On Monday, The Voice’s Season 24 Blind Auditions hit a high note — like, a Mariah Carey whistle note, that high. But the singer who delivered such an ear-opener to coaches John Legend, Gwen Stefani, Niall Horan and Reba McEntire wasn’t the night’s only standout. Read on, and after we discuss all of the contestants who advanced to the Battles, you can vote for your favorite.
Stee (Team Legend), “Sugar” — Grade: B+ | This son of two musicians had wanted to be an engineer — till he found out that it required an aptitude for math. (Feel ya.) On stage, the born showman earned a four-chair turn by flipping back and forth from his chest voice to impressively high high notes — and on a Maroon 5 song, no less. Given that his late cousin was supposed have come with him to meet John — who was so wowed, he blocked Niall — there wasn’t much question of which coach Stee would choose.
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Chechi Sarai (Team Gwen), “Lovin’ You” — Grade: A | OK, now this was a Blind Audition that no one would soon forget. On her cover of the Minnie Riperton classic, this 32-year-old first-generation Nigerian-American hit notes that were so high, I practically needed a ladder just to hear them. But, as John told the four-chair turn, “You have so much more to your voice than just that” whistle tone. Indeed, she did. A contender with enviable confidence. (Listen for yourself below.)
Reid Zingale (Team Niall), “July” — Grade: B- | This mild-mannered 27-year-old Nashvillian inspired a three-chair turn with a perfectly pleasant but hardly astonishing rendition of Noah Cyrus’ single. Reba said that she would’ve turned, too, if she’d been able to understand a word that Reid had sung. Niall called the performance “absolutely magical,” and Gwen called Reid’s tone “unique.” But all I could think was, “Have y’all not heard John Mayer? Ruel? Season 14’s Britton Buchanan?”
Claudia B. (Team Legend), “Human Nature” — Grade: C- | A high-school punk-rocker and college jazz artist, Claudia had settled on country as her genre by the time she reached The Voice. Or so I thought. She auditioned with Michael Jackson’s ballad and, erm, maybe should have tried out with a country song instead. She’s a sunny personality and had some warmth to her vocal, but mostly what I heard was uncertainty and pitch issues. Not a great sign that the only thing I’ll remember about her Blind was that she cutely stopped singing when she got a three-chair turn.
Mac Royals (Team Reba), “Gravity” — Grade: A- | Mac stepped up to the mic hoping that the coaches would hear the pain in his voice (stemming from his father’s incarceration and subsequent death). That they did, to the tune of a four-chair turn. And unlike with, say, Reid or Claudia, I thought Mac really did have a special tone, one as aching as it was beautiful. There was also a fleeting flash of a snarl in his smooth vocals that suggested that we weren’t anywhere near the bottom of his bag of tricks.
Noah Spencer (Team Niall), “Something in the Orange” — Grade: B+ | Sheesh, from the second this baby-faced 20-year-old started spitting gravel, I thought, “Blake would be hitting his button so dang fast if he was on!” Noah wasn’t just barbed-wire raspy, either, though. His voice was full to overflowing with emotion. I just hope the three-chair turn is able to control the jaggedness enough that he doesn’t follow in the footsteps of Season 14’s Pryor Baird, who I loved but who only made it to fifth place. (Even John warned that Noah had leaned a mite heavily “on the growl.”)
Tom Nitti (Team Reba), “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)” — Grade: B | A Purple Heart recipient who suffered a traumatic brain injury in Afghanistan, Tom described himself as a country artist, right down to his cowboy hat. So it seemed an odd choice for him to cover Stevie Wonder rather than Steve Wariner or Steve Earle for his audition. It worked, at any rate. His spirited performance garnered a last-minute chair turn from Reba. He just might want to narrow his lane going forward, lest he leave viewers as confused as he did the coaches.
Alison Albrecht (Team Reba), “Ironic” — Grade: D | Eh, I could see why this Blind was shortened. The producers didn’t seem to be able to find even a short snippet in which the contestant didn’t sound hella pitchy. “I think she’s gonna really grow on the show,” remarked her coach. We’ll see, Reba. We’ll see.
Talakai (Team Legend), “Stay With Me” — Grade: B | The self-proclaimed John Legend lookalike won over both his “twin” and Reba with his soulful Sam Smith cover. And it was quite good, rich and passionate. But at the same time, it left me oddly empty — maybe because I felt like I could hear Talakai “trying.” Niall didn’t connect emotionally with the performance, either, so at least I wasn’t alone.
Rudi (Team Gwen), “You Don’t Own Me” — B | “Your girl washes cars for a living,” declared this 28-year-old, who has decided that working at her family’s auto-body shop is not for her. Luckily, the four-chair turn’s voice suggested that she’d have a pretty good fall-back plan. Her rendition of Lesley Gore’s classic was, at turns, inventive, thrilling and demonstrative of some admirable vocal control. But when it wasn’t those things, it was kinda dull. Also, when she meant to go BIG, she only made it as far as big. On the fence on this one.
How about you? Drop your thoughts on Monday’s Blind Auditions in a comment below.
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