The Voice's Season 4 Premiere: How Will Usher and Shakira Measure Up?

The Voice S04E01: "Blind Auditions Premiere Part 1"

Hey there, guys and gals. It’s time for another season of The Only Way NBC Gets Ratings These Days, a.k.a. The Voice. Original Recipe judges Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera are on hiatus to concentrate on their own careers instead of those of the newest class of noobs. Holding down the fort for Latin sensation Xtina is Latin sensation Shakira, while soul/hip-hop/R&B artist Usher has claimed the chair of soul/hip-hop/R&B artist Cee Lo. Don’t mess with the formula, right NBC?

Maybe it’s because Shakira seems eager, excited, and maybe even a little bit nervous in her position—whereas Christina Aguilera spent most of last season looking bored out of her mind—but I’m really digging the new judges. Shakira is just as much of a serial hugger as Aguilera, though honestly, the hugging-it-out levels were generally through the roof during last night's season premiere. Even Adam Levine was getting in on it—and he was having a hard night, all things considered. Adam typically trails during the the recruitment portion of the competition due to his very specific tastes. The man doesn't just turn his chair for anyone. But on the occasions where he did, the contestants tended to choose one of the other judges. Adam Levine is that really INTENSE guy at the coffee shop who is really dreamy and smart, and like, TOTALLY DEEP... but also kind of scary. 

Blake Shelton was, well, he was Blake Shelton. He pulled out the I'm-married-to-Miranda-Lambert card early in the game, but also had the track record of two consecutive winning seasons to dangle in front of wannabe team members. He made good with three solid additions to his budding team: harmonizing singing-sisters duo The Morgan Twins, bullying awareness poster child Danielle Bradbery, and Christian Porter, whose sob story basically consisted of "This one time my parents thought I was deaf... but I wasn't." Precious. There were so many precious contestants in the first chunk of blind auditions, but the adorableness was necessary to combat the utter depression trailing many of them. I jest about the warm-fuzzies aspect of the premiere, but seriously, hug it out, guys. The one thing that's clear so far is that NBC isn't going to have to work hard at wringing an emotional response out of any viewers who possess feelings. 

Due to the quantity and the quality of his newest team members, I'm gonna have to declare Team Blake the strongest team after the first night of auditions. Team Adam certainly caught a good one with his last-minute acquisition of former Michael Jackson back-up singer Judith Hill, but he struggled to convince many of those he turned his chair for to commit to his team. At times, Levine's high standards have left him scrambling to fill empty spots toward the end of the audition round, forcing him to fill those seats with talent that isn't quite up to snuff. (Though admittedly, no judge has fallen so hopelessly into this pattern as our dearly hiatus-ed Xtina.)

Usher seemed in his element, and it honestly isn't surprising that the artist responsible for rocketing Justin Bieber to stardom is so enthusiastic to to suss out new talent. I get the sense that he's thinking of the viability of hopeful contestants well beyond their tenures on The Voice. Usher also, unsurprisingly, has quite a way with words and threw out some of the most eloquent sales pitches in an attempt to draw conflicted artists to his team. When Blake Shelton offered to make Danielle Bradbery a star in Nashville, Usher told her, "You have so much more potential than Nashville," and offered her the world. (He also accidentally called Nashville a state but, eh, geography is hard.) In a battle with fellow interim judge Shakira for the affiliation of Jess Kellner, Usher followed up Shakira's polite, constructive criticism and promises to work on Jess's weaknesses in rehearsal with, "Don't you wanna last forever?" I mean, who can argue with that? Kellner didn't. 

Shakira noticeably altered her sales pitches later on, after her friendly honesty and genuine enthusiasm caused some obvious difficulty in getting the new kids to swear their undying allegiance to her. Constructive criticism is still criticism. You have to butter them up before you break them during rehearsals. It's the Xtina way. 

Yeah, on second thought, ditch her way and do your own thing. 

While the real test of Shakira and Usher's skill in molding new musicians (and kicking the competition's asses) will come during the mentoring segments and eventual battles, I think the new judges are off to a solid start.


What about you? Are you watching this latest season of The Voice?



NOTES

– The Morgan Twins have the distinct honor of being one of the few harmonizing groups to audition for The Voice who don't suck at harmonizing. However, I can't decide whether their insistence on dressing identical even though they're almost thirty is cute or creepy. Thoughts?

– In an attempt to woo Danielle Bradbery to his team, Blake pointed out that he has a good track record working with teenagers and getting them acquainted with the Nashville scene. Don't you compare her to RaeLynn, Blake Shelton! Don't you insult her like that! 

– Anyone willing to bet that Jess Kellner's formerly estranged mom gets to be a special guest at some point this season? The Voice can be predictable like that. 

– The opening performance of "Come Together" was definitely one of the better coach performances The Voice has given us recently. Definitely better than anything they cobbled together last season. 

– Who are your favorite contestants so far?

– How do you think Usher and Shakira will do as judges?

Comments (24)
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Just give the title to Judith. Give up contracts in respect for MJ's death? That's class and moral.
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Judith Hill sang amazingly, and she looked fabulous onstage! The Voice is all that I’ve been talking about with my coworkers when I start my workday at DISH, and we all can’t wait for next week’s episodes. Some of us forgot to record both episodes, but luckily, our DISH Hoppers are set to record all the primetime shows from the four major networks each night of the week, so both episodes were just waiting to be watched.
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I still want Xtina to be back. People are just judgmental but she actually has the smartest constructive criticisms among 4. Can't wait for this season to end so xtina comes back for season 5.
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I am actually digging the new coaching dynamic it's refreshing and the ego's are sort of left at the door. My favorite contestants so far are Might as Whale (not sure on the spelling) but I'm looking forward to this year’s competition. Also is it just me or are there fewer contestants per team than last season?
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I really like this season. I like Usher and Shakira quite a lot so far, both in sales pitch, styles and choices, and they're a nice change from Ceelo and Xtina (and both are much nicer to look at tbh). And I feel most of the contestants that got picked up so far are pretty strong, so it sets out for an interesting season.
And +1 about the performance at the beginning. That was amazing.
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ADAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yum.
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I like the new judges. Were used to hearing the same old pitches so getting new judges was good. Shakira seems sincere, interested to hear the song choices for her team. Not that impressed w/Usher but he is a smooth talker. Actually will miss Xtina. She was fun to watch. Her team was a mess last season but she was the only coach that gave honest (and harsh) criticism when it was really needed.
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It was an ok episode, couple of good contestants so far. However, I'm going to miss Christina Aguilera. This show is incomplete without her in that chair. Also gonna miss Cee-lo. So far Usher and especially Shakira haven't impressed me.
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Finally a good singing show, I LOVE the new coaches and of course still love Blake and Adam. The talent on this show is on a level in another stratosphere from American Idol. Even the people they don't pick are more talented than the Top 10 this year on Idol.
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I was thrilled with the judges' camaraderie. I thought Usher and Shakira were fresh and fun and they threw the teams for a loop. Totally reinvigorating. I don't have anyone I'm rooting for yet, but there is definitely the talent standard you expect from The Voice.
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Staff
Yes! I think Usher and Shakira really invigorated things on the judges end. Everyone seemed way more excited and enthusiastic about being there and building their teams than they did last season.
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I will watch anything with Shakira. Even NBC.

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I loved it. I was ecstatic to finally see a duo on the show that actually sounded fantastic together and fantastic apart. I'm tired of the meh-duos. Give us some real talent! Granted, I usually prefer male-female duos, but I'll take what I can get! I was shocked by them choosing Blake, though. I was definitely expecting them to go with Usher.

Judith was remarkable and definitely a huge win for Adam. But I wasn't exactly surprised by her choice. She reminds me a bit of Amanda Brown when Amanda did what I personally think she did best - the R&B gospel tracks. As long as she sticks to where her voice really shines, she'll probably go far. Just hope she doesn't get boring.

The little country start was cute as can be, but I could really hear her inexperience. Still, she was adorable.

Loved falsetto guy, but I immediately said, "He sounds like a girl to them." and I knew that would be a problem. Luckily, Shakira turned anyway, and I think that's a huge reward for her.

The guy that sang "Sex and I know It" was good, but the arrangement wasn't nearly as original as they all said. That's how James Arthur on X-Factor UK sang the song, almost to the T. It could be a coincidence, but yeah. I dunno. Still great sounding voice, though.

I don't really remember most of the others...

I say great first ep, though!
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I thought everyone freaking out over the "Sexy and I Know It" cover was silly too. I've heard acoustic covers before Christian Porter's too. With that said, he performed really well. But I was eye-rolling through all the "OMG" over the arrangement too.

Definitely a great start though! I'm excited about Usher and Shakira.
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Rooting for Judith Hill. I still think a guy will win, but I'm definitely a fan of Judith Hill for life now.
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Well, here we are. New season, new coaches, same old sob stories. Serisouly - after watching The Voice, who would ever want to become a professional singer?? Appearently you need a really messed up life to even get into the business in the first place. Isn´t there anybody out there who had a normal childhood? Where both parents actually survived past their 16th birthday? Where they weren´t broke all the time? Or almost dies from some terrible disease? Maybe they even had a dog. And he lived to be 15 years old.
These sob stories don´t make me care about the artitsts. They don´t make me connect with them on a deep emotional level. They just annoy me. Just as they did last season. And the season before that. And the season before...
About the new judges: Usher is cool. I wouldn´t say he is better or worse than Cee Lo. He is different but I really like him so far. Just as I liked Shakira. I actually found her honesty in the beginning really nice. Unfortunately she didn´t get very far with it. But so far she is a definite upgrade compared to Xtina. But then again...they could have put a monkey with a blonde wig who was throwing around feces in that chair and it would still have been an upgrade compared to Xtina.
Let´s see how things will play out. By the time we reach the live shows (which should be about 46 episodes from now) I´m probably burned out and have given up on the show.
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Oooh the sob stories. They were so obnoxious last season. I felt like there was a lot of reaching last season too. Some of the stories this round were really depressing though. Also, I'm not desensitized to caring yet, so there's that. By the battle rounds I will be soulless. It happens every season.
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It´s not so much being desensitized to caring. If you give me one tragic story I will care. If you give me 6 per episode they just blur together. If the tragic family story becomes the norm it simply loses its impact. And besides...I´m watching these shows to have fun. If I want to get depressed I watch the news. Or The Following.
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True. I just hate how, whether it's intentional or not, the sob story we get in the audition is the one that ends up defining the individual performers. This is the one whose dad died. This is the one who grew up without running water. This is the one who got made fun of in high school. I guess it's fine as a shorthand way of introducing the audience to everyone, but when we're in the finals and every introduction is still relying on the same shortcut it just seems really cheap. And of course it makes every elimination that much worse. Or it's supposed to. Or something.
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Except there are usually 5 contestants whose father died early and 7 contestants who almost died from a terrible disease. I´m waiting for the day where all the members of one team actually have the same sad story.
Like I said...if you have one guy whose father died really early and his family never had any money and then that guy gets eliminated - that would be emotionally devastating. But when he gets eliminated and there are still three other contestants with the same story - I just can´t bring myself to really care anymroe.
And let´s not forget my favorite story of all: the background singer who is finally stepping into the spotlight. They´re gonna milk that one until you think the only reason the one they were singing for had any success at all was because he/she was singing in the background.
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The judge's performance was DEFINITELY one of the best ones they've done period. Their voices all sound WAY better together.

I am still shocked by how in love with Christian I was. I never expected to her "Sexy and I Know It" sung like that and I have to say, I liked it. Really liked it.

Kris Thomas..... They were right. The girls go for the falsetto. When done properly. And that was done properly. Props to him for having the balls to do a Whitney song and doing it justice.

And Judith Hill. She is definitely gonna get the hype from NBC. As long as her following performances live up to that audition, I think I'm gonna be ok with that.

I love Shakira as a judge. I have been listening to her for as long as I can remember and I really think she can bring a lot to the table for these contestants. Her music has such an eclectic mix of influences that I think she can relate to a wide range of genres really easily.

I was overall, very impressed by the talent pool last night. Hopefully, the next few episodes of blind auditions keep it up. And thank god for only having 12 per team this season.
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Kris Thomas & Judith Hill...that's pretty much it..wasn't really much talent.
The judges were the only reason for watching, and by that i mean Adam & Blake...
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