Grande jumps out to an early lead with some great pickups, but a family trio and a '90s R&B star turned backup singer steal the show as Season 21 kicks off!
“The Voice” kicked off its second decade with the addition of one of the biggest voices in the history of pop music, and Ariana Grande did not come to play.
While she’s still settling in and being a little too nice at times, the chemistry is definitely there with the existing Coaches who’ve had four full seasons already to hone their banter. As always, the banter between the Coaches is one of the best things about these early rounds, and we’ve got plenty of highlights from those moments.
But the talent delivered in this premiere as well, with a stunning trio of siblings with otherworldly harmonies, a ‘90s R&B diva looking for her second shot -- and boy can she deliver -- and the apparent reincarnation of the King himself, Elvis Presley.
It’s been a while since “The Voice” has had two powerhouse vocalists like Kelly Clarkson and Ariana Grande on the same season. The ladies hit the stage for their portion of the season-opening medley and took on Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” and we have to put respect on both their names after that one!
We can not wait for future Coach performances this season!
The guys were having fun with their portion of the medley, but there was absolutely no question who the stars of this piece were. It was a great way to introduce Ariana to the season, and remind everyone why she’s one of the best of her generation. We can already imagine how many singers came just for the chance to be heard by her, and possibly work with her.
“I think my ears are better than my voice,” said Ariana. If that’s true, she’s definitely going to win this show because her voice is incredible.
And can we give absolute props for the most badass addition to the show, Ariana’s “Thank you, next” button? Seriously, your girl has a button on her chair she can press that will play just those words from her song to cut off her fellow judges.
She dropped it on John and then looked around like she had no idea where it came from and we are still dying!
Fair warning, since I'm safe at home, I'm probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Ariana Grande and Blake Shelton.
And just for fun, I'm going to rank the performances from worst to first so we can see how my favorites do as the season progresses.
(18, Glenview, IL - “Control,” Zoe Wees) Gracie had an interesting full-throated voice that was compelling at times, but it was inconsistent and it felt swallowed rather than projected, weirdly enough. She didn’t always find her right notes and slipped into an out of vibrato. She has a nice texture in her voice that’s compelling and could be shaped into something really interesting artistically, but apparently none of the judges were looking to take on that task. Maybe if she’d chosen a song that showed off a little more variation in her voice she might have gotten their attention.
Result: No Chairs Turn
(15, Miami, FL - “Bailamos,” Enrique Iglesias) There just wasn’t quite enough strength in his voice, even though he has a great confidence on the stage. Marco just needs more polish and years on him to find himself and his own power as a singer. It sounded like nerves hit and impacted his voice, making him sound nervous and uncertain even in himself. A few more years of experience might push him where he’d need to be.
Result: No Chairs Turn
(35, Nashville, TN - “Cowboy Take Me Away,” The Chicks) An authentic country vocal, Kidney could have used a little more punch in her delivery. If there’s one thing Natalie Maines does not do, it’s hold back, and we felt a little hesitancy in Kinsey’s performance that knocked her out of pitch in a few places. But she’s got a sweet country voice that stands out (at least so far) in this competition. We’re not sure how it could hold up in future rounds, but kudos to Kelly for a smartly-played Block.
Result: Kelly [Blocks Blake], Blake Turn (Team Kelly)
(19 - Lawrenceville, GA - “Heartbreak Hotel,” Elvis Presley) We were waiting for a little punch in Peedy’s Presley performance. To his credit, he managed to inject the song with a little bit of fun energy, but it never quite rose beyond great Elvis Presley impersonator, which means we didn’t get a sense of who he was as an artist. It’s almost too gimmicky, as we’d be wary of what else he could even do based on how soundalike that was.
Result: John, Blake Turn (Team John)
(18, Rochester, NY - “The House of the Rising Sun,” The Animals) Honestly, he didn’t have us until he bent that note toward the end of the song. There were good moments before that, but we needed to know that he understood the sinister undertone of this track and could really give us that mood properly. He did that with the end, and to have such a smart moment at such a young age tells us he can really learn how to interpret a song with authenticity. We’d still like a little more vocal gravitas, but that can come in time, too.
Result: Kelly, John Turn (Team Legend)
(35, Milpitas, CA - “The Bones,” Maren Morris) Maren’s music helped Katie through struggles with postpartum after the birth of her child, so she had a strong emotional connection to the lyrics of her choice. She has a real storytelling vibe to how she presents the song, though it wasn’t enough to get Blake’s chair to turn. She could be pushed to challenge herself more vocally, as there was a sameness throughout. It can be intimate, but still resonate a little deeper with more interesting inflection choices.
(22, Memphis, TN - “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off,” Jermaine Stewart) Boy, the Coaches really made her sweat on this one, turning at the last possible second, but we were absolutely digging on her interpretation of this classic. What a beautifully nuanced performance, filled with sensual feminine control and strength. She forced us to reexamine the lyrics and really think of the song in a new way, which is a great trick for an artist. We also respected that she stayed in her pocket for so long, as if she didn’t need the big notes to impress -- but she offered a few teases just to let us know they were there.
Result: Ariana, Blake Turn (Team Ariana)
(30 - Los Angeles, CA - “Leave the Door Open,” Silk Sonic) Jonathan put his own spin on an incredibly current song, which is hard to do. He’s got classic R&B runs, falsetto and range for days, but mostly he put a very slick and cool attitude on the whole performance that managed to honor the original but really sell his own flair and style as an artist. He’s a very impressive vocalist that would be fun to explore his full potential with.
Result: John, Ariana Turn (Team Legend)
(27, Beaumont, TX - “The A Team,” Ed Sheeran) This song has a challenging cadence and rhythm to it, but Vaughn sailed through it effortlessly. It was a very chic performance, with a smooth and impressive vocal. We love the tenderness in his tone and his mastery of the mood he was trying to evoke with this performance. He definitely picked the right song as his vocal style and even his stage approach fits perfectly in this wheelhouse, which tells us he knows his voice and who he is as an artist. That’s an impressive debut.
(20-26, Pettisville, OH - “Helplessly Hoping,” Crosby, Stills & Nash) This trio didn’t rely on big notes or even amazing solo moments. Instead, this family band’s gentle harmonies won the day, securing the first four-chair turn as the first act of the season. But those harmonies were absolutely mesmerizing, meshing every bit as well as the original track and among some of the best harmonizers in music. The potential with a group like this is just through the roof.
Result: 4-Chair Turn (Team Kelly)
(56, Memphis, TN - “We Can Work It Out,” The Beatles) Wendy had a breakout hit of her own in the ‘90s, but wasn’t able to sustain a solo career, so she instead started performing backup to some of the top artists out there. This is her second chance and boy did she make the most of it. She had us from the early notes with the quality and texture of her voice, the depth of her pitch. We already knew what she had in us, but she got the rest of the Coaches when she took it up a notch and showed off her through-the-roof range. She’s been doing this a long time, but she hasn’t lost any of her shine. Blake called her “top three Blind audition for ‘The Voice’ all time,” and we’re not sure he was wrong.