They’re baaaackk! Yes, it’s time for a new season of hopefuls to belt out tunes and charm the coaches in the season 12 premiere of The Voice. Miley Cyrus is gone (boo, just kidding, yay!), and Gwen Stefani is back (whoo-hoo). It should be interesting to see how Gwen and real-life love and fellow coach Blake Shelton reconcile their on-screen clashes with their off-screen romance.
Gwen returns after a two-season hiatus, and after a hit album and a tour, she’s “super inspired.” Three-time champ Adam Levine sees the new combination of coaches as a threat but is confident that none of them have his charisma. Singer/songwriter/producer Alicia Keys returns and promises that her inner-competitive nature is alive and well. Her strategy is to “be in her heart and not her head.” Finally, last season’s winning coach, Blake Shelton, is determined to win, even if the competition is his girlfriend — and he’s not “talking about Adam.”
Joshua Hunter/JChosen (“Sexual Healing”)
Joshua Hunter, 29, is from Albany, Georgia. His stage name is “JChosen” because he thinks he was chosen to do music. This former college basketball player seemed destined for the NBA until he shattered his knee. But his bigger passion is music, so he started going to open mic nights and recording. JChosen, a single dad, currently lives in Atlanta and pays the bills by teaching special needs children while pursuing his dream of making it in music.
The soulful Joshua kills it, getting all four coaches to turn. Adam goes up on stage, gives the guy a hug and thanks him for his performance. Alicia is convinced that the late Marvin Gaye is in heaven applauding Joshua. She loves his vulnerability, something Keys doesn’t think we get to see from men too often. Adam tries to pull the “nobody can understand you like I can” card but gets checked by Gwen, who points out that she’s been in a band with all men.
Result: JChosen chooses Team Gwen
Lauren Duski (You Were Meant for Me”)
This 25-year-old singer from Michigan comes from a family of dentists, so needless to say, she’s got some pearly whites. She isn’t sure where her musical talent comes from because her dad admits that he doesn’t even sing in the shower. Lauren has been performing since the age of 9 and traveled throughout Michigan performing with a country band. She may sing country, but she’s already got her sights set on Gwen as her coach because it will help her scope of music.
Adam, Gwen and Blake all turn around, and Adam is convinced that Lauren’s blend of subtlety and soulfulness is exactly what it takes to win The Voice. Gwen is blown away by the fact that Lauren uses “every single part of her voice” but wants to work more on showcasing the singer’s personality. Blake has no doubt that Lauren can win the whole thing, and he wants to work with people who he thinks will go on to be a big star, especially country artists.
Result: Lauren Duski chooses Team Blake
Johnny Hayes (“Try a Little Tenderness”)
Johnny Hayes, 29, is returning after not making the cut in season 11. He took the coaches’ critiques to heart. Johnny works with his dad doing landscaping and credits his wife, Meredith, for encouraging him to be a better man, husband and musician.
All of Johnny’s hard work pays off because not only do Adam and Gwen turn around, but Adam gives Johnny a standing ovation. Adam has lost two top picks, and he’s not about to let Gwen lure Johnny away. Adam praises Johnny for nailing an Otis Redding song since you can’t succeed without going all in. Blake speaks up on behalf of his girlfriend, equating Johnny’s comeback with Gwen’s. Poor Adam; it’s two against one.
Result: Johnny Hayes chooses Team Adam
Skyler Harris (“One and Only”)
Skyler, 25, is a police officer from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Music is a huge part of Skyler’s life, but with her full-time job, she doesn’t have a lot of time for gigs. So being on The Voice would reshape her entire career. She was involved in an abusive relationship, during which she never sang. One night, sitting on her porch, she began to hum, and she realized all she had to do was get up, walk away and everything would change.
Unfortunately, sometimes a touching backstory isn’t enough. Nobody turns for the singer. Alicia says nobody can deny that Skyler has an incredible voice and wants to know more about her story. While Alicia is impressed with Skyler’s powerful voice, she didn’t get the vulnerability and uncertainty apparent while Skyler recalled the domestic violence in her past. Alicia feels that Skyler sharing her story will save a lot of women who hear that it’s okay to walk away.
Anatalia Villaranda (“Runaway Baby”)
The diminutive Anatalia, 16, and her family sing karaoke all the time. After performing in a talent show at age 10, Anatalia became part of a singing and dancing group that performed all over LA. They were close to signing a record deal when the group fell apart.
Anatalia is a firecracker on stage, and her enthusiasm pays off when she gets a four-chair turn. Blake says Anatalia’s energy beat them down until someone hit their button and jokes that it’s too bad the girl has no personality. Alicia sees more than a voice; she also sees an artist. Gwen is passionate about Anatalia’s positivity, and Adam praises Anatalia for having a greatness that can’t be taught.
Result: Anatalia Villaranda chooses Team Alicia
Stephanie Rice (“Piece By Piece”)
Stephanie Rice, 27, is a preacher’s daughter. She remembers being told she was sick when she came out as a lesbian. Her family disowned her, and she hasn’t had a relationship with her family in nine years. She also has two younger sisters, and her biggest fear is being a disappointment to them. She has a degree in Biology, worked on a project with HIV subjects and has been published.
Lovebirds Gwen and Blake go head-to-head for the first time. Gwen says she could feel whatever pain was inside Stephanie and can tell that music is an outlet. With Alicia and Adam backing up Gwen, Blake senses Stephanie slipping through his grasp, but he tells her that the way she sang the song made him feel as if she wrote it.
Result: Stephanie Rice chooses Team Gwen
Branden Martin (“Here’s a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares)”)
Branden, 25, is a Kentucky boy. His dad got his son his first guitar when he was just 14. Branden’s a jack of all trades, but when he’s not working, he’s singing with his band that performs a mix of traditional country and Southern rock. If he had to pick any coach, it would be Blake.
No turnarounds for Martin. Adam jokes that Branden is so country, he makes Blake look like a poser. Gwen and Adam encourage Martin to deliver with more conviction, and Blake suggests that the man’s vocals could use a little work. Adam encourages Branden to come back.
Mark Isaiah (“Mercy”)
Mark, 19, lives in Mt. Pocono, Pennsylvania. Mark admits to lacking confidence, a lot of which stems from him being overweight as a child. He’s super tight with his younger brother, Roby, who shares his big bro’s love of music.
Gwen turns before Adam, and she can’t believe that Mark isn’t signed already. Gwen promises that if he joins her team, she’ll do her best to teach him everything she’s learned. Adam believes Mark belongs in the current landscape of pop music.
Result: Mark Isaiah chooses Team Adam
Brennley Brown (“Stupid Boy”)
This 14-year-old girl from Apple Valley, California, is a huge fan of the show. She grew up on a ranch and is no stranger to chores that have taught her responsibility. Her dad introduced her to country music, and Brennley did her first talent show at the tender age of 6. For this season, The Voice lowered the age requirement from 15 to 13, giving Brennley an opportunity she’s dreamed of since she was 8.
It’s Alicia and Blake fighting over this precious prodigy. Brennley’s inspirations are old-school country, and Blake can’t think of another coach who can help Brennley make her mark on country music like he can. Alicia started when she was just 14, so she understands what it means to be a young woman in the biz, and it’s far harder than Blake could ever know. Alicia doesn’t want the girl stuck in a box because music transcends.
Result: Brennley Brown chooses Team Blake
Sean Chrisjohn (“You are the Best Thing”)
Sean, 31, hails from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he got his roots for music. He’s all about cheesesteaks and rocking out on the weekends. Raised by his grandmother, Sean was exposed to Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson and Sam Cooke. His plans to head to NYC or LA after high school were put on hold when his grandmother’s health started to fade. He knows what it’s like to put aside your dream to sacrifice for something more important, but now is his time.
This one is a heartbreaker, but no one turns for Sean. Alicia encourages him to feel nothing but proud of himself. He came out and gave it his all. Blake was on the edge, but Sean’s voice wasn’t quite on point enough to take the plunge.
Felicia Temple (“All I Could Do was Cry”)
Felicia, 28, is a registered nurse from Teaneck, New Jersey. Felicia always grew up wanting to be a musician. She’s done shows with BET and sang the National Anthem at Madison Square Garden. She was forced to put music on hold when she was diagnosed with a very rare cancer that is also difficult to treat. She’s currently cancer-free. Life is short, and Felicia is ready to live her dream.
After all three judges turn except for Adam, Alicia questions what is wrong with the Maroon 5 lead singer. The soulful singer seems so destined for Alicia’s team that Gwen goes to sit with her sweetheart. Adam wants to hear Felicia, who calls herself “Felicia Keys,” do a duet. The two collaborate on Alicia’s “Fallin’.” It’s pretty obvious who Felicia is going to pick.
Result: Felicia Temple chooses Team Alicia
Who was your favorite performer of the night? Are Blake and Gwen as cute as a basket of kittens or annoying to watch? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.