“Is it true that it’s now named ‘The Blake Shelton Show’?” Christina Aguilera quipped during a coach bonding session that kicked off the second night of “The Voice” Season 5.
Actually, Shelton shot back, it’s “ ‘Blake Shelton Presents The Voice.’ ”
Laugh if you wish, but now that he’s coached a singer to victory on “The Voice” three years in a row, Shelton’s fellow coaches aren’t going to let him bag a fourth win without a serious fight. He has, as host Carson Daly so delicately put it, a big “bull’s-eye on [his] back” – and the other coaches are aiming for it.
That was clear enough on during Tuesday’s blind auditions, when, even as the other coaches were stocking their teams with talent, Shelton, who had started the evening with only one singer in his stable, got halfway through the night before he scored even one more. Ultimately, though, the show’s winningest coach managed to catch up.
Aguilera snagged 16-year-old New Jersey cheerleader Jacquie Lee from Shelton straight off the bat. Lee, a cute kid from a big Italian family who sings to sick kids and cancer patients in the hospital, offered up a hearty rendition of “Back to Black,” spinning both Aguilera and Shelton.
Cee Lo Green, for his part, was captivated by Lee’s shoes. “I like those boots. I wonder do they make those boots for dudes?” he mused, even whipping out his phone to snap a photo. “Did you buy those boots from Aldo?”
Meanwhile, Shelton and Aguilera duked it out for the talented teen wearing the blinged-out boots. Shelton said he “specialized” in helping 16-year-old girls win the show, but Aguilera noted she’d been a young girl growing up in a “tricky” business, and said she wanted to help Lee make her way. “I want to be that shoulder you can lean on,” she told Lee, sinking Shelton’s chances. Team Christina it was.
Shelton also lost out on Barry Black, a singer from American Samoa who lived in Washington and could make a sound like a fluegelhorn with his mouth. Black showed off this strange talent as well as his singing with “What You Won’t Do for Love.”
Perhaps simply out of curiosity, Adam Levine turned for Black first, followed shortly thereafter by Shelton. “I think you’re weird and wonderful,” Levine told Black. “Why don’t you go ahead and punch him in the face while you’re at it?” Shelton piped up, maintaining he was “desperate” to have Black on his team.
Despite Shelton’s harder sell, though, Black went with Levine. No, it wasn’t Shelton’s puns about his country of origin that did him in. “I always ask for Samoa,” he said reaching for his drink. “I need Samoa right now. I’m almost out.” Black later said Levine had had him from the start, explaining, “He’s a creative mind and so am I.”
If Shelton lost out on gorgeous country singer Destinee Quinn, a 20-year-old from Surprise, Ariz., who makes a living singing wherever she can, including at biker bars, it may only have been because he didn’t even try for her. Her “Cowboy Take Me Away” spun first Aguilera, who took pains not to let her face reveal that Quinn looked as good as she sounded, and then Green. That ol’ dog Cee Lo seemed too dazzled by the singer’s beauty to fight all that hard for her, so Aguilera snapped Quinn up.
Green did manage to land Cole Vosbury, a 22-year-old from Shreveport, La., who comes from a line of musicians, including his spitfire grandma, Nita Lynn, who toured with the likes of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, back in the day. Lynn says her greatest claim to fame may be that she once turned down Elvis, with whom she toured, because “I didn’t care for him at first,” finding him “kind of cocky.”
It was her grandson’s boldness -- he sang “Movin’ On Up,” the theme song from “The Jeffersons” -- that endeared him to his new coach. Green, who was the only one to turn his chair for Vosbury, said he needed to associate himself with someone with “the audacity to do that song.” Levine, meanwhile, of whom Vosbury declared himself a “huge fan,” expressed regret at passing the singer by. “I really missed the boat on that one,” he said. Oh well, there’s always a chance for a steal.
With about half the show over, all the coaches had added one or two members to his or her team -- with the notable exception of Shelton. That changed with the next singer, Holly Henry, a glowingly beautiful platinum-blond 19-year-old from Minneapolis, who works as a waitress at a pancake house because she can’t afford college. Henry’s haunting take on “The Scientist” spun Shelton within seconds, and ultimately turned all four coaches.
The other coaches did their best to convince Henry to join their teams, but Shelton may have tried the hardest. “Because of you, I am officially excited about Season 5 of ‘The Voice’ right now,” he said, noting he pushed his button so fast and hard he “nearly broke my hand.” She didn’t break his heart. Shelton snagged his first singer of the night -- and she was a good one.
After a parade of contestants who didn’t quite meet coach standards, Shelton captured another impressive talent with a compelling backstory for his team. Austin Jenckes, 25, from Duvall, Wash., recalled how his father had committed suicide -- “He shot himself,” Jenckes declared, the pain and hurt apparent despite his matter-of-fact tone -- when Jenckes was just 16. “Unfortunately he didn’t know how loved he was by family and friends,” he noted, adding he tended to cope with his own emotions through music.
Certainly Jenckes’ pain was apparent in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man,” a song his father had taught him when he was a kid. The singer also accompanied himself on his dad’s guitar. Though Green and Shelton had both turned for Jenckes -- and Green made an uncharacteristically strong play for him, rousing himself to give him a standing ovation and telling him he had “soul power” -- Jenckes was all Shelton’s. “Hey, Blake, I’d like to be on your team,” he said. It almost sounded like a request.
Shelton also beat out Green for E.G. Daily, a veteran voiceover actor who has voiced characters on “Rugrats,” “The Powerpuff Girls” and in “Happy Feet,” and had a series of on-screen TV and movie roles back in the 1980s -- including playing Dottie in “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.” At 51, she wants to prove to her kids that you’re never too old to pursue your dreams.
Daily’s rasp and control, which she showcased with “Breathe,” turned both Green and Shelton. Green was moved to compare her to Rod Stewart, which is funny because -- a quick web search reveals -- Daily appeared in Stewart’s “Young Turks” video. (The search also reveals she shares more than a passing resemblance to Pamela Anderson -- Daily’s ex-husband appears to have gotten around.)
But whatever, Daily said she wanted the attention focused on her singing voice, rather than her previous claims to pop-culture fame. Shelton, who seemed less distracted by, and perhaps less aware of, those accomplishments, therefore got the nod. “E.G. can do things with her voice that are impossible,” he said. “I’m honored that she chose me.”
Green’s cultural references may have doomed him with Daily, but they helped him out with singer Jonny Gray. Gray, a 29-year-old Air Force veteran from Austin, Teas., with long hair and an interesting vibrato, seemed likely to go a different way after spinning Levine and Green with “All These Things That I’ve Done.” After all, Maroon 5’s “Songs About Jane” had come out while he was deployed in the Middle East, and captivated him. But no. Green won Gray’s heart by complimenting his soul and comparing him to Eddie Vedder. Gray said he felt Green’s Pearl Jam reference made it clear that he understood his voice.
The show ended, as it often does, with a four-chair turn and hardcore coach wrestling match. The object of widespread admiration was 28-year-old Tessanne Chin, a multiracial singer from Kingston, Jamaica, out to prove her home turf had more to offer musically than reggae.
That’s not to say Chin didn’t have links to reggae, having toured with Sir Jimmy Cliff, which when she said it sounded, charmingly, like “Sergei McLiff,” though she also respectfully referred to him as “Mr. Cliff.” Chin provided power and passion with Pink’s “Try."
Green told her she “sang that song like a grown woman.” Levine told her she could “easily win” this year’s competition. Shelton said that actually, winning would take “a lot of hard work” but that she was already far ahead of the game. And Aguilera complimented Chin on her kind, warm vibe and vowed to help her “in any way that I can.” Everyone begged. But Levine -- “please, please, please,” he chanted -- did it with perhaps the greatest urgency and won the coveted singer for his team.
More battles next week. Do you have any favorites so far? Were you as blown away by Tessanne Chin as the coaches were?