In these times of rampant food mash-ups -- think cronuts and cruffins -- it is perhaps not so surprising that “The Voice” did a little mashing up of its own on Monday, smooshing together the final night of the blind auditions and the first batch of battle rounds into one two-hour hybrid show.
In the first hour, the coaches completed their teams; in the second, they sent the first team members home. Some of the cut singers were then saved by other coaches. If the singers were very lucky or talented or both, as one contestant was, they had all three other coaches fighting to rescue them and, in a matter of moments, went from sadly unpicked to sought-after.
Oh, and we got to see the coaches and their teams working with their guest mentors. Blake Shelton enlisted Meghan Trainor -- whose lips movingly told us that before finding fame with “All About That Bass,” she had considered auditioning for “The Voice” but decided against it. Adam Levine was helped out by Ellie Goulding. Christina Aguilera’s team was guided by Nick Jonas. And Lionel Richie lent his wisdom to Pharrell Williams’ team, cutely noting that if he wasn’t sitting in front of the cameras issuing advice, he’d be doing it from the comfort of his own home.
Yes, lots of excitement. And the most exciting part of all may have been that we finally -- for the first time this season -- got to see the coaches in different clothes. Levine had slipped into a striped short-sleeved sweater for the blinds. Williams wore a heart on his hat (to go with the heart he often wears on his sleeve, I guess). Aguilera rocked a tight, electric-blue zip-front leather jacket. And Shelton? Well, he looked pretty much as he always does -- swapping one muted outfit for another.
A few team members got swapped too. Here’s how the night went down:
The last of the blind auditions:
Nathan Hermida: This 17-year-old Boston-raised Filipino American got his start singing karaoke at parties, is weighing a backup career as a science teacher and called himself a nerdy Asian guy, but he spun Levine and Aguilera with his assured take on “Sure Thing.” Levine told him he had the voice “of a seasoned professional,” was a flawless musician and had impressed him with the smoothness of his runs. Aguilera told him his voice was “sexy,” his rhythm “seductive.” Levine proved to be fairly seductive himself. “I want to make you the centerpiece of my team. That’s how good I think you are,” he told Hermida. “I think you are ridiculous. I think you are going to be in the finals.” Hermida chose Levine, filling the final slot on the Maroon 5 singer’s team.
Paul Pfau: Cute, hat-wearing and based in Washington, Pfau, 26, identified himself as a huge fan of Maroon 5. He said he’d once had a chance to meet Levine but “totally chickened out” when it came to handing the star his demo. Because Levine had no room left on his team, he couldn’t spin for Pfau’s “Fly Me to the Moon,” though he did accept the demo. Pfau was left to choose between Williams and Shelton. (Aguilera expressed regret for not having turned.) Shelton said he’d “waited for eight seasons to have the opportunity to work with somebody like” Pfau, and he seemed to get the upper hand when the singer revealed that he’d been born in Tulsa, Okla. But Williams’ appeal -- “Think different, other, genreless,” he urged -- trumped Oklahoma loyalty. Pfau opted to join Team Pharrell, disappointing Shelton.
Vance Smith: This 22-year-old mechanic, who moved from the mean streets of Detroit to a kinder (one hopes) town in Georgia when he was 14, vowed to put his all into “Reach Out I’ll Be There” for the sake of his hardworking mom. It wasn’t until the very last note that Smith turned any chairs -- and at that point he suddenly turned two: Williams and Aguilera. “That was some eleventh-hour stuff right there,” Levine observed. Aguilera complimented his falsetto and positive spirit. Williams told him he’d fought through the “pitchy parts” and landed “the trick.” Smith went with Aguilera, completing her team. Williams later told Aguilera that Smith’s “look and the way he carries himself,” as well as his voice and energy, struck him as that of a “real R&B singer.”
Caitlin Caporale: Not only did this 22-year-old customer-service representative (she works the 3:30-to-midnight shift) from Newburgh, N.Y., grow up singing Aguilera songs in her bedroom, she also chose to audition with one of those songs -- “Impossible” -- and spoke reverently of having had a chance to sing for Aguilera in another competition. Both coaches with room left on their teams -- Williams and Shelton -- made a play for Caporale. Shelton complimented her on her big voice and told her he thought she had a shot at the win. Williams admired the way she “graciously” directed the notes and promised to position her to progress after the show. Caporale picked Williams, completing his team. Then she fulfilled what we can only imagine must have been a longstanding dream by sharing a duet with Aguilera.
Hannah Kirby: After allowing a handful of singers slide by unselected, Shelton completed his team with this 20-year-old vocalist/video-game devotee/Texas A&M psychology student from Sulphur Springs, Texas. Shelton spun for Kirby’s version of “The Letter” (albeit somewhat later than the other coaches would have liked), said he admired the “raw power” in her voice and told her he’d been to the Wal-Mart in her hometown, which is apparently not far from where his wife, Miranda Lambert, grew up. “You are the last person on Team Blake,” he told Kirby, but “you very well could have been the first person on Team Blake. That’s how good you are.”
And with that it was time -- with barely a second to catch our collective breath -- to move on to the battles:
Ashley Morgan vs. Mia Z (Team Pharrell): Williams assigned these powerhouse singers, both two-chair turns, the ZZ Ward song “Put the Gun Down,” noting that while the Morgan had technique down pat and needed to work on injecting her personality into her performance, Mia Z had just the opposite challenge. In the final rehearsal, the coach said each singer each had risen to the challenge, leaving him unsure which to choose. The other coaches weren’t all that much help. Levine said it came down to personal preference. “Sometimes I want to have pancakes, and sometimes I want waffles,” he said, pointedly observing that they were “equally delicious but sometimes you can’t have both, Pharrell.” Aguilera said she felt that, vocally, Morgan had won “hands down.” Williams seemed to let youth and potential be the tiebreaker, leaving Morgan open to be stolen. All three other coaches made a play for her but she went with the one who declared her to have been the battle’s winner, joining Aguilera’s team.
James McNeiece vs. Tonya Boyd-Cannon (Team Adam): Levine pitted a one-chair turn, FedEx employee McNeiece, against the personality-packed three-chair turn Boyd-Cannon, the Hurricane Katrina survivor and prison choir director, on Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing).” It was a battle of head voice (his, solid) versus chest voice (hers, lush), but the outcome seemed a foregone conclusion. The other coaches praised McNeiece for his performance; Aguilera kindly/damningly called it a “valiant effort.” After Levine inevitably declared Boyd-Cannon the winner, she clutched her children and wept and then led her cute son in a happy dance.
Brian Johnson vs. Joshua Davis (Team Blake): In a more evenly matched battle, these two singers, both of whom had turned Shelton and Levine in the blind auditions, sought to retain their spots on Shelton’s team by showing their heart and power on a “stripped-down version” of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” They harmonized well and, during rehearsals, made Trainor cry. None of the other coaches named a winner. Shelton had to -- so he picked Johnson, qualifying that his decision was right only “for me, my team, moving forward.” Levine had said he’d be ready to steal whichever singer Shelton dropped, and he proved a man of his word, scooping up the gently gritty-voiced Davis. “That was dumb of you, putting them together,” Levine needled Shelton.
Perhaps Shelton will get his revenge on Tuesday night, which brings two more hours of battles.