First up was Anthony Riley who took on James Brown's "I Feel Good." Having cut his teeth on busking, eight years as a street performer, Anthony knows how to engage a crowd and he has a powerhouse voice to go with his enthusiasm and showmanship. And, although the show is call The Voice and the first round is a blind audition, it doesn't hurt that he's also a good looking guy.
Anthony had the judges even before the song started. Within the first couple of notes, all judges had turned their chairs (his was the fastest four-chair turn around). And that was a collective good decision as that meant they all got to enjoy his full performance. Anthony should just punch his ticket to the finale - he's got the whole package. All four judges put on the hard sell, even Blake (especially after hearing that Anthony likes country music). He offered to be the whiskey in Anthony's water, Christina and Adam pleaded with him not to break their hearts, but ultimately he went with Pharrell. And Adam put the Suicide Hotline on his phone.
Next was Gabriel Wolfchild who was singing "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" by another singer who changed his name, Bob Dylan. Not sure what spirit animal a Dylan is, but it's worked out pretty well for him. I did not like Gabriel's voice nor his interpretation of the song. His voice is too thin and flat for me, he doesn't seem to have any range, and he basically talked through the song. I don't get the three judges' reaction at all.
He has an interesting look, enough to get Adam to profess his love. Christina gave one of the best pitches I've ever heard and even though the folksy guitarist seemed more suited for Blake or Adam, the free spirit went with Christina who promised to work with him and cater to him and his sound and what he wants to do as an artist. Favorite moment, Pharrell's reaction when he realized that Gabriel would have gone with him.
So Adam is 0-10 and threatening to quit. The next artist is Brooke Adee singing "Skinny Love" by Bon Iver. She may be a small teenager, but she has a big voice. Points off for the silly hair jewelry, but points added for the end notes on each line of the chorus. She has a beautifully rich tone to her voice and pays attention to the lyrics she's singing. And I give her even more points for having to deal with curly hair in Florida.
Brooke is adorable and talented and it would be easy to hate her and then she calls Blake and Adam "Tom and Jerry" and you fall in love with her. And she giggles. I was shocked that only half the judges turned for her. When it comes down to her picking between Dumb and Dumber, she goes where Danielle Bradbery and RaeLynn and other young now successful country artists have gone - Team Blake. And Adam starts looking around for the hidden camera that is filming this punking that's obviously going on.
The next artist is a bald bundle of joy named Tonya Boyd-Cannon. She's got dimples for days and so much positivity and energy, you pray she can sing. You hear the first notes of Pharrell's "Happy" and it's such a perfect fit for her. She nails it, knocks it out of the park, you choose the phrase. She's not a big belter, she has more nuance and control. I love her slightly raspy tone, her stage presence, her interpretation of a song we all know.
Adam tries reverse psychology to get Tonya not to pick the female singer with the amazing voice or the guy who wrote the freaking song she auditioned with. Poor Tonya is so overcome with emotion, her voice quavering as she realizes she's talking to the judges and gets to pick one of the three smart ones who turned around (shame on you, Blake). After the commercial break, we find out that the lucky winner of a great singer is...Adam. Thank the good lord, Adam was pulled in off the ledge. His first team member and it's a really good one.
Now that Adam has finally broken through, the fantasy of all the other judges filling up their teams first is over. Time to go through the rest of the auditioners. Next is Samoan Joe Tolo singing "To Love Somebody." There was too much vibrato throughout the song for my taste. And I thought there wastn't anything distinctive about his sound. But it doesn't matter what I think, only what the judges think and two of them turned their chairs.
The most impressive thing about Joe is his high note and he and Christina bonded over their ability to attract dogs from around the world with just their voices. Blake made his best pitch - I've won, Christina hasn't - but there was no denying how fun it would be to have a singoff till your ears bleed with the vocal diva. Joe joined Team Christina and I can only imagine what vocal gymnastics she'll have him do in the next round.
Next up is mush mouthed Mia Z. who garbled her way through "The Thrill is Gone" by BB King. I hated everything about this performance. Too mannered, too calculated, and too cute in a decidedly uncute way. Oh, look how I am too cool to enunciate. It's not a two-syllable word spee-ell, it's spell. Oh, look how I can hit a high note. Is it over yet?
I've had it up to here with the "can you believe I'm only 15?" as a substitute for following some simple rules of singing (communicate) and kudos to Adam for telling her to cut down on all the affectations. Even Christina, the queen of oversinging, must have thought this was too much. In the end, only two - Blake and Pharrell turned. Mia may have a good voice, but she needs to stop hiding it behind all the tricks and her wanton abuse of basic elocution. She says she wants to sing the Blues, because as a beautiful young girl she's had a really rough time, and while Blake tries to convince her that country is just a stone's throw from Blues, she goes with Pharrell.
Blaze Johnson was up next with "How to Save a Life" by The Fray. I cannot fairly judge this performance because I'm a huge fan of The Fray and this is one of my favorite songs. Cookie Monster could croak it out and I'd swoon. William Shatner could do a spoken-word version and I'd get goosebumps. Blake is from the Bahamas and can go in an out of a really cool accent, but his singing voice is nicely unaffected.
With the caveats out of the way, I happened to like his soft yet rough-edged voice. He did lose his breath early in the song and while that could be nerves, he needs to watch that. But he hit some nice notes, played nicely with the melody and showed off a good tone that might work on a song that I'm not inclined to love under any circumstance. He had his choice of judges and ultimately went with Adam.
Deanna Johnson is back for her second try and she's gone from a zero to hero with a four-chair turnaround. She sang "All I Want" by Kodaline (yes, I had to look that up, who or what is Kodaline, anyone?). I did not like the heavy, throaty Cher sound so she could have offered free puppies and chocolate and I would not have hit my button.
It goes without saying that she's got the look - she's gorgeous and dresses well. She says she like Florence and the Machine and I can see her doing well in that genre. Adam had been using the "I was first to turn around" bit for the last two days, to little success. This time, he was last to hit his button, getting in right under the wire. And it worked. Deanna and the frog that lives in her throat went with Team Adam.
Anthony Riley (Team Pharrell)
Tony Boyd-Cannon (Team Adam)
Brooke Adee (Team Pharrell)
Gabriel Wolfchild (Team Christina)
Blaze Johnson (Team Adam)
Joe Tolo (Team Christina)
Deanna Johnson (Team Adam)
Mia Z. (Team Pharrell)