A youth movement permeated the premiere of season three of "The Voice." No hard-luck stories, no 40-somethings hoping for one last chance, no broken dreams, just singers in their ascendancy -- even the Scottish performer in his mid-30s had the air of a man firmly believing the best is yet to come.
Changes to the show's format are not in evidence yet as Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton are seen listening to singers and hitting red buttons when they feel they are hearing something special. Only one singer got all four coaches to turn around: Bryan Keith, the 22-year-old son of Spanish Harlem Orchestra singer Ray de la Paz. His cover of Bruno Mars' "It Will Rain" rightfully earned him accolades from Aguilera ("a signature voice") and Green ("the range and the rasp") and a place on Levine's team; the Maroon 5 singer called it "the win of the day."
The coaches had good ears when it came to determining vocal character, especially in the cases of two 18-year-olds, the soul belter Trevin Hunt from Queens, N.Y. and Gracia Harrison, a country yodeler from Illinois who feels she has outgrown the county fair circuit. The two represent new possibilities for "The Voice," artists with powerful voices that seem genre specific at the outset but, if they grow, could prove the show's capability to find a star.
Hunt knocked "Dreamgirls'" "Listen" out of the park and, when it came time to pick a judge, just wanted someone who would help him with his confidence. (He is on Green's team). And Harrison, whom Levine called the best country singer on the show in its short history, made the logical choice of Shelton after singing the nearly 80-year-old "I Want to be a Cowboy's Sweetheart." Stylistically, nothing about Harrison's take on the Patsy Montana hit was old-fashioned; it could have been a single from Miranda Lambert.
Tears were, of course, shed when the kid who wanted to be in music like his late father did not make it through. Same with the recent Berklee grad whose version of Bob Marley's "No Woman, No Cry" was un-involving and oversold in parts of the delivery. A hairdresser is headed back to Greensboro, N.C., while a Texan who fronted the rock band Artist vs. Poet is now singing for Levine. Daniel Rosa, now 21, was rejected a year ago and after working on his pitch, now finds himself on Green's team.
One element of "The Voice" that producers intend to amplify during the season are the performances featuring the four judges together onstage. They opened with the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up" and while they may have success with moves like Jagger, none of them are Mick's equal in the emotional vocal department. The early rounds continue Tuesday and Wednesday until each coach has 16 members on their teams.