The Voice is famous for its “gotcha” Blind Audition moments, when the coaches turn around and are shocked by the singer standing before them. It’s what this series is supposed to be all about, really. And after 18 seasons, the coaches can still be surprised. Case in point: Tuesday’s episode, when John Legend and Kelly Clarkson spun for 25-year-old pop singer Zach Day, and Kelly immediately exclaimed, “Whoa! You’re white!”
It’s understandable why Kelly was so stunned. Zach took on a very unexpected song choice, SWV’s 1992 slow jam “Weak,” and he did a smooth, soulful job with it. Upon finding out that this openly gay farm boy (whose supportive family and friends have lovingly nicknamed him “Gaylor Swift” and “Gaycey Musgraves”) actually hails from Kentucky, Kelly even joked, “Are you the only one in your ZIP code singing like that?”
Zach admitted that he’s never fit in in his small town, but he should fit right in on The Voice. The retro crooner ended up on Team Legend (John’s enthusiasm for the SWV classic probably sealed the deal), and John, who was being stingy with his turns on Tuesday, raved, “That’s what I was waiting for. He’s a really special, special singer.”
Zach didn’t provide the only “gotcha” moment of Tuesday’s episode; 14-year-old Levi Watkins, above, was also a surprise. I absolutely loathed his song choice — Train’s “Hey Soul Sister,” hardly a great vocal showcase — but once I took a look at this adorable child prodigy, I was impressed with his poise and charm, especially since this was his first public performance. I was equally impressed by how Blake Shelton (the only coach who turned for Levi) put on an Emmy-worthy poker face, so as not to give anything away. (Kelly had actually assumed Levi was a twentysomething woman!) It’ll be interesting to see where this kid goes from here. But please, no more Train songs.
These were the other successful auditioners of the night:
Arei Moon, 28: “Miss Independent”
This first-generation American, the daughter of hard-working immigrant parents from Cape Verde, did the jazzy, slowed-down live version of one of Kelly’s first post-American Idol singles. The song effectively showed off Arei’s power-singer pipes, enough to wow Kelly (doing a coach’s own tune is always a risk on this show), but I think this arrangement made her seem a little old-fashioned.
Who turned? New coach Nick Jonas and Kelly, who were both out of their seats. But Nick, a fast learner when it comes to how the Voice game is played, blocked Kelly.
Result: Team Nick, by default — much to Kelly’s chagrin.
Chelle, 18: “idontwanttobeyouanymore”
Chelle is a pitch-perfect singer, but it was hard for me to get too excited about a teenager who somehow managed to take a hip young Billie Eilish hit and turn it into snoozy adult-contemporary/hotel lounge fare.
Who turned? Blake, John, and Kelly.
Result: Team Kelly. Nick laid it on thick, telling Chelle, “You’re the kind of artist that I would die to write songs for,” but Kelly offered some sage advice about getting out of one’s head, so she’s probably the wiser pick. Chelle really needs to let loose.
Toneisha Harris, 44: “I Want to Know What Love Is”
Toneisha, who was a successful gospel artist in her twenties, was supposed to try out for The Voice eight years ago — but she cancelled because her son was diagnosed with leukemia and she needed to be there for him. With her son now recovered and doing well in his second year of college, it was time for her to chase her deferred dream. And this audition was worth the wait. This was a masterclass vocal from a grown woman who’s lived a hard and full life, and it made the perfect case for why singing shows should have no age limit (no offense to Levi and Chelle, of course). “You may have taken the time off, but your voice didn’t,” marveled Kelly.
Who turned? All four coaches.
Result: Team Blake, surprisingly. “My heart is broken,” John moaned. “What just happened? gasped Kelly. Even Blake admitted he hadn’t expected this result.
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