Seven years ago, a little show called The Voice premiered on NBC, ultimately crowning Season 1 champion Javier Colon. Since then, we’ve seen winners Jermaine Paul, Cassadee Pope, Danielle Bradbery, Tessanne Chin, Josh Kaufman, Craig Wayne Boyd, Sawyer Fredericks, Jordan Smith, Alisan Porter, Sundance Head, Chris Blue, Chloe Kohanski, and Brynn Cartelli go on to various levels of fame or obscurity. But ever since that inaugural 2011 season, a soul singer named Matt Johnson (no, not the guy from The The -- the other Matt Johnson) has unsuccessfully auditioned for the series. “That means you've been on this show about as long as Blake [Shelton] and I have,” noted regular coach Adam Levine during Monday’s Blind Auditions. “You should get an honorary chair!”
Well, this may finally be Matt’s year. The 15th time may be the charm. True to the title of the Luther Vandross song that he sang Monday, "Never Too Much," apparently you can never try out too many times for The Voice.
To be honest, I can see why it took Matt, who was the final auditioner of this season, so long to make it through. His pleasant voice but generic vocals and dated song choice made for a cruise-shippy performance. But it impossible was not to root for such a determined contestant -- especially when his mother, who has terminal breast cancer, was cheering for him in the stage wings. (She’s accompanied Matt to all of his previous Voice auditions. Aw.)
Thankfully, Matt’s favorite singer of all time, coach Jennifer Hudson, turned for him once he hit a power note, and Matt joined Team J.Hud, thus completing her team's lineup. “What I heard in Matt was what we've all been waiting to hear -- the hunger for it, the passion for it. He's finally made it. I am so, so, so excited about my team,” Jennifer gushed.
With each coach just one contestant away from filling their teams, Monday was the last night of the Season 15 Blind Auditions, after which the episode segued right away to the Battle Rounds, with Halsey advising Jennifer’s contestants, former American Idol judge and Voice Australia coach Keith Urban assisting Blake, Thomas Rhett working with Kelly Clarkson, and, um, original Voice coach CeeLo Green advising Team Adam. (Whyyyyy does The Voice keep bringing CeeLo back? Remember what happened last time?)
Here’s how the rest of the night went…
Emily Hough, 16: "Big Yellow Taxi"
This folksy farm girl, basically the Addison Agen of Season 15, was total Team Adam material with her Joni Mitchell cover, Fab Four fixation, and angelic, fluttery vocals. I’m surprised Adam didn’t start throwing shoes.
Who turned? Adam (duh), Jennifer, Blake.
Result: Team Adam. Adam was so overjoyed, he jumped onstage to give Emily a hug.
Josh Davis, 20: "Too Good at Goodbyes"
Not to be confused with Season 8 top three singer-songwriter Joshua Davis, this pop/soul crooner delivered a decent but not-all-that-special rendition of Sam Smith's ballad. When he hit that high note, he showed a glimmer of promise… but I have a feeling he’ll be saying “goodbye” to the show soon enough.
Who turned? Jennifer and Kelly. But neither fought very hard to recruit Josh, which was a bad sign.
Result: Team Kelly.
Katrina Cain, 29: “Rhiannon”
This lovely keyboardist and jingle-writer -- no relation to last week’s Madison Cain, who we’ll get to in a bit -- pulled off an exquisite homage to onetime Voice mentor Stevie Nicks, abandoning her usual electropop style for something more stripped-back and hushed. “She’s good! She’s good!” Kelly shouted repeatedly -- but sadly, Kelly’s team was already full; she’d squandered her last spot on Josh Davis. Adam also seemed peeved that he was unable to turn.
Who turned? Jennifer and Blake. But this surely would’ve been a four-chair turn under different circumstances.
Result? Team Blake. Blake just might be able to do for Katrina what he did for Season 13 indie girl Chloe Kohanski. Katrina is one of my new favorites.
Team Kelly: SandyRedd vs. Cody Ray Raymond, “Cry to Me”
Kelly put this apples/oranges Battle together because the R&B diva SandyRedd and Stapleton-esque bluesman are “the two most powerful on my team." Yeah, that makes a whole lot of sense. Why would Kelly want to have two strong singers, right? I guess she doesn’t want to win two seasons in a row.
Kelly was blown away by both contestant during rehearsals, telling them their Solomon Burke duet was “a performance that you don't even get to see on the Grammys.” And onstage, SandyRedd and Cody indeed exhibited award-worthy chemistry, reminding me of that epic Aaron Gibson/Sa’Rayah duet from a few seasons ago. SandyRedd was the true showstopper, and Kelly declared her, "one of the best singers I've ever heard in my life," so it seemed like she had the edge. But then, surprisingly, Kelly went with… Cody! Even host Carson Daly looked shocked.
Well, thank the TV gods for the Steal. All three coaches swooped in for SandyRedd, and despite Adam delivering his usual hard sell, Sandy went with Jennifer. I think SandyRedd is on the right team now. And I think Kelly made a big, big mistake.
Winner: Cody / Stolen: SandyRedd moves to Team J.Hud
Team Blake: Michael Lee vs. Joey Green, "Thing Called Love"
Michael and Joey have actually been friends for eight years, which may explain why they were so laid-back on this midtempo Bonnie Raitt tune. This wasn’t much of a Battle, and it was anticlimactic after Cody and the red-hot SandyRedd had burned up the stage. I would have been OK with this Battle getting montaged, honestly.
Joey had the crisper, cooler voice, but the more charismatic Michael had an intriguing John Doe/Mike Ness thing going on and totally pulled focus. So, Michael prevailed. I’d like to see him do some Social Distortion during the Knockouts, please.
Team J.Hud: Colton Smith vs. Patrique Fortson, "God Gave Me You"
Colton would be one of my favorites this season if only for his sartorial choices: Last week he auditioned in a Mrs. Roper caftan and '60s Endora-from-Bewitched jewelry, and this week he bewitched in a candy-pink velvet tuxedo that reminded me of Nick Rhodes’s wedding day. But his voice is just as distinctive as his wardrobe. He’s just interesting. I understand that Jennifer paired these two singers because of their similar soulful tones, and I also understand why she was partial to gospel belter Patrique. But I was sad to see dapper Colton go so soon.
But wait! Of course Blake went in for the Steal. Colton and Patrique were singing a Blake Shelton song, after all! So Colton moved on to the Knockouts. And I can’t wait to see what he wears (and sings) next.
Winner: Patrique / Stolen: Colton moves to Team Blake
Team Kelsea: Ayanna Joni vs. Madison Cain
Don’t forget about the Island of Misfit Toys! That’s what I call the forgotten fifth team coached by Kelsea Ballerini, featuring six rejected contestants competing online for a spot in the Live Playoffs. I actually went on YouTube after Monday’s televised portion of the Battles, to watch this first Comeback Stage pairing: Ayanna singing Ariana Grande’s "Dangerous Woman" and Madison, daughter of Journey’s Jonathan Cain, doing Lady Gaga’s "You and I." (It’s unclear why they didn’t duet on the same song, like all the other Battlers did.) Madison fared better than she had during last week’s lackluster Alanis audition, but this time, she was trying too hard. That show-offy high note was painful. Ayanna, on the other hand, was a natural. So, it was time for Madison to stop beleivin’.
Come back Tuesday, as the Battle Rounds continue apace.