'The Voice': Wide Range of Artists Kick Off Season 9

The first round of blind auditions featured performers from ages 15 to 66.
Brian Bowen Smith/NBC
The Voice

The Voice’s ninth season debuted on NBC tonight, with season-eight coaches Blake Shelton, Adam Levine and Pharrell all returning to their chairs. Gwen Stefani, who sat out last season, also came back as a coach. The four coaches kicked off the premiere with a group performance before getting to the first round of the blind auditions.

Mark Hood, who has an acting background, was the first singer up. He said Shelton would be his top choice for a coach since it’s an unexpected match. He sang “Use Me” by Bill Withers and got chair turns from all four coaches. “You made me real happy,” Shelton said. All four made passionate pitches, and Hood ended up changing his mind about Shelton, going with Team Pharrell, which does seem to be the better fit for his jazzy sound.

Next up was Kota Wade, who moved to California from New Mexico as an 11-year-old to pursue her music career. She eventually started a rock band called Bad Wolf, but she decided to go more of a soul route for her blind audition and sang “Bring It on Home to Me.” Shelton compared her to Cyndi Lauper, but Wade said she has idolized Stefani since she was five years old, so she picked Team Gwen.

Thirty-three-year-old Irish rocker Keith Semple auditioned next. He sang Bon Jovi’s “I’ll Be There for You” and got a chair turn from Levine as well as a last-second turn from Stefani, who tried to play her part-Irish card to secure Semple for Team Gwen. Both Stefani and Levine name-dropped Bono in their pitches for Semple. Shelton, as usual, advocated for Stefani just to sabotage Levine. In the end, Semple went with Team Adam.

Alyssa Sheridan from San Diego auditioned next, and she dedicated her performance to her stepdad, who was killed while serving in the military. She sang “I Will Remember You” by Sarah McLachlan, and none of the coaches turned their chairs, but she said she would continue to work toward her goal of having a career in music.

Siahna Im, a 15-year-old artist, sang “Fever,” and Stefani turned her chair almost immediately, followed later by Shelton and Pharrell. Im had a mature voice, and the coaches were all surprised to see how young she is. Defending The Voice champion Pharrell used his signature move and got up from the chair to give her a hug. It worked, and she became Team Pharrell’s second artist.

The next artist, Jordan Smith, sang Sia’s “Chandelier,” which is an ambitious song choice, but he proved to have strong vocal control and secured a quadruple chair turn. He also got a standing ovation from the coaches, who were all so impressed with his performance. Smith was faced with a tough choice when all four coaches made it very clear how badly they wanted him. After a dramatic cut to commercial, Smith made his choice: Team Adam.

The next artist goes by Dr. Paul and is a 66-year-old veteran and musician. He sang “Mama Tried,” but none of the coaches pressed their buttons. Shelton complimented his overall tone but said there were some errors with his technique.

Well into the second hour of the premiere, and Team Blake was still artist-less. Nadjah Nicole auditioned with “Tightrope” by Janelle Monae, and Levine turned his chair first, but Shelton snuck in a last-second turn, so it was a classic Shelton-Levine faceoff. Nadjah went for Team Blake, becoming Shelton’s first artist of season nine.

Braiden Sunshine, at just 15 years old, sang “The Mountains Win Again,” and at first it looked like he wasn’t going to get any coaches to push their buttons, but then Stefani and Pharrell both turned on his very last note. He picked Team Gwen, even though he went in thinking he would choose Pharrell.

Following Sunshine, Michael Woolery, the son of longtime game-show host Chuck Woolery, sang “Say” by John Mayer, and the coaches were not impressed enough to turn their chairs.

The last artist of the night was Barrett Baber, who survived a plane crash that took 11 lives in 1999. He sang “Angel Eyes,” and all four coaches turned almost immediately. “I’m trying to pioneer a new sound,” Baber told the coaches, expressing an interest in combining country and soul and carving out his own place in music. Levine pointed out that Baber has a little bit of each of the coaches’ style in him. He decided to join Team Blake.

Night one of the blind auditions showcased an immense range of talent, with artists from all different levels of experience fighting to stand out. Whose team do you think looks the tightest so far?

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