After just a few months off, NBC premiered season 16 of the hit reality competition show The Voice on February 25 and it appears there are a few changes in the new season–beginning with the coaches. Jennifer Hudson did not return for season 16, but her seat has been filled by the uber-talented EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony) winner, John Legend. This leaves reigning season 15 winning coach Kelly Clarkson as the sole female occupying a red chair. Also returning are veteran coaches Adam Levine, who has won three times, six-time winner, Blake Shelton and handsome and hilarious host Carson Daly.
Kelsea Ballerini, who coached last season’s Comeback Stage, is now participating as an advisor for Team Kelly, but the Comeback Stage is still returning with Florida Georgia Line duet partner Bebe Rexha coaching. The talented Charlie Puth is onboard to advise Team Adam, Khalid will lend his expert consultation to Team John and Brooks & Dunn will share their expertise with Team Blake.
Blocks and saves also return for season 16, which adds an extra element of competition between the coaches.
With so much excitement around the first show of the season, the energy was palpable before the first singer took the stage, it was obvious that the season would be next level. And the first contestant of the night set the bar high.
First up was 24-year-old Singer, Louisiana native Gyth Ridgon performing Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away.” Blake hit his button pretty quickly, and while John and Kelly seemed to turn simultaneously, John quickly learned about the “block” button. After a super professional performance, John declared, “We’re going to call him Block Shelton,” but he also said, “Your voice sounds really beautiful and powerful. You’re going to do great on the show.” Blake told the singer, “The way you perform is like Garth up there. I would not be surprised to see you in the finale. And your arms are awesome.” With feedback like that, it’s no surprise Gyth chose Team Bake.
Maelyn Jarmon, a 25-year-old from Frisco, Texas who now lives in New York got an immediate turn from Adam, Kelly, and Blake, but John was quick to follow. After singing “Fields of Gold” by Sting, Blake told the young singer, “You just have such precision and power in your voice, it cuts through everything. It literally moved me to hear you sing.” John told Maelyn, “What you did, it showed your skill, it showed your mastery of your instrument, but it showed you have magic, too.” When John Legend says you have magic, presto! You pick Team John.
A native of Guadalajara, Mexico who now lives in Dallas, Karen Galera chose “Mi Corazoncito” by Aventura for her performance. Singing entirely in Spanish, she had barely uttered her first verse before Kelly hit her red button to claim the talented 19-year-old. And, just to drive the point home, Kelly begged her, “Please pick me. I loved you in seconds.” The quick reaction seemed to carry some weight. Karen chose Team Kelly.
It became a “vintage battle” after 26-year-old Trey Rose sang Avicii’s “Wake Me Up.” Both Adam and Blake turned for the Hugo, Oklahoma native. “You blew me away and there was a moment when I turned, you kinda panicked for half a second, but your second pass,” Adam said. “You went from a person I thought was really, really good to a person who could win this thing.” And even though Blake joked, “I’m glad Adam sees that you could win this thing because he’s going to be so happy for us,” Trey chose Team Adam.
In the pre-show promos, fans of The Voice had seen Kim Cherry’s surprising performance of TLC’s “No Scrubs,” but what they might not have expected was where the talented 30-year-old landed. “The fact that you chose that song shows you are fearless,” Blake told her. “And your rapping is dope. You were very different. Why not continue on that path?” It was a convincing argument that was enough to put the Floridian on Team Blake.
Next up was Nashville native Rizzi Myers. More soul than country, the 29-year-old mom and songwriter performed Ariana Grande’s “Breathin’” for her piece. And while Kelly, Blake, and John all turned for the dynamic vocalist, John was, once again, blocked. “As you can see, I’ve been denied the opportunity. We could have made beautiful music together,” John lamented. “You’re so good. You came in here and you showcased almost everything that you’re able to do,” Kelly, “and you seem fun as hell.” After that kind of validation, the choice seemed obvious—Team Kelly
New Yorker Lisa Ramey was actually a repeat candidate from season 15, but with a new coach meant a new opportunity which paid off. Before her performance of King of Leon’s “Sex On Fire,” ended, John hit his button to claim the 33-year-old. “Perseverance paid off,” Adam told her.
Quick turnarounds seemed to be a trend for many of the performers including 31-year-old Jimmy Mowery. Just seconds into his rendition of Charlie Puth’s “Attention,” Adam turned his chair, but John followed shortly after. And while all of the coaches commented on Jimmy’s falsetto being pitchy, there was a tone in his chest voice that they all also heard. The snap decision paid off for Adam as he gained a second team member.
When 15-year-old Lili Joy began singing Gwen Stefani’s “Cool,” Kelly wanted to make sure that Blake realized it was, in fact, a song recorded by his girlfriend. Of course, he knew and after hitting his button for the California girl, he assured the talented young singer, “I just want to be clear about something. You did Gwen’s song and that did get my attention, but I hit my button because of your voice.”
We won’t say that The Voice was saving the best for last, but it sure seemed they saved the smiliest for last with 25-year-old Matthew Johnson. About two-seconds into Matthew’s performance of “I Smile” by Kirk Franklin, Blake’s chair turned. Adam was hot on his heels, then John, and then Kelly. To further drive his commitment home, Adam took off his shoe and threw it to the stage, stating, “In honor of Jennifer Hudson.” It grew apparent that the coaches were going to battle for this young man. “Well brother Johnson, we all enjoyed you as you can see,” John said. “I grew up in the church. I know where you come from.” Adam then chimed in, “I did not grow up in the church, but I did grow up on ‘The Voice.’ Everyone in this room just felt what you did.” Maybe it was their similar background that pushed Matthew towards John’s team.
The Comeback Stage also got their first act of the season. Nathan and Chesi Arnett’s cover of Waylon Jennings’ “Waymore’s Blues” was intriguing to all of the coaches, but not enough to earn a chair turn. Fortunately, Bebe Rexha also thought that the Kentucky couple had something worth exploring further.
And at the end of the first night of blind auditions, the tally is as follows:
Team Adam – 2
Team John – 3
Team Kelly – 2
Team Blake – 3
Comeback Stage – 1