I don’t know about you, but before a new season of “The Voice” starts, I always think, “What, already?” The season premieres just seem to come along in such rapid succession -- twice a year! -- so I guess it shouldn’t be so surprising that we find ourselves plunking down in front of the TV for the launch of Season 10.
Yep, less than five years after the first episode of “The Voice” hit the air, on April 26, 2011, the show is already counting its seasons in double digits. That was fast.
Still, there’s always something exciting about the first night of a new season’s blind auditions.
“The blind auditions, that’s like Christmas morning,” Blake Shelton, who returned to coach with Adam Levine, Pharrell Williams and back-after-a-break Christina Aguilera, said at the outset of the Season 10 premiere on Monday. “It’s just as exciting as the first season. You never know what’s going to be there behind you.”
As anticipated by Shelton and his fellow coaches -- who will be helped out at points throughout the season by guest mentors including Sean “Diddy” Combs, Tori Kelly, former coach Gwen Stefani, Patti LaBelle and Miley Cyrus (who will serve as a “key advisor”) -- there were some good candidates:
Paxton Ingram, a 23-year-old performer from Miami who has worked as a backup dancer for Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez, stepped into the spotlight with Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own,” turning Shelton early and, at the last minute, Levine and Williams.
Although Ingram had come in with his cap set for Williams, Shelton won him by telling he didn’t know that he’d “ever recognized true greatness so quickly.” “There is nobody more surprised that Paxton chose me than me,” Shelton later said, adding that being a country singer didn’t mean he couldn’t “mentor a young pop artist.”
Caity Peters, a 20-year-old singer from Long Beach who considers herself the “black sheep” of her high-achieving family, wanted to prove the merits of her decision to pursue a career in music when she took the stage to sing “Jealous” by Labrinth.
She turned all four chairs with her full-throated, raspy tone. The coaches fought hard: Aguilera promised to hold Peters’ hand all the way through. Williams complimented Peters’ “intensity.” Levine called her voice “different,” “special” and “heart-wrenchingly beautiful” and said Peters was on “the cusp of greatness.” Shelton countered that he didn’t think she was “on the cusp,” but rather “in the middle” of greatness. “Otherwise all four of us wouldn’t have turned around,” he said, adding that he thought he could help her win. Ultimately, Peters picked Williams as her coach.
Nick Hagelin, a 28-year-old former professional ballet dancer and devoted husband and father from Atlanta, said his “greatest accomplishment” would always be teaching his adorable son to walk on his own, when doctors had said he never would. He took a “risk” and sang Adam Levine’s “Lost Stars.”
Levine, singing along in his red chair, was the only one who did not turn around for Hagelin’s take on his song. Aguilera said she believed in Hagelin’s voice “from go,” and that it reminded her of “early Michael.” Shelton said he “heard Prince” in Hagelin’s falsetto, and that his voice already had “all the ... herbs and spices” to make it sound great when recorded. Even though Williams said essentially nothing, Hagelin chose him anyway. He said it would be in his best interest “as an artist” to forge “a relationship with the Quincy Jones of our generation.”
Mary Sarah, a 20-year-old vintage-style country singer from Richmond, Texas, who lives in Nashville, was hoping to break through after early opportunities (she’s sung with the Oak Ridge Boys, Dolly Parton and other big country names) hadn’t turned into her “golden ticket” to stardom.
She turned all four chairs with her powerfully retro “Where the Boys Are,” but it would have shocked everyone in the universe, probably, if she had picked anyone other than Shelton as her coach.
The other coaches complimented Sarah on the purity and consistency of her voice, but Shelton actually seemed to know who Sarah was. “Are you from Houston?” he asked, saying he believed he remembered her from her connection to “the Oaks,” and promising to get her to sing with them again and to get her to the Grand Ol’ Opry. Shelton it was. “That was like Shaq slam dunking,” Levine told Shelton of his victory. “You should be impressed with yourself in no way.”
Mike Schiavo, 21, who had just moved to Los Angeles from New Jersey and was a big fan of Maroon 5 growing up, turned Levine and Williams immediately, and eventually Shelton as well, with his take on Tove Lo's “Talking Body.”
Williams told him he had the “crispy, clear” tone he had been waiting for. But once Aguilera got Levine to sing Schiavo’s favorite Maroon 5 song, “She Will Be Loved,” with him, it was pretty well a done deal -- even if Schiavo did say he was also a “huge Pharrell fan.” The other coaches tried to lure him, but Schiavo picked Levine as his coach. “We’re going to go very far,” Levine assured him.
Bryan Bautista, a 23-year-old from Brooklyn, N.Y., may look familiar to those paying attention during the Season 9 blind auditions: He was the Barclays Center usher whose rendition of the national anthem went viral.
After working to improve, Bautista had returned to “The Voice,” as the coaches had urged him to, to see if he could turn some chairs this time around. His take on The Weeknd’s “The Hills” turned Aguilera fairly early on and, at the last minute, Shelton. Aguilera pointed out that she had pressed her button first and had not been around or involved in his disappointment on Season 9, offering him support and “fresh ears.” “Don’t break my heart!” she begged.
Who did he pick as his coach? “Blake ....” he started, prompting everyone to believe he had picked Shelton, but no! What Bautista had been trying to say was, “Blake, I appreciate you turning around for me, but I pick Christina.” Shelton was totally faked out, which completely delighted Levine, who called it “the greatest moment of the show’s history.”
Abby Celso, a 20-year-old server from Rochester, N.Y., whose supportive mother recently died from renal cell carcinoma, prompted Levine and Williams to vie for her with her big, bold “Should Have Been Us.”
“If I don’t get you, that’s the song I will be singing for the rest of my life,” Levine told Celso, saying he thought she had the potential to win the whole thing on his team. Williams said he’d worked with enough people to know when someone had it and when they didn’t. “And you have it,” he told Celso.
After her two suitors had battled back and forth for a while -- and Shelton tried to tip the balance in Williams’ favor -- Celso did pick Pharrell, leaving Levine to sputter that he had been “betrayed by Blake.”
John Gilman, a 23-year-old rockabilly singer from Bayville, N.J., sang Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” and was picked up by Levine in a one-chair turn. “I’ve never had a rockabilly artist on my team” before, Levine noted.
And last, but most certainly not least, was Alisan Porter, a 34-year-old mother of two and former child star. She appeared alongside Steve Martin in the movie “Parenthood” and most memorably as the titular character in the movie “Curly Sue.”
She had success on Broadway as well, but struggles with drugs and alcohol took their toll. She dropped off the scene, got sober, got married and dedicated herself to life as a stay-at-home mom. Now, she said, she wants to pursue the singing career she always wanted.
Her crystal clear “Blue Bayou” earned her a four-chair turn, a standing ovation from all the coaches, a hug from Levine and special plea from Aguilera, who said she had been “moved” by Porter’s story.
“Nobody works harder than a mom,” Aguilera told her, adding that “people need to hear that hope” and the music within Porter. “Let a girl win it for once. For once!” Aguilera begged.
Her plea did not fall on deaf ears. Aguilera got the prize. “You just won,” Levine told Aguilera. “Congratulations. That girl won ‘The Voice.’” “Hey, I hope so,” Aguilera replied.
We’ll see. Porter was terrific, but it might be just a tad early to call ...