We are past the halfway point in the blind auditions and the teams are coming together. Which means the coaches' battles to land artists are getting more and more intense. Here are four things to know from the fourth night of auditions:
Seasoned performer or raw talent, it doesn't matter as long as you knock a coach out.
Megan Ruger is a self-described rocker with years of fronting her own band in the competitive Nashville music scene under her belt. The night's first audition, she blasts her way through Pink's "Just Like a Pill," getting Usher and Blake to turn their chairs, and running around the stage in excitement when she finishes the song and realizes she has made it onto the show. On hearing that Megan is from Nashville, Usher slumps his shoulders, knowing he has lost. Still, he gives her a strong pitch, talking about her enthusiasm onstage and his interest in mentoring her to become a better singer. Blake's pitch is simpler: "I just like winning." Megan has a question of her own: which coach likes '80s rock more? No question it's Blake, who according to Adam was just playing some Wang Chung the other day. Megan stays true to her Nashville roots and picks Blake, then heads offstage to the tune of "Everybody Have Fun Tonight." Perhaps this season will see our long-hoped-for revival of hair metal on The Voice?
Megan is followed by Morgan Wallen, a 20-year-old landscaper also from Tennessee - Knoxville, in his case. Morgan was a high-school baseball star whose dreams of a college scholarship ended when he tore a ligament in his elbow. So Morgan turned to his second love, singing. He has no idea how to get into the music business, so he's on The Voice to kick himself into gear. He takes the stage to sing Howie Day's "Collide," and his raspy voice intrigues Shakira almost immediately, Usher also turns his chair, much to Shakira's chagrin. Still, the two coaches have a bit of a lovefest, taking a minute to compliment each other. Saddened, Adam goes to sit on Blake's lap for some comfort and ego boosting. When the attention turns back to Morgan, Shakira and Usher give their pitches, telling Morgan they both love the uniqueness of his voice. Morgan picks Usher, likening the star's coaching style to that of a baseball coach, which makes this neophyte who is eager to learn the music business from the ground up the most comfortable.
Sing to your level.
James Cavern, a native Brit born to two refugees from Vietnam, takes a run at Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On." This is a tough song for even the best singers, requiring a swaggering confidence to go along with hitting some soulful and spiritual notes, and James fails to get a chair turn from the coaches. Adam tells him that he was trying to fill some really big shoes, and Usher says that a singer in a blind audition has to live up to or even exceed expectations. James thanks the coaches for the constructive criticism and departs. He knew it was a big song, and he had to go out on a limb to stand out from the other great singers auditioning. Unfortunately he falls short, but at least he still has playing at his sister's wedding to look forward to.
Shakira is building a team of female powerhouses.
In a montage, we see Shakira picks up Dani Moz, a public relations executive with a huge voice who belts out the Calvin Harris-Ellie Goulding ballad "I Need Your Love." She also picks up a singer who calls herself Music Box and rocks her way through Des'ree's "You Gotta Be." She also lands Emily B., a session singer who has sung background on movies like "Pitch Perfect" and "The Muppets" and on a Christmas album by original Voice coach CeeLo Green. Just after getting married, Emily survived two brain surgeries for a rare condition and recovered to give birth to a son and rededicate herself to her singing career. Her sultry rendition of Chris Isaak's hit "Wicked Game" gets Shakira, Usher and Blake to turn their chairs. Shakira even stands up to sing along as the song ends. Emily chooses Shakira as her coach. The pop star has now filled out nine slots on her team, and seven of her artists are women, making good on her desire to mentor young female singers.
Shakira does not have a monopoly on female voices, of course. Blake picks up high school student Lexi Luca after hearing her sing "Wasting All These Tears," the hit song by former Team Blake member and the winner of Season 3, Cassadee Pope. He also scores a potential knockout with Audra McLaughlin, a college student from Philadelphia. A sensitive soul with a tough history of being bullied, Audra sings John Prine's "Angel from Montgomery." A Philly girl singing an old country song? Well, it works as Audra earns a four-chair turn. All the coaches give her the hard sell, but it's Blake who wins the girl's heart by playing the "wife card." It seems "Angel from Montgomery" is one of the personal favorites of Blake's wife, Miranda Lambert. Excited, Blake says that Audra took the song to a place that even Miranda doesn't take it to in her performances. Um, hope you have a comfortable couch at home, Blake.
It helps an aspiring singer to have supportive parents.
Backstage, Audra's parents cannot suppress their excitement watching their daughter perform. The same goes for Megan, whose parents have seen her struggle with her career, and Morgan, who tells us his mom and grandmother are the most important people in his life and who jump around like crazy when he makes Usher's team.
And then there is Stevie Jo, the 19-year-old from Texas with parents who used to play in heavy-metal bands. Stevie started off singing metal as well, but he has embraced a different sound. He takes the stage to sing Usher's "There Goes My Baby" to the real Usher, and before he even starts, his mom is jumping up and down backstage as if she's playing bass at a Monsters of Rock show. It is always a risk to sing a coach's song to that coach, but Usher likes it and turns his chair around, which sends Stevie's mom into even wilder paroxysms of excitement. Stevie is thrilled to maybe live a dream his parents had given up in order to raise four children.
But isn't that partly what The Voice is about, making dreams come true? There is one more week of blind auditions for a few more singers to get their shot.
Eight new artists sing their way onto Usher, Shakira, Blake and Adam's teams.