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The Voice: Season 9 Premiere, 9/21/15

September 22nd, 2015 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Season 9 of The Voice is upon us as of Monday, Sept. 21, and viewers are settling in for several weeks of singing contestants, bickering judges, and blind auditions at which the judges only turn their chairs to select the singer only after they’ve decided they’re sufficiently impressed with what they hear. As is the case every season, Adam Levine represents rock and Blake Shelton, country. This season Pharrell Williams returns to rep R&B or urban contemporary, while Gwen Stefani takes a second turn as the show’s reigning pop princess, even if her style does come with a rock edge. The judges selected eight singers on the Monday premiere and wouldn’t you know, the contestants were evenly divided up, two to a judge.  Here’s the field so far:

1.  Mark Hood is a 24-year-old black guy from the Chicago hood, but he says the judge he’d like to work with is Blake. He picks a good audition song, “Use Me,” the Bill Withers R&B classic from the seventies, enticing Adam and Gwen to turn early.  When Blake and Pharrell turn late, that means the first audition of the season is a four-chair turn.  (Is this an episode that shows real time or is the show just edited so a four-chair turn invariably comes first?) Adam praises Hood’s “infectious energy.” Gwen likes his energy and “love for life,” too. She entices him with “We could have fun together.” Pharrell likes “those incredible jazz notes, those runs are crazy!”  Pharrell also asks Hood what kind of music he likes.  The answer:  “R&B, pop, John Legend meets Pharrell.”  So Hood apparently changes his mind about Blake after he says that, because he picks Pharrell.  Watch for Blake–or Gwen or Adam–to steal if they get a chance.

2.  A pretty girl named Kota Wade has style like Taylor Swift but blusier and jazzier, if a little pitchy. Apparently Pharrell doesn’t mind the pitchiness because he turns right away. Blake and Gwen also bite but Adam sits this one out, making for a three-chair turn. Blake compares Wade to Cyndi Lauper although I wouldn’t. Adam resorts to various stunts trying to convince Wade to pick Gwen, and she does. I’m not sure how much of Adam’s motivation is about keeping a singer away from Blake and how much of it is about giving a potentially weak contestant to Gwen.

3.  Keith Semple is a punky rock singer from Northern Ireland.  He came to Chicago when the band Seventh Heaven found him on the Internet and wanted him as their vocalist. He’s a guitarist and songwriter as well as a singer, with a very charming accent. His voice shows range–some heaviness in the lower register, some Sting-like high notes. Adam turns early and it looks like he’s got Semple all to himself–until Gwen pulls a buzzer-beater. The two judges bicker over which one can better help the young Irishman meet Bono of U2 faster. As payback for Adam lobbying for Gwen at the Wade audition (above), Blake lobbies for Gwen over Adam. “You can spend time in rehearsal with Adam–or with–Gwen!” The rocker Semple picks the rocker Adam anyway.

4.  Siahna I’m is a case of someone who is talented but just too young and inexperienced for the show, even if she fits the age limit of 15. She’s a petite half-Korean girl who models her mature smoky voice after Ray Charles. She picks the right song, too–Peggy Lee’s “Fever.” Gwen, Blake, and Pharrell all want her. Gwen points out she was in a band when she was about the same age, and “we’ll have so much fun together.” Pharrell tries to get friendly by giving the girl a hug, leading him and Blake to argue about giving her “bull-cr*p.” Maybe Siahna likes the hug because she picks Pharrell, although she may not be around long enough for us to learn her name.

5. Next we hear a blind audition from the judges’ perspective–this one has been hyped all night. The voice is a smoky, bluesy rock ‘n’ roll voice of indeterminate gender, singing “Chandelier.” Blake’s first to turn his chair, and now we see it’s a big heavyset guy with glasses–like that unpopular geeky kid that’s in every high school. This guy may not look like much but he can sing–by audition’s end all four judges think so. Since there was no intro before the audition, viewers hear what he tells the judges about himself:  he’s Jordan Smith from Harlan, KY.  He says he gets called “Ma’am” all the time when people just hear his voice.  Adam says, “Me, too!” Adam also praises the song choice, “one of the most challenging vocals for a male.”  Obviously Adam’s empathy worked because Jordan does pick Adam.

6.  Nadjah Nicole, a pretty young black woman, has a style that resembles Pink. She gets Adam’s attention when she hits her high notes, but then Blake has to pull a buzzer beater and spoil it all for Adam. Blake gushes, “You sound like a star, you look like a star!”  Nichole picks Blake, who then goes over to Adam and rubs it in.

7.  Could this kid be the next Sawyer Fredericks?  Probably not, even if Braiden Sunshine is 15, plays guitar, and sounds a little like Fredericks. He sings in church and with a group called Silver Hammer. The judges act unimpressed until Pharrell and Gwen pull buzzer-beaters. Adam and Blake sit back and enjoy watching the other two judges bicker over this kid. Pharrell praises young Mr. Sunshine as an “old soul” who can comfortably sing two octaves. That Pharrell coached last year’s winner Fredericks is apparently not an important consideration because Braiden picks Gwen.

8.  Barrett Baber survived a plane crash in Little Rock in 1999 that killed at least one other member of the choir he sang in.  Like the singer that got killed, he sings bass–an uncommon voice that the judges understandably find attractive. Blake recognizes the country song selection, and turns quickly but the other three judges quickly follow. It’s a four-chair turn. Adam’s even giving a standing O by song’s end. Blake raves, “It’s like watching Garth Brooks” (if you’re into Garth Brooks).  Not to be outdone, Adam compares Baber to every single member of the judges’ panel–a little of Gwen, Pharrell, Blake and Adam. Pharrell thinks Baber’s got soul. Adam really wants this singer but Baber picks his fellow country guy Blake, who promptly rubs it in on Adam. This is one singer the others may want to steal if Blake has second thoughts.

Running tally:  Blake gets Barrett Baber and Nadjah Nicole, Gwen gets Kota Wade and Braiden Sunshine, Adam gets Jordan Smith and Keith Semple, Pharrell gets Mark Hood and Siahna I’m. Tonight brings more auditions.

Tags: Reality TV · The Voice