Heading into the second night of “The Voice” Season 8 blind auditions, things were looking pretty grim for Adam Levine. On the first night of blinds, the other coaches had each picked up two or three talented vocalists, while he hadn’t been able to persuade a single singer – nope, not even one – to join his team, leaving him bemoaning the loss of his mojo.
“Right now, I’m just a little deflated,” he said at the outset of Tuesday’s show, “but I’ll be all right.”
Indeed, the evening would prove Levine right, offering him a chance to recover and pick up three – count ‘em! – singers, twice edging out his beloved archrival Blake Shelton to get them. This time, when he ditched his chair and wandered away from the other three coaches, he didn’t storm off – he swaggered.
Here’s how Night 2 of the blind auditions played out:
Anthony Riley: This 27-year-old Motown-loving street singer from Philadelphia earned what Carson Daly said was the fastest four-chair turn in “The Voice” history with his charismatic rendition of “I Got You (I Feel Good).” “You had me at ‘ha!’” Shelton told him, trying out a James Brown impression Christina Aguilera said sounded like a cat hacking up something. Shelton told Riley they “could have a serious connection.” Aguilera said he seemed like the sort of rule-breaking “trailblazer” she wanted to take all the way to a win. Pharrell Williams called Riley’s performance “electric” and said he seemed to have a “big spirit.” And Levine told Riley he had a plan to help him “diversify” his act and stay in the game. Then Shelton piped back in, telling Riley, “Adam wants to change what you do. Pharrell and Christina, that would be like mixing water with water. I would be like putting whiskey in your water.” Didn’t work, though. Riley went with Pharrell.
Gabriel Wolfchild: Raised by “alternative parents” who encouraged him to choose his own name, this 26-year-old Seattle indie folk singer spun Levine, Shelton and Aguilera with his delicate, emotionally rich take on "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right." “Dude sat out here with a guitar and sang a song like a real artist singer should. What is wrong with you, Pharrell?” Shelton fumed at the one coach who declined to push his button for Wolfchild. Williams explained that he hadn’t pushed because he figured Wolfchild wouldn’t have picked him, but it turned out Pharrell was the very coach the singer had had his eye on. Oh, well. The other three coaches sparred a bit, and while Levine may have been the more obvious choice, Wolfchild went with Aguilera. She’d turned his head by telling him she was going to cater to his sound, and Wolfchild predicted that they’d have a “good connection.” He already inspired her to come up with Wolfchild-like names for the other coaches. She dubbed Shelton “Inbred Moonshine,” Williams “Happy Gray Hat,” and Adam? “Definitely ‘Little Manchild,’” she said.
Brooke Adee: This ethereally pretty Georgia-raised 16-year-old, now living in Tampa, Fla., sparked a face-off between Inbred Moonshine and Little Manchild with her nuanced rendition of “Skinny Love.” “You guys remind me of Tom and Jerry,” she cheekily told them. Shelton praised her pitch, her beauty and the break in her voice and called her a “future star.” Levine focused on Adee’s presence and passion and told her he was “100%” sure she could win. But Shelton had coached the audience to chant his name, should they find him competing with Levine for a singer, and whether that helped his cause or not, he did get the girl. Levine later admitted that he was “very jealous” of his fellow coach and hollered to the audience, “I used to be a contender.” Aw, don’t worry, Adam, your fortunes will change.
Tonya Boyd-Cannon: In fact, Levine’s fortunes turned with the very next singer, a big-hearted, big-voiced 35-year-old musician from New Orleans who works with inmates in a prison choir. Having lost everything she owned, including, she said tearfully, “all my baby’s birth pictures,” in Hurricane Katrina, Boyd-Cannon has clearly had her share of sadness, but she sang “Happy” like she meant it, turning Levine, Aguilera and Mr. “Happy” himself, Pharrell. You would have though Williams would have had it totally sewn up, especially after he praised her as the sort of risk taker that really did it for him. Certainly Aguilera thought the fact that Boyd-Cannon had sung Williams’ song meant she would join his team. But Boyd-Cannon defied expectations and chose Levine – who had turned his chair much earlier than the other coaches and told her she should pick him precisely because it made “no sense at all” to do so. It may not have been Levine’s questionable sales pitch that did the trick for him, though. Boyd-Cannon said she was a big fan of the risks the Maroon 5 singer took in his own music and was anxious to take similar risks herself.
Joe Tolo: This American Samoan 21-year-old singer, raised in Sacramento, came to “The Voice” via the show’s boot camp, and then booted up enthusiasm with his satiny rendition of “To Love Somebody,” on which he showed off his rich tone and impressive range. Aguilera and Shelton both turned for Tolo, and while Aguilera had turned first, Shelton was the one who took the other coaches to task for not turning. “That is a four-chair turn singer right there,” he said. Despite Shelton’s defense, Tolo chose Aguilera, who harmonized with him on a sky-high note, as his coach. “Feistina comes out,” she said of her methods.
Mia Z: This singer’s voice (all smoke, grit and power) and song choice (she sang B.B. King’s “The Thrill Is Gone”) would seem to belie her age. But though she may have been aiming to impress Aguilera, whom she resembles in terms of vocal precocity and Pittsburgh roots, she – for mysterious reasons – did not. Only when it was too late did Aguilera express regret: “I’m upset. I might cry,” she said. Still, Mia Z had Shelton and Williams duking it out for her. Shelton said he’d never heard a performance like the one she had just given, praising the “sizzle” in her lower register and the “whistle tone” at the top. Williams noted that the bluesy singer’s preferred genre was “not far” from his “wheelhouse,” and said he wanted to help her take it to “the next level.” She picked Williams, and Shelton, still licking his wounds, told his fellow coach he had just gained a serious shot at the win.
Blaze Johnson: Having moved with his family from Nassau, in the Bahamas, to Columbus, Ohio, as a kid, Johnson was teased. Now 23, he has arrived at “The Voice” looking to triumph, bringing a gentle power to “How to Save a Life” and inspiring Levine and Shelton to vie to have him join their teams. Shelton admired Johnson’s approach to big notes, while Levine said he was excited about the way he existed “outside the box.” Levine’s tack worked, earning him his second singer of the night and the season.
Deanna Johnson: In one of those storylines in which “The Voice” takes particular pride, this 18-year-old former rodeo singer returned from a first audition attempt in Season 5, in which she turned no chairs, to try again, after picking herself up from her initial disappointment and putting in the work to improve. All she wanted was to turn a chair with her take on “All I Want” – and in fact, she turned all four. Levine was the last to push his button and offered her criticism where the others lavished praise. “My honest opinion is that there are definitely some things I heard that needed a little bit of work … My goal is to make you better; that’s how I work with my team,” he told her, noting that she might not like to hear that, but, “It’s the people that like to hear it that are going to go the distance.” Johnson was apparently one of those people. Despite a kinship with Shelton and a hard sell from Williams, she chose Levine.
The Maroon 5 singer’s mojo was back.