Home Entertainment Blake Shelton goes on the offensive on ‘The Voice’: ‘Listen to what the other three… and then tear those pitches apart’

Blake Shelton goes on the offensive on ‘The Voice’: ‘Listen to what the other three… and then tear those pitches apart’

Blake Shelton goes on the offensive on 'The Voice': 'Listen to what the other three... and then tear those pitches apart'

During Tuesday’s The Voice Blind Auditions, semi-rookie coach Nick Jonas took the high road, so moved by 21-year-old former foster kid Zae Romeo’s heartbreaking backstory and yearning cover of Harry Styles’s “Falling” that he actually described Zae’s four-chair performance as “spiritual.” But incumbent coach Blake Shelton, of course, took the less spiritual low road. The usual TV hilarity ensued.

Not only did Blake spend much of the episode amusingly accusing his fellow coaches of being “Hollywood” sellouts — this despite the fact that he’s engaged to the ultimate Southern California glamour girl, Gwen Stefani — but prior to Zae’s audition, Blake had blocked Nick from recruiting another promising contestant. (Nick then blasted Blake for being a “big bully.”) So when it came time to battle Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, and new threat Nick for Zae, Blake no longer had a Block in play… but he could still play dirty.

“I don’t know really what I can say here to convince you. I think my best chances are to listen to what the other three are gonna say, and then tear those pitches apart!” Blake told Zae matter-of-factly. (“He’s more of a negative campaigner,” John chuckled.) Blake also went on the offensive when Kelly offered Zae some rare but needed constructive criticism — even daring to call Kelly, a.k.a. America’s sweetheart, “mean,” just for being honest.

At this point, it all seemed to come down to nice guys Nick vs. John. John loved Zae’s “interesting twists and turns,” juxtaposition of his fluttery lower-range vibrato with his “piercing notes,” and overall “artistic flair.” But it was Nick’s discerning ear, when he picked up on Zae’s Labrinth fandom, that gave him the edge. (Blake couldn’t compete with that. Considering that he had to look up the word “melancholy” in the dictionary Tuesday, and on Monday’s Season 20 premiere he’d failed to recognize his own ex-bandmate or John’s Oscar-winning song “Glory,” it’s safe to assume that Blake doesn’t know much about Labrinth.)

“Do you listen to Labrinth? I could hear that influence there,” Nick told Zae. “What you did kind of embodied all the things that he does so well, but you gave it your own twist — the way you approach the higher part of your register, the vulnerability of the softer moments. The performance was phenomenal.” But then Nick, who competed in one Voice season last year and has returned to the series with a vengeance in 2021, threw in a little bit of Blake-style shade, admitting to Zae: “I have not won the show… and I’ve got an enormous chip on my shoulder. I feel like I could get there with you, to that finale, and win this thing.”

And just like that, Zae joined Team Jonas — a team already off to a great start with previous recruits Dana Monique, Devan Blake Jones, and especially guitar maverick Raine Stern. While I agreed with Kelly’s astute comment about Zae needing to work a bit on his pitch and breath control (she noted that there were “a couple parts that were a little shaky”), Zae infused his performance with so much passion, pathos, and pain, and that’s something that can’t really be taught. As the saying in the biz goes, you’ve either got it or you don’t — and Zae’s got it. And now, despite Blake’s negative campaigning, Nick’s got Zae.

These were the other successful Blind Auditions of Tuesday night:

Gean Garcia, 19: “All I Want”

I freely admit that I thought this was a female contestant, and judging from the GIFable look on Kelly’s face when she spun around and saw this high-pitched crooner, she did too. The voice so completely did match the face here, it almost looked like Gean was lip-synching. That element of surprise only heightened the drama of his exquisite performance. “There is such presence with your voice. It just sounds so beautifully broken. Even your approach to it is so sad. It’s so melancholy, and I love that,” gushed Kelly. Once Blake was done Googling “melancholy,” he revealed that he’d blocked Nick, but explained to Gean, “It’s only because I’m that passionate about your voice.”

Who turned? Blake, Kelly, and a blocked Nick.

Result: Team Kelly! So, Blake’s one Block of the season went to waste. I bet he was… wait for it… melancholy about that.

Aaron Konzelman, 39: “Ordinary World”

Duran Duran covers are always a good thing on singing competitions, as far as I’m concerned, and Aaron did such a fab job transforming the British New Romantics’ Wedding Album ballad into a rustic Americana campfire song that even Blake was impressed. (Blake actually seemed very familiar with the Duran tune, and even joked that John had mistaken it for Bowling for Soup.)

Who turned? Blake and John.

Result: Team Blake. John laid it on thick, praising “real musician” Aaron’s “combination of being raspy and angelic,” but Blake honestly did seem like the best fit in this case. Can we have a country-rock power-ballad remake of “Save a Prayer” next, please?

Carolina Rial, 17: “Stay With Me”

Carolina is talented, but I honestly thought she’d turn no chairs — at first. She had all these weird enunciation habits, and her over-singing affectations and the liberties she took with Sam Smith’s classic melody were off-putting. But then… plot twist! Once Carolina climbed up into her higher range on the soaring chorus and just straight-up sannnng, there was some actual magic there. And that’s when John and Nick turned around, almost simultaneously. Kelly did not turn, however, later explaining that while Carolina has a “beautiful gift” for someone so young, she needs to sing “maybe not as many riffs… because then it kind of takes away the special vibe” — more wise words from Kelly, indeed.

Who turned? John (who overpraised this performance as a “tour de force”) and Nick.

Result: Team Legend. Kelly noted that John “has been arranging vocals for years,” and he does seem like the guy to teach Carolina how to pick her moments. A little will go a long way with this girl.

Ethan Lively, 17: “You Look So Good in Love”

This was another performance that I’d expected to be a no-chair failure. And there was no plot twist this time. I was intrigued by Ethan’s gruff speaking voice, which Blake later described as “sandpapery” and “almost bigger and louder” than Ethan’s actual singing. But unlike Carolina, whose performance was uneven but eventually gained momentum, Ethan, despite his surname, wasn’t very lively at all. There was no sense of dynamics, no emotion, and the only exciting moment of his performance was when Kelly, clearly a fan of the George Strait song choice, started harmonizing with Ethan under her breath. But, Kelly still didn’t turn around.

Who turned? Just Blake. I think it was the song choice that saved Ethan. But I can’t imagine this kid would have joined any other team anyway, if he’d had the option.

Result: Team Blake, obviously. Blake still played dirty, even though he’d won by default, insulting the other coaches as he grumbled, “I’m a little bit embarrassed that I’m the only one that turned around; sometimes it’s sad to me, the lack of country music knowledge these other three have!” But I think Blake knew it wasn’t any unfamiliarity with the Strait songbook that that prevented John, Nick, or especially Kelly from hitting their buttons.

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