Most of the gossip, as The Voice returned for a ninth season last week, surrounded the recently failed marriages of coaches Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani. But this Monday, love sprang anew on The Voice, during the night’s final starry-eyed audition by country-rock duo Jubal & Amanda.
Yes, in a Voice first, Jubal got down on bended knee, and he proposed to his partner – asking Amanda to share his life and his last name, along with the stage and a possible record contract. And thankfully, Amanda didn’t seem to have as much trouble deciding to join Team Jubal as she did when it came time to sign up with either Team Pharrell or Team Gwen.
What I’m trying to say is… she said YES!
Now we will just have to see if these two are as lucky in the Battle Rounds as they are in love. Who knows? Jubal & Amanda could be to The Voice Season 9 as winning lovebirds Alex & Sierra were to The X Factor Season 3.
As for their actual audition, Jubal & Amanda did show a lot of promise singing “Seven Bridges Road,” a classic made famous by the Eagles but actually penned by Jubal’s father, country outlaw pioneer Steve Young. Their retro ‘70s harmonies were the real deal. I was surprised to learn that they’d only been performing together for 18 months, but I guess that proves just how natural a fit these two really are. (Side note: It was nice to see actual duos on this show again! I’d missed the days of Midas Whale and the Swon Brothers.) I was surprised that the pair chose to sign up with coach Pharrell Williams, not just because Blake Shelton, the most obvious match, didn’t even buzz in, but because Pharrell bizarrely called them “pitchy” (they weren’t). Hopefully Jubal & Amanda won’t soon regret their first joint decision as future husband and wife.
As for the rest of Monday’s matches, Blake continued to swoop up country contestants (the Jubal & Amanda snub notwithstanding), and Gwen Stefani continued to build what just might be this season’s most interesting and eclectic team. Here’s how the rest of the auditions went:
Morgan Frazier - You gotta admire this girl’s work ethic. She recorded her first CD at age 9, then hit the road with her supportive parents for the next two years, selling 30,000 copies of her album door-to-door. THIRTY THOUSAND! That’s more than most major-label artists sell in two years these days. By age 16, she was living on her own in Nashville, where she signed to Curb Records. Now she gigs at the world-famous Tootsie’s while awaiting her next big break. (I guess that door-to-door business finally dried up, as did her old record deal.) I have to say, I wasn’t particularly wowed by Morgan’s perfectly pretty but not especially distinctive singing voice, but her script-flipped coffeehouse cover of the almighty Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me” was almost genius. I could see why the coaches wanted Morgan, after hearing such an inventive take on that Budokan-rocking anthem. Of course, Blake squired her away with some Emmylou Harris namedropping, even though Gwen tried her best. But this is a season filled with country singers, on Team Blake in particular. So Morgan’s best strategy is to keep doing unexpected cover songs that help her stand out.
MEMBER OF: Team Blake
Amanda Ayala - I was expecting to adore 17-year-old Amanda the moment she professed her love for '80s hard rock and talked about the rock band she formed at age 12 called Dead End. I was hoping for the Voice equivalent of American Idol’s Allison Iraheta. But her audition of Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen” was a disappointment. Amanda’s young voice lacked grit and gravitas; she just didn’t rock enough. Resident rocker chick Gwen, Amanda’s dream coach, didn’t even turn, and I was surprised that Adam Levine and Pharrell actually did. Poor Amanda had just revealed her plan to delay her college education if she made it onto The Voice, so I really think the show should have cut her loose and let her focus on a future with, well, less of a dead end. Hopefully when she’s immediately eliminated in the Battle Rounds, there’ll still be time for her to meet those college application deadlines. Stay in school, kids.
MEMBER OF: Team Adam
Jeffery Austin - Jeffery’s cover of Sam Smith’s “Lay Me Down” was a little soundalike – he did almost nothing new with it – but what a voice! We all know Sam Smith songs aren’t easy to sing, probably not even for Sam Smith himself, but Jeffery made it look effortless (which was especially impressive considering that he hadn’t performed onstage in six years). And he looked adorable, too. Only one chair turned, but it was Gwen’s chair, and I think with her creativity and enthusiasm, she can help Jeffery find his own true voice and even become this season’s dark horse.
MEMBER OF: Team Gwen
Lyndsey Elm - First of all, nice name, Lyndsey! Heh. I liked this girl’s cool tomboy vibe. She’s a former high school basketball player, a pest-control worker by day, and a badass rocker girl by night. And she managed to turn Megan Trainor’s “Lips Are Movin’,” a silly throwaway song that I hate almost as much as I hate Voice montages (more on those later), into a fun jazzy/folksy/bluesy/sassy jam. With charisma and chops like that, it wasn’t surprising that Lyndsey was the first four-chair auditioner of the night. She seemed very Team Adam to me, but Gwen scored this one too. I’m excited to see what these two cool girls can get up to in the rehearsal room.
MEMBER OF: Team Gwen
Manny Cabo - There was a lot of hype for this dude; the 45-year-old’s performance of Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” was actually teased in pre-show trailers. But I didn’t quite get what all the fuss was about. Sure, he had a strong voice, but his audition was total cover-band fare. Everything about his performance was dated and hack-like; we’ve all already seen and heard this era of music covered and reinterpreted so much better by past Voice contestants like Terry McDermott and Cole Vosbury. I just can’t see this guy winning a record deal and becoming a recording star. I was shocked that all four coaches turned around, and that Adam turned so quickly; I think they might’ve gotten more caught up in their excitement over the nostalgic, headbanging song choice than by the singer himself. Adam won this one, but I have a feeling any attempts he makes to modernize Manny will epically fail.
MEMBER OF: Team Adam
Madi Davis - This winsome 16-year-old is this season’s token baby-breath’d indie girl, and I am totally OK with that. Every season needs at least one! Madi’s sweet cover of Carole King’s “It’s Too Late” was absolutely lovely, the work of a real raw talent, and I think either Gwen or Pharrell (the two maverick judges who unsurprisingly turned) could work wonders with her. “I’m a sucker for an original tone,” said Pharrell. And apparently, Madi was a sucker for Pharrell. But watch out for a Gwen steal in the Battles or Knockouts!
MEMBER OF: Team Pharrell
Riley Biederer, Cassandra Robertson & Daria Jazmin - Ugh. Another montage. Boo! So not cool, Voice producers. But maybe there’s a reason these three got such a brutal edit. The 10 seconds we heard of Riley’s Kelly Clarkson cover didn’t sound all that Clarkson-esque, and Cassandra’s Ella Henderson cover, while nicely sung, didn’t have the X factor. Of the fleeting three, feisty Daria was the most interesting. She at least seemed like she’d put up a fierce fight in the Battle Rounds.
MEMBERS OF: Teams Pharrell, Adam, and Pharrell, respectively
Chris Crump - Unorthodox wedding traditions were a theme on The Voice this Monday. Four months ago, Chris and his bride ditched their own wedding reception to attend a Voice open casting call in town. Mrs. Crump was totally cool with it, of course – although she may have considered an annulment if Chris hadn’t gotten through and she’d missed out on the Electric Slide and Chicken Dance for nothing. I suppose Chris crooning Ed Sheeran’s swoony wedding ballad “Thinking Out Loud” helped, as did the fact that his televised Blind Audition earned a four-chair turn. His performance started off a little too hushed and gaspy for me, but Blake thought that just made him sound warm, emotional, and sincere. All the qualities a woman looks for in a husband – or in a singer! I actually thought this guy had Team Adam written all over him, but he went with Blake. So while the Crumps’ newlywed romance continues apace, with all this nasty competitiveness, the Blake/Adam bromance may soon come to an end.
MEMBER OF: Team Blake
Tyler Dickerson - This poor guy is already a typical music-biz victim/second-chancer… and he’s only 21 years old! At age 15, he landed a deal with Lyric Street Records, became of protégé of Big & Rich’s John Rich, and was heralded by Music Row’s elite as “the next Travis Tritt.” But then Lyric Street folded, he got in a bad car accident, and he went back to Florida to work for his dad. Sigh. “I had it all, and it was all taken away,” Tyler said tearfully. But after a well-wishing video message from John Rich, Tyler went onstage looking like the lost fourth Kings of Leon brother and slayed the Black Crowes’ version of “Hard to Handle.” He looked like a star and performed like a pro. I was shocked that only Blake turned around for him, but let’s face it, Tyler probably would’ve picked Blake anyway. Now he could become the baby Craig Wayne Boyd. But then again, Boyd is already off the label that signed him after his Voice Season 7 victory… so remember, nothing in this business is guaranteed.
MEMBER OF: Team Blake
So to recap, Team Adam has Amanda Ayala, Manny Cabo, Cassandra Robertson, and last week’s Regina Love, James Dupré, Keith Semple, and Jordan Smith. Team Pharrell has Jubal & Amanda, Madi Davis, Riley Biederer, Daria Jazmin, and previous recruits Ivonne Acero, Evan McKeel, Mark Hood, and Siahna Im. Team Gwen has Jeffery Austin, Lyndsey Elm, and last week’s Ellie Lawrence, Noah Jackson, Tim Atlas, Hannah Ashbrook, Kota Wade, and Braiden Sunshine. And Blake may be on his way to a fifth victory (and a fourth country victory) with Morgan Frazier, Chris Crump, Tyler Dickerson, and premiere-week auditioners Blind Joe, Zach Seabaugh, Emily Ann Roberts, Nadjah Nicole, and Barrett Baber.
That’s a lot of names, but we’ll just add more to that mix when two more hours of Blind Auditions air Tuesday night. See you then!