The Emmy-winning "Voice" returned for a fifth season this Monday, which meant the return of original coaches Christina Aguilera and CeeLo Green, who joined regulars Adam Levine and Blake Shelton for a rousing opening number of the Arrows'/Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n' Roll." Xtina looked fabulous in her body-hugging LBD, and CeeLo was his usual colorful self, rocking a headful of henna tattoos and a "Thriller" jacket. But somehow, it was Adam who received most of the attention this evening. The Maroon 5 heartthrob may have recently gotten engaged to a Victoria's Secret supermodel, but that didn't stop two very different contestants from shamelessly hitting on him. His longtime bromance partner Blake was probably jealous.
The first contestant to make a pass at Adam was soul sensation Donna Allen, who at 54 years old was the oldest contestant of the night, and 20 years Adam's senior. Like many singers on "The Voice," Donna came to the show with a long and impressive professional history, including nine years as a member of the Miami Sound Machine. (Here's an awesome vintage video of her gyrating in an '80s-graffiti-splattered alley, wearing a yellow Spandex catsuit, accompanied by what appears to be the cast of Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. You're welcome.) Donna's powerhouse performance of "You Are So Beautiful" won Adam over, and when he ran up to give her a celebratory hug after she agreed to join his team, she showed that she still had a few sexy moves in her arsenal, coiling her arms AND legs around him. This bold flirtation totally shocked even Christina, a woman who once flaunted a thong and schoolgirl skirt in that "Dirrty" video and had presumably seen it all by now. All I can say is…you go, Donna. And you go get that yellow unitard out of mothballs and wear it to your first one-on-one mentoring session with Adam, too.
And then there was Team Adam recruit Nic Hawk. Fascinatingly describing himself as the male version of Amy Winehouse or Jessie J, this wild-eyed theater fop and twerktastic hip-hop dance teacher hit the stage singing "Hit 'Em Up Style" with so much manic energy, it seemed like he'd been chasing fistfuls of No-Doz and sugar pills with a case of Jolt before his performance. (Starbucks is a sponsor of this show. Maybe there was a LOT of free Starbucks backstage?) While Nic's reedy, nasal vocals were hardly the best of the night, Adam still whacked his button with lightning speed, much to Nic's delight. "What's goin' on, handsome?" Nic sassed, batting his lashes in Adam's direction.
But when Adam begged Nic to join his team (over the other coach who'd buzzed in, CeeLo), Nic hemmed and hawed, confessing: "The problem is, I don't know if I'll be able to focus [if I join your team], because you're so good-looking!" Adam, not normally the shy type, blushed as red as his chair. Luckily for Adam, when Nic finally picked Adam as his coach and went in for the obligatory embrace, he practiced a bit more restraint than Donna had. But those Battle Rounds rehearsals are going to be mighty interesting…
The rest of the night was not quite as wacky, mostly focusing on the type of superb singers that helped "The Voice" win its aforementioned Emmy. Here are the other, less libidinous contestants who made it through on Monday's Season 5 premiere:
Kat Robichaud – Kat, former frontwoman for an indie band called the Design, arrived at the Blind Auditions wearing striped Quiet Riot pants (or Robin-Thicke-at-the-VMAs pants) and professing her love for Bowie, Queen, and Broadway. So of course, I already adored her before she'd sung a single note. But then she performed "I've Got the Music in Me," and I loved her even more. This girl could sang! All four chairs spun for Kat, and the original coaches' old rivalry was back. Adam praised her "sweet pants" and called her "Raspy McRasperson." Xtina called her "special." But CeeLo laid it on the thickest, as only he could, almost flirting as aggressively as Donna Allen or Nic Hawk. "You engulfed me. You set me on fire. I was like, 'Yes, I want her now,'" he purred. CeeLo seemed like the best match for Kat — he always understands and appreciates the sassy mavericks, and just look how well he did with past "Voice" rock chicks like Juliet Simms and Vicci Martinez — so I was delighted when Kat officially entered the Red Zone. This girl definitely has the music in her, and with CeeLo's guidance, she could really rock this season.
MEMBER OF: Team CeeLo
Caroline Pennell – There was something very endearing about this shy, adorkable band-camp girl who honed her musical skills during a "Rock Star Weekend" for kids. She was like a less hip, less skunk-haired version of Season 3's Melanie Martinez. When she sang (and sometimes shyly giggled) Ellie Goulding's "Anything Could Happen," she evoked many of her female role models (Florence Welch, Norah Jones, Regina Spektor), but she put her own nerdy-girly twist on the song. Blake and CeeLo both turned around, but CeeLo, who said Caroline "sounded like sunshine," won her over by declaring, "We're cut from the same cloth. We're kindred. Come to Team CeeLo, where you can be yourself!" Caroline listened, wisely; she obviously realized that Team CeeLo is where all of "The Voice's" misfit toys belong. And CeeLo seemed like one happy camper when Caroline made this decision.
MEMBER OF: Team CeeLo
Matthew Schuler – Matthew may have set the record for the fastest quadruple-chair turnaround in "Voice" history. The affable rugby player/bagel boy/student/pastors' son impressed so much with the a cappella intro to his cover of Young the Giant's "Cough Syrup" that all four coaches hit their buttons within the first few seconds of his performance. To be honest, I thought he should have kept it a cappella; once the music kicked in, some of the magic was lost and his performance became a bit generic. With a great tone like his, he didn't need any backup. The coaches, however, lost their darn minds over Matthew; they were definitely drinking his Kool-Aid (or cough syrup, as it were). Adam and Xtina hopped atop their chairs. Blake marched up to Matthew and high-fived him. CeeLo mumbled some weird sports metaphor. Adam then of course went in for the hard sell, begging Matthew and proclaiming, "I know for a fact that we can win this together. This is the big one that I have to get!" But Matthew apparently didn't have a Donna/Nic-like love for Adam, and so he went with Christina instead. Christina has never won on "The Voice" before, but if Matthew is as popular with viewers as he was with the judging panel, this may finally be her year.
MEMBER OF: Team Xtina
Shelbie Z. – Shelbie was a kiddy pageant girl up until the age of 10, and now she's a pageant coach. So I expected her to be cheesy and old-fashioned, more suited to audition for "Toddlers & Tiaras" than for "The Voice." But then she came out roaring on "Here For the Party" and proved she's actually a country queen. Holy moly! This woman partied hard. And she was RAW, a quality I would have never expected from a pageant veteran. Shelbie-with-a-Z spit pure fire. Blake, CeeLo, and Xtina all turned their chairs. But do I even need to tell you whose team she joined? I don't know why CeeLo and Christina even bothered.
MEMBER OF: Team Blake
Josh Logan – A salt-of-the-earth fellow who became a dad at age 16, Josh has been chugging away on the rock circuit for a while. (He's now 33, and he was a contestant on "Rock Star: Supernova" back in 2006.) Personally, I wasn't all that wowed by Josh's performance of Alex Clare's "Too Close"; while he had a nicely sandpapery tone perfectly suited for hard rock, he threw in too many superfluous runs for my taste. But Blake loved Josh's runs, and he even told Josh, "I have a man-crush on you!" (Now it was Adam's turn to be jealous.) I was expecting Josh to sign up with Adam, the only rock singer on the panel, who told Josh, "That's about as legit as a voice can be." But surprise, surprise: Josh picked Christina. Christina is no stranger to superfluous runs — in her own performances, she always finds a way to turn one syllable into, like, TWELVE — so I'm not sure if she'll be the best coach for this guy. We'll see.
MEMBER OF: Team Xtina
James Wolpert – Speaking of crushes, I may have a teensy one myself on this lovable computer nerd. The 22-year-old Carnegie Mellon student and part-time Apple Store employee put his college education on hold to follow his showbiz dream…and while normally I'd consider that a massive mistake (Carnegie Mellon is a very prestigious school), once I heard James sing, I realized he may have known what he was doing after all. It was cool enough that he auditioned with Jack White's "Love Interruption." And it was so interesting how his rough, rockish voice didn't match his dorky, buttoned-up image. Who knew this egghead would have such edge? ("I expected some longhaired guy with a beard, and that's what I love about this show," remarked Blake.) But the bottom line was, James's vocals were fantastic: ferocious, soulful, and totally, thrillingly unique. "To have that much character in your voice is amazing…you're the complete vocalist," marveled Blake. "Thank you for showing me why I came back to this show," said Christina. However, Adam won this round in the end.
MEMBER OF: Team Adam
So far, Team Adam consists of Donna Allen, Nic Hawk, and James Wolpert; Team Xtina comprises Matthew Schuler and Josh Logan: CeeLo has Kat Robichaud and Caroline Pennell; and Blake has kept it country, recruiting only Shelbie Z. These are all very strong contestants in very different ways, so it's anyone's game. But Adam seems slightly ahead of the pack, and if America loves him as much as Donna and Nic do, he may prevail in the end.
Come back Tuesday for more "Voice" Blind Auditions, and feel the love all over again!
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