And we're back. After a brief couple month hiatus, The Voice season eight premiered tonight (Feb. 23) and the players were out in full force. For the season premiere, Christina Aguilera wasn't the only one who was back - the talent was purely massive, besting last season by a long shot.
Of course, the season premiere would be filled with some of the best singers on the show and they came out from all genres. There was the PBR&B guy (Rob Taylor), the classic country voice (Cody Wickline) and even an old school crooner (Lowell Oakley).
The talent was stacked and so too, of course, was the banter. Though Christina was the shiny newly returned coach, Blake Shelton, Adam Levine and Pharrell Williams were all out in full force. Though Blake and Pharrell were able to persuade plenty of people to come on their team, shockingly, Adam Levine left episode one empty handed.
But, until then, let's look at the singers moving on. Though we normally rank them here at Music Times, seriously, they were all at the very least solid singers. A strong showing for the show...
Sarah Potenza, "Stay With Me": No, it wasn't the Sam Smith modern classic, but instead Rod Stewart's Faces 1971 classic. This Nashville Italian-American knew how to exploit her old soul, by giving this song a jazzy, bluesy and raspy makeover. With her curly hair and wide-rimmed glasses, Sarah Potenza was clearly a character and a seasoned performer in her hometown scene. There was a lot of gusto and power in here. She's special but nothing overwhelming. She got all four coaches, a keen moment for the editors, but it doesn't feel like she'll make it too far on The Voice. Team Blake.
Lowell Oakley, "Don't Get Around Much Anymore": It's a little bb Buble. Oh my goodness. This 19-year-old kid is no regular old soul, he's a classic crooner in the image of Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett, as Pharrell was so quick to pick out. As he mentioned in his opening bit, Lowell Oakley is all about the classic crooner oeuvre, from a perfect coif to his blue suede shoes. He has a rich tone and the basis for that type of Christmas album fame, but his age shows, and there's a little too much youth here. Wait until you can buy your own whiskey, man. Team Pharrell.
Rob Taylor, "I Want You": I Want You, indeed. On a show with high reaching singers as coaches like Adam, Christina and Pharrell, to have a falsetto that sends them into a flurry means something good. Enter in, future PBR&B star Rob Taylor, who tackled Luke James' "I Want You." He maintained a perfect and beautiful falsetto throughout the chorus, clearly bringing jealousy out in Adam and Christina. He has that old soul gospel flavor mixed with a beautiful tone. Oh, and once the chair turns around, his style is on point too. This kid can go places, and a voice this good has a real shot. Team Christina.
Cody Wickline, "He Stopped Loving Her Today": Last year, The Voice got a country music upset courtesy of Team Blake's Craig Wayne Boyd, and if the show didn't want that to happen again, well, they done goofed. Cody Wickline has the kind of classic country tone that you never really hear today... Think Merle Haggard, as his eventual coach Blake Shelton pointed out. With as beautiful of a throaty tone as Cody has, it's no wonder that he got all four coaches to turn, but obviously he only had one way to go... Team Blake.
Treeva Gibson, "Young and Beautiful": Both of this 16-year-old girl's parents are deaf and she has hearing loss too, so the way that she found music has to be an interesting story that we've only gotten a taste of thus far. But, she turned it out for this cover of Lana Del Rey's "Young and Beautiful." She started off soft and subtle before exploding into a mass of raw emotion, and she was able to keep a light and unique tone all throughout. Sure, there were cracks beneath the surface, but those kinks can be worked out to turn this girl into a solid contender. Team Christina.
Meghan Linsey, "Love Hurts": It's always weird to judge an artist who has had a career before, but I guess here we go. This is Meghan Linsey and she used to be in the country music duo Steel Magnolia. But, when she and her boyfriend/bandmate Joshua Scott Jones broke up in 2013, so did the band. And here comes in The Voice. Obviously, Linsey has what it takes to make it in the music industry. She has a special gritty, rough tone with the most subtle country grooves. So, yeah. She's basically already a professional, just now trying to make it on her own and she came on The Voice for... some reason. She got everyone except for her old tourmate Blake to turn around and in a fairly shocking twist, wound up on... Team Pharrell.
Joshua Davis, "I Shall Be Released": This 37-year-old dad has a hushed tone with a bit of a raspy, throaty tone underneath it. And in this take on a Bob Dylan classic, he pulled it off. Adam and Blake seemed pretty enthusiastic about Joshua Davis but he just sort of... was there. Could he do the Dawes, folky rock thing? Sure. And maybe it's just the end of this two-hour broadcast, but eh. He's fine. He won't go terribly far but he deserves a shot on the show. But in a night with stunning showings from Rob Taylor and Cody Wickline, someone like Joshua is just not up to snuff. Team Blake.
Sawyer Fredericks, "I'm A Man of Constant Sorrow": This dude is only 15 years old but he's so confident as an artist, he's well beyond his years. He has a little too much youth in his voice, but he's timeless as a performer as all of the coaches were quick to point out. He has every sort of tone capability within him, from a bluesy rasp to a sweet upper range. He was relaxed and comfortable on stage like an old professional and it was great to watch. Team Pharrell.