‘The Voice’ Season 3 Premiere: Still The Best, Hands Down?

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks (New)

Well, it's only been four months since Jermaine What's-His-Name won "The Voice" Season 2, and already Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, and Cee Lo Green are back on NBC, searching for yet another singer who won't sell any records. Oh snap. Okay, yes, that sounds a little harsh and jaded. To be fair, Jermaine Paul hasn't even released an album yet--but that's precisely my point. Isn't it too soon for "The Voice" to be coming back? How can we miss it if it won't go away?

Well, like it or not, "The Voice" is back, and, to be honest, I did miss it just a bit. (Most of all, though, I missed Cee Lo's feline mascot, Purrfect, who apparently has been replaced by a considerably less cuddly pink cocktaoo.) "The Voice" is the TV talent show with arguably the widest and most impressive range of singing talent, even if that talent is too often overshadowed by the show's superstar judges, and Season 3's Monday premiere did not disappoint in that department.

So, do any of Season 3's first crop of promising Blind Auditioners have a shot of one day being as successful as, well, Adam, Xtina, Blake, or Cee Lo themselves? Quite possibly, but the season is young, so we shall see. Here were Monday's standouts:

De'Borah - I loved this girl. And yes, she is a girl, even though this ex-gospel singer readily confessed that she is often mistaken for a boy due to her androgynous style. The openly gay daughter of (wonderfully supportive and accepting!) pastor parents, De'Borah totally represented what makes "The Voice" different from more conservative talent shows like "American Idol." She declared, "I'm into love, I'm not into the gender thing...I represent every misfit who thought you had to blend in." Go De'Borah! The judges who turned around for her "Hey Soul Sister" performance, Cee Lo and Christina, definitely seemed surprised by De'Borah's appearance, but both seemed eager to take her on. I thought Cee Lo, who is also a quirky misfit from a church family, would have been the perfect coach for De'Borah (even host Carson Daly thought so)...but surprisingly, De'Borah went with Christina. This pairing sure is going to be interesting. I just hope Xtina does right by De'Borah.
MEMBER OF: Team Xtina

Terry McDermott - One of many "Voice" contestants with a not-so-secret professional past, this former member of Geffen Records band Driveblind capably belted out the Who's "Baba O'Reilly"--NOT an easy thing to do, as even Roger Daltrey would attest. None of the indecisive judges whacked their magic red buttons until Terry hit that "They're all WASTED!!!" money-note at the end, but then all three male judges spun their chairs around for this rockin' Scotsman with the Ron Wood rootster 'do. (I guess Xtina's not a Who fan.) After Blake joked that Terry could probably win this show just by talking in his charming Scottish brogue (hey, it worked for Damian McGinty on "The Glee Project"!), Terry went with Blake. A bonny good choice!
MEMBER OF: Team Blake

Gracia Harrison - This bubbly blonde yodeler from the county-fair circuit got Adam to turn around practically the instant she opened her mouth (he later told her, "By far, you are the best country singer we've ever heard on this show!"), followed by Blake about half a nanosecond later. And once she let that yodel rip, Cee Lo turned around as well. I liked Gracia's old-school, real-country vibe, as did Blake, who boldly proclaimed that he could help Gracia usher in a new era of genuine country music. As Mr. Miranda Lambert, he obviously knew what he was talking about, so Gracia of course went with Blake. It was the right decision, I think. Together, Blake and Gracia could be unstoppable.
MEMBER OF: Team Blake

Garrett Gardner - A cute emo boy with Bloc Party hair, a Hot Topic lip-piercing, and a heart of gold, this 16-year-old son of a jazz musician who died of cancer showed some real potential with his cover of CCR's "Have You Ever Seen The Rain?" In some ways, his raspy tone reminded me of Alex Chilton circa the Box Tops. But Garrett simply wasn't ready--as Christina put it, he was only "80 percent" there--so all four judges passed on him. Grateful for just the opportunity, young Garrett broke down in tears, and a hugfest between him and the sympathetic judges ensued. I hope he takes some voice lessons, works on his craft, and comes back (or, hey, auditions for "Idol" or "The X Factor" one day). But no matter what, I know his dad was proud of him this week.
MEMBER OF: Team No One (but maybe next year?)

Devyn DeLoera - This small-town Texas girl gave some sob story about being a home-schooled ugly duckling saved by music, a story that was hard to believe since she basically looked like a gorgeous prom queen/head cheerleader who'd led a charmed life. Anyway, Devyn took a huge risk with a self-described "suicidal song choice," Christina's "Ain't No Other Man," and honestly, I didn't think it was a risk that would pay off. Devyn sang it well, but not as well as Christina herself. But surprisingly, Adam, Blake, and even Christina all wanted Devyn on their teams. Unsurprisingly, Devyn opted to go with the coach who inspired her audition in the first place, Christina. Ain't no other man [judge] for Devyn, indeed.
MEMBER OF: Team Xtina

Bryan Keith - Pre-commercial promos teased that this guy had some famous showbiz dad, but that he refused to use his father's connections to get ahead. I was pretty much expecting to find out he was the son of, say, Mick Jagger or Robert Plant. It turned out his father is Ray De La Paz of the Spanish Harlem Orchestra--a great talent and a two-time Grammy-winner, but not exactly a household name to most "Voice" viewers. It seemed like producers were trying to concoct a backstory where there really was none. But this guy didn't need any backstory, as his powerful cover of Bruno Mars's "It Will Rain" was strong enough to inspire all four judges to turn around. Bryan went with Adam, much to the other judges' chagrin (Christina seemed particularly ticked off), and Adam looked as smug as he did the night he scored Javier Colon for his Season 1 team. We'll see if Adam has similar success with Bryan this season.
MEMBER OF: Team Adam

Daniel Rosa - Daniel tried out unsuccessfully last season, but after receiving such nice feedback from both the coaches and "Voice" fans (no meanie Cowell-esque comments on this positive show!), he decided to give it another go with some Gotye in Season 3. His voice had an interesting tone to it, and I did appreciate his country-blues arrangement of "Somebody That I Used To Know." (Hey, he WAS somebody the judges used to know! Heh.) But I was not really feeling this--I still didn't think Daniel was quite ready, and I'd hoped he'd be better, because I was rooting for him. However, Cee Lo and Blake turned around this time, and when Adam got a look at who it was, he ran up onstage and gave Daniel a huge hug. I had doubts that Adam really remembered him--before getting some sort of tipoff from a P.A. in his inner-earbud, that is--since just last season, Christina didn't even recognize her own ex-"Mickey Mouse Club" castmate, Tony Lucca. But anyhoo, it was a nice, if possibly fake, TV moment. As for the coach Daniel went with, he chose Cee Lo, which I thought was the right decision. However, Cee Lo has a history of building very strong teams, so I don't know how long Daniel can last once this season gets to the Battle Rounds. He may be disappointed all over again.
MEMBER OF: Team Cee Lo

Anita Antoinette - This young Jamaican immigrant came with her family to the U.S. when she was 2 years old, in hopes of a better life. She grew up in poverty, but eventually attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music. With a riveting story like that, I thought she was a shoo-in, and I also thought her Lauryn Hill-esque performance of "No Woman No Cry" showed potential...so I was a bit shocked when none of the judges turned around. But when Adam pointed out that Anita didn't express enough emotion during her performance, I did see his point. In a "Voice" first, Anita somehow convinced the panel to let her redo the song a cappella, and it was a much improved effort, earning her a standing ovation from the judges. Christina even said Anita's reprise performance gave her chills. So I was again surprised, considering how this show constantly changes its rules from episode to episode, that the judges didn't change the rules this time and let Anita through in the end. Instead, they just embraced her as Blake pleaded, "Please come back!" Hey, if Daniel Rosa was able to get another chance, this girl certainly can. I bet we will see her again in Season 4.
MEMBER OF: Team No One (for now)

Joe Kirkland - This guy was a member of Fearless Records' Texas pop-punk band Artist Vs. Poet (terrible band name, not a terrible band), but when AvsP's original frontman quit and Joe tried to step up as the new leader, the band's record label wasn't into it. This, of course, seemed like a very bad sign. But all I have to say is, someone fire Fearless Records' A&R person! Joe's performance of the All-American Rejects' "Gives You Hell" was actually awesome, full of personality and spunk, and his voice was totally distinctive. Adam, who along with Blake turned his chair, loved Joe's rare combination of aggression and control; I am sure female "Voice" voters will love Joe's combination of shaggy haircut and cute face. But I digress. Joe went with a fellow rock frontman, Adam, which seemed like a match made in "Voice" heaven. So far, Team Adam seems set to give the competition hell this season.
MEMBER OF: Team Adam

Jessica Sharpe - This small-town North Carolina hairdresser and cover-band singer has only been performing for two years, and though her rendition of "Son Of A Preacher Man" was decent, her inexperience showed. "One chair could change my life," she said hopefully, before her audition, but she didn't get even one chair--no one turned around for her. Jessica looked crushed, and Cee Lo seemed crushed too, once he got an eyeful of this golden beauty. Blake was especially regretful, practically begging Jessica to come back and loudly vowing  that they'd "make history together" in Season 4. I'm not sure why the coaches were so upset--Jessica really wasn't ready yet. They were right to leave their red buttons untouched this time, no matter how pretty, or how sad, Jessica was.
MEMBER OF: Team No One

Trevin Hunte - I loved this 18-year-old shy kid's story: Growing up in a rough area of Queens, his garbageman father brought him home a discarded transistor radio, and it changed his life forever. So Trevin literally found music among ruins. Adding to his sob story was the fact that his misguided eighth-grade teacher once told him to give up on his singing dreams. Luckily, Trevin didn't listen, and he tried out with Beyonce's "Listen" (the same song that "X Factor" winner Melanie Amaro auditioned with last year, by the way) and blew everyone away with his mighty pipes. Christina, who adores big belters, hit her button practically before Trevin made it to his second note, and Cee Lo and Blake buzzed in not too much later. Christina fought hard for Trevin, but eventually Trevin went with Cee Lo, and Xtina was scorned again. But I think Cee Lo and Trevin could make some beautiful music together. See, I told you...Cee Lo builds strong teams!
MEMBER OF: Team Cee Lo

So for those of you keeping track, so far Adam Levine has Bryan Keith and Joe Kirkland, Blake Shelton has Terry McDermott and Gracia Harrison, Cee Lo Green has Daniel Rosa and Trevin Hunte, and Christina Aguilera has De'Borah and Devyn DeLoera (hey, that rhymes!). It's way too soon to predict how this season will pan out, of course, but so far, it seems like Adam could win this thing once again. But there are two more Blind Audition episodes this week alone, plus many more auditions to come, plus a new "Steal" feature and a Knockout Round, so who knows what could happen? All I know is, this season is off to a strong start, so maybe it's not such a bad thing that "The Voice" came back so soon.

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