On "The Voice" live-results show Wednesday night, the first of the season, America finally got the chance to make its preferences known and play gatekeeper. As usual, the voters, who put two singers on each team of five through to the top 12, did a fine job. The coaches, who each then selected one more team member to save, and two to send home, picked well too.
That's not to say there weren't a few sad goodbyes. There always are. But the coaches' parting words of encouragement seemed to offer more comfort – to me, anyway, if not to the contestants sent home -- than the usual elimination-night bromides.
For that you can primarily credit contestant-whisperer Pharrell Williams.
"Everyone's going home and it's up to you to maximize this time, this incredible NBC air time we have here … And I think all of you have done that. All of you have ascended, and you've made me very, very, very proud," Williams calmly told his team, either unaware of unconcerned about the tense music pulsating beneath him like some sort of contestant-clearing peristalsis.
"The second part," he continued, sagely, "is what you're going to do after this show. You don't have to take your ticket home. I'd be going to the record labels and saying, 'Hey, you saw me this week, I did great. It's just like a single. You guys put out singles, and sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. I need a shot.' This is your moment. This is your time. And you've got to remember that. Because if you let someone else make your decision, you'll waste it."
Way to snap things into perspective and pump up the troops, Pharrell.
Each team took the stage as a group to sing one last song before its members flocked together to learn their fate.
Team Blake performed the Dream Academy's "Life in a Northern Town," then found out that America had saved Reagan James (on her 16th birthday -- nice) and Craig Wayne Boyd (the makeover paid off). To complete his team, Blake Shelton picked Jessie Pitts (hooray!), basing his decision "solely" on who he believes will "thrive" on "The Voice" stage, he said, and sending home Taylor Brashears and James David Carter. Both seemed to take the bad news well. Immediately afterward, Carter tweeted, "Thank you @blakeshelton for all the kind words and encouragement you gave me along the way..now let's tour together.."
Next on the hot seat was Team Pharrell, which sang Sam Smith's "Money on My Mind" and learned that America had put through Luke Wade (of course) and DaNica Shirey (a solid choice) and then that their coach would save Sugar Joans – "I talked a lot about you, Sugar, so I'm going to save you" – and let go Elyjuh Rene and Jean Kelley. Kelley's fate had seemed a done deal. Rene, though, had finally seemed to be finding his confidence and groove. Let's hope he keeps it going.
After a singing Vance Joy's "Riptide," Team Gwen was informed that Taylor John Williams (sure) and Anita Antoinette (yay!) had been voted through by America. Gwen Stefani then chose Ryan Sill to advance as well, saying she loved all her team members but had "to go with the energy" she was feeling. Don't forget to email, Bryana Salaz and Ricky Manning.
Finally, Team Adam sang Nico & Vinz's "Am I Wrong" and then discovered that Damien (good) and Matt McAndrew (phew!) had gotten America's seal of approval. And for the final slot, Adam Levine made the best and most obvious choice, going with his "gut" and picking Chris Jamison (phew, again). So long, Taylor Phelan and Mia Pfirman.