For "The Voice" to hit its potential, there may be no better role model than Adele. Powerful voice, impeccable phrasing and timing, youthful and current with no trace of trendiness and, when everyone is looking, a visual appeal.
Oddly, the possibility that "The Voice" would have a contestant like that came together Monday (Feb. 20) in the fourth round of auditions when a singer belted out, what else, Adele's song "Rumour Has It." Mathai, a surname-free 18-year-old from Dallas whose siblings are headed into the medical field -- or at least that's the crux of her emotional burden -- delivered an awe-inspiring performance that caught the attention of Blake Shelton, Adam Levine and Cee Lo.
"We have a star" were the first words out of Shelton's mouth after her audition ended, and his assertion was spot on. Polished enough to impress judges and the audience, she demonstrated -- as Christina Aguilera pointed out -- an ability to expose herself within a song imbued heavily with another singer's character.
She ultimately chose Levine, becoming his 10th contestant. At this point, Mathai is the sharpest of any of the singers, one of the few who understands nuance and power. Smart, too, to pick a song she has not been singing her entire life; it feels like more and more contestants show up with a song they have used to win karaoke contests -- like Eric Tipton's version of Daryl Hall and John Oates' "You Make My Dreams Come True," who could not get a single judge to turn around their chair.
Charlotte Sometimes' switched sexes on OneRepublic's "Apologize" and got all four judges to give her a chair spin. There may be some magic in her, if we all believe the world needs another Florence and the Lana Del Rey Machine. Beyond her, no other contestant that stood out like Mathai.
Johnathas, who came to the U.S. from Brazil as a child and now has a wife and two kids, grabbed Aguilera's attention with his Usher sound-alike version of "U Got It Bad." Naia Kete, a dreadlocked busker who performed Bruno Mars' "The Lazy Song," landed on Shelton's team; she perfectly fits the mold of the types of non-country singers he prefers.
Why Monique Benabou's wobbly rendition of "Mr Know it All" attracted Aguilera's attention is beyond me, but she is still in the competition. By choosing Queen's "We Are the Champions," theater veteran Tony Vincent gave little indication of how he might make pop or rock work; Levine secured a country singer in Nicolle Galyon and Shelton got one as well in Jordan Rager.