It's season fifteen of "The Voice" and yes, it does feel as if last season just ended. But it's back, with judges Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Kelly Clarkson, and Jennifer Hudson. And after a trademark cheezy "Voice" opening that involved host summoning host Carson Daly summoning the judges with a "V" signal, it's time for the blind auditions.
First up is 15-year-old Sarah Grace from Houston, Texas and in her introduction, she gleefully says she just got her learner's permit. Just as an aside, I don't mean to be a grouch, but as talented as these young performers are I tend to find them less interesting than those veteran singers who've put a decade or two into their craft. But I digress.
Oh, one other pet peeve about recent seasons of "The Voice." Because so much of the show is ironically focused on the contestant's personalities, you're seeing an increase of talented singers who are also facing some sort of personal or medical crisis. In the case of Sarah Grace, she has Synesthesia, which is a condition where your sense are cross-wired. When she hears music or any sort of sound, she sees colors.
She explains that when she learning to sing, she wasn't interested in the Blues, because that's "music for old people." But she discovered listening to the Blues shows her beautiful colors, so that's the genre she learned to love.
For her audition, Sarah Grace performs "Ball And Chain," and to be honest, while sounds quite workmanlike, she doesn't blow me away. And Kelly Clarkson struggles with the decision for a bit before she turns her chair. But as Grace keeps singing, she falls into the groove and by the end of the performance, both Blake Shelton and Jennifer Hudson have also turned their chairs for her. And in the end, she chose Kelly.
Next up is 23-year-old Tyshawn Colquitt from Cincinnati, Ohio. He and his mother run a small business called "Pound 4 Sound," which combines her pound cake and his music. Think of it as a singing pound-cake-a-gram. He explains that he and his family live in the projects and he sees the show as the chance to improve the life of his loved ones.
The sharp-dressed Tyshawn performs "Like I Can," and while he's got an impressive and soulful voice, I'm not sure this is the best song choice. But after cranking out some impressive runs, Jennifer Hudson turns her chair followed by Blake Shelton. And we can pretty much see how this is going to turn out. Yes, he picks Jennifer. And then he gave all the judges and some of the crowd free pound cake. Clearly, this is a guy who knows how to multi-task his marketing efforts.
17-year-old Tyke James lives in Laie, Hawaii and he has that surfer/seventies rocker look that will no doubt make him a fan favorite with the show's younger viewers. He loves living in Hawaii and spending his days in the water but he admits the music scene in Hawaii isn't great since his "biggest venue is a taco truck."
It's about time for a performer to fail to convince a judge to turn their chair and his lackluster performance of "Perfect" isn't exactly creating an inspirational moment. But for some inexplicable reason, Adam Levine turns around. So good for Tyke.
Next up is 29-year-old Ayanna Joni from Yonkers, NY and she explains at the top of her introduction package that she has had a "huge journey" to get to the show. She did some TV commercials and other acting as a child and later joined a girl group that released a couple of singles. But she got pregnant when she was 18 and she put her career on hold when he daughter was born. But now that her daughter is in school she's resumed her singing career and makes her living as a wedding band singer.
She performs "Sorry Not Sorry" for her audition piece and her voice is solid. But despite the judges making comments to each other about her skills, no one turns around for her. I wondered if she'd be one of the singers chosen for this season's new "The Comeback Stage" online series and indeed, she is the first one chosen for that second chance.
Miami's Mercedes Ferreira-Dias is 17 and she's a returning contestant. She auditioned last season and Kelly Clarkson was oh-so-close to turning her chair. This time, she's singing "She Used To Be Mine" and more than anything, she wants Kelly to turn around for her this time around.
As soon as she starts singing, Clarkson recognizes her voice. But it's Blake Shelton that turns his chair first, quickly followed by Kelly Clarkson. And surprisingly, Mercedes chooses Blake. Although some of that decision might have been due to the fact her mom has a big crush on the country singer.
19-year-old Radha is from Jersey City, New Jersey and is a first-generation Filipino-American and she explains that Filipino culture is all about family, fresh food and karaoke. On camera in her introduction package, Radha is quiet and subdued. But when she hit the stage, she sings "Mamma Knows Best" and she explodes. It takes Adam about five seconds to turn his chair. It isn't until the very last second that Jennifer and Blake turn their chairs and Jennifer learns that she has been blocked by Adam. So it's fitting that she chose Adam. Although she admitted that she probably would have picked Jennifer to be her judge if it weren't for that very strategic block.
Kameron Marlowe is a 22-year-old from Kannapolis, N.C. and he sells car parts "all day long." He's a country singer and he really wants to work with Blake Shelton. He sings "One Number Away" and he has this smokey country/soul sound that has both Kelly and Blake turning their chairs within seconds of him starting the song. He's got a great sound and I think he's going to be one of my favorites this season. Kameron didn't waste any time and chose Blake before he or Kelly has much of a chance to speak.
Mikele Buck is 39 and from the unlikely sounding West By God Virginia. He explained that his grandfather served in the military during World War II and his father did the same in Vietnam. Mikele joined the Reserves when he turned 19 and was sent to Iraq to find and disarm roadside bombs. He and his best friend Chuck spent their downtime playing music and when they returned to civilian life, Chuck ended up committing suicide. "All these politicians are worrying about who's kneeling for a flag and I just don't get it."
Mikele makes a living playing music full-time and he explains that music and his family have helped him move on from his time in Iraq. He says he sings "both kinds of music-country and western" and before he even hits the stage, he's one of those performers you just want to see do well. "If I do get chairs to turn," he explains, "I'll dedicate it to Chuck because he was a big fan of my music."
He sings the Brooks and Dunn hit "She Used to be Mine" and to my ears, he is killing it. But as he continues to sing, the judges still aren't sure and as the cameras show his family, both of his daughters are watching their father sing to the back of four chairs, tears streaming down their faces. But at the very last possible moment, as the last note fades, Kelly and Blake hit their buttons.
Kelly makes her best pitch but she also admits that she knows Mikele will choose Blake. What she doesn't know is that Kelly is the favorite of his youngest daughter and when he chooses Kelly, his daughters continues to cry, yelling "Yes! Yes!"
Sam Hastings is from Portland, Maine and is 23-years-old. Most of his introduction package involves him discussing how nervous he gets onstage, so when he sings "Angela," it's not a surprise that he's visibly shaking and none of the judges turn their chairs.
Patrique Fortson is a 38-year-old from Atlanta who calls himself the "Clark Kent of Music" because his day job is working at an insurance company. But he explains that at night, he puts on his cape "and I do my thing." He was signed as a Gospel artist when he was seven-years-old. But his label collapsed just after his second album was released and he's spent the years since trying to get back some of that career magic.
He's singing "Get Here" because he says the lyrics reflect how hard he worked to get to the stage of "The Voice." Despite the fact that he's a large man, his voice has this subtle soprano tone that is both beautiful and surprising. His vocal runs are amazing and Jennifer turns her chair and watches his performance enthralled. But her happiness is short-lived when Adam presses his button right at the end of the performance. Not that it matters since it's clear Patrique is going with Jennifer.
The final performance of the night comes from 13-year-old Kennedy Holmes from St. Louis. She's the youngest singer this season but she seems poised and ready to perform. She chose to sing Adele's "Turning Tables," which is a gutsy move for a singer of any age.
When she begins to sing, Kelly and Jennifer look at each other, a bit caught up in the performance. But Adam turns his chair first and starts to smile as soon as he sees her. Before long, it's the night's lone four-chair turn and she certainly deserves it.
As the judges were speaking to her, she said that her first public performance was singing Jennifer Hudson's "I Am Changing" and before you know it, they are onstage singing it together. Of course, she ends up picking Jennifer and afterward, the judges agree she has a real shot at winning the season.
Tomorrow night's episode is just an hour, so come back here for the next recap.