Despite new coach Kelly Clarkson’s relentless enthusiasm, this season of The Voice has gotten off to a sluggish start. But that all changed Tuesday, when 36-year-old piano man Terrence Cunningham, who put his music career on hold for 20 years after he became a teenage father, arrived on the scene. To quote Kelly, some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this, and for Terrence — and all four coaches, who were awed by his exquisite, ethereal, Maxwellian interpretation of “My Girl” — this was well worth the wait. It was one of the best auditions in Voice history.
“You don’t need us. We need you. When something that is truly one in a billion comes along, whoever is lucky enough to have you is going to learn as much from you as they’ll be able to teach. I want to coach you more than I’ve ever wanted to coach another person on The Voice,” raved Adam Levine. Now, Adam is prone to eye-roll-inducing hyperbole and snake oil sales pitches on this show, but in this case, every word he said to Terrence seemed believable and sincere.
The other coaches, who gave Terrence a standing ovation, also laid it on thick. “I’ve never heard a performance like that at any level of The Voice,” said Blake Shelton. “I am so curious you already aren’t on the radio,” said Kelly. And Alicia Keys trumped them all with, “If I ever did anything right, it was come to this show only to meet you.”
Yes, Terrence — a guy who was playing Prince songs at age 3, is the descendant of the late folk-blues legend Etta Baker, and, incidentally, has amazingly architectural hair — was that good. When he eventually signed up with Alicia (after she described him as “divinity entering the room”), she declared, “I think I just won The Voice!”
You know, Alicia may be right. No one else in Season 14 has come close to Terrence’s divinity, and he’s gotten me all excited for The Voice, all over again. But there were other auditioners this Tuesday, listed below, some of whom showed promise. Maybe one of them could be Terrence’s runner-up.
Spensha Baker, 24: “Blackbird”
A former child gospel recording artist trying to reboot her career as a country singer, Spensha had a lovely, vibrato-laden, nicely paced bluegrass take on the Beatles classic. At first she was a little too laid-back, but there was a natural grace and sense of joy here, and when she finally let loose, she brought some gospel fire.
Who turned? Kelly, Blake.
Result: Team Blake. “I think you can make a difference that we need in country music,” Blake told Spensha.
Alexa Cappelli, 18: “I’ve Got the Music in Me”
This student auditioned for her performing arts school with Kelly’s “People Like Us” — and honestly, I preferred it when Alexa sang some of that song with Kelly later in the night. (It was like Duets all over again!) The Kiki Dee disco tune was a fuddy-duddy choice, and Alexa did nothing distinctive with it. It was all very karaoke.
Who turned? Kelly, Adam.
Result: Team Kelly. Perhaps a fellow soul/pop diva can elevate Alexa to an Idol level.
Wilkes, 33: “One Headlight”
I assumed this Georgia indie-rocker, who looked like a lost Followill brother, would have a robust, gravelly voice — but instead, it was wispy and whispery. I dug his look and vibe, but his lackadaisical performance never went anywhere. Maybe Wilkes would be better off with a guitar. Or in a band.
Who turned? Adam, Blake.
Result: Team Blake. Adam called Wilkes a “singular singer carrying the torch for a very long-lost thing, which is rock ‘n’ roll,” but Wilkes went with a fellow Southerner.
JessLee: “I’m With You”/Jordyn Simone: “Tennessee Whiskey”/Megan Lee: “Killing Me Softly”
Of course a one-hour episode wouldn’t go by without a montage. Country-rocker JessLee, R&B belter Jordyn, and pop singer Megan all seemed competent, with big voices, but they’re likely Battle Rounds fodder.
Results: Team Blake, Team Alicia and Team Alicia, respectively.
Jaron Strom, 29: “This Magic Moment”
Clearly not everyone can interpret a Motown staple with as much artistry as Terrence Cunningham. Jaron, a breakdancing class clown in a garish satin jacket, may love singing soul classics, but his Ben E. King cover was total boy band fare. Or wedding band fare.
Who turned? Just Blake.
Result: Team Blake. Blake and Jaron will be a fun buddy act … but that act probably won’t last long.
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