Kelly and Blake have clearly been on this panel too long together now, because their sibling-like arguing is getting more and more cutthroat with each season. For Season 21, they’re straying into obnoxious. Don’t get us wrong, it’s so obnoxious it’s funny, but it also seems to drag on and on.
For the first time, we got a sense of how long these tapings must go as Ariana and John literally walked off the set while the pair were fighting over one contestant when they couldn’t even get a word in edgewise. It was a pretty funny moment.
This week saw Ariana getting a little more aggressive. It must be hard to be the newcomer with a trio of judges that have been at it together for so many seasons now. Their chemistry is set, and here she comes having to get a feel for the show and how brutally ruthless they can be when fighting over the same artists. Ariana doesn’t see to have that mean bone in her, but she’s looking for it!
As for the contestants, this second batch delivered an incredible cover of one of Ariana’s songs -- so how did Ariana not get her? -- as well as two contestants that Blake didn’t even turn for bringing him gifts.
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.
(21, Mount Shasta, CA - “Hometown Glory,” Adele) There was a thing happening on singing shows about five years ago where contestants would over-enunciate words, bending them in awkward places. Camryn was doing that in places, which was off-putting. She has a nice quality to her voice, but she was too timid in its presentation. When Adele sings, she’s giving you every bit of her voice and you feel it, Camryn felt like she was hesitant, holding back or scared to let it all out, and it kept us from engaging with her performance fully.
Result: No Chairs Turn
(23, Reno, NV - “El Triste,” Yuri) That was a lot of impressive voice for a one-chair turn. Maybe the other Coaches were waiting for her to show a little more controlled range, or depth in her voice, but she was really sailing through a song most are probably unfamiliar with. The language barrier meant nothing, as she really has a nice, gentle quality to her instrument. Hopefully, though, she has a little more in the tank as it’s going to be hard to compete with the gentleness of this performance in later rounds.
Result: Team Kelly
(23, Tulsa, OK - “drivers license,” Olivia Rodrigo) We were not at all sold on his whispery lower register at the top of this song, but there were other moments where he had a really nice tone in his vocal pocket. He did showcase a lot of different areas, including a falsetto and upper register, but he doesn’t seem to have full control of himself in all of those areas, creating an inconsistent overall performance. It was a bold song choice that we don’t think really worked, but he got two Coaches willing to work through it with him.
(14, Jupiter, FL - “I See Red,” Robbie Nevil) We’re not sure what Serenity was missing from what we heard. We bet if the Coaches had known how young she was, someone would have turned. She has a great grit and sass in her voice that you can’t put on, giving her an edge that was perfectly suited for this song and a lot of popular music out there. This is a hot genre, and she’s right there in it. Unfortunately, she’ll need to sharpen her tools, work on her pitch and hopefully come back, because we really think she deserved a shot.
Result: No Chairs Turn
(28, Lockport, NY - “Into the Unknown,” Idina Menzel) Obviously, we get what the original song is, but this was still very over-the-top and theatrical. He didn’t have an intimate lane to slide into for some of those verses. They could almost be conspiratorial, but his was all out there and belting to the rafters. Ariana might have helped him learn to control an instrument that seems bigger than he knows what to do with, but John took that option away. Still, the talent and those big notes are incredible, so he has to get a chance to see if he can rein it in.
Result: John [Blocks Ariana], Ariana Turn (Team Legend)
Jim & Sasha Allen
(57/19, Newton, CT - “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” John Denver) There’s such a sweetness in this father/son duo, enhanced even by how they’ve grown together as a family through Sasha’s transition to male. Love carried them through the challenges and you can hear and see it when they perform together. There were some moments were Sasha wasn’t quite where he needed to be with his pitch, but the sound had a sweetness you can’t fake. There are charming in how they perform together, which permeates even through the television screen. With the right songs, they could really connect.
(15, St. Martin, MS - “Home,” Marc Broussard) Two seasons ago, Blake told Hailey she was a year away from being able to compete, so she went home and did the work to try again. This was not even the same singer that hit the stage, and she’s still just a baby. Nevertheless, you can hear the three-times-a-week gigging with her band in her voice and her command of the stage. She has attitude for days in that performance, and knows exactly who she is as an artist. There wasn’t a lot of range, but in her lane, she’s incredible for such a young singer. She brings an exciting energy to the stage which should be fun to watch.
Result: Team Blake
(32, Jacksonville, FL - “Superstition,” Stevie Wonder) What we love is that Paris took on one of the absolute biggest and hardest songs you can ever hope to tackle as a cover. And he didn’t try to do it the way Stevie did. Instead, he stayed within his lane, added some grit to it and then took us all to church by the end. We weren’t completely sold in the beginning, but as it went along, you could see his artistry coming through with the choices he was making, and his awareness of his own voice. It was pitch-perfect and really fun to watch.
Result: John, Ariana Turn (Team Legend)
(28, Chesapeake, VA - “hole in the bottle,” Keslea Ballerini) You could tell how excited Lana got when Kelly turned around, but she absolutely earned both of the country-leaning Coaches to weigh in on this stellar performance. She sounded like such a seasoned country music singer, she could go out and cut a record today with that twang, lilt and everything you want to hear in authentic, downhome country music. It’s almost a throwback sound, but she still sounded current, which is actually exciting for modern country as it reflects its roots without losing that edge.
We can’t even get into how much ridiculous arguing went on between Kelly and Blake over this one, but it was absolutely hilarious. Even better, when John and Ariana realized they couldn't’ even get a word in to say hello, they wandered backstage to eat some popcorn -- and still the fight raged on. Kind of makes you wonder how long this could be if these fights were unedited.
(26, Fort Wayne, IN - “Here Without You,” 3 Doors Down) We’re a little surprised he didn’t get four chairs, as this was an achingly beautiful arrangement and performance of this modern rock staple. Samuel has a lovely rasp in his voice that slips out from time to time, but mostly it’s the gravitas with which he sings, the pain he can inject into his voice. We felt all that loneliness, and that’s a rare gift, indeed. He’s someone special to keep an eye on.
Result: John, Ariana, Blake Turn (Team Legend)
(23, East Point, GA - “POV,” Ariana Grande) Who comes out and sings a Coach’s song in front of that person and blows it out of the water. Gymani does, that’s who, and it was one of the most deserved four-chair turns we’ve ever seen. She put her stamp on it and made this a Gymani song, more an homage to Ariana’s take than a cover. It was inspired, fresh, vocally interesting and exciting. With each line, we were on the edge of our seat wondering how she’d interpret the next. That was an incredible audition. Even Ariana was stunned, jaw hanging open the whole time. “That’s your song now,” Ariana told her. “Take it.”