At the outset of the fourth night of “The Voice” Season 8 blind auditions, the coaches had filled only seven (Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton) or eight (Adam Levine and Pharrell Williams) seats on his or her team of 12. By the end of the show, all the coaches had just one open spot remaining, save for Williams, who had two.
On Monday, all the teams will reach capacity and -- in the same show -- the battle rounds will begin. (Wednesday night's episode is a “Best of the Blinds” highlight show.)
Yes, things are flying along. But along the way we’ve gotten coach alliances and betrayals, face-offs, thrown fits and hug-fests.
Here’s how the talent shook out on Tuesday night:
Ashley Morgan: This “all-American”-looking, as Blake pointed out, 26-year-old California-based backup vocalist hit all the right notes with her “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” yet spun only Shelton and Williams. Shelton told her she’d never return to the background and that he could help her “move people with music.” And he gushed, “I have not be this excited about an artist in a long freaking time. I love you.” But Aguilera pointed out that Williams had had worldwide success -- “massive international success,” Levine chimed in. The ganging up apparently worked. Morgan picked Williams, disappointing Shelton, who sighed that she was a “once-in-a-lifetime vocalist” capable of a win.
Koryn Hawthorne: Only 16, raised by a single mom and singing her way through a part-time job at a pizza shop, this young singer impressed Aguilera and Williams with her preternaturally mature take on “My Kind of Love.” Aguilera complimented her “powerhouse” vocals and said she wanted to understand Hawthorne’s personal story. Williams admired her “old soul” and “humility.” Everyone hugged it out: Williams and Aguilera, Shelton and Levine. In the midst of all the love, Hawthorne made her selection: Aguilera.
Lexi Davila: Seventeen and shy, Davila prompted Levine and Shelton to face off with her take on “Dreaming of You,” despite displaying a few nerves. Both coaches said they were responding to her talent, range and potential and promised to help her overcome her fears. “It’s at a 7 right now. If we can bring it to a 10 -- three little notches -- it’s going to win,” Levine told her. Shelton said that, minus the nerves, she had the makings of a star. Davila nervously chose … Levine.
Brenna Yaeger: This 19-year-old singer who grew up in a log cabin, shared a bed with her sister and had a pet bull named Bubblegum, not only sang a song written by Shelton’s wife, Miranda Lambert, “The House That Built Me,” she and her sisters have its lyrics tattooed on their ankles. After Levine and, finally, Shelton, turned for her, she began to tremble so extremely that the Maroon 5 singer felt compelled to go up and give her a hug, and then return to give her another one. Gently administered comfort aside, Levine had no chance, especially after Shelton told Yaeger that, with his guidance, she could affect others with her music the way Lambert had affected her. All Levine could do was say that, if Yaeger picked him as her coach, he’d enlist Shelton’s help. When she inevitably picked Shelton, Levine sputtered that battling Shelton for a country artist felt “like trying to break down a brick wall” with his fist. Too true.
Jeremy Gaynor: As a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army and the male lead vocalist in the West Point Band, Gaynor, 30, seemed well positioned to progress far on the show, provided he could make it past the blind auditions. He did so handily, turning all four chairs with his polished performance of “Superstar.” Shelton called him “a stud” -- prompting Aguilera to label her fellow coach “so creepy” and Levine to wonder how Shelton got away with “some of the things that come out of [his] mouth” -- as well as a “great singer.” Levine promised to match Gaynor’s military work ethic. Williams cooed that he’d love to have him on his team. But Aguilera sold herself hard -- touting her interest in R&B, her father’s Army background and her own vision of Gaynor as a “potential … household name” who could win the whole thing. Her hard work paid off; Gaynor picked her, later saying, “I thought for sure I was going to go with Adam, but Christina just kept bringing it.”
Jack Gregori: This 37-year-old musician, originally from Great Neck, N.Y., but now living in Washington, D.C., where he is also a down-on-his luck lawyer, impressed Levine -- and only Levine -- with his “beautiful, true baritone” on “Ring of Fire.” Levine concluded he had a true country singer on his hands, one with whom he could fulfill his dreams of beating Shelton. Shelton called Gregori a “great country singer,” but the show’s resident country expert wasn’t convincing. “You’re the perfect guy for Adam,” he said.
Briar Jonnee: Twenty years old and from tiny town in Mississippi, Jonnee turned Williams and Shelton with her rendition of “Take a Bow” (which is lucky, because her backup plan to support her family, should music not work out, is a career in journalism). Shelton said he loved her vibrato, the fullness of her voice and the way she seemed to mean every word she sang. But then he appeared to overplay his hand, telling Jonnee she looked “supercute” in her “skorts” and joining the other coaches to poke fun at Williams’ walk. Williams, meanwhile, gave Jonnee some advice on loosening up -- and won the day. She later said she’d grown up listening to Williams and felt more “connected” to him.
Brian Johnson: Bullied as a kid because he was, he said, a “chubby kid” with a “high voice,” Johnson, 24, identified himself as a huge Maroon 5 fan and then spun Levine right away with his “Reason to Believe.” Shelton soon followed. Levine confidently told Shelton he was “going down,” and prematurely welcomed Johnson to his team, complimenting the singer’s emotionally engaging style. Shelton praised Johnson’s heart and “raw power” and told him he intended to “protect” him “throughout this process.” Johnson then surprised everyone by passing Levine by in favor of Shelton, later saying Shelton knew what he was doing in all areas of music, not just country. “I feel betrayed,” Levine said.
Corey Kent White: The last singer of the night, this 20-year-old Oklahoma-raised country singer, who dreams of playing “big stages … like Willie Nelson has played,” seemed unexpectedly in danger of going home as he narrowed in on the closing notes of “Chicken Fried” without having spun a chair. But at the last minute, Williams and Shelton came to his rescue. Williams, who had pushed his button first, tried hard -- taking off his shirt and coming onto the stage to make a personal plea. Levine, despite a pact he had made with Shelton to back him up, took Williams’ side. But Shelton talked a lot about the Oklahoma duo the Swan Brothers, who’d been on his team and gone on to achieve a measure of country music success. “There’s just something about those boys from Oklahoma,” White said. “I’m going to have to go with Blake.”
A handful of other singers also made it through: Josh Batstone joined Team Adam. Katelyn Read and Ameera Delandro (a “soulful insurance underwriter”) found their way onto Team Christina. Bay Brooks became a member of Team Blake.
Next week, the coaches will top off their teams and we’ll all move on to the battle rounds. Let them begin!