The Voice

Night 1 of blind auditions on The Voice

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Oh sure, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton have their bromance.

Apparently, such an entertaining bromance that American Idol is trying desperately to imitate it with Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr.

Shakira and Usher will be trying to end the stranglehold Blake and Adam have on The Voice title in Season 6. (NBC Photo)

Shakira and Usher will be trying to end the stranglehold Blake and Adam have on The Voice title in Season 6. (NBC Photo)

They also have something a wee bit more important: a stranglehold on The Voice title.

Think about it. Adam won Season 1 with Javier Colon. Blake bounced back and won Season 2 with Jermaine Paul, Season 3 with Cassadee Pope and Season 4 with Danielle Bradbery.

No way the show was going to let Blake win four straight seasons. Who snapped his win streak?

Adam, of course, with a huge assist from Tessanne Chin.

So we enter tonight’s Season 6 premiere with Shakira and Usher vying to become the first coach not named Adam or Blake to have a contestant prevail on the show.

Hey, time for a little commercial for this blog. You’ll notice the header has changed to reflect the fact that it’s not all about American Idol. And for those of you who don’t want to be bothered by tweets about that other show every Wednesday and Thursday, there’s a Voice specific Twitter account you can follow, — aptly called VoiceViews.

Keep checking back between shows. I’ll be providing updates on past contestants, like Jonny Gray, Juhi, Monique Abbadie, Kat Robichaud, Midas Whale, Cassadee and Danielle. And I’ll be posting profile blogs on everyone who advances from the blinds.

Whew, now that we squeezed in a commercial break, on to the new cast of singers …

1. Christina Grimmie, 19, Marelton, N.J.: This is the YouTube superstar, to the tune of more than 2 million followers. She says she posted her first at age 15. She’s since evolved to the point where she’s recording her own music. She now has an EP and a 2013 album to her credit. She’ll audition with “Wrecking Ball.” Brilliant opening. And three chairs are facing in her direction in a heartbeat. Love it when someone sings a Miley Cyrus song better than Miley ever could. So that makes me an immediate fan of Christina. Heck, this gal is showing us it all. Range, glory notes. Great way to start Season 6. Dang, girl. And the lobbying for Christina begins. Shakira pulls out the woman card. And Christina joins Team Adam, who has an incredible knack for snagging four-chair turns. Grade: A

2. T.J. Wilkins, 23, Los Angeles, Calif.: He grew up on the tough streets of L.A., but credits his mother for keeping him out of trouble. For instance, she bused him to a performing arts school on the other side of town. T.J. recalls being the victim of an attempted robbery. He’s now in college as a music major. He’s going to sing “Bennie and the Jets” and put his own spin on it. Right off the bat T.J. shows nice range and gets everyone but Shakira to spin their chairs. Liked the little wrinkle he added to the end of the song as well. Adam liked the fact that T.J. is clearly an R&B performer but showed up singing Elton John. Usher says he hears an “incredible R&B record in you.” And T.J. lands on Team Usher. Grade: B

3. Kristen Merlin, 29, Hanson, Mass.: She says she’s always been musically inclined and learned how to bring peace to people through music when she wrote a song and sang it at her grandfather’s funeral. She gravitates toward country and says she won a contest that allowed her to perform with Sugarland. She’s singing “Something More” by Sugarland. Sure enough, she has a nice strong country voice, and she entices Adam and Shakira to turn around before she even hits the first chorus. But she can’t entice her favorite — Blake Shelton — to do the same. My only complaint about that rendition of the song is that Kristen was just a touch difficult to understand in spots. And she lands on Team Shakira. Not that illogical. Remember, Miranda Lambert is Shakira’s guest mentor this year. Grade: B–

4. Tanner Linford, 16, Kaysville, Utah: His mom convinced him to try a talent show in eighth grade. He did it because she promised he could stop singing if he didn’t like it. Turns out he got a great reaction to his version of “Hallelujah” and he’s been singing ever since. Wow, this guy is 16 and looks even younger. He likes the blind audition aspect of The Voice because he says he’s been cut from some things because of his size. He’s singing “Stay.” Wow. Crystal clear, perfect tone. Sure he sounds a little young and strayed a bit off pitch as the song went on, but I can’t believe no one turned around for that performance. Grade: C

Biff Gore turns four chairs with his audition on The Voice.

Biff Gore turns four chairs with his audition on The Voice.

5. Biff Gore, 45, Denver, Colo.: This father of five is expecting number six. He’s a music minister who also runs a small organ transplant organization. He says his brother is his hero because he prevented him from landing in harm’s way during the Gulf War. He’s singing “A Change is Gonna Come.” And a strong opening prompts Adam and Blake to spin their chairs in a heartbeat. Before Biff hits the chorus, they’re joined by Shakira. And before he finishes singing, they’re joined by Usher as well, making Biff the night’s second four-chair turn. In addition to a heartfelt, passionate performance, Biff threw in a nice wrinkle at the end. Adam calls his performance “classic.” And Blake says Biff “took me to church,” and adds that he could use a little guidance himself. And Usher lands his second singer, and his first four-chair turn. Grade: A–

Dawn and Hawkes landed on Team Adam on The Voice.

Dawn and Hawkes landed on Team Adam on The Voice.

6. Dawn and Hawkes, Austin, Texas: She’s Miranda; he’s Chris. And they’re the season’s first duo. They met in 2010 at a bar in Austin, and he invited her to go along with him on tour. “As we played together more, I think we felt closer and closer,” Chris says. Now they’re a couple. They’ll perform “I’ve Just Seen a Face.” Hey, I love the way these two sound together. Of course, I’m a sucker for this kind of music. Both of them sound splendid on their own. And they sound great together. Shakira and Adam turned their chairs in a flash. Really, really nice audition for the season’s first duo. And duos have fared much better lately on the show. Adam calls it one of his favorite performances ever on The Voice. And they decide to join Team Adam. They apparently already have an EP on iTunes. Can’t wait to check out their music. Grade: B+

7. Leo Gallo, 27, Los Angeles, Calif.: He says he’s been performing his whole life and shows off his dance skills before his audition. At 13, he became a member of a six-member boy band put together by Quincy Jones. He says the group was going up as the boy craze was going down, so they never became big hits. He promises not to dance much during his audition, though he’s going to sing “Blurred Lines.” He says he’s used to performing in a group, not just as Leo Gallo. Didn’t love the opening. But Leo clearly has a flair for performance. Of course, he’s trying to sing a number of parts here. Not sure it’s working as well as he hoped. And no one spins for that performance. Not surprised. That’s a tough song for one guy to pull off. Oh, and so much for not dancing. Grade: C–

8. Jeremy Briggs, 26, Sacramento, Calif.: The Voice describes him as a classic rocker. He says he got his first electric guitar as age 12 and started hammering away. But baseball was his first love through high school. He coached baseball for one year after high school, then got a job with the California Unemployment Board of Appeals while playing music at night as part of a band (Relic 45, I think he said). Yep, just checked Facebook, it’s Relic 45. He’ll sing “Bad Company” for his audition. Nice intro. Not surprised Blake is the first to spin. Shakira turns, too. Meanwhile, Jeremy is turning in a fine vocal, and scoring a couple of huge glory notes that he holds seemingly forever. Blake says he was sold on Jeremy long before those final notes. Shakira calls his performance “awesome” and says she started out as a “rock chick.” And Jeremy becomes a member of Team Shakira. A bit surprised by that. Grade: B

9. Jake Worthington, 17, La Porte, Texas: A high school senior, Jake also auditioned for Season 5 when he failed to land a team. This time, he insists someone will turn. This time, he’ll audition with “Don’t Close Your Eyes” and thinks a ballad will help show the coaches that he’s worked on his voice control. It works. He gets Adam to turn around early in the performance. Blake turns next, and Jake’s family goes crazy. Here’s betting Jake becomes the first artist to land on Team Blake. Shakira turns around as well. Adam notes that he turned first. Adam calls the performance “perfect.” Shakira says she “adored every minute of your performance.” And, sure enough, Jake is on Team Blake. Love hearing Jake talk. He seems to have a great attitude. Grade: B–

10. Karina Mia, 22, Philadelphia, Pa.: Hey, and now we get a gal from Pa. She says her mom started her with violin lessons as a young girl. She started singing at age 11 and decided that’s what she wanted to do for a living. Her mom insisted that she finish college first. Karina says she considers herself an indie artist. She’s singing “Beneath You’re Beautiful.” She says she has a unique voice and demonstrates that early on in this performance. Karina is doing pretty well, but strayed off pitch a couple of times and can’t entice a chair to turn. Shame. She showed potential. Grade: C+

Bria Kelly decided to join Team Usher on The Voice.

Bria Kelly decided to join Team Usher on The Voice.

11. Bria Kelly, 17, Smithfield, Va.: She says she started playing music at age 11, singing the national anthem for sports teams. At one point, she opened for Miranda Lambert. She says she works hard to balance school work and music and gets a ton of help from her dad. Plus she credits her mom for teaching her to sing. And here comes “Steamroller Blues.” Heck, she barely started singing and Blake and Adam turned their chairs. And Bria is showing off a big voice. Dang. She’s getting stronger even though she’s even got a spot on a team secured. She just ate that stage alive. And turned the other two chairs in the process. Now I know why The Voice used Bria and Christina to promote Season 6. Adam’s reaction: OMG. “You haven’t been alive long enough to feel the pain you expressed up there,” he said. Blake calls her “a stud.” Usher pulls out his Grammy to show it off. Bria said she wanted Adam before she started singing. Let’s see what she has to say now. And, surprise, Usher lands his second four-chair turn of the night. Grade: A

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