Season 11 of The Voice — which won its third Emmy for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program on Sunday night — premiered Monday on NBC. Blake Shelton and Adam Levine returned as coaches, joined by newcomers Miley Cyrus and Alicia Keys.
“Alicia and Miley, they’re the spark that’s shaking things up,” Levine said at the top of the show. Hopefully, Keys and Cyrus will indeed bring some unpredictability to season 11 by giving the two winningest coaches a run for their money. Early on, the new coaches made it clear that they have each other’s backs.
Jason Warrior from Chicago was the first contestant of season 11 to sing in the Blind Auditions. “It definitely describes who I am as a person,” Warrior said of his last name. He sang “Living For The City” by Stevie Wonder, and once he hit a huge run several seconds into the performance, Levine turned for him. He was joined shortly after by Keys, making for the first coaches face-off of the season. Keys said she was moved by Warrior’s singing, and Cyrus rallied behind her. Warrior became the first member of Team Alicia.
Dave Moisan was up next. A medical-device salesman and former swim star, Moisan came to music later in life. He has never had a vocal lesson, but he has been singing in a band with his wife for a few years leading up to his Blind Audition. He sang “Sex and Candy,” and Levine turned for him first, followed by Cyrus. By the end, Shelton and Keys joined, giving Moisan the first four-chair turn of season 11. Cyrus, clearly taking a cue from past coach Pharrell, ran up to give Moisan a hug when he was finished singing. In his pitch, Levine pointed out that Moisan is a similar singer to him. Even though Moisan talked about being a Levine fan going into the audition, he surprised by choosing Team Alicia. Keys was already off to a great start. “She connected with me musically,” Moisan said.
Courtnie Ramirez, who has been taking the stage since she was 5 years old, came to The Voice to jump-start her singing career. She went bold with her Blind Audition, singing “Mamma Knows Best” by Jessie J. Cyrus and Keys were really debating whether or not they were going to push their buttons, but they finally did. “You have all this crazy range,” Cyrus said. “You had like a rocker vibe.” Keys admitted that she could see Ramirez on Cyrus’s team, but she made a passionate pitch as well. Ultimately, Ramirez picked Team Miley.
Next up was Sundance Head, who plays gigs several times a week around Texas and hopes to take his music career to the next level. He sang “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” by Otis Redding and accompanied himself on the guitar. Levine turned early, but he was quickly joined by Shelton. Levine tried to lure Head to his team by arguing that Shelton wanted to put Head in a genre box. Keys asked where Head learned to sing like that, and he said he learned it from her, admitting he’s a big fan. But it was still between Levine and Shelton. Head joined Team Blake.
Sixteen-year-old Maggie Renfroe, who also plays music regularly, was up next. Renfroe spends her time playing music for kids in hospitals, but she also wants to sing professionally. She sang “Lost Boy” by Ruth B and played guitar. She had a really beautiful natural rasp to her voice, but none of the coaches turned for her. “I could hear that you were young,” Cyrus said, encouraging her to get some more practice and work more on her skills. Shelton encouraged her to come back.
Ali Caldwell, who used to be in the girl group Exhale, has been singing professionally for a while before coming to The Voice. She said she wakes up every day and just starts singing. She sang “Dangerous Woman” by Ariana Grande, showing off her range and precise technical skills but still bringing a lot of soul and emotion to the performance. Levine turned and immediately got to his feet. Never one to miss a chance to go up against Levine, Shelton joined. Cyrus and Keys pressed their buttons, too. It was another four-chair turn of the night, and all four coaches desperately wanted the very experienced and talented Caldwell on their team. Cyrus called Levine and Shelton out for bragging about all their wins, insisting that she could win her first season with Caldwell on her team. Keys pulled the Pharrell move next, going in for the hug, but Levine copied her. It was a tough battle, but Caldwell went with Team Miley. “I just won the show,” Cyrus chanted, doing a victory dance.
Frank Sinatra lover and trombone player Riley Elmore auditioned next, fittingly singing “The Way You Look Tonight.” Heading into his audition, Elmore said he hopes to get a coach who can help him be looser on stage, but he definitely looked comfortable, living up to the fact that he considers himself a crooner. Shelton and Levine both turned. At 16 years old, he has a voice beyond his years. “There were moments that were brilliant, and I want to make every moment brilliant,” Levine said, stressing that he can help him get even better. Shelton emphasized his friendship with Michael Buble, just as Levine predicted he would. Levine hopped up on stage to sing a little bit with Elmore, which usually seals the deal. And sure enough, Elmore joined Team Adam.
Dana Harper, the daughter of former NBA player Derek Harper, sang “Jealous” by Nick Jonas, and it was one of the best auditions of the night. She was calm but powerful on stage and had incredible range. The low notes were especially beautiful. Plus, she really made the song sound like her own. Surprisingly, she didn’t get a four-chair turn, but Keys, Shelton, and Levine all pressed their buttons for her. Cyrus said she didn’t turn because Harper sounded so great that she wasn’t even sure if she could help. “There is magnificent control in your voice,” Keys said, also praising her tone. Shelton praised those low notes. Harper joined Team Blake, which was an odd choice, but maybe she’ll end up on a different team as the season progresses. “This coach is on fire,” Shelton sang, taunting Keys.
High school student Gabe Broussard sings in a band and auditioned with “Lonely Night In Georgia.” He sounded experienced and looked comfortable on stage. Shelton turned right away. After careful consideration, Cyrus also threw her hat in the ring. “This is like the highlight of my life right now,” Broussard said. “You sounded like such a freakin’ stud,” Shelton said. “I think musically, we probably have a lot in common.” Broussard joined Team Blake, which is definitely the right fit for him.
Chris Cron, who used to be in the band Melee, is ready for his solo career. Melee found success in Japan but never really took off in the U.S., so Cron came to The Voice hoping to make some music magic happen at home. He sang “Never Tear Us Apart,” and he was a natural performer, but he had some pitch issues and failed to turn any chairs. Levine encouraged him to come back.
The final artist of the night was Christian Cuevas, whose father was also a professional singer but passed away a year ago. A vocal performance major in college, Cuevas sang “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You” for his Blind Audition, and Levine and Shelton both turned in the very first seconds of his performance, which was full of genuine emotion and stellar vocals. Keys also turned. “Where did you get that emotion?” Keys asked. Cuevas said he had been thinking about his dad while singing. Levine said his voice filled the whole room. “I want someone who is able to convey what is going on in the deepest recesses of their heart and soul,” Levine said. Cuevas joined Team Alicia. It was a good night for Keys.
The Blind Auditions continue Tuesday. Levine and Shelton are going to have to work a lot harder to keep up with the new coaches, who are truly killing it already.