Well, that was awfully cute. Somewhere in the midst of Monday night’s blind auditions on “The Voice,” Adam Levine grew understandably restless and decided to try his hand at an audition himself.
His fellow coaches exchanged a few meaningful looks and then Christina Aguilera tapped her button with a red-patent-leather-shod foot and spun. Blake Shelton and Pharrell Williams followed suit.
“Come on, Adam. Don’t be a holdout,” Levine said to the back of his own empty chair, prompting Williams to hit Levine’s button and give his fellow coach a four-chair turn.
“All right, so now I gotta pick a coach,” Levine told the audience. Didn’t take him long. “I gotta go with my gut here,” he said. “I gotta go with, uh … Christina.”
“I think there are some potential things that need a little tweaking and fine-tuning,” Aguilera mused in a voice-over as Levine swaggered back to his seat, tossing a “sorry, boss” at Shelton on his way. “But that’s nothing I can’t handle as a coach and we’re going to work on some things. I could be able to take Adam to the very end.”
Later, Shelton told the camera he’d hit his button only because he “wanted to see what the freak looked like.”
Oh, those boys. They really had a lot of fun getting in each other’s faces on Monday night. But bromantic love spats aside, blind-audition business did happen – at times with bracing briskness. Here’s how the coaches stocked their teams:
Kelsie May: This 15-year-old high school sophomore from Louisa, Ky., spun Shelton, Aguilera and Williams, who called her singing “dope,” with her homespun take on Loretta Lynn’s “You’re Looking at Country.” (At home they call her “Little Loretta,” her dad noted.) Aguilera complimented the young vocalist’s runs and tried to make a case for a female mentor who knew what it was like to get an early start on a music career. Williams called May’s singing “great” and her clarity of purpose “special.” But if it wasn’t a foregone conclusion at the outset that May would pick Shelton as her coach, it quickly became one after he dropped the names of all the former “Voice” contestants currently getting play on country radio and of his wife, Miranda Lambert. May didn’t even seem to hear Aguilera’s warning that she could get “lost in the shuffle” on Shelton’s country-heavy team. Shelton it was. “Of course. Because the world is round,” Levine quipped. “This just in: Kelsie May goes to Blake’s team. In other news, the sky is blue, the grass is green.”
Kimberly Nichole: This 32-year-old New York human-resources worker turned nightclub performer calls herself a “rock ballerina” on account of her custom-made tutus. Shelton turned early for her rendition of Ike and Tina Turner’s “Nutbush City Limits,” but Williams slipped in at the very last minute and scuttled his chances. “Party’s over cowpoke,” Levine informed Shelton, after helping Williams’ cause. Williams helped himself too, telling Nichole he felt her soul and her blues and admired her “unique blend” of styles and interests. But Nichole had probably come in knowing she’d pick Williams if she had the chance, and she did, expressing admiration for the way he has helped “so many artists” enhance their natural skills. Still, Shelton blamed Levine for his lack of success. “It’s like me going deer hunting, shooting a deer, then feeling bad about it and rushing it to the vet,” Shelton said of Levine’s protestations that he had, at the last minute, at least, tried to help. “Don’t feel bad for him,” Aguilera reminded Williams and the rest of us, speaking of Shelton. “He’s won four times.”
Michael Leier: This 20-year-old from Fargo, N.D., proved that people from his hometown don’t all say “you betcha”; he also proved that at least one of them had the pipes to get onto “The Voice.” His “Last Kiss” prompted a faceoff between Levine and Shelton. Except Levine clearly had the upper hand from the start, not least because he was aware that Leier had been inspired by Pearl Jam’s cover of the song. “You’ve got to have a grip on where people come from if you’re going to know where they want to go,” Levine told him. “And I know exactly what you want, man. I really do.” Leier believed him, later calling Levine “the perfect coach” for him. And speaking of perfect matches, a frisky-feeling Levine told his Shelton, “You’re the Burt to my Ernie. You’re the PB to my J. You complete me. I can’t quit you.” Aw, fellas.
Travis Ewing: A 23-year-old college grad from Lafayette, La., locally known for performing as a one-man band, Ewing performed a changed-up version of Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name,” catching the attention of Aguilera, Shelton and Williams, though Levine had some quibbles about the “pocket.” Though Aguilera had pressed her button first and praised Ewing for his silky tone and ability to “think outside the box,” and Shelton promised to shine a spotlight on his talent, Ewing picked Williams. He explained that he’d been tempted to go with Aguilera, but that Williams, “as a producer is perfect for me at this point in my musical career.” Shelton told Williams he had a potential winner on his hands – “no question.”
Sonic: A San Francisco freelance makeup artist and jewelry designer bouncing back from an early stalled music career and declining to allow her partial deafness stand in her way, this 23-year-old singer spun Levine and Aguilera with her initially strong, ultimately shaky “Money on My Mind.” By the time she’d finished singing, Levine’s ardor had clearly cooled. Not so Aguilera, who called her range “crazy,” admired the way Sonic had taken on “a huge challenge,” and reiterated that she really wanted to be her coach. Sonic’s choice couldn’t have been clearer. Aguilera it was.
Jacob Rummell: 18 years old, but looking and sounding younger, this sweet-voiced singer, adopted as a baby by his Ohio family, turned Levine and, later, Shelton with his simple, straightforward take on “Count on Me.” Levine said he had a clear plan in mind for Rummell, whom he said reminded him of “a young Michael Jackson,” but Rummell had other ideas. “I pick Aaa … Blake,” he said, later explaining that he was “just drawn” to Shelton’s “coaching style and the way he is as a person.”
Barry Minniefield: “The Voice” blind audition process is not always kind to older singers, and despite his obvious talent, things were not looking good for this 52-year-old retired executive chef at the Hollywood Improv, who counts Jay Leno among his pals. “I’m not a spring chicken anymore,” he told the camera before stepping onto the stage to sing “Me and Mrs. Jones.” “But you can definitely teach this old dog new tricks.” Levine, who pushed his button at the very last minute, will have his chance, saying he “couldn’t be happier” to have Minniefield on his team.
India Carney: This classically trained 21-year-old UCLA music student from Brooklyn turned all four chairs with her pitch-perfect rendition of Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind.” Aguilera begged: “I need it. I need you,” she said. Levine flirted, cooing, “I’m from wherever you're from, baby.” Shelton declared himself to be a believer and a fan. And Williams ticked off a list of reasons she should pick him. At one point, all the coaches tried to talk over each other at once. But Carney quieted them all with her choice. “I think I’m going to go with someone who was a big part of my childhood,” she said. Yup, Aguilera triumphed. “I couldn’t be more thrilled to have India on my team,” she said, calling her “one of my all-star players.”
Several other contestants made it onto teams but were glimpsed only briefly. They were …
Team Pharrell: Noelle Bybee
Team Adam: Bren’naie DeBarge (“of the legendary DeBarge family”), James McNeiece and Nicolette Mare
Team Christina: Clinton Washington
Team Blake: Matt Snook (a country singer, natch)
Guess they had to trim a few things to make room for Levine’s “audition.”