The Voice has always been a breeding ground for country music. From Cassadee Pope to Danielle Bradbury to Craig Wayne Boyd and The Swon Brothers, Blake Shelton's teams have always done well in the world of Nashville after the show. Country music, then, and Shelton's "country music mafia" was the theme of the night as he was overrun with new down home talents.
Teasing his status as the czar of country music on The Voice, Shelton seemed unbeatably as he scooped up singer after singer throughout the entire episode. Of course, you had your rockers and that soulful young singer destined for Pharrell Williams' team and all of that fun stuff - but the angle on season 9's second episode was all about Team Blake.
So, how did it all pan out? Not nearly as spectacularly as episode one, which was to be expected, but there's a crop of singers here who could potentially make it to the final five or so. But no one person had a blowout, standout performance of the night.
Ellie Lawrence, "We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off": A piano ballad take on "We Don't Have to Take Out Clothes Off?" This blue-haired girl really IS an original. Her country speaking voice has nothing to do with her singing, which is throaty yet robust and definitely dripping with emotion. This is clearly a girl who idolized Gwen Stefani and came to The Voice for a chance to work with her. She'll get her chance - she's on Team Gwen - and it will be good to see how she develops. If she has an edge, I'd like to see it.
James Dupre, "Let Her Cry": James Dupre is the sort of singer who wants desperately to in the world of country music, and with this Hootie and the Blowfish anthem, he showed that he can fit in to that world naturally. His voice definitely seemed like it was able to transcend genre with a full, rich tone and the sort of sincerity that these coaches just die for. He got four chair turns, and in a twist, he went for Team Adam over the country music star Blake Shelton.
Zach Seabaugh, "Take Your Time": What a pretty, pretty boy! Zach Seabaugh is the reason Glee was invented. He's a classically handsome boy jock who quit football to join his choir. Like, what. He chose Sam Hunt's "Take Your Time," which at the start seemed like a horrible song choice with that spoken word thing. But, in the choruses, both Hunt and Seabaugh were able to show off their big strengths. His voice is very smooth, very rich and his twang feels genuine and heartfelt. He got a three-chair turn from Pharrell, Blake and Adam. Of course, he hopped on to the country mafia haven with Blake, and you cannot fault him for that pick.
Evan McKeel, "Typical": This kid reminds me quite a bit of Keith Semple from Monday night. He's a straight down the middle guy who brings in together pop, rock, alternative with a touch of soul. I mean, he sang Stevie Wonder at the end of this all. He was made for this show and made to get a four chair turn, which he got. He definitely has a nice voice; his Mutemath cover of "Typical" felt smooth and real. Plus, his two jacket look makes him feel hip and fresh, whether or not that's valid. The real challenge here will be for him to narrow his interests and genres. It was #dramatic waiting for him to pick a coach (aka, NBC cut to commercial), but he landed on Team Pharrell.
Emily Ann Roberts, "I Hope You Dance": She seemed like a good little country girl and I was rooting for her until she said "There's not much meaning in music today and I want to bring that back." Girl, please. She has a sweet and strong country vocal with a little twang. Her stage presence leaves a LOT to be desired; she was stiff as a board. But, that just comes with time and confidence. The raw talent was there, and as the first country girl of the year, Emily Ann Roberts stands out. Do I even have to say where she went? (It was Team Blake.)
Blind Joe, "If It Hadn't Been for Love": Cue your blind audition jokes. Get, it? Because Blind Joe is actually... well, a blind man. Joe is the sort of man that The Voice kills for. He has a sob story (if you want to call being blind that), he blends together the genres with a little soulful rasp, a rock 'n' roll edge and the song choice and cowboy hat. Honestly, his vocal was nice and unique but did he really warrant a four-chair turnaround I'm not so sure, neither am I sure how long he'll last on the show with other big country voices. Why do the other coaches even bother with a country singer when it's obviously going to go to Blake? Because that's where he ended up as the third member.
Ivonne Acero, "Style": Remember the cantaloupe girl from season 8? That's Ivonne Acero, and if you don't remember her face or her name, you'll definitely remember her quirky story of working on a cantaloupe farm. She still has a youthful quality to her voice that just seems to mark some immaturity but her range, power and control are all marked improvements. Like our buddy Ryan Adams, Acero took the basics of Taylor Swift's "Style" and turned it into a piano-led, haunting ballad with a nice big ol' note. There still feel like questions on how far Acero can get. A sweet personality can really only get you so far, you know? Hopefully she can truly develop into something big, because she has potential. Team Pharrell.
Regina Love, "Rock Steady": Regina Love has already made it to the radio... on her talk show!? Get it. It threw you off. But, despite her saucy R&B performance of The Whispers' "Rock Steady" with more runs than you could ever even imagine, she actually released and recorded a series of gospel albums on Evander Holyfield's record label before it folded. So, this is her second chance at stardom. In this performance, Love proved that she could really sing something sassy with a ton of gusto, but it would have been nice to hear something with more heart to it. We'll have a chance too, however. She landed on Team Adam after one of those CLASSIC Adam-Blake showdowns.
Cage the Elephant's "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" is a great song in its raw form, but it's not the best audition song. That's a lesson Gage Navarro had to learn the hard way... Remember that Brooklyn Barclays usher who sang the National Anthem and rocked a nation? This is that guy. Maybe it was the Bruno Mars song choice but Bryan Bautista couldn't cut it; he was beyond pitchy... Natalie Yacocazzi's take on the Beatles' "Oh! Darling" was beyond uneven