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'The Voice' debuts its 15th season — and new 5th coach!

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Before The Voice Season 15, which premiered Monday, contestants who failed to turn any chairs had to settle for consolation prizes like an over-enthusiastic pep talk from Adam Levine and an informal invitation to try out in a future season. Some past singers returned and went far, like Season 6 second-placer Jake Worthington and last season’s champ Brynn Cartelli, or they just gave American Idol a try instead. (The two most-recent Idol winners, Maddie Poppe and Trent Harmon, along with this year’s Idol runner-up Caleb Lee Hutchinson, were all Voice rejects.) But now, for the first time ever, Voice hopefuls have as chance to join a fifth team.

No, NBC isn’t wheeling out an extra red chair, like it did for guest star Shania Twain that one time. But country-pop ingenue Kelsea Ballerini will be serving as an official fifth coach, mentoring six rejected auditioners for something called the “Comeback Stage.” Kelsea’s job is to prep singers for the Battle Rounds and a shot at the top 13.

So, the first Comeback Stage contestant to join Kelsea on the Island of Misfit Voice Toys this Monday was 29-year-old Yonkers mom and wedding singer Ayanna Joni, a former girl-group member whose showbiz dreams were deferred after she got pregnant at age 18. But, sorry not sorry, I must say Ayanna’s tepid performance of Demi Lovato’s “Sorry Not Sorry” was, well, very wedding band. I’m not sure why she got a second chance when another no-chair contestant, equally unexciting singer-songwriter Sam Hastings, did not. Maybe it was because Ayanna’s adorable daughter was practically sobbing in Carson Daly’s arms after witnessing her defeat. But let’s see what Kelsea can do for Ayanna. As long as Kelsea’s new duet partners the Chainsmokers don’t turn up as guest advisers, Ayanna may have a chance.

Side note: How come The Voice can hire two American Idol alumni — Jennifer Hudson and Kelly Clarkson — for its regular coaching panel, but can’t find a single actual Voice contestant to be the fifth coach? Were Cassadee Pope or Jordan Smith unavailable? Or any of the poor Voice singers who right about this time of year were supposed to be debuting in the seemingly forever-delayed Vegas revue Neon Dreams? Just sayin’.

Anyway, here were Monday’s successful, actually chair-turning auditioners:

Sarah Grace, 15: “Ball and Chain”
The token 15-going-on-35 old soul of Season 15, this tiny blues singer showcased a big voice on Big Mama Thornton’s classic.

Who turned? Fellow Texan Kelly, plus Jennifer and Blake Shelton.

Result: Team Kelly. Kelly praised Sarah’s “stankface for days,” but she meant that in a good way, so Sarah wasn’t swayed by Blake’s argument, “I would never assume your face smells!” Kelly did win with a 15-year-old, last season, but Sarah may be too Cartelli 2.0 to sway voters this time.

Tyshawn Colquitt, 23: “Like I Can”
This R&B showman, who runs a musical bakery called Pound4Sound, looked cool, and the pound cakes he brought for the studio audience looked delicious. But his Sam Smith cover was merely solid, not spectacular. Maybe he should’ve sang Van Halen’s “Poundcake” instead?

Who turned? Jennifer, Blake.

Result: Team J.Hud. Blake had no chance.

Tyke James, 17: “Perfect”
This Hawaiian-born, guitar-strumming golden surf god is set to be the teen idol of the season. He wasn’t a belter, but I was intrigued by his velvety indie voice on Ed Sheeran’s ballad.

Who turned? Only Adam, oddly. He immediately did a victory dance. “I think you got the star, Adam,” Jennifer said with regret.

Result: Team Adam.

Mercedes Ferreira-Dias, 17: “She Used to Be Mine”
I recall Mercedes from last season, when she shockingly turned no chairs. (I’m sure Kelsea would love to have Mercedes on her team now!) Kelly almost buzzed in last year, so Mercedes was determined to win her over with this lovely, soulful Sara Bareilles cover.

Who turned? Blake (who told her, “Your voice is so personal; I hear your heart”) and Kelly, who gasped, “Oh, I know you!”

Result: Team Blake! Seasoned coach Blake knew just how to charm Mercedes into changing her mind.

Radha, 19: “Mamma Knows Best”
The Jersey girl meant business with this Jessie J barnstormer. She was too shouty, but her potential was immense — so much so that the panel’s other seasoned coach, Adam, used his one Block of the season on Jennifer. “It’s a game, gotta play it,” he shrugged.

Who turned? Adam, Blake, and a disqualified Jennifer.

Result: Team Adam. But Radha confessed she would’ve joined Team J.Hud if she’d had the option. Well played, Adam. Well played.

Kameron Marlow, 21: “One Number Away”
I did not expect such a gravely, authoritative, sexy voice to emanate from that baby face! This kid sounded like a CMT star on Luke Combs’s weeper.

Who turned? Blake, Kelly.

Result: Team Blake. No surprise, considering that Kameron said he was “95 percent” influenced by Shelton.

Mikele Buck, 29: “She Used to Be Mine”
The Iraq veteran told a tragic story of his PTSD-stricken military friend committing suicide. “Everyone is worrying about who’s kneeling for a flag or what some politician said, when we’ve got this problem. I don’t get it,” he said through tears. I just wish he’d channeled more of that heartache into his generic Brooks & Dunn cover.

Who turned? Blake, Kelly.

Result: Team Kelly! Mikele’s wife and three daughters, all Kelly fans, seemed to cast the deciding vote here.

Patrique Fortson, 28: “Get Here”
The former child gospel star (he had a record deal at age 7!) sang the Oleta Adams ballad that I will forever associate with Kelly’s From Justin to Kelly co-star. And he did a job, showcasing a lot of range and control. Guarini would approve.

Who turned? Jennifer, who said “the gates of heaven opened” when Patrique sang, and Adam, who knew he had no chance but explained, “I had to turn, because to not turn around for you is kind of an insult to singing.”

Result: Team J.Hud. Adam was right.

Kennedy Holmes, 13: “Turning Tables”
Brace yourself to hear “HOW CAN YOU ONLY BE THIRTEEEEEEEEN????” every time Kennedy, the youngest in the competition, sings this season. But seriously … how can she only be 13? Even when Jennifer hopped onstage for an “impromptu” duet of “I Am Changing,” Kennedy held her own. The only sign of her youth was when she girlishly teared up after her idol Jennifer started talking to her.

Who turned? All four coaches. They gave her a standing ovation too.

Result: Team J.Hud. Duh!

Come back for Tuesday’s Blind Auditions, when Adam, Jennifer, Kelly, Blake — and Kelsea — continue building their teams.

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