And now the end is near, the final curtain… at least for Blake Shelton’s legendary tenure in a red swivel chair on The voice. Monday’s Season 23 premiere of NBC singing was the beginning of the end for the last remaining OG coach, who announced last fall that his next team would be his last.
Needless to say, the episode didn’t let the occasion go unmentioned. Kelly Clarkson joked that she only came back after a season off to beat Blake one last time. The memento he gave to his recruits read, “I’m on Blake’s last team, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.” Each The time he kicked off a singer, he mentioned that would be his last hurrah. (Thank goodness I didn’t make a drinking game out of it!) And Niall Horan, who along with Chance the Rapper was new to the coaching panel, did a deadly impersonation of the country superstar playing the ‘C is my last time as a coach.
Speaking of rookie coaches, like Chance and Niall were fun! Chance was cold but feisty, and Niall was just a boo, a goofy live thread who quickly established a playful “father/son” shtick with the show’s GOAT.
Oh, and let’s not forget, Monday also kicked off the first of the Season 23 blind auditions. Did anyone stand out for you? I thought a few candidates were really good and one, extraordinary. Let’s discuss the contenders who have won a coveted chair round, shall we, then you can play favorites in the poll below.
Neil Salsich (Team Blake), “Honky Tonk Blues” — Grade: B+ | Season 23 got off to a flying start with this four-chair turn and its frenzied cover of the Hank Williams classic. Besides managing to turn “honky” into a three-syllable word in the coolest way possible – it was “a yodelling thing”, Blake suggested – Neil struck me as the guy who could keep up with the same path as the Season 18 winner, dad next Todd Tilgman.
Sorelle (Team Chance), “Good old-fashioned love boy” — Grade: B | While this twin act was inspired by season 21 winners Girl Named Tom, the three-part harmonizers were more season 22’s The Marilynds. The social media influencers’ take on Queen was perfectly nice, but only got chair tricks from Blake and Chance, who said he was drawn to the theatrical quality of their performance.
Holly Brand (Team Kelly), “Mississippi Girl” – Grade: A- | This former Miss Mississippi, who opened for Blake at the age of 10 (!), seduced all the coaches but Blake with his ready-made version of Faith Hill’s hit. She’s got range, power, control and a snappy (cowboy) boot whistle note. Maybe for once, Blake was even more deaf than your friendly neighborhood receiver?
Tasha Jessen (Team Blake), “River” — Grade: B+ | Hoping to instill a positive attitude among little girls in Pakistan, the 20-year-old, who fled her home country aged 12 with her family, delivered a rendition of Leon Bridges’ crush who built her passion until finally, Blake, Chance and Niall were moved to turn their chairs for her. I agreed with them that it was absolutely lovely but somehow still wound up… deadpan. (Just me?)
Ross Clayton (Team Niall), “Blue is not your color” — Rating: A- | After putting his career on hold for his family, this father of three came back strong with a Keith Urban cover that was rock solid – as far as we could hear. There was almost as much Carson Daly and screaming coaches as the singing four chair turn! Nonetheless, Ross’ soulful country tone was so impressive that it inspired Niall to beg on his knees to sign the star.
Michael B. (Team Niall), “Save Your Tears” — Grade: C+ | Having come close (but no cigar) to realizing his dream of performing on Broadway, this likeable assistant put some kind of show-tney on The Weeknd, earning a chair trick from Niall with a voice that’s probably closer to Clay Aiken than to Ben Platt. . While I would love to see a theater kid succeed on the show, I doubt Michael is the one.
D. Smooth (Team Kelly), “Perfect” — Grade: C+ | Technically, there was probably nothing wrong with Ed Sheeran’s cover of this 25-year-old barber. Well, aside from the “sour note” which, bless his heart, Chance pointed out. It just felt like the song was sung emphatically most of the way through – not much modulation – so the performance’s potential impact was dulled.
Alex Whalen (Team Blake), “Help Me Get Through The Night” – Grade: B | This former London tube conductor – whose braided beard definitely earns him the award for most memorable facial hair of the season – sold me the minute he let out the scream in his voice. But he was just getting started. He also dropped a rasp in his throat. Not the most “perfect” singer we heard on Monday but arguably the most interesting.
NOIVAS (Team Chance), “A Change Will Come” – Rating: A | Usually, I’m skeptical of singers who insist on capitalized names. (Why are you cries to us?) But that Texas dad, I have to admit, deserved it. According to the #1 rating of his Sam Cooke cover, the four-chair bend was in the service of power, feeling, and absolute conviction. So forget what I said about Alex – NOIVAS definitely had the most interesting voice of the night. Straight to the Live Playoffs for him.
So, what did you think of the Season 23 premiere? Luck and Niall? Blind listeners? Vote in the polls below, then hit the comments.