I watch an awful lot of television but it is predominantly of the scripted variety. I have watched very little of the shows in the Reality Show Pantheon such Survivor, So You Think You Can Dance, The Amazing Race, and so on. The shows that I do watch are Chopped (which is probably more of a cooking game show than traditional reality show), Top Chef and The Voice, the last of which is currently about a third of the way through their Blind Audition round of shows.
The idea behind the Blind Auditions on The Voice is that a hopeful singer comes out on stage and performs one single song in front of four potential coaches — this season’s lineup is Blake Shelton, Pharrell Williams, Gwen Stefani, and Adam Levine — who sit with their back turned to the stage. They cannot see the contestants and have to decide based solely on that performance whether or not they want to turn around and offer the singer a spot on their team. Even one chair turning means a player will advance beyond the Blinds. It is pretty much The Hunger Games from there on out as each player is groomed by the coaches to be pitted against each other until only one is left standing — how amazing would it be to get the Lenny Kravitz crossover?
The winner either receives a recording contract or is sold to the makers of Soylent for processing. Nobody knows for sure since we rarely hear from the winners ever again. I don’t know why this is the reality show that I have latched onto but here I am back for Season 9 to deliver my hot takes on the contestants who make it past the Blind Auditions over these next couple of weeks. As of this writing two shows have aired and each coach has between four and six players on their teams.
Team Blake: Barrett Baber
The High School teacher from Arizona has the corny white guy category all but locked up and could be around for the long haul on the show. He will have to sweat a couple of head to heads with other corny white guys — there tend to be a lot of them on Team Blake — but should make it to the Live Rounds where the public will love his heroic story and the Blake Shelton country machine will get the vote out. In his backstory it was revealed that he survived a plane crash and rescued some other passengers. He thinks maybe this show is why he survived. Has to worry a little about seeming too fanatical about his “destiny” as hubris does not play well in the Lives.
Prediction: Makes it to the Live Rounds.
Team Blake: Blind Joe
Barrett Baber had better hope he is not paired up against Blind Joe in any of the culling rounds where coaches make their own team members go head to head. Joe has a compelling story, more than enough talent, and a down-to-earth sense of humor about the bad hand he has been dealt in life. He was not expected to live as a baby and was blinded during his care by poor care. I expect to see him make a deep run on the show and could see him being one of the many Team Blake alums who go on to have Country Music careers.
Prediction: Made man in the Country Mafia opening for the Swann Brothers next year.
Team Blake: Emily Ann Roberts
In her pre-Blind roll-in, Emily talked about her love for old country and invoked the names of Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton. She talked about getting double takes when she sings Folsom Prison Blues as a fresh-faced teenager at the local coffee shop. Then she went and performed wedding staple I Hope You Dance by Lee Ann Womack for her audition. Pretty disappointing after that build up but she is good. Could get lost in the shuffle if she doesn’t let that old soul out of the cage.
Prediction: Stolen by Adam Levine
Team Blake: Nadjah Nicole
Her performance of Tightrope was one of my two or three favorite in the Blind Auditions so far. She left behind the possibility of a music career years back to take care of her child and should only get stronger as she gets her performance muscle memory back. She chose to be on Team Blake over Team Adam which seemed like a misclick on her part. I don’t have a ton of confidence in Blake’s ability to pick songs for her or to be able to best showcase her talents.
Prediction: Most likely to make me curse and scream when she gets cut in favor of one of the many inevitable corny white guys (hereafter knowns as CWG) on Team Blake.
Team Blake: Zach Seabaugh
Super boring and not much in the way of character but has a better look and sound than many of the CWGs that have made deep runs on previous Blake teams.
Prediction: Eliminates Nadjah Nicole head to head.
Team Pharrell: Evan McKeel
The judges clearly heard something I did not because his Blind Audition was pretty forgettable but he got multiple chairs to turn, including Pharrell who implored him to sing a little Stevie Wonder. He utterly crushed Overjoyed and shot right up the power rankings for me as one of the competitors who can go far if he can stick to music that inspires similar performances. Emily Ann Roberts, take note!
Prediction: Eliminated late in the Live Rounds on a tarnished version of Titanium
Team Pharrell: Ivonne Acero
I have to admit I am always a sucker for the Blind Auditions when someone who did get any chair turns in a previous season comes back, implements the notes of the coaches (usually “don’t pick such a bad song”) and lands themselves on a team. That said, Pharrell and Adam may have hit their buttons a little too soon here.
Prediction: Good story albeit a short one
Team Pharrell: Mark Hood
He opened the show with a four chair turn but did not strike me as a four chair talent — they usually have something really unique and emotional in their voice. Mark may well be the corny black guy of the show. And that might be okay for him since there is not a glut of corny guys, white, black or otherwise, on Pharrell’s team for him to have to battle with in the early rounds.
Prediction: Knocked out performing Radioactive
Team Pharrell: Siahna Im
It is utterly bewildering to me how a teenaged girl with a mouthful of braces — and a speaking voice like a cartoon character — can come out and crush a rendition of Peggy Lee’s Fever. But Sianha was more than up to the task and is, for me, a favorite to go through to the finals.
Prediction: Makes tabloid headlines when she attends prom with last season’s winner Sawyer Fredericks.
Team Gwen: Braiden Sunshine
The youngest performer so far — just 15 years old — gets points for staying focused in his performance despite the fact that Gwen and Pharrell both sandbagged their chair turns until the very last second. I have become pretty jaded about younger performers after Sawyer Fredericks just steamrolled the field last season. He is going to need to establish a musical identity because being young is just not enough.
Prediction: Cloudy future for Sunshine.
Team Gwen: Ellie Lawrence
I love a good rearrangement of a bad song and Ellie Lawrence took a chance with an indie rock version of We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off. It was a risky move that might have been better held in pocket until she had already secured a berth on a team. It resulted in her landing on the team of her Ska idol Gwen Stefani. Perfect pairing that could pay off for Stefani who is the only coach this season without a win on that show.
Prediction: Most likely to actually sing a song that is on a CD gathering dust on my shelves.
Team Gwen: Noah Jackson, Hanna Ashbrook, and Tim Atlas
A handful of artists whose auditions where not shown. Not enough information to make much in the way of predictions. Gwen was the only coach who turned around for all of them and expect them not to be around for long.
Prediction: Knocked out in Battle Rounds.
Team Gwen: Kota Wade
There was an episode of Hannibal during season two featuring a serial killer who was preserving and stitching together corpses into a grotesque Pantone color wheel. I am not saying that is what Gwen is doing with the hair colors of her female contestants this season but… Wade claimed rocker roots but her voice had a twang that means she might stay on the show when she is inevitably paired off against Ellie Lawrence.
Prediction: Stolen by Blake Shelton.
Team Adam: James Dupré
The running coach storyline on the first two episodes was Adam Levine’s quest to steal a country artist from Blake’s clutches. Blake has churned multiple country artists into recording contracts regardless of how far they go on the show. If you have any twang at all in your blood, and Blake turns his chair, you would be a fool not to go with him. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you country artist and Nashville resident James Dupré.
Prediction: Back in Nashville very soon.
Team Adam: Jordan Smith
“You’ll never leave Harlan alive,” recalled Jordan Smith, who hails from Harlan, Kentucky, of the experience growing up in a small Southern town and not fitting in. He obviously struck an emotional chord with the audience and the judges and could go very far. He is waaaaaaay more talented than previous square pegs who have gone far on the show and is from the same town that my favorite TV show, Justified, is set in.
Prediction: Last person standing for Adam.
Team Adam: Keith Semple
The problem with covering a Bon Jovi song is that you tend to sound like a Bon Jovi cover band.
Prediction: Livin’ on a prayer.
Team Adam: Regina Love
Once signed to a recording deal by heavyweight champion Evander Holyfeld, Regina Love has a powerful voice but nothing that distinguishes her as an artist — at least in this audition. She will be able to go toe to toe with some of the weaker links in Adam’s team but is going to have to really put up a surprising couple of performances to make it far beyond the Battle Rounds. There have been older R&B artists on previous seasons similar to Love, with strong instruments but dated song choices.
Prediction: Most likely to sing Proud Mary.