The Voice returned for its 13th season tonight, with coaches Adam Levine and Blake Shelton returning to the chairs, joined by former Voice coach Miley Cyrus and newcomer Jennifer Hudson.
As usual, the Blind Auditions provided plenty of suspense and drama as the coaches tried to make their initial bids for artists.
Kicking off the season, worship leader and drag queen Chris Weaver sang “Try A Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding. Weaver’s soulful performance filled the room, and coaches Hudson and Levine turned right away. By the bridge, Shelton and Cyrus turned, too, giving Weaver the first four-chair turn of the Blind Auditions.
It was an exciting way to start the season, and the coaches were immediately at each other’s throats. Weaver had performed for Hudson previously at a party for The Color Purple. All four coaches were passionate about Weaver’s voice, but after a hard-fought battle, Hudson prevailed, securing the first artist of the season. The newest coach came ready to compete.
South Carolina-raised artist Mitchell Lee followed with a performed of “Hold My Hand” by Hootie And The Blowfish. Inspired by his late mother to follow his dreams of becoming a singer, Lee brought a lot of passion to his audition. He got the attention of Hudson, Shelton and Levine. Levine approached the stage, which historically works on this show, but Lee ultimately went with Team Blake.
Levine and Shelton continued their usual banter throughout the premiere.
The next artist to audition was Janice Freeman, who sang “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons. As a widowed single mother and cancer survivor, Freeman had a compelling story, and even though this song tends to be overdone on singing competition shows, she brought something new to it. Her strong, interesting voice and original interpretation of the song got her turns from both Hudson and Cyrus. “Together, girl, we could knock down some serious walls,” Hudson said.
The offer from Hudson wasn’t enough, however, as Freeman joined Team Miley, making her Cyrus’ first artist of the season, a good fit for the genre-transcending singer.
Up next was 17-year-old artist Xaris, who sang “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” by Bob Dylan. Xaris had an interesting folk sound and a mature voice, but it wasn’t enough to turn any chairs.
Shi’Ann Jones hoped to turn things around, singing “Drown In My Own Tears” by Ray Charles. At just 15 years old, Jones sounded powerful beyond her years. It was an emotional, moving performance. Shelton and Hudson both turned and were immediately surprised by her age. Hudson and Shelton played up a bit of a rivalry between each other, with the latter citing his winning record on the show, but Jones joined Team Jennifer.
Singing “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” by Death Cab For Cutie, Dave Crosby came to the show hoping to take his singing aspirations to the next level. Crosby’s daughter has appeared on Little Big Shots and The Ellen Degeneres Show, and he sang on the latter with the young girl, so he’s no newbie to reality television. Levine, Cyrus and Shelton all turned for his smooth indie performance. Crosby brought his daughter out on stage, tipping the scales of adorability. He decided to join Team Adam.
Next up was Odiseas, who first auditioned for The Voice during season 3 when he was just 15 years old. This time, he sang “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag” by James Brown, but he once again failed to turn any chairs.
Former NFL player Esera Tuaolo followed with a performance of “Rise Up” by Andra Day. Tuaolo came out as gay after he retired from the NFL and began pursuing his love of singing. Shelton and Hudson both turned for Tuaolo, serving up another showdown between the two coaches. Shelton expressed his love of football when pitching for the artist, which was enough for him to land the soulful singer.
Virginia schoolteacher Brandon Showell auditioned next, singing “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back” by Shawn Mendes. His impressive vocals got Levine, Cyrus and Hudson to turn their chairs. Mendes’ pop vocals made him a clear fit for Team Adam, which is where he landed.
Lucas Holliday was up next, singing Maxwell’s cover of “This Woman’s Work.” The artist and Maxwell actually have a history: Holliday caught Maxwell’s attention by recording himself singing one of his songs and then eventually was invited to perform with him. Holliday gave a dynamic performance, but Hudson was surprisingly the only coach to turn, so Holliday joined Team Jennifer by default.
Hudson showed off her own pipes and added some excitement to the end of the night by singing with Holliday.
Closing out the night, Brooke Simpson sang “Stone Cold” by Demi Lovato, securing an effortless four-chair turn. It was an emotional and memorable performance, making Simpson an early frontrunner. She joined Team Miley.
The Blind Auditions continue tomorrow night on NBC.
This article originally appeared in THR.com.