By Amy Reiter
9:30 AM CDT, October 8, 2013
Season 5 blind auditions, we hardly knew ye. "The Voice" coaches topped off their teams of 12 on Monday night as the first round of the competition rolled to an end. The coach button-pushing, chair-turning, preening and pleas culminated, as it generally does, in a chorus of boasts about talent, diversity and capturing the big prize.
Adam Levine, who'd started the evening with two spots left on his team, was the first to fill all his spots. Right off the bat he nabbed returnee Matt Cermanski, a 20-year-old from Phoenixville, Pa., who'd failed to turn a single chair last season with his nervous take on Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream," a song that even he agreed didn't suit him. This time, Cermanski vowed to show off his singer-songwriter vibe, grabbing his guitar and capturing coaches' attention with John Hiatt's "Have a Little Faith in Me," (one of my absolute favorite songs.)
All three male coaches — first Levine, then Blake Shelton and finally CeeLo Green — turned for Cermanski. Christina Aguilera, who had only one spot left, was being especially selective. And even though Shelton compared Cermanski to a cat playing with a mouse and declared him to be capable of carrying him to his fourth victory — "Haven't you ever heard of a Fourpeat?" he asked — Cermanski went with the coach who'd turned first and then enthusiastically praised his "exponential" growth.
"He was mine from the first note," Levine said.
Green could perhaps have said the same thing of Tamara Chauniece, a 23-year-old from Morton, Texas, who'd discovered her voice singing gospel in church as a child (her mother is a minister) but was still trying to break out with a broader audience, working as an apartment rental agent but holding onto her musical dreams. "I do not want to be a leasing agent for the rest of my life," she said.
Her sexy spin on "1 + 1" added up to two coaches — Aguilera and Green — vying to mentor her. "It was gorgeous and so are you," Green said of the song, adding that it was "everything it needed to be" and "just enough, not too much of anything."
Aguilera tried to forge a connection based on the fact that she, too, had begun singing at age 7, but she couldn't outconnect Green, who, like Chauniece, had grown up in the church. He ended up being a sinner, he noted, but said Chauniece might be able to save him.
"Come to Jesus," she jokingly responded, opening her arms.
"Jesus look good," Green said appreciatively.
They were a match made in heaven. Aguilera was out of luck, and Green had filled the first of his remaining three slots.
Shelton nabbed the first of his two final singers — both flannel-and-denim-wearing country dudes — after Brandon Chase, a 20-year-old from Arlington, Texas, who nearly died of internal bleeding and respiratory failure as an infant, but survived with no long-term effects, took the stage to sing "Wanted." Green spun for Chase, too, saying he'd "fight" Shelton for him, but it's hard to imagine why he bothered. The "flash" and "fabulosity" Green offered was clearly not what Chase was after; Shelton's country cred was.
"Gotta go with my heart and, uh, Blake," he said.
Green then uncontestedly snapped up 26-year-old Lupe Carroll, of Bourbonnais, Ill., a musician whose day job is delivering flowers. "I may be a little crazy, but I ain't stupid. You sound damn good," he said in response to Carroll's "If I Were a Carpenter."
That meant each of the four coaches had one remaining spot to fill.
Levine was the first to reach completion, adding Grey, 25, from Jacksonville, Fla., a graduate of Berklee College of Music who has been singing in a wedding band and working retail at Anthropology in Boston. Green and Shelton — whose chair spun and then spun again ("I did a 360 for you," he shouted over his seatback) — also made a play for Grey, but the one-named singer, who had grown up crooning country, wanted to branch out and took the last slot on Levine's team.
Levine boasted that he had "the most diverse, eclectic, all over the place bunch of misfits," no one "vanilla," a "really fun bunch of renegades." Many of them had turned three or four chairs. "If all is right in the world, Team Adam will win," Levine declared.
Aguilera gave her last spot to Michael Lynch, a Chicago 27-year-old with a love for the Spanish language and song. Lynch, whose heritage is, he said, "100% Irish," sang Enrique Iglesias's Latin pop song "Bailamos," turning all three coaches with spots to fill. Not surprisingly, he picked Aguilera, who noted, "I'm Irish, too — half Irish, right down the middle. My father's Ecuadorean."
Team complete, Aguilera said she'd stacked it with "a lot of different flavors," and was excited by her artists' "versatility." "After taking a season off," she said, "it would be incredible to come back and win 'The Voice.' "
Green and Shelton duked it out over 24-year-old Austin, Texas, singer Brian Pounds, who had surrendered his pro baseball aspirations to pursue music. Pounds sang "Wagon Wheel," and it was almost a foregone conclusion he'd go for Shelton. After all, the two were dressed alike, in jeans and flannel — "like we're going to prom," Shelton quipped. Green made a push for expansion and experimentation, but Pounds wasn't interested. "I gotta keep it country," he said. "I gotta go with Blake."
Shelton said he'd gotten the "diversity" and "good mix" he wanted. "I don't see any reason why I can't win four," he added, asserting, "I for sure have the winner."
Green, meanwhile, bragged that his batch of talented "underdogs" constituted "the strongest team," and added one last member: Shawn Smith, a 32-year-old Army veteran from Utica, N.Y., whose nickname, which he later revealed was written on his belt buckle, is "Big Sexy." Big Sexy lost 80% of the hearing in his right ear in an explosion in Iraq, but his spirited, sassy rendition of "Chicken Fried" tickled the audience, and Smith's new coach. "I was country before country was cool," Green, an Atlanta native, said.
So next week, it's on to the battle rounds, when the coaches will be aided by guest mentors Cher (Shelton), Miguel (Green), Ryan Tedder (Levine) and Ed Sheeran (Aguilera). Cher!
Any favorites heading into the battles?
Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times