The Voice’s Blake Shelton is famously engaged to his on/off fellow Voice coach Gwen Stefani, who surely would have loved Monday contestant Pia Renee, a 37-year-old single mom who auditioned with Stevie Wonder’s “Master Blaster (Jammin’)” and declared “reggae has my heart.” Gwen, the woman who has Blake’s heart, is sitting out this current Voice season to make way for returning cast member Nick Jonas, so Blake amusingly attempted to score some cred with Pia by playing the Gwen card — claiming to be a huge reggae and ska fan now, thanks to his fiancé’s influence. And Blake was so eager to recruit Pia that he may have inadvertently started rumors about upcoming his wedding date and Gwen’s Season 20 whereabouts.
“To say that I don’t know anything about the kind of music [Pia] is performing would disqualify the fact that, who knows, by the time this airs, Gwen Stefani could even be my wife by then!” blurted Blake. “She’s delivering twins right now! She’s pushing them out! But I’m here, working.”
“Breaking news!” quipped coach John Legend, who then pointed out, “Gwen is great… but Blake is not Gwen.”
So now Pia’s audition has officially aired, and as far as we know, Blake and Gwen have not eloped, nor are they parents of newborn twins. That was just a typical Blake joke, which may have backfired in more ways than one. But John wasn’t kidding about Blake’s lack of reggae-knowledge-by-Gwen-association. The future Mr. Stefani couldn’t even fake a working knowledge of Pia’s influences. He had no idea what John (who also spun for Pia) was talking about when John referenced neo-soul singer Rahsaan Patterson, for instance. And when John also mentioned that he’d recently recorded a duet, “Memories,” with reggae icon Buju Banton, Blake mistook “buju” for “some type of soft bread.” That funny foodstuff flub was — as Pia later explained — what ruined any very slim chance Blake might’ve had of persuading her.
“Blake trying to use the reggae/ska card was maybe the saddest display ever!” cackled Blake’s extremely amused Voice rival, Kelly Clarkson. “Still waiting on that reggae hit from Shelton!”
As for whether Pia can have a reggae hit, I am not so sure. She is a feisty badass with swag for days and a cool image, but she was a better performer than vocalist. There wasn’t anything truly unique about her song pick or her interpretation of it, and she only let loose vocally at the end, which was probably why Blake and John’s turns were two of the most last-minute in Voice history. But Pia definitely picked the right coach to bring out her best. And maybe she can make it up to Blake by performing at the Shelton/Stefani wedding reception — just as long as some “soft bread” is served.
These were Monday’s other successful Blind Auditions:
Ryleigh Modig, 18: “When the Party’s Over”
Ryleigh is a lesbian, which made for a hilarious TV moment when Kelly worried aloud that Ryleigh would be charmed by hunky ex-teen idol Nick, and Ryleigh quickly assured her, “Kelly, I’m gay!” (“Your powers won’t work on her!” John told Nick.) There was a sadder side to Ryleigh’s coming-out story, as she reflected on being ostracized by homophobic former friends, but thanks to music, her parents’ support, and a freeing head-shaving experience, she learned to embrace her true self. It makes sense that she would relate to someone like Billie Eilish, but she made Billie’s ballad her own, singing much of it in an low and throaty tone and choosing her runs judiciously, before soaring to the falsetto money notes that ultimately grabbed Kelly and Nick’s attention. Ryleigh, who confessed that she’s grappled with anxiety and depression, did suffer from some nerves onstage, but her raw vulnerability more than made up for that.
Who turned? Kelly and Nick. But I agreed with Kelly when she said, “I feel this should have been a four-chair turn.”
Result: Team Kelly. Nick told Ryleigh, “You have the kind of tone and voice that speaks to my soul,” but John was right — Nick really was powerless in this instance.
Andrew Marshall, 21: “Gravity”
As a teen cancer survivor who once got to meet his idol John Mayer through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Andrew clearly felt a connection to the Mayer song. But this performance was pedestrian, as most Mayer covers are. John pointed out that the blues-rock song “didn’t go many places musically” and wasn’t the most effective showcase for Andrew’s range, and Kelly said “Gravity” didn’t give Andrew the chance to “create more intimacy.” But Nick must have heard some potential, because he hit his button surprisingly quickly.
Who turned? Just Nick. I have a feeling Andrew is a filler contestant with a Battle Rounds montage in his future, considering what a strong team Nick already has… but we’ll see.
Result: Team Jonas. “I’ve been dreaming of being a Jonas Brother since I was 10 years old,” joked the now-in-remission Andrew, happy to have another sort of wish come true.
Emma Caroline, 25: “Slow Burn”
Emma’s delicate indie-folk brogue (which Blake called a “mountain voice”) was a perfect fit for this Kacey Musgraves song, although I agreed with Nick (who didn’t turn around) that her delivery was too timid. However, I do think Kelly — who has won the show three times, including twice with young women and twice with country contestants — would have been the best coach to coax out Emma’s inner sass.
Who turned? Kelly and Blake.
Result: Team Blake. Emma remained timid and went with the safe and obvious choice.
Ciana Pelekai, 20: “Dance Monkey”
I expected this Hawaiian-born, Vegas-based diva to be more mainstream-poppy because of her bubbly personality and girly style, but her Tones and I cover was growly, raspy and sexy, with even a touch of vampy Winehouse soul. “You have a cool sense of tone and pocket, you have range, and you have charisma,” said a “thoroughly impressed” John. I was “thoroughly impressed” with Ciana as well.
Who turned? John and Nick… but Nick was out of the running, as John used his one Block of the season in “retaliation” for Nick blocking him last week.
Result: Team Legend, by default.
José Figueroa Jr., 34: “At This Moment”
As I envisioned Alex P. Keaton and Ellen Reed’s sexual-tension-filled slow-dance, this smooth crooner delivered a pleasingly polished rendition of Billy Vera’s nostalgic Family Ties ballad. Yes, his performance was old-fashioned, right down to the sequined-dinner-jacketed styling. I’m not sure if there’s a place for José in the music business, or on this show. But the man sure can sang.
Who turned? John, followed by Nick at the last minute. “That felt like a four chair performance to me,” shrugged John, although Kelly later said she’d refrained due to José’s excessive runs.
Result: Team Jonas, surprisingly — because unlikeEmma, José wanted to take a risk and go against type. Blake was already imagining an opposites-attract Nick/José duet, which would “blow the brains out of people’s butts into the toilet and then the toilet will flush itself.” That just might be the funniest, if grossest, thing Blake has said in all 20 seasons.
Halley Greg, 20: “I’m Like a Bird”
This Seattle musician quit her day job as a teacher to focus on music — in January 2020, right before the coronavirus pandemic. Going on The Voice therefore gave her a chance to make up for lost time and regain the momentum she lost last year. I loved her sparkling tone, and appreciated her aching and broken-down version of the sprightly Nelly Furtado pop hit in principle. But I do think she took too many liberties with the melodies. This wasn’t like “I’m Like a Bird” at all; I barely even recognized it.
Who turned? Only Kelly (who made a stankface during one high note and shouted, “That was cool!”), but not John, even though he seemed equally enthusiastic.
Result: Team Kelly. Kelly compared Halley to the almighty Annie Lennox and called her performance “intimate,” “intense,” and “beautiful,” so it all worked out for the best.
Durell Anthony, 34: “What’s Going On”
This Marvin Gaye protest anthem means a lot to John; he even once covered the entire What’s Going On album, from front to back, at the Hollywood Bowl. John called Durell’s sparse, jazzy keyboard rendition a “special version,” which was definitely high praise coming from him. I don’t know why any other coaches even bothered to turn, when Durell was clearly Team Legend material
Who turned? John and Kelly, who both loved Durell’s “in-between voice” as he effortlessly glided from his falsetto to his chest voice.
Result: Team Legend, unsurprisingly.
Avery Roberson, 20: “If You’re Reading This”
This stoic, soft-spoken cowboy’s four-chair Tim McGraw cover had a warm, lived-in vibe that instantly drew the listener in. “I thought it was remarkable that you didn’t do what people expect you to do to get a four-chair turn. You didn’t wail everywhere. … The storyteller vibe was the best part for me,” raved Kelly. Blake then played the country card, once again bragging that he’s the only country specialist on the panel, but Nick made a great point when he said to Blake, “I think it’s so bizarre that every time we have a country artist come out here, you say the same thing: ‘I know the song.’ And you do. But imagine if a pop artist came out and we said, ‘We’re the only ones capable of coaching this person, because we know pop music.’ … I don’t think it matters where you’re from, whatever the genre is, it’s music at the end of the day.” I could see why all four coaches wanted Avery so desperately. This was a magical, universally appealing performance.
Who turned? John first, followed by Kelly, Blake, and finally Nick.
Result: Team Blake, of course. Blake may not have much luck playing the “reggae/ska card,” but as Kelly lamented, when he plays the country card, he wins “95 percent” of the time.
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