Seems like only yesterday that we were kicking off Season 7 on "The Voice," welcoming the new coaches, Pharrell Williams and Gwen Stefani, watching them quickly find their grooves and settling in for the first blind auditions. In fact, it was weeks ago, and on Monday night's show, the coaches all filled their teams and went through their usual rigmarole about having the most talented singers and, somewhere among them, this season's winner.
Next week, the battles will begin.
The coaches each began the evening with just two empty seats. Here's how they filled them:
Matt McAndrew: Adam Levine summoned his trademark intensity to score this scruffy-haired recent college graduate from Philadelphia. The bespectacled, tattooed 23-year-old turned Levine early and, eventually, Blake Shelton and Williams with his appealing "A Thousand Years." Levine told McAndrew that the minute he heard him start singing, he made up his mind to get him, calling McAndrew's voice "spectacular." And though Williams promised to be a considerate collaborator and Shelton, as a solo artist, claimed to understand the young man best, McAndrew said Levine's "band experience" and guitar playing tipped the balance in his favor. Williams later called McAndrew "a star."
Beth Spangler: You might have expected this adorable, 30-year-old pediatric radiographer from Aiken, S.C., to have opted for Shelton after spinning all four chairs with her fully committed take on "Best Thing I Never Had." After all, she herself said people expect her to be a "little country bumpkin." But in fact, she sings what she calls "a more soulful style of pop music" and, after resisting (perhaps even being repelled by) a super-hard sell from Pharrell and somewhat gentler appeals from Shelton and Stefani, Spangler chose Levine, expressing hope that he'd be able to help shape her. "I have one spot left on my team," Levine had told her. "I have to wait until I find someone worth pushing my button for, and I decided that person was going to be you." Even at the end, Williams didn't surrender entirely. "He's going to slip," he told Spangler of her new coach, "and when he does, you're mine."
Brittany Butler: In a battle of what Levine and Shelton joked were rainbows, cotton candy and candy canes -- "They're going to nice each other to death," Shelton predicted -- Williams beat out Stefani for this 21-year-old jazz and R&B singer, a Berklee College of Music graduate who spun both with her scatty "The Girl from Ipanema." Stefani had tried to appeal to Butler's sense of fashion and fun, but Williams won her by calling her a fellow "weirdo." (Interestingly, she thanked him for it.) "We need more different people in the world," Williams said. "The same is lame." Later, Stefani said she regretted not having fought harder for Butler, but said she was "uncomfortable" battling her old pal Pharrell.
Griffin: Williams' status as a "fashion icon" cemented his claim for this 23-year-old one-named crooner, who'd moved to Nashville from Greenville, S.C., after selling off his bowtie business with hopes of breaking into the music biz. Griffin had spun Shelton and Stefani as well with his buttery "It's a Beautiful Day." (Levine, who complimented Griffin on not having had "ice cream mouth" on his low notes, had already filled his team.) And though Shelton talked up his own connection to Michael Buble and Stefani admired the "rich," "deep," and "rumbly" quality of Griffin's voice, the singer chose Pharrell. Griffin spoke admiringly about the "Happy" singer's current relevance.
Ryan Sill: Stefani emerged victorious in a battle with Shelton for this fresh-faced 20-year-old singer, who captured the two coaches' attention with his "Secrets." Shelton said Sill looked like he sounded -- "cool" -- and called his voice "laid back but still powerful." Stefani, who had turned first, admired Sill's strong high notes and promised to help Sill fix his "little wobbly parts" and feel more relaxed. "Gwen used her charm and took an artist from me," Shelton said, after the No Doubt singer had bested him.
Mayra Alvarez: Surprisingly, Shelton also lost out to Stefani in a contest for a 26-year-old singer from LaPorte, Texas, hometown of last year's "Voice" runner-up, Jake Worthington, who had been on Team Blake. "How cool will it be when you join Team Blake and you come in one place higher than Jake did last year?" Shelton asked Alvarez. To be fair, Stefani had turned first for Alvarez's "Human Nature" and, after complimenting the singer's range and "light and fluffy" voice, had offered some serious female bonding. "We could do a lot of fun stuff together," Stefani said, prompting Shelton to sniff, "This is not 'The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.'" Apparently, it is. "I cannot believe she went with Gwen," Shelton later lamented.
Fernanda Bosch: Shelton made the first of two teenage additions to his team by snagging away from Stefani this 17-year-old Special Olympics swim instructor from Miami whose family is from Venezuela. Her airy/gravely take on Macy Gray's "I Try" impressed Shelton with its "natural sandpaper" raspiness; he called it "badass." And even though Stefani tried to forge a bond by telling Bosch she had started the band that made her famous when she herself was 17, and was also a swim instructor as a kid, Bosch picked Shelton. "I don't listen to country very much," Bosch explained of her choice, "but I do watch 'The Voice,' and he's a great coach, so I'm very excited."
Justin Johnes: Shelton filled the final slot on Team Blake with this cute Long Island 15-year-old, who has racked up hundreds of thousands of page views for his pop-song covers on YouTube but had never performed in front of a crowd. After Shelton pressed his button for Johnes' "Let Her Go," Levine quipped that the country coach had "pieces of steak in his colon that are older than you are." Ick. Anyhow, Shelton complimented the young man on his tone and then handed him a T-shirt that anointed him as "Blake's Boo," admitting, after Levine inquired, that he had "no idea" what the term meant. "You might want to look it up," Levine suggested. But that would take out all the fun.
And speaking of fun, next week's battles will bring us Stevie Nicks, Little Big Town, Gavin Rossdale and Alicia Keys as team advisors.