Adam Levine quit The Voice under acrimonious circumstances two years ago, leaving Kelly Clarkson, who joined the show in 2018, to fill the requisite role of Blake Shelton’s onscreen frenemy (and literally fill Adam’s red chair). But viewers might’ve mistakenly assumed that Adam had triumphantly returned to The Voice Monday, because 21-year-old contestant Keegan Ferrell sounded uncannily Levine-like during his smoothly crooned audition of Maroon 5’s “She Will Be Loved.”
It was the final Blind Auditions episode of Season 20, with the teams rapidly filling up, and as it turned out, Blake — who still “happens to be buddies with the guy who wrote and sang that song” and even recently starred in a Super Bowl commercial with his former Voice castmate — and Kelly were the only coaches who turned for Keegan. So, this was the perfect opportunity for Blake to play up his relatively new rivalry with Kelly, of course.
“I want you to look for just a second at this coaching panel. Take note of who’s missing — and who’s in that chair,” Blake quipped, pointing to the end seat that Levine had occupied for 16 seasons. “Now, I’m not saying Kelly Clarkson got Adam fired, but he’s gone, and she’s sitting there, OK? This network stands for ‘Nothing But Clarkson.’ … If Maroon 5 inspires you, I don’t know if I would choose a coach that is their arch nemesis.”
“Oh my God, we toured together!” exclaimed an amused but exasperated Kelly, referring to the three-month joint trek that she did with Adam’s band in 2013.
“And then... you got him fired,” Blake deadpanned. “I’m willing to get fired for you, Keegan!”
Bizarrely, Blake playing the Adam card somehow worked — even though Kelly pointed out to Keegan, “I know, love, and breathe pop music; I have for, like, 20 years!” When later asked why pop singer Keegan would reject the more obvious coach and instead sign up with country singer Blake, Keegan simply explained, “He just knows how to bring artists to the next level.”
Apparently, Kelly won’t be loved, at least not on this episode. She was having a rough night — even though it could be argued that the prize she was offering to auditioners was incentive enough to choose Team Kelly. While John Legend played the same Casio-keyboard “Welcome to Team Legend” jingle (with slightly modified lyrics) for every contestant, Blake handed out bobblehead dolls that looked nothing like him, and Nick Jonas gifted contestants with “Nick’s Notes” booklets that could be bought in bulk at any Office Depot, Kelly was giving out stylish, limited-edition Team Kelly satin jackets. But even that ploy wasn’t working. When one contestant, Awari, decided to go with Team Jonas instead, she even cried out, “He literally picked the journal over the jacket! I think I was more offended by that! It’s an empty notebook!”
Eventually, though, all of the coaches solidified their team lineups, comprising the 40 contestants who will move on to the Battle Rounds. We won’t see Adam Levine then (or probably ever) — next week’s guest advisers are Brandy, Dan+Shay, Darren Criss, and Luis Fonsi — but I have a feeling Adam would have appreciated Blake’s sneaky, snaky gameplay this week.
Let’s assess the rest of Monday’s final Season 20 Blind Auditions:
Denisha Dalton, 22: “Pillow Talk”
The self-described “hustler,” former girl-group member, and a cappella singer had a unique vocal style — sweet but attitudinal, indie but soul — and she looked like a little star too. (“You are so cute!” Kelly gasped when she turned around.) John described as Denisha “fearless” and “authentically you,” and he pleaded, “I would love for you to be the last contestant on my team.”
Who turned? Blake, John, and Kelly.
Result: Team Legend. John got his wish. This was not a bad choice on Denisha’s part, but she sure would have looked cute in a Team Kelly jacket.
Awari, 35: “Weak”
The devoted single dad and retired military man delivered a silky Quiet Storm rendition of the SWV classic that Kelly dreamily described as “very couples’ skate.” It was an old-fashioned number, and I don’t know how versatile Awari can be going forward in this competition, but his nostalgic performance hit a sweet spot tonight.
Who turned? Only Kelly and Nick, although John would’ve hit his button if he’d had any openings left on his team.
Result: Team Jonas. Apparently Nick playing the Priyanka card — mentioning that “Weak” is one of his wife’s favorite songs — and plugging his new album was more effective than Kelly’s tempting jacket offering. “If I choose Nick, he might put me on the new album!” mused Awari. (Spoiler alert: Nick's album, Spaceman, is now out, and I don’t see Awari listed anywhere in the credits.)
Ainae, 21: “The Best Part”
This vibey neo-soul diva and Howard University student hails from a big industry family — her mom does music marketing, her uncle owns a club, and her dad is producer — so she came to the show with a lot of potential and experience. She did waver and wobbled in her higher register, but that’s something an expert coach like Kelly can easily fix. “It takes so much air to do what you just did,” raved Kelly. John, who probably would have turned under different circumstances, actually compared Ainae to Minnie Riperton, while Kelly likened Ainae to recent Album of the Year Grammy nominee Jhene Aiko and called her “super-special.”
Who turned? Just Kelly, by default.
Result: Team Kelly — thus cementing the lineup for Season 20. On to the Battles!
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