So many questions about Monday night’s episode of “The Voice,” which made its debut in the show’s regular timeslot. Will it be a ratings hit like it was on Sunday after the Super Bowl? Will it provide enough of a lead-in so NBC can finally have a hit with “Smash”? Why does Cee Lo Green’s wardrobe have so many bedazzled tracksuits?
The blind auditions feature singers giving their all — but it’s also a platform for the judges to bicker and show off. So to start, Cee Lo joins fellow judges Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera, and Adam Levine for a medley of great Prince songs: “1999,” “Little Red Corvette,” and “Kiss.” Cee Lo’s tracksuit blinds us all.
Oh right, the contestants. First up is a duo, Hailey and Leland, who call themselves The Line. The duo got their start when Leland hit on Hailey at a bar, but they have segued into just singing partners. They insist that their dynamic is either just friends; brother and sister; or an old married couple — take your pick. Hailey and Leland perform Tom Petty’s “American Girl” as an upbeat ditty, and Blake is immediately intrigued. Once the other judges figure out its a duo, everyone spins around to check out the happy couple.
“You guys love each other, right? You’re a couple?” Cee Lo asks right off the bat. They both insist not — how long until this becomes a storyline this season? Christina rambles for awhile and then manages a dig at Blake, reminding everyone that he sent his duo (Elenowen) home last season. Blake name drops his wife, Miranda Lambert, and the judges make fun of him. Hailey and Leland hold a brief conference and choose...Christina. She laughs in Blake’s face, and Blake questions the judgment of The Line.
It’s about 18 minutes into the two hour show, so it’s time for a horribly tragic backstory. Jamar Rogers, 29, is a former homeless crystal meth addict who is also HIV positive, and spends his days doing charity work. Since any reality show would be absolutely heartless not to let him through, we will cut to the chase: Cee Lo spins around as Jamar croons his way through a decent version of “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes.
Jamar gushes about his love for Cee Lo (and not just Gnarls Barkley Cee Lo, but old school Cee Lo); Jamar officially joins Team Cee Lo, and then runs to hug his idol. Offstage, Cee Lo talks to the camera about how it’s so worth it to help young people achieve their dreams. But it’s hard to concentrate, because Cee Lo is also nonchalantly holding a fluffy white cat in his arms while talking.
Neal Middleton, 33, is described as a rock ‘n roll family man. Neal knows he doesn’t have much longer pursue his singing dreams to support his family, and he has to kick things up a notch. Cut to footage of Neal’s adorable son rolling around on the floor, as Neal starts tearing up during his on-camera interview. He pulls himself together to deliver a loud, growl-filled “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye.
Things quickly get more depressing when none of the judges spin their chairs around. “It was awesome, I enjoyed every second of it,” Adam says politely. Neal’s wife isn’t having it. “Well, why didn’t you turn your chair around?” she asks, making a solid point. The judges just aren’t that into Neal, and he leaves.
After a brief montage of other singers who don’t inspire the judges to spin their robot chairs around (and everyone handles the rejection with poise and grace — boring!), we meet Gwen Sebastian, 37. She raves about how her boyfriend sacrificed so many things, including trying to start a family, to that Gwen can pursue her dream to become a musician. So, no pressure for Gwen.
Gwen goes sad country with Sugarland’s “Stay,” about a mistress pleading with her lover to not go back to his wife. Blake and Cee Lo are convinced, and spin around at the same time. Adam also turns his chair. “You’re just doing this to get under my skin,” Blake accuses Adam and Cee Lo, which is probably accurate. Once the judges stop bickering, Blake plays the country angle, while Adam goes with “fresh perspective.” Cee Lo says he just turned around to let Gwen know she’s appreciated. Taking that into account, Gwen chooses...Blake!
Host Carson Daly reminds everyone that “The Voice” isn’t about age, by way of introducing a “much older” singer, Kim Yarbrough, age 50. Kim has been singing since she was a teenager, but describes herself as a struggling artist, who has had odd jobs including working in a potato chip factory.
Before we see Kim’s fate, we meet Pamela Rose, 28, who breaks down in tears when talking about how much she loves her family. Pamela goes with Kelly Clarkson tune “Already Gone,” and belts out the song while her family sobs backstage. Zero judges turn around. But they visibly regret it when the song ends, and see that she’s a statuesque brunette, even if she had pitch problems. Cee Lo’s still kicking himself long after she’s gone.
Back to 50-year-old Kim Yarbrough, as she is now known. The judges all dance in their chairs to Kim’s rendition of Chaka Khan’s “Tell Me Something Good,” and finally Adam is persuaded to spin around, joined shortly by Christina. Adam and Christina lay on the charm, and Blake decides to help Kim out: “Adam won this thing last year...Christina didn’t.” Enough said — Adam gets a teammate.
Staff Sergeant Angie Johnson, 31, was in the Air Force Band, and got a million views on YouTube when someone in the military uploaded a video of her singing. It caught the attention of Carson Daly, who tweeted about it...and now here we are. Angie goes with Pat Benetar’s “Heartbreaker,” and immediately captures the attention of Cee Lo, who spins around right away. No one else does, though they all look like they regret it when Angie hits an impressive high note at the very end. “I’m not sure whether Cee Lo’s happy that you’re hot, or you have a good voice,” remarks Adam. Nonetheless, Angie is on Team Cee Lo. Carson Daly is pleased with his discovery.
Yale football player Dez Duron, 21, brags about his football stats, but has taken a semester off to audition for “The Voice.” “You gave up Yale...and football?” Carson Daly asks in disbelief. Anyway, Dez strolls out on stage and starts singing “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys. With his boy band looks, Dez could go far in this competition...if any of the judges turn around, that is.
Sadly, Dez doesn’t capture any of the judges, though they all try to pressure Adam into turning around. And everyone’s disappointed when the song ends and they see that Dez is attractive — especially Christina, who looks truly devastated, and tries to turn her chair around again to start over. Somehow, we think Dez will be just fine.
Lindsey Pavao, 22, has struggled with nerves ever since a traumatic high school performance, but she strolls out anyway and sings “Say Aah” by Trey Songz in a very distinct, smoky style. The judges murmur their approval, and Christina spins around, looking very pleased with herself. Though she soon has competition as Cee Lo and Blake join the party. Blake gives his best sales pitch, comparing Lindsey’s voice to Fiona Apple (who happens to be Lindsey’s inspiration). Christina (being Christina) interrupts and points out that she and Lindsey are wearing their hair the same way. Hearing all their praise, Lindsey stalls for awhile before she eventually goes with Christina.
Jermaine Paul, 33, tells us that he once serenaded Alicia Keys, which led to a gig as her back-up singer. However, Jermaine wants more — to be a solo artist Jermaine also has an adorable daughter, who says that it was her idea for Dad to try out for the show.
Before Jermaine has his chance to shine, Hoja Lopez, 25, takes the stage to try to wow the judges with Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.” It’s ultimately a fruitless effort, though, as none of the judges turn around. Blake deems the song “pretty good,” and it wasn’t what he was looking for, even though he’s a huge Katy Perry fan. Who knew? The rest of the judges kindly blame her sub-par performance on nerves, and Hoja exits.
With that out of the way, Jermaine Paul tries his luck as a solo artist, with a groovy version of Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated.” Cee Lo is intrigued enough to turn around. As the song gets angrier, Blake decides he wants a shot as well. Cee Lo says the song sounded like swag, (which apparently is a compliment). Jermaine starts grilling the judges about whether they’ll keep him around, and already seems pretty high maintenance as he questions Blake about why he turned around so late in the song. Blake shoots some retorts right back, but it works — Jermaine chooses Team Blake.
For the last singer of the night, Angel Taylor, 23, is the youngest child of five girls. She tells the story of her abusive father, and about how music was her escape. As soon as she starts singing Adele’s “Someone Like You,” all the judges look interested. Adam spins around, followed shortly by Blake, who joins in once Angel gets to the chorus. Not one to be left out, Cee Lo turns around as well. Adam and Cee Lo sings her praises, but Angel tells Blake upfront that she has a huge crush on him. Blake is pleased, but admits he’s not sure what he can do for Angel if she’s on her team. That being said, Angel wisely goes with Adam.