Since it started, Season 18 of The Voice has been shaping up to be a rough one for Blake Shelton. Few and far between have been the country contenders. He’s seemed to miss his usual sparring partner Adam Levine more now that his seat isn’t being filled by significant other Gwen Stefani. And Blake’s recruitment techniques have gotten increasingly lackluster. Take, for instance, his entreaty to three-chair-turn Micah Iverson Monday. Even though Blake knew so little about the auditioner’s emo-rock genre that he didn’t realize it was a genre — “Is that a thing?” the coach asked — he suggested that the Tokyo native should still join his team just because “people love the weirdness of someone like you [and] someone like me teaming up.” As if hearing how lame that sounded, Blake then added, “Just pick me.” Did Micah do so? Read on, and you’ll not only find the answer, you’ll get reviews of all of Night 5’s Blinds. (You don’t need me to tell you that the coaches sounded great when they teamed up on Nick Jonas’ “Jealous,” do you? Prerecorded and presumably studio-sweetened, of course the Fab Four sounded stupendous.)
Micah Iverson (Team Kelly), “All I Want” — Grade: B | “Japanese at heart,” Tokyo-born Micah turned out a Kodaline cover that was at once solid and forgettable. Did he hit the notes? Was he “on” throughout? Yes and yes. But once the number really got going, it was so same-y, calling for a combination of wailing and gargling, that the former investment analyst didn’t leave much of an impression. He wasn’t at all bad, it just wasn’t an especially exciting tryout, even if it moved Kelly to remark that he had her favorite kind of male voice, one that’s “all heart, all passion.” Oh, and as you’d expect, Micah did not choose the coach who couldn’t tell Switchfoot from Bigfoot. Instead, he became the only guy on Team Kelly.
Brittney Allen (Team Legend), “Dancing On My Own” — Grade: B+ | In her pre-audition interview, this 28-year-old Georgian broke down talking about her late mother. After Mom passed away, “I went through a really dark time,” Brittney said. Having emerged on the other side of that depression, she dazzled on stage with a Robyn cover that was as pristine as it was emotional. I had the sense throughout that she’d planned out every note and just how she wanted to place an inflection on each of them, yet her performance still came off spontaneous and heartfelt. Had she tried out before the teams were so full, she for sure would’ve gotten more than a one-chair turn.
Cam Spinks (Team Blake), “Wave on Wave” — Grade: B- | No sooner had Blake wondered aloud whether anyone was ever gonna get up there and sing a damn George Jones song instead of “emu” than onto the stage swaggered a real, live, actual country boy, a singer/songwriter from Alabama. Cam was a little pitchy at times on his Pat Green cover, but country artists have been so scarce this season, I couldn’t believe that Blake waited as long as he did to turn (along with Kelly). And if he managed to get Gyth Rigdon to the Final Four, he could probably do it with Cam, too. This wasn’t terrible, just not, you know, race-back-to-the-living-room-from-the-kitchen-to-see-who-it-is good.
Anders Drerup (Team Nick), “Can’t Help Falling in Love” — Grade: D | This genial Canadian hoped that he’d surprise the coaches when they turned around and saw a dorky white boy doing a reggae-inspired rendition of the Elvis classic. And I assume that the only coach who did turn during his performance was surprised. But Nick might’ve been sorry he swiveled, too, since by the time Anders was done, he seemed like as much a contender for the finals as I am a contender to be in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue. That rooough last note was gonna haunt me through at least two commercial breaks.
Mandi Castillo (Team Legend), “Asi Fue” — Grade: B+ | Eager to showcase her culture — and well aware that Kelly’s as into Latinx singers as I am into margaritas — this Mariah Carey fan from San Antonio performed her Blind in Spanish. And from the start, she sounded lovely, if a little one-note. “Go up!” Kelly beseeched her. When at last Mandi did demonstrate that she had some range, Kelly swiveled… but Nick already had, and John and Blake were right behind ’em. And sure, Mandi was quite good, but a four-chair turn? Hmm. That struck me as a chair or two too many, especially with the teams so full.
Kailey Abel (Team Blake), “Forever Young” — Grade: A- | Before taking to the stage, Kailey shared the story of her very first performance as a kid — the memorable occasion on which she’d pulled the mic off the stand and basically punched herself in the face with it. When she stepped into the spotlight with Alphaville’s classic, she unleashed a rasp worthy of Bonnie Tyler (or at least Chloe Kohanski). In part, she sang the hell out of the ’80s hit; in part, she growled it. Whatever she did, I dug it. Her coach — her only chair-turn — said he’d bet the farm that she was gonna win.
Gigi Hess (Team Kelly), “Lovesong” — Grade: C+ | This 22-year-old — a dead ringer for Dynasty’s Elizabeth Gillies — revealed before her tryout that, after she’d gained a lot of weight as a youngster, she’d been bullied to the point of wondering whether she wouldn’t be better off dead. When she took to the stage, I wanted to be totally blown away by the way she sang The Cure as if she was Adele (or at least Emily Luther), but her performance was really kinda all over the place. Gigi has a powerful voice on her, that’s for sure. I just wasn’t convinced by this that she knew entirely how to harness it. Maybe it was just a matter of personal editing. As John pointed out, not everything had to be a run.
Kevin Farris (Team Nick), “Home” — Grade: A | Called “Mr. Kevin” by the preschoolers for whom he runs a music-enrichment program, this blue-eyed 33-year-old would’ve been an instant chair turn by Blake, had his team not already been full. There was a raw, raucous quality to Kevin’s voice that would’ve lent itself beautifully to country. My favorite part of his audition, though, was just how alive it felt. There was a you-are-there electricity that jumped through the screen while he was on. Nick was so inspired, he jumped on stage for an impromptu team-up on “Lovebug.” After that, John didn’t seem to stand a chance. “I’d love to have a beer with you,” Kevin told Coach Legend, “but… ”
Cedrice (Team Legend), “Fever” — Grade: C | Hilariously, Cedrice told us that whenever she’s complimented on the perfect shape of her bald head — she has alopecia — her mother chimes in that it’s so well-rounded because she always turned her daughter when she was sleeping as a baby. (So that’s how you do it.) On stage, Cedrice delivered a performance of the golden oldie that she called Peggy Lee meets Beyonce. I’d call it… nice meets OK. Given how stunning and stylish Cedrice is — “You are so sexy!” screamed Kelly when she saw the contestant — I expected and definitely hoped for more. She was like a present that was less interesting than the paper in which it was wrapped. Bummer.
So, what did you think of Night 5’s Blinds? Vote for your favorite in the poll below, then hit the comments with your critiques/reactions/grades.