voice‘s Season 10 premiere — and I’m not just talking about the Chosen Contestant in a four-chair turn selecting the lone female coach for the first time ever.
Nope, somehow NBC’s reality singing juggernaut combined all my least-favorite Blind Audition elements — formerly famous person taking a second swing at success; backstory tugging at the heartstrings; the entire coaching panel devolving into noisy hype; the contestant herself using the word “journey” — and made me fall for it like Blake Shelton hearing a touch of genuine Oklahoma twang.
Absolute pitch perfection — combined with delicate phrasing and hauntingly beautiful breaks — will do that to even the most cynical recapper.
So forgive me if I can’t muster up a whole lot of outrage over Adam Levine slapping Xtina on the back (emotionally, not physically of course) and congratulating her on winning Season 10 now that she has Alisan Porter (aka cinema’s Curly Sue) on her team.
I know, I know… it’s no fun when Mark Burnett & Co. crush any sense of suspense and telegraph the winner some three months out from the finale. But we can all still hold out hope that maybe two or three other contenders will rise up and make the show’s latest cycle more interesting than Sawyer Fredericks’ and Jordan Smith’s smoothly paved victory marches in Seasons 8 and 9, right?
I don’t think any of the other nine singers who advanced to the Battle Rounds on Monday’s premiere have an Olaf’s chance in a convection oven of upending Alisan — though that Maroon 5 duet dude and the former ballet dancer were pretty damn good — but nevertheless, the two-hour kickoff was really, really strong. So, allow me to rank the episode’s contenders from least to most promising:
9. Team Adam: John Gilman, “Don’t Be Cruel” | There was nothing overtly offensive about John’s straightforward approach to Elvis’ boppy hit. But his tendency to drop the ends of phrases and his inability to bring a deep connection to the lyrics puts him at the vert bottom of the potent premiere-night pecking order.
8. Team Blake: Paxton Ingram, “Dancing on My Own” | I wasn’t enamored with a lot of the melodic tweaks the first auditioner of Season 10 made on Robyn’s underrated jam — but maybe I’m just such a fan of Jeffery Austin’s Season 9 cover that I wasn’t ready for anyone else grabbing the baton.
7. Team Pharrell: Abby Celso, “Should’ve Been Us” | On a particularly strong night of auditions, I’m just not sure I’ll remember Abby’s solid but unspectacular attempts to color within the lines of Tori Kelly’s template.
6. Team Xtina: Bryan Bautista, “The Hills” | You could hear some nerves creeping into Bryan’s voice in the opening few bars — not surprising, considering he didn’t get any chairs to turn in Season 9 — but 45 seconds later, I heard enough vocal horsepower and rhythmic swagger that Xtina’s hyped-up rhetoric to wrestle Bryan away from Adam started making sense.
5. Team Blake: Mary Sarah, “Where the Boys Are” | Nashville vet who once cut a duet album featuring Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard (to name a few) exhibited an Evian-clear upper register and an easy charisma. I wish she’d found a fresher way to approach her Connie Francis cover — or had put a Connie Francis vibe on a more modern song – but she’s nevertheless got me mildly to moderately intrigued.
4. Team Pharrell: Caity Peters, “Jealous” | I enjoyed the way Caity boldly scraped the bottom range of her register on the opening verse — even though it resulted in occasional strain — and while the teacher-in-training may not want to completely give up on the college path just yet, she’s also someone who could be a dark horse if Pharrell can help her with confidence and showmanship.
3. Team Adam: Nick Hagelin, “Lost Stars” | The former ballet dancer’s Adam Levine cover had a very mid-’90s, blue-eyed-soul vibe — and I’m not mad about it in the least. Yes, there were three or four high notes that got away from Nick, but there was real feeling behind the rangey note choices, too. I’m just not sure how he chose Pharrell over Blake and Xtina despite the megaproducer not offering a single word of enticement.
2. Team Adam: Mike Schiavo, “Talking Body” | Like a Stefon sketch on SNL, Mike had it all: A lilting falsetto, a beautifully shredded rasp, a solid sense of pitch and an ability to breathe fresh life into a lyric. Not only that, but his “Talking Body” moved and grooved, and he was able to keep up with Adam on “She Will Be Love” — even with the Maroon 5 frontman barking out instructions for how to keep up on guitar..
1. Team Xtina: Alisan Porter, “Blue Bayou” | I know I waxed poetic about Alisan’s technique and tone in the opening paragraphs of this recap, but the way she stretched her instrument to a haunted, crumbly place on the phrase “sails afloat” — combined with that boom-boom-pow final run – well, I’m hooked on that Kimberly Nichole/Amanda Brown/Vicci Martinez type of way. Here’s hoping there’s more of this magic in her arsenal, right?