The Blind Auditions, Part 5
We're down to a handful of open slots for the teams, which means the competition gets fiercer and the coaches get pickier than ever. Here is everything you need to know for Episode 5 of The Voice:
It's the Year of the Nanny.
Last week Adam snagged singing nanny Sam Behymer for his team, after her sultry take on Lorde's hit "Royals." This week, he turns his chair around for Kat Perkins, a tattooed rocker from Minneapolis who once opened for Bon Jovi with her band Scarlet Haze. Shakira and Usher also turn their chairs for Kat when they hear her belt out Stevie Nicks' "Gold Dust Woman." The two coaches want Kat, but Adam will not be deterred. She's so excited to pick Adam that she wraps her legs around his waist when he hugs her. Hawt! Hope she and Sam don't get so distracted trading childcare tips that they forget to rehearse.
Or maybe it's the Year of the Former Teen Pop Star.
Last week Shakira grabbed Lindsay Pagano, a former teen pop singer. This week she and Blake both make a bid for Paula DeAnda, another former teen pop star who once opened for Rihanna and had a Billboard Top 20 song when she was only 17. Having struggled for a few years in the music industry after her record label dropped her, Paula is trying to restart her career. She bops around The Voice stage while singing Ariana Grande's "The Way." Shakira tells Paula she sees her improving if she joins Team Shakira, but Blake tells her he sees a victory. Of course playing up his credentials as a good ol' boy from Oklahoma to the Texas girl doesn't hurt, and Paula decides she wants in on Team Blake.
Blake picks up country duo Alaska and Madi, two high school seniors and best friends who once won the American Kids' "Performers of the Year," a national competition for young singers once won by a teenaged Blake Shelton and his enormous mullet. The two also get Adam to turn his chair when he hears them harmonize their way through The Civil Wars' "Barton Hollow," but the two Tulsa residents are country girls at heart, and they choose Team Blake.
Blake also picks up Ria Eaton, a 19-year-old dancer turned singer and her raspy spin on "Cups (When I'm Gone)," a song made popular by Anna Kendrick in the film "Pitch Perfect." It's a close call as Blake and Shakira, after egging each other on, both turn their chairs at the last possible moment - really when Ria is hitting the last syllable of the last lyric - which has the young singer struggling not to burst into tears. Adam and Usher stand off to the side and critique Blake's pitch while pumping up Shakira. It's a real Waldorf-and-Statler-level performance, indicating the two might have a career as a Vegas comedy act if this music thing doesn't work out. Despite that, however, Ria chooses Team Blake.
With so few open slots on their teams, the coaches are being pickier.
They would be the first to admit it, but if not, the rise in the number of one- and two-chair turns is a clue. In fact, we only see one four-chair turn, and that is not until the coaches hear the night's last artist. Josh Kaufman is a married father with a passion for music, but he lives in Indianapolis, a small city where it is tough to make a living as a musician. He's torn between continuing to chase his dream and giving it all up for a regular job to provide for his wife and kids. The Voice is his last chance, a Hail Mary to kick-start his career. In that spirit, he puts his soul into George Michael's "One More Try" and nails it. The coaches are desperate to land him. Finding out that Josh sees himself as a soul singer, Usher pitches his credentials as a connoisseur of soul music. Adam plays the "Did you see how fast I turned my chair around?" card, which has often worked for him, so why not? Shakira tells Josh she will be "devastated" if he doesn't pick her. Josh picks Adam anyway, which leads to Shakira making very sad faces and yelling "boohoo" as Josh leaves the stage. Usher seems actually ticked off, telling the camera later, "I think he really did make a mistake in not picking me."
We do see a couple of three-chair turns. Aside from Kat Perkins, three of the coaches do the chair spin for Jake Barker, a bartender from Florida. Jake has a huge YouTube following but his crippling stage fright has kept him from performing live for anyone ever until he steps out onto The Voice stage. The coaches are stunned at the confidence he displays in singing Bruno Mars's "When I Was Your Man" and even more stunned when they learn he has never sung live before. "You got three buttons pushed," Usher says of Jake's skills. "I think you should keep doing it!" Adam and Shakira make a hard sell for their own teams, but in the end, Usher's swag has Jake picking the gold-shoed singer as his coach.
Cierra Mickens of Alaska and her sassy take on Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" also earns chair turns from Blake, Shakira and Usher, with Usher's spin being so close to the last second that Blake starts making football penalty accusations. While the two men are lost in sports metaphors, Shakira takes the opportunity to walk up onstage and talk to Cierra. The extra attention helps the aspiring singer choose Team Shakira, earning herself a backstage bear hug from her father that nearly knocks her off her feet. It's good to have supportive parents, even when they are built like defensive linemen and temporarily forget you are not a running back hitting the hole.
Another result of their pickiness is that a coach has less competition for some potential gems that could come back to haunt the other teams later on. Usher is the only chair to turn for a powerhouse pop singer in Tess Boyer, who impresses him with her take on Little Mix's "Wings." Adam is the only chair turn for Austin Ellis and his rendition of Dobie Gray's classic ballad "Drift Away" and for Josh Murley's take on the 1990s rocker "The Freshmen." Blake picks up country singer Cali Tucker (niece of the famous Tanya) after hearing her take on another '90s hit, Alannah Myles' "Black Velvet." And Shakira snags the next-to-last artist of the night when she is the only chair turn for lounge singer Ddendyl and her sultry take on Ben E. King's "Stand by Me."
It's also tough for someone to break through at this stage without a mind-blowing performance. Such is the fate of Gabi Ramirez, who cannot put quite enough emotion into his take on Season 5 advisor Ed Sheeran's "The A Team." Tyler Montgomery, a 24-year-old from Missouri, fools the coaches with his high voice. "You're a man!" Adam exclaims on seeing him. But he chooses a difficult song with Stevie Wonder's "I Wish." Adam tells him to come back with a simpler song, one that complements the high tone of his voice a little better.
Luke Cooper, a male nurse and single dad from Louisiana, comes the closest to getting a chair turn when he blasts through Imagine Dragons' hit "Radioactive." The coaches are all into it - Shakira even breaks out her air drums - but all of them feel that the performance does not quite come together and Luke is a little too concerned with style instead of substance.
It's tough to do the great ones justice.
Tyler is not the only singer to come up just a little short with a difficult, roof-raising tune. In a montage, we see three artists - Theresa Payne singing Beyonce's "Crazy in Love," Bryson Dunn with Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" and Bree Teal with Tina Turner's "We Don't Need Another Hero" - fail to turn chairs with their performances. Time and again, we've seen performers not able to nail these sort of classic, hard-charging tunes. And with each coach only having one more slot open, it's going to be a tough road for the performers auditioning on the final night.