Season 17 of The Voice premiered Monday, sans original coach Adam Levine for the first time in the series’ eight-year history — and it was a little weird how, aside from one very shady comment blurted out by Adam’s former onscreen BFF Blake Shelton, the two-hour episode featured no other acknowledgement of Adam, who left The Voice abruptly (and seemingly acrimoniously) this past May.
“It's not Kelly's fault! She's in Adam's old chair, and it makes her... possessed! You have to go for the jugular if you're in that seat,” Blake snarked after returning coach Kelly Clarkson engaged in some particularly aggressive (read: Levine-like) gameplay. Ooh, snap.
Some context here: Like Blake, Adam had appeared on every Voice season (all 16 of them), without a break, since 2011. But in the past couple years it had become abundantly clear that he was no longer happy sitting in that red chair. (In fact, People reported that Adam wanted to leave The Voice four whole years ago.) Things started to come to a head in Season 15 last year, when Adam threw his contestant DeAndre Nico under the bus on the most bizarre Voice episode ever and diehard viewers subsequently rallied for him to be fired. Then in Season 16, when a new-fangled and ill-advised Cross-Battles round (which has thankfully been scrapped this season) resulted in Team Adam getting almost entirely wiped out before the Live Playoffs even began, a disgruntled Adam reportedly became even more difficult to work with.
A source told Yahoo Entertainment that by the end of the Season 16, “No one behind the scenes want[ed] him to return.” During a performance by the coaches at NBC’s spring Upfronts presentation, Adam was so grouchy and scowl-y that a YouTube clip of the event was quickly taken down; another inside source that witnessed that debacle told Yahoo, “[Adam] sang, but he made it so clear he did not want to be there. It was disgusting. ... He made it impossible not to hate him.”
Well, the feeling was apparently mutual. So now Adam is gone, and it’s like the “Beautiful Goodbye” singer was never even there. And with Adam’s onscreen bromance with Blake over, in Adam’s place/chair for Monday’s premiere was Blake’s showmance partner, girlfriend and returning on/off coach Gwen Stefani. (This season’s fourth coach is reigning champ John Legend.) And it was nothing but good vibes all around. Even with Gwen’s sneaky anti-Blake scheming — hey, all’s fair in love and Voice, right? — the mood felt lighter and brighter.
I can’t say I missed Adam and his bad mojo at all, and I don’t think the coaches did either. (Amusingly, at one point Kelly actually said she missed Jennifer Hudson — who was a Voice coach in Seasons 13 and 15, and a very good one at that — but Kelly never uttered a word about Adam’s more glaring absence.) However, public reaction on Twitter was mixed. Some fans were missing Adam, while others felt him being gone was refreshing. One person tweeted: "I was worried about no Adam on @voicenbc — but we are LOVING this season!"
It's true that — for better or worse — The Voice wasn't quite the same without Adam. But it was still an entertaining premiere with some solid auditions, as seen below. And isn’t the talent what this show is supposed to be about, anyway? Let’s get to it.