By the end of night three of "The Voice's" Season 5 blind auditions, Christina Aguilera had added four new singers to her team, Adam Levine had snagged two, and Blake Shelton and Cee Lo Green had each scooped up three.
The lucky (and talented) vocalists who'd made it through were all thrilled. That's to be expected. But what's more remarkable about "The Voice," of course, is how respectfully and supportively it deals with even those who fail to advance.
That kindness was underscored on Monday night when veteran singer Malford Milligan — a 54-year-old from Austin, Texas, who has toured with B.B. King but struggled to conquer self-esteem issues after having been bullied as a child because he is, he says, "a black albino" — took the stage.
"This is almost a perfect show built for somebody like yourself that's had to overcome some prejudices throughout your life," Carson Daly told Milligan backstage, adding that it was "a place … where we celebrate your voice."
Alas, Milligan didn't manage to turn a single chair with his cool, laid-back take on Al Green's "Let's Stay Together," though Aguilera and Levine had clearly been tempted. Still, though the coaches had not offered him a slot on their teams — Aguilera said she'd been waiting for some defining moment that never quite arrived — they offered him ample encouragement. "Great rendition," Levine said. "Man, can you sing, dude." "He can talk good too," said Shelton, who later asked Milligan to make a record so he could go out and buy it.
Milligan, though disappointed, also seemed bolstered by the praise.
"Everybody's been so nice" on the show, he told the coaches. "It's incredible."
"We're a nice show," Aguilera said, ever modest.
"It really is," Milligan chimed in.
It really is.
And perhaps nicer still for those who did advance.
Among them (in no particular order) were country singer Justin Blake, a 20-year-old truck driver and expectant father who spun only Levine with his somewhat breathless take on Shelton's "Sure Be Cool If You Did." Levine had no idea it had been his bromantic rival's song but was enthusiastic about his new team member. "I think you are a great country singer," he said.
Levine had to fight harder for Preston Pohl, a 26-year-old singer from Hallettsville, Texas, who'd had early success with a Christian rock band before the death of his mentor prompted him to take a break from music. His deliciously sensual "Electric Feel" turned Shelton, Levine and Green. Green seemed to have a bit of an advantage, playing to Pohl's eclectic musical tastes, but Levine fought hardest for him, telling him he turned the song into "a Marvin song." After one of the best bits of coach jockeying for position this season — DJ Screw, indeed — Levine emerged triumphant. "I would have been devastated if he hadn’t chosen me," he said. "I wanted that guy worse than I probably wanted everybody so far." Understandably.
Shelton picked up 25-year-old Ray Boudreaux, from Lafayette, La., wresting him away from Green, who'd also turned for Boudreaux's "Use Me." "You look like Blake and you sound like Cee Lo," Levine noted of the blue-eyed soul man. In fact, Boudreaux said he'd come in leaning toward Cee Lo, but "in the moment, Blake spoke to me." Maybe it was the way Shelton described him as "swampy" that won his heart.
The country coach also trounced Green and Levine to take Monika Leigh, a 28-year-old from Boulder, Colo., who'd abandoned her musical dreams at 22 to take a workaday, 40-hour-a-week job as an administrative assistant at a hotel. Levine turned first for Leigh's "The Thrill Is Gone," and Green wasn't far behind. Shelton turned pretty late in the game, but pulled out his big guns – which is to say his three "Voice" trophies. "I can give you three reasons why you should pick me," he said, noting that only one of his winners had been a country artist. It worked. "At first, I thought I was going to pick Adam because he turned first," Leigh said. However, "my gut told me Blake, so I went with it."
The third addition to Team Blake was Cilla Chan, whose audition was shown only briefly, as was that of Team Christina member Jacob Poole and Team Cee Lo's Anthony Paul.
Green also added Juhi, an Indian American 16-year-old straight-A high school student with blue-tipped hair and highly supportive parents. (Her dad has a PhD in electrical engineering, and Juhi herself is weighing aerospace engineering and computer science.) Aguilera turned first for Juhi's "Mercy," and tried to play the lady card, saying she'd understand the young singer "a little bit better than all the male parts on the stage." But Juhi, who said she was a big Gnarls Barkley fan, felt a stronger connection to Green, who called her "strong," "effortless" and "really impressive" and vowed to fight for her. Green said he felt as if he and Juhi were "kindred spirits."
But if Juhi appealed to Green's heart, Portland, Ore., 19-year-old George Horga Jr., whose family emigrated to the U.S. from Romania, appealed to his head. Horga was, as Aguilera could tell before even seeing him, "cute"; the women in the audience were appreciative. The audience's reaction, Green suggested, may predict America's response, making Horga a strategic choice.
Aguilera added former model from Miami Lina Gaudenzi (her mom was one of the original models for Victoria's Secret), after Levine backed her over Shelton. "I would be very swayed by one of the iconic singers of our time … Christina Aguilera" Levine said, adding that Aguilera spotted Gaudenzi's promise first, turning early for her vibrato-y take on "Landslide," "and she should be rewarded for that, damn it."
Aguilera also scored big with San Diego 15-year-old Timyra-Joi, whose "Girl on Fire" proved she was precisely that. Again, though both Shelton and Green also turned, Aguilera had Levine's backing. He noted that she was "way first … first by a mile" to push her button. Timyra-Joi said that she'd come in fully expecting to pick Green, but went with Aguilera because she'd fought hardest for her.
Adding still more star power to Aguilera's team is Briana Cuoco, whose sister is Kaley Cuoco of "The Big Bang Theory" fame, for whom she works as a personal assistant. Cuoco's "You and I" prompted button-pushes from both Aguilera and Green. But "girl power," as Briana put it, carried the day.
"You earned this by yourself by nothing more than your talent," Daly told Briana, who stood trembling next to her famous sister. "You should be so proud today, because today was your day."
Aw, see? Nice.
What did you think of Monday's auditions? Did any of the singers especially impress you?
Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun