'The Voice' Season 7 Premiere Recap: Gwen Stefani, Pharrell Make Competitive Debuts

"Have you not had to fight all your life? Did you not just sing that onstage just now? I rest my case"
Trae Patton/NBC
'The Voice'

The Voice returned on Monday night with its winning bromance, a couple new coaches and a nostalgic hit for its traditional kickoff performance. Gwen Stefani, Pharrell Williams, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine first joined forces for No Doubt's 2001 hit "Hella Good" — a lackluster opening in comparison to season six's genre-swapping medley, but at least it was a complete time warp to her band's decade, as Stefani led the audience in an ill-advised "Ooh! Ooh!' chant.

See more 'The Voice' Coaches' Best and Worst Moments, From Push-Ups to Empty Praise

After giving in to Williams' authentic encouragement and Stefani's boy band/girl cards, a handful of successful singers made it through the first night of season seven's blind auditions.

Luke Wade
Song: "That's How Strong My Love Is"
Coaches who turned their chairs: All four
The soulful son of a painter and a dancer lost his vision in one eye in a paintball accident, but the band frontman enticed all the coaches with endless runs that got Levine standing on his chair. Williams name-dropped Robin Thicke and Justin Timberlake, Stefani touted her band experience, and Levine and Shelton noted their previous show wins. In the end, the season's first auditionee went with Williams, who knows soul best.

Clara Hong
Song: "Chuck E's in Love"
Coaches who turned their chairs: Levine, Stefani, Williams
The South Korean transplant learned English through music, and dropped out of college to pursue it professionally (while working as a banquet server). After she projected a Norah Jones-esque vibe on the classic, Stefani took her own mic and gave Hong a one-on-one lesson onstage presence via her "Just a Girl" hit. Then Levine greeted her in Korean and penned her a poem, and Williams followed suit by freestyling a few rhymes. Hong opted for Levine.

Bryana Salaz
Song: "Problem"
Coaches who turned their chairs: Levine, Shelton, Stefani
The teenage military brat, currently hailing from Texas, tried her very, very raw chops om the Ariana Grande hit. After a bit of bromance banter, Stefani's fiesty fact-check ("Um, I think I might have the longest career!"), Williams' endorsement of the only female coach and Shelton's championship brag ("No one's had a better track record with younger people on the show than your Uncle Blake") Salaz picked Stefani and earned the first Team Gwen T-shirt.

See more Meet 'The Voice' Season 7 Coaches Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams

Damien
Song: "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday"
Coaches who turned their chairs: All four
The Louisiana native moved to Los Angeles to chase his music dreams, and while working as a TSA agent in the meantime, he watched his co-worker die in an LAX gunman incident. His first phrase of the Boyz II Men ballad immediately intrigued Levine, Stefani and Williams, with Shelton following suit after hearing his controlled R&B stylings. Though he teared up after his last note, he triggered endless compliments the coaches and ended up picking Levine.

Allison Bray
Song: "Merry Go 'Round"
Coaches who turned their chairs: Shelton, Stefani, Levine
After not making it past her pitchy blind audition in season six, the new high school graduate sharpened her skills by starting a band. Despite the three-chair turn on the Kacey Musgraves song, Shelton felt he had it in the bag as he complimented her breath control and refreshing sound; he even told Stefani, "Don't speak," quoting her band's hit. Though Stefani touted the possibilities of trying an offbeat collaborator by showcasing her musical synergy with Williams, and Levine tried to just piss Shelton off, Bray stuck with the country coach.  

Taylor John Williams
Song: "Heartless"
Coaches who turned their chairs: Levine, Stefani
The Portland performer, who works at a dog hotel during the day, impressed two coaches with an acoustic cover of the Kanye West hit. Stefani applauded his creative spin, which would spur her own creativity (as she fanned herself off), and Levine highlighted his precision and the fact that he hit his button first. "Adam understands your voice, but Gwen understands your future," said a neutral Pharrell Williams. "You pressed your button first because you heard yourself!" The auditionee opted for Stefani.

Elyjuh Rene
Song: "XO"
Coaches who turned their chairs: Levine, Williams
The self-proclaimed "momma's boy" (she is his momager, after all) is a perennial performing arts contest competitor, and leaned on his contest experience while tackling the Beyonce hit with unique but natural phrasing. Shelton was visibly surprised when he turned to find a guy onstage, one who was tearing up after the performance. Williams described him as "anointed" and Levine called the audition "blissful," but Williams debuted the power of personal encouragement: "Have you not had to fight all your life? Did you not just sing that onstage just now? I rest my case," he said. It was effective enough, as Rene chose the "Happy" coach. Shelton congratulated Williams, "You Barbara Walters'd his ass."

James David Carter
Song: "Nobody Knows"
Coaches who turned their chairs: All four
After the sports star suffered an injury, the now-working musician has opened for Brad Paisley, Trace Adkins and Shelton himself, when he had a mullet. The unanimously pleasing auditionee hilariously thanked Stefani for teaching him how to spell the word "bananas" (in reference to her "Hollaback Girl" track), and Stefani and Levine competed to see who could stand tallest on their big red chairs. Shelton said he's been drinking too much to try it himself, but he spotlighted his country genre expertise — enough to nab the last singer of the night.

The Voice continues Tuesday night at 8 p.m. on NBC. 

Email: Ashley.Lee@THR.com
Twitter: @cashleelee

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