Season 13 of The Voice returns with a bang after the music competition won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program.
As we can see from the first two nights of Blind Auditions, the contestants in Season 13 of The Voice look more diverse than ever. In the premiere, the show featured performances by everyone from a drag queen worship leader to a gay ex-NFL player. The competition looks stiff. Many of the contestants are very good, and at this point, it could be anybody’s game.
Who made it onto the show by the end of the first week of Blind Auditions? Keep reading to find out.
Team Jennifer is looking strong so far, with a handful of powerhouse artists who can sing their socks off. Jennifer seems pretty confident in her pitches and she doesn’t seem fazed by the other coaches.
Chris Weaver: “Try a Little Tenderness”
New York soul man Chris Weaver opened Season 13 with a velvety rich rendition of Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness.” All four coaches turned for his electrifying cover. His booming voice even warranted a complimentary shoe throw from the J-Hud herself. It’s not the first time the Oscar queen threw her shoe at Chris. They’ve met once before at a “The Color Purple” party, where, yes, Jennifer threw her shoe at Chris to praise his incredible singing.
In addition to his soulful voice, Chris also has an eclectic, interesting back story as a worship leader by day and a drag queen (“Nedra Belle”) by night. His chances into the Knockouts and Playoffs look promising with the early and well-deserved hype around him.
Shi’Ann Jones: “Drown in My Own Tears”
Shi’Ann Jones belongs in the league of young powerhouse contestants like Aliyah Moulden and Jacquie Lee. There’s no denying her incredible talent. The girl can sing, channeling some soulful Aretha Franklin energy through her otherwise mild-mannered 15-year-old vessel.
Jennifer literally scared Adam and Miley from pushing for this teenager. Blake, who has chosen to refocus his bantering with Adam to defeating Jennifer, pushed anyway. As his pitch, he recited a random factoid about the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green Kentucky, Shi’Ann’s hometown. Shi’Ann smartly went with Jennifer, who can help her develop more finesse. and dynamics
Lucas Holliday: “This Woman’s Work”
This grocery clerk can belt. He started the Kate Bush classic with an impressive falsetto and transitioned into a strong, rounded chest voice.
I almost prematurely felt bad for Lucas because I didn’t think anyone would push for him. But, of course, Jennifer went in for the steal, swooping this spiritual crooner at the very last second.
“I think something that’s gonna be really cool—I think for Jennifer, I think for everyone that’s gonna watch this show, is we don’t really know who you are,” Miley stated. “You can be so many different things. I think you can sing so many different things. I think you’ve got the right coach ‘cause you’re going to live to your full potential.”
Miley has some good insight going on here. Let’s see what Jennifer has in store for Lucas.
Maharasyi: “Tell Me Something Good”
This Indonesian wedding chanteuse charmed Miley and Jennifer with her soulful rendition of Chaka Khan’s “Tell Me Something Good.” Battling nerves in the introduction of the song, Maharasyi brought a fun, theatrical element to the classic hit. Although it’s interesting to hear her bring out a character voice, it would behoove her coach to bring out the pure power of the young singer’s through a pure diva song, perhaps Christina Aguilera or Beyoncé.
Team Miley looks the most eclectic at the moment with soul, pop, and country artists. It makes sense since the “Malibu” singer is the only coach who has really ventured far into different music genres. I’m excited to see how her unique music taste and bombastic stage presence will help her team grow.
Janice Freeman: “Radioactive”
You can just feel Janice Freeman’s spirit in the powerful, tender way that she sings. At 32, she lost her late husband to cancer and survived cervical cancer herself. Rocking some blue lipstick, she gave this Imagine Dragons bop a completely jazzy, swampy transformation. In a surprise twist, she picked Miley Cyrus over powerhouse coach Jennifer Hudson.
“I think I’m the best coach for you because I have no fear,” Miley proclaimed.
Janice obviously has a booming voice, so it’d be nice to hear her show some dynamics in quieter ballads. Miley is known to greenlight alternative artist picks like Pink Floyd and Father John Misty. Perhaps she will help Janice harness her powerful voice and carve out a lasting stage identity.
Brooke Simpson: “Stone Cold”
Proudly claiming to be 100% from the Haliwa-Saponi tribe, this bubbly 26-year-old went from small coffee shop gigs to a standing ovation from four of America’s biggest musicians. Brooke technically hit every note and obviously has a lot of power in her voice. She was also as incredible emotional as Demi Lovato herself. I’d like to hear more of Brooke’s story and see more of her personality. It looks like an evenly paired match, both coach and contestant sharing a youthful, quirky energy.
Ashland Craft: “You Are My Sunshine”
Ashland is a small town country singer, singing whenever she can. But boy, she does not have a small voice. I felt her raspy, gravelly version of “You Are My Sunshine,” which she sang in Chris Stapleton’s style. Laced with a Southern rock flair, her voice shreds in her upper register in a really cool way. It fills up a room with energy in a rough, emotional Grace Potter kind of way. She’s the first country artist on Miley’s team, and it will be interesting to hear her voice on other songs. I have a feeling that Ashland will stick around for a while.
Team Blake looks fairly country so far, with a few powerhouse vocalists thrown in the mix. This is unsurprising given that the show has given him the moniker “King of Country Music.” Blake’s country contestants usually make it to the finale, so he doesn’t have a lot to worry about.
Mitchell Lee: “Hold My Hand”
Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, this handsome woodworker is a true blue country singer who’s pursuing a music career in honor of his late mother. In a full-throated voice, he belted Darius Rucker’s Southern rock ballad “Hold My Hand.” Unsurprisingly, he went with Blake, despite Adam’s desperate pleas. Country artists usually face stiff competition on Blake’s team, but those who make it to the top tend to fare well long after the show.
Esera Tuaolo: “Rise Up”
This ex-NFL player has amazing vocal chops and a very vulnerable energy about him. His performance wasn’t perfect—there were noticeable breathing issues—but there was a lot of power and feeling behind it. He funnels the emotional energy from the experience of coming out. Although wooed by powerhouse coach Jennifer Hudson, he decided to go with Blake. The humble country artist might not have crazy vocals, but his capacity as a musical storyteller could help Esera connect with audiences.
Keisha Renee: “I Can’t Stop Loving You”
Formerly a backup singer for Nicki Minaj, Los Angeles native Keisha Renee brought The Voice stage to church. Given the show’s history of elevating young, blonde female country singers, it’s refreshing to see a black woman occupying a space in country music that I haven’t really seen before, a space that combines soul, gospel, and country. As Adam so aptly put it, “Here’s what I was hearing. She’s singing something Blake would do with Jennifer’s voice. And now she has Miley’s style, and she’s nothing like me at all.”
Miley’s R&B and country background initially makes the most sense for coaching, but Keisha went with Blake. Maybe Miley will go in for a steal in the upcoming rounds.
Red Marlow: “Swingin’”
This construction worker is country, perhaps, as Adam suggests, even more country than Blake Shelton himself. He gave a competent rendition of Chris Young’s rowdy ballad “Swingin’.” Although it’s a fun song, it didn’t really give him a chance to show his range. Miley gave Red a valiant pitch, but he was destined to land on Blake’s team. Given the stiff competition so far, I’m not sure if Red will make it past the Battles and Knockouts.
Adam Levine scored a few laidback pop rock male vocalists the first week of the blinds. While his team doesn’t have many big personalities or voices, Adam might have a dark horse up his sleeve yet. Only time will tell as we approach the Battles and Knockouts.
Brandon Showell: “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back”
Nothing held Brandon Showell back as he literally danced through his blind audition. This humble seventh grade English teacher has rhythm, as anyone can tell in his suave performance of Shawn Mendes’ banger. He elicited a turn from Jennifer, Miley, and Adam. Given the huge personalities emerging so far, Brandon’s performance was on the more subdued side. With Adam’s coaching, maybe we’ll see more sides from Mr. Showell.
Dave Crosby: “I Will Follow You into the Dark”
There was a lot of cute overload going on in this blind audition. The musically inclined family man impressed Miley, Adam, and Blake with an understated performance of Death Cab for Cutie’s somnolent tune. He’s known for his adorable YouTube covers with his daughter, Claire, on their channel, Claire and the Crosbies, even getting a few invites to perform on The Ellen Show.
Dave’s actual performance was fine; he has an airy, ethereal voice reminiscent of pop rocker Matt McAndrew. He conveyed the purity and simplicity of the song well. Admittedly, the song was limited in allowing him to show off his vocals. I didn’t connect with him as much until he started performing “You’ve Got a Friend With Me” with his daughter on stage. I’m sure Adam will whip him into shape, though.
Dylan Gerard: “Say You Won’t Let Go”
Nurse assistant Dylan brought a subtle, understated vibe to James Arthur’s emotional pop hit “Say You Won’t Let Go.” His performance was amiable, but J-Hud did sense that it was the wrong key for the crooner. After she turned for him, J-Hud did some solid trial coaching with Dylan and suggested that he try a different key. And it worked! Despite her generous coaching, Dylan went with the Maroon 5 frontman, who shares a similarly high voice.
Season 13 of The Voice is looking competitive and it’s undoubtedly chock-full of talent. At this point in the competition, the stakes are relatively low. If you get a chair to turn, you’re in. While I might have a few favorites here and there, I’m already giddy with excitement about the prospect of more talent in next week’s blinds.