'The Voice' Coaches' Best and Worst Moments: From Push-Ups to Empty Praise (Photos)
6:20 PM PDT 5/13/2014 by Ashley Lee
As the NBC singing show continues to showcase more of its coaches' behind-the-scenes strategies before their singers hit the stage, THR looks back at their some of their top shining -- and shocking -- moments.
To help them channel compelling emotions, Usher often challenges his battle pairings to sing to each other from across the room, but guest mentor Jill Scott took the technique to another level by asking them to rehearse the track while standing back-to-back. But his best moments came while coaching Michelle Chamuel in season four, and had her sing "True Colors" into the mirror to evoke an emotional honesty.
'I Hate This Country'
A not-so-good coaching moment for Adam Levine came when two of his contestants were eliminated in season four, causing him to suddenly blurt out, "I hate this country." He then apologized, saying that the elimination "was confusing and downright emotional for me, and my comments were made based on my personal dissatisfaction with the results."
'Swamp Pop' Genre
Blake Shelton highlighted a very niche genre when he first calledRay Boudreaux's voice "swampy" during his blind audition. Throughout the rest of the competition, Boudreaux's signature sound was referred to as "swamp pop."
Among the worst comments a contestant can hear is the overly complimentary one that even supersedes the coaches. "If you ever open the school of Sisaundra Lewis, I'm sure the four of us would enroll," Shakira told a singer the night before she was eliminated via viewer vote in season six.
Auditioning for Green
Cee Lo Green was notorious for hitting on female singers during the blind auditions – and sometimes the strategy was less effective than others. Still, he shined as the top coaching candidate when highlighting a contestant's individuality, saying that he too is a man of many genres. (Also, when he had a cat, or a bird, or some kind of animal.)
Christina Aguilera brought in her choreographer to help Matthew Schuler not only get more comfortable with covering an entire stage, but also to add a couple confident and charismatic dance moves that ended up helping his performance.
Follow the Followers
Shakira makes sure to plug her influential pedestal during the blind auditions. "Social media is going to be critical in getting votes, and I have twenty million followers on Twitter -- these guys together don't get to seventeen!" she said in season six, also adding that she "might have been hormonal and sleepless" in season four, after having a baby.
Chris Martin Mentors
Coldplay's Chris Martin, who appeared in season six as the first universal mentor, showed off his potential coaching chops by leading singers through breathing exercises, helping them feel confident with microphone stands and teaching them to channel tracks as songwriters rather than simply as performers. "You need to bring out your Mic Jagger's a bit," he said of conquering the stage. "He goes everywhere, you feel as an audience, 'He's coming over to me,' and that's why he's the best frontman in the world."
A master of "staying in the pocket" in his own songs, Adam Levine always shares his tricks. For example, hehad his guest mentor Aloe Blacc coach two singers on his own song, "The Man" -- a track with a tricky rhythm. To get into the groove, the two had the battle pairing talk and clap through the verses until it stuck.
Christina Aguilera was a big fan of Adam Levine's Tessanne Chin during season five, but often oddly asked her to showcase her ethnicity more. “Every week, I hear that Jamaican accent get a little bit stronger, I hear it more and more – you know I love that,” she said, followed by an irrelevant anecdote set in Jamaica. Blake Shelton then told Chin, "All that’s stuff’s cool and I know you’re proud of that, but you are a world-class vocalist, and that’s what I think people should talk about."
When the coaches seem to be so impressed by someone onstage, they simply resort to calling The Voice some version of "the best show ever" – while this episode caught Cee Lo Green doing it, they all do fairly evenly, which gets the off the hook at giving actual feedback, leaving the contestant to lose out on hearing a valuable opinion.
Adam Levine has a few signature dead-end compliments that are major red flags: 1) No matter what anyone else says, you did your best and that's all that matters, 2) I wish I still had you on my team (which is a waste of value feedback air time), and 3) you are a great representation of your genre (which mostly directed at country musicians at this point). Yet when he didn't like others' feedback about his creative choices with Christina Grimmie, he griped, "I don't think we want to sit here and do karaoke. We want to surprise people, we want to impress people, we want to make people uncomfortable a little bit so that hopefully they can embrace some music they've never heard before."
Usher taught his season-six singer T.J. Wilkins to imitate an instrument when singing Rufus and Chaka Khan's "Tell Me Something Good" -- particularly, a tenor sax. "The more you give me that soulful essence and personalize this record, the better it's going to be for you." He also famously asks singers to run laps around the stage to help with energy and breath control, while also getting comfortable with the intimidating surface area.
Mickey Mouse Showdown
In season two, Christina Aguilera seemed happy to see fellow former Mousketeer Tony Lucca auditioning, even if he picked Adam Levine as his coach. But she then began calling him "one-dimensional" and noted that Justin Timberlake's tweets were the root of his onscreen popularity. "Obviously we get a lot of support,” she said. “You've got me and your old Mouseketeer buddies behind you. And Justin in particular. I hope this is really a contest about the voice. I think there are just better voices on the show, rather than a celebrity sway kind of thing."
An instrumental man himself, Blake Shelton always tries hard to make sure singers aren't hiding behind their guitars, and pushes them to rethink whether they're leaning on an acoustic guitar like a crutch onstage. But then again, if it's special, it's worth showing off in smaller bits, as he memorably showcased his finalist Dia Frampton playing the piano, but only at the very end of season one.
The Voice always kicks off its seasons with a performance by all four coaches, but rather than having them all collaborate on a single song like Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" or Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n' Roll," they took each other's tracks for a genre-swapping spin on the same stage. Blake Shelton sings Shakira's English-language breakout, "Whenever, Wherever," with the Latin songstress joining him for the chorus. She then picks up her mic stand to rock out on "Boys Round Here," Shelton's hit with Pistol Annies & Friends. Usher then emerges from among the audience, taking the lead on Maroon 5's "Love Somebody" as Adam Levine sings the harmony line. As all four join onstage, Levine launches into Usher's "Without You."
Taylor Swift's Creative Crazy
The second universal mentor of the series, Taylor Swift stopped by during season seven to drop some unique advice: "Let your mind be the metronome, and be still," she insightfully advised a swaying singer, and told another of effective eye contact, "Think of your eyes as if they have laser beams or spotlights in them — give bold, hurt, dejected looks, and use that as your sniper shot." Also, "She just needs to sell to the audience that she's a total mess, because people love total messes — come on," she told the camera with a slight wink once, and, "That's the difference between a singer and a performer; a singer sings for themselves and a performer performs for everyone else."
Prioritizing Musical Identity
The "Happy" mastermind's feedback centered mostly on who contestants were, musically, rather than how they sounded technically. "Your performance was perfect, but it was so perfect that I didn't get to see who you are," he told one singer who delivered a flawless, yet impersonal, audition. "I personally want to hear your story when you sing."
Stevie Nicks Says It Best
"Don't try to ever be Christina Aguilera! I can't be her, and neither can you!" shouted Stevie Nicks at one point to two of Adam Levine's singers before a season-seven battle. Imitation may the most sincere form of flattery, but it may not be what wins a match.
Boys and Girls
While judges Christina Aguilera and Shakira often touted their girl-power sensibilities and maternal instincts to lure female contestants, Gwen Stefanitook a more lighthearted approach. "Do you like clothes? I have so many clothing lines, it's crazy! I can hook you up, I can so hook you up!" she promised one female singer. And when a male performer is up for grabs, she plays her "boy" card by noting that she's in a band with a ton of guys, and is married to Gavin Rossdale.
Alicia Keys in the Bathroom?
Guest advisor Alicia Keys (to Pharrell Williams) had hilariously unique advice for a contestant who was grappling with breath control problems: "Push your belly out as if you're gonna go take a poop."
Who says the coaches have to be fiercely competitive? Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams played nice during the blind auditions — when they saw themselves solely eyeing the same contestant for the first time, Shelton stated, "They're gonna nice each other to death," while Levine added, "They're gonna fight each other with rainbows and happiness." Accordingly, Pharrell let Stefani have the floor first, to which Shelton commented, "See? The first handful of cotton candy has been thrown!" And as they patted each other on the back instead of shooting each other down, Levine noted, "It's like watching a candy cane sword fight over here!"