By the time the second season premiere of “The Voice” starts after the Super Bowl, we’re well-acquainted with the four judges, thanks to many ads during the big game. Plus, Blake Shelton sang “America the Beautiful” with his wife, Miranda Lambert, before kickoff. Kelly Clarkson’s stellar national anthem brought up comparisons of Christina Aguilera’s incident last year. And Cee Lo Green nearly stole the halftime show from Madonna with a truly genius costume (though some will argue if they’ll all be upstaged by a certain gesture made by M.I.A. during the performance).
Judge no. 4 Adam Levine didn’t get quite as much screen time, but that’s all about to change as host Carson Daly welcomes us to “The Voice,” reminding us that it puts vocal ability first.
In case you missed last season: First round features singers performing while the judges have their backs turned. When a judge likes what they hear, they push a button on their huge robot swivel chair, slowly turn around to face the singer, and asks the singer to be on their team. If more than one judge turns around in the robot chair, then the singer gets to choose which team they want to be on. Singers are eliminated every week, and the winner of the whole season gets a record deal, etc.
Anyway, the judges all brag about how the show was such a huge massive success, so now the stakes are higher. Adam’s team won last year, and he won’t let anyone forget it. It’s all very humbling.
Even though “The Voice” puts vocal ability first, the first contestant happens to be an adorable blonde from Texas, 17-year-old RaeLynn. She’s a huge fan of Blake’s wife, and sings a Miranda song even though Carson Daly seems very suspicious of this decision. RaeLynn brings her guitar and powerfully twangs through a Pistol Annies (Lambert’s band) song, “Hell on Heels.” Adam turns around. Blake smirks, waits until RaeLynn hits the chorus, then turns around. Christina and Cee Lo keep their chairs firmly locked in place.
Adam tells RaeLynn she has a “monstrous, huge country voice.” Blake tries to cut in, but Adam snaps “Keep your mouth shut, Shelton.”
Sadly, Adam has no shot against Mr. Miranda Lambert. RaeLynn gushes to Blake: “I love you, and I love Miranda — she’s actually my inspiration.” Blake is pleased. “Well! I happen to know her!” he says cheerfully. Adam and Blake bicker over who can make RaeLynn the bigger star. It’s time to choose a team, and RaeLynn chooses...Blake!
Jesse Campbell, 42, is from Chicago, and tells us his very sad story. When he couldn’t provide for his wife and daughter as a musician, his wife left, and he and his daughter became homeless. Jesse has turned his life around, but his dream is still to be a singer.
Lucky for Jesse, his voice is excellent, and Cee Lo turns his chair around within seconds of Jesse’s clear version of Leon Russell’s “A Song for You.” He’s followed shortly by Christina (who recorded the song with Herbie Hancock) and Adam, while Blake waits for a minute before joining his fellow judges to enjoy the show.
Christina is ecstatic while listening to the song, and Cee Lo gushes and points out that he turned his chair around first. Adam brings up for the 75th time that his singer won the competition last season, and now Jesse has a choice to make. He rambles about what a tough decision it is before choosing...commercial break! But then he chooses Christina. “I can’t protect you now, brother!” Cee Lo hollers from his chair.
Daniel Rosa, 20, has low self esteem and is wearing a bow tie. He cries while talking about his parents believing in him, and hits the stage with a smoky version of Neon Trees song, “Animal.” No one turns around. His family stands in the back room and pleads for someone to turn around, but no one turns around. Daniel breaks down on stage while Christina assures him that he is a beautiful singer, but needs to work on his control and pitch. Daniel cries more and heads off stage. “I feel bad,” Christina sulks.
Juliet Simms, 25, is sick of touring coffee houses, and is ready to make it in the big leagues. She goes with Beatles tune “Oh! Darling” with a fair amount of growl and grit, and Cee Lo and Adam turn around at the same time — Adam even stands up to dramatically sing along as soon as
he sees Juliet, so we know he’s a fan. Christina hits the button just as Juliet is finishing up the song. Christina rambles about how Juliet was amazing, and says they would make a great match...and even compares Adam to a used car salesman. “If selling a car means winning ‘The Voice’ means I sell cars, then I sell cars,” says Adam, to wild cheers from the audience, even though it didn’t make much sense.
Adam and Christina bicker for awhile about who is more self-centered, and Christina calls Adam a wannabe-Justin Timberlake. That’s gotta sting! Cee Lo diagnoses the Adam-Christina fighting as “sexual tension” before smoothly trying to woo Juliet to his team. Juliet chooses...Cee Lo! Adam does not look happy. Christina walks over to give Adam a hug, and he urges her to be nice — even if she was “just kidding.”
Carson Daly pipes up to remind us that “The Voice” is different from all those other singing talent shows because they don’t bother with the terrible auditions. To prove his point, Chris Mann, 29, says that he’s been studying opera for years and moved to Nashville to pursue a career. Then the backstory: Chris’s mom was diagnosed with cancer, but she won’t let him move back home, because she wants him to follow his dreams as a singer.
On stage, Chris belts out Andrea Bocelli’s “Because We Believe,” partly in Italian. Perhaps not used to opera singers, none of the judges turn at first. But Cee Lo is persuaded, followed shortly by Christina.
“That was pretty phenomenal,” Christina says to kick things off, as Chris tears up on stage, and Blake jokes about not understanding a word Chris sang. “That was so exceptionally beautiful...you’re obviously American, right? “ Cee Lo asks dubiously. “Oh, I’m from Kansas,” Chris assures him. After a speech about how he doesn’t want to “shrink” his voice anymore, and just be himself, Chris chooses...Christina!
Just like all those other singing competition shows with the terrible singers, we get a montage of performers who didn’t make the cut, including one guy with an ill-fated version of Justin Bieber’s “Baby.”
But for the last singer of the night, we’ve got Tony Lucca, 35, a former Mickey Mouse Club member who performed with Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Christina herself.
On stage, Tony croons a smooth rendition of Ray Lamontagne’s “Trouble,” and all four judges spin around to watch the performance (well, more accurately, Adam makes Cee Lo turn around). Christina has no memory of this man from her Mousketeer past, though she’s as complimentary as the rest of the judges.
Adam pleads with Tony to choose him (since he currently has zero singers on his team) and indeed, Tony chooses...Adam! Backstage, Christina magically remembers that she knows Tony, and goes to find him. “I didn’t even recognize..how are you?! No hard feelings...” Christina trails off in that way that gives us the impression she still has no idea who he is. Still, she throws in that Britney (yes, that Britney) used to have a crush on him on their Mouseketeer days.
And that’s the end of night no. 1. And if you need more — the show is back for two more hours tomorrow.