A few seasons ago, when Kelly Clarkson joined The Voice, NBC made over the show’s iconic red chairs with snazzy new extras like heated seat cushions and shiny chrome cup-holders. This season, to welcome back coach Gwen Stefani, Gwen’s boyfriend, Blake Shelton, apparently decided to upgrade his own chair… with a red button that plays Gwen’s hit “Don’t Speak” on demand whenever he wants to silence any of his rival coaches.
It was all going so well Tuesday, until Blake hilariously, accidentally hit his “Don’t Speak” button while getting worked up trying to win over 21-year-old singer-songwriter Kiara Brown — thus effectively silencing himself mid-sentence and giving his secret away. Gwen was so faux-shocked that she called her own significant other a “liar and a cheater.” Kelly additionally accused Blake of “sitting on a [red, spinning] throne of lies,” while John Legend added, “I don't know how Gwen can be in a relationship with someone who has this many problems with telling the truth!”
Blake, intent on maintaining his track record as the winningest coach in Voice history, even if it means using his own girlfriend’s song to carry out his dastardly schemes, merely shrugged, “I have my tactics I use to get artists that I want on my team. I'll stop at nothing, even if I have to lie to these three.” However, Blake admitted that he’s “got to be better at lying” if he expects to win this season.
Kiara, whose pretty, understated Blind Audition of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” turned both Gwen and Blake’s chairs, didn’t fall for Blake’s lies — or even for his glowing, presumably honest praise when he described her vocals as “hypnotic.” Instead, Kiara went for Gwen, who compared her honeyed tone and subtle style to that of Kacey Musgraves. Gwen clearly came to win this season, and she’s not taking Season 17 lightly. “This is a competition, and the gloves are off,” she declared Monday.
Still, this was all in good fun, and it was damn good TV. Kelly was laughing so hard during the “Don’t Speak” incident that she nearly toppled over, cackling, “That was maybe my favorite part of anything I've seen on The Voice!” Gwen actually busted a move to her own song, and she’ll probably enjoy any iTunes or Spotify spikes the Tragic Kingdom ballad might get from all this NBC exposure. (Admit it: “Don’t Speak” is totally lodged in your brain now. This was the best use of the song on The Voice since Team Gwen’s Hunter Plake and Gwen performed it as a duet in Season 12.)
These were the other successful auditions of the night:
Mendeleyev, 28: "Girl From the North Country"
The born-in-a-bathtub, raised-by-vegetarian-hippies-in-Santa-Barbara yoga dude, whose full name is Mendeleyev Galileo Einstein Pythagoras Darwin Euclid Leonardo Alan Blitz, might have seemed like a joke contestant. But he totally wasn’t. He dedicated his Bob Dylan cover to his mother, who died a month before his audition (“One of the last things that she said was ‘I'm sorry that I'm not going to get to see you on The Voice’”), and his resonant, husky, deeply aching voice was very Hozier-meets-Tom Waits. Kelly likened Mendeleyev’s vocals to “the best glass of pinot noir” or a “warm blanket,” and said she’d love to hear his voice on vinyl.
Who turned? All four coaches.
Result: Team Legend. John was apparently the only coach familiar with Mendeleyev’s favorite artist, Richie Havens, and that sealed the deal.
Jake Hoot, 30: “When It Rains It Pours”
Since Jake, the Texas-born son of two missionaries, spent more of his formative years living in the Dominican Republic, I assumed/hoped his performance would Latin flavor, maybe some Tejano-type flair. But this was straight-up generic country. On the plus side, straight-up generic country tends to do very, very well on The Voice.
Who turned? Only Kelly, because she’d cleverly tricked Blake into thinking she’d used her Block button on Jake. (She hadn’t! She too sits on a throne of lies!)
Result: Team Kelly.
Calvin Lockett, 25: “Just My Imagination”
Calvin sounded nervous and quaky, but this Temptations covers was butter-smooth, without any superfluous, show-offy runs and tricks. John called the performance “masterful” and compared Calvin to Damien Rice — a thoughtful and unexpected compliment.
Who turned? John, Gwen, Blake.
Result: Team Gwen! I was as shocked as she was. I thought perhaps Calvin just wanted one of those cool camouflage Team Gwen jackets, but he later explained that he liked how Gwen said she would “fight for him” and that he “didn't have to be just one type of artist.”
Josie Jones, 16: “Men and Mascara”
This kid is talented, but I found her vibrato goaty and downright distracting. She sounded like a baby Dolly Parton (Gwen said a baby Stevie Nicks; Kelly said Andra Day, which made no sense), but Josie has a lot of growing up to do before she’s ready for prime time.
Who turned? John, Blake.
Result: Team Blake. Come on, Josie an Alabama farmgirl who said in her bio package, “I sing country music, and I love it because it's usually about relationships, trucks, fishing, and hunting. And that's pretty much all the things I do.” City-slicker John never stood a chance.
Marybeth Byrd, 18: “Angel From Montgomery”
This Arkansas gal with the honey-sweet voice gave me Addison Agen vibes — a young girl with an old soul. She even sounded like a country Adele at times. I predict she could go far. So did John: “I have a good feeling you're going to be one of the top contestants this season,” he said.
Who turned? All four coaches — but Blake was out of the running, because Kelly used her Block for real this time.
Result: Team Legend! That was another surprise. Maybe that was Kelly’s karma for her sneaky Block gameplay earlier in the evening.
Melinda Rodriquez, 23: “What a Wonderful World”
The jazz chanteuse did the Eva Cassidy version of the Louis Armstrong classic and added a bit of her own exquisite flair. The performance was charming and effortless, with flawless vocal control and a subtle, nuanced sense of dynamics, but also a lot of heart. All that New England Conservatory of Music training had clearly paid off for this song stylist.
Who turned? Kelly and Gwen, almost immediately. I was genuinely surprised John didn’t turn, and I bet Melinda was secretly disappointed.
Result: Team Kelly. Kelly picked up on the Eva Cassidy homage and even said Eva was one of her favorite singers, so Melinda’s decision was clear.
Cali Wilson, 28: “Dreams”
The small-town kickboxing instructor and single mom showcased a lovely alto, but her delivery was unremarkable. I think Cali needed more of a witchy-woman ethereal quality to do Stevie Nicks justice. This wasn’t quite the big Mac attack I wanted.
Who turned? Gwen, John, Blake.
Result: Team _____. For some reason, Voice producers decide to make this one a cliffhanger. So we will have to wait till Tuesday to find out which coach Cali chose. I think she should go with Gwen, but maybe Blake will get his way if he uses his “Don’t Speak” button strategically.
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