The fourth season of "The Voice" kicked off Monday night, March 25 with the first blind audition. New judges Shakira and Usher got comfortable on the swirling seats, filling the vacant spots temporarily left by Christina Aguilera and Cee-Lo Green. They were joined by old judges Adam Levine and Blake Shelton.
Before selecting the singing hopefuls, the foursome started the competition with a performance. The Maroon 5 frontman played drums, new mom Shakira played a harmonica, while country crooner Shelton and R&B singer Usher picked up guitars. They delivered a collaborative rendition of The Beatles' classic "Come Together".
Three standout contestants were Kris Thomas, Danielle Bradbery and Judith Hill. The judges shamelessly did anything to lure whom they thought had so much potential. Usher, for example, tried to bribe 16-year-old Danielle, who did well with her rendition of Taylor Swift's "Mean", with Justin Bieber's ticket, but she chose Shelton.
Unlike Danielle who admitted it was her first big performance, Thomas seemed to be a semi-professional. He once signed a record deal but lost it after college. He also recalled the day he nearly drove his car into a house while intoxicated. His emotional story was sure to leave impression on audience, but it was his performance that really wowed viewers.
His gender-bending performance of Whitney Houston's "Saving All My Love for You" surprised the judges. They didn't realize a man was on stage until they turned their chairs to face the aspiring singer. "In my four seasons, I've never heard anything like that," Levine said in shock. "You're a gem," said Shakira who had him on her team.
Turned out Shakira had her own tactics to get her favorites. The singer, who just gave birth to her first son last January, said to the three male judges after her success to lure the falsettoed crooner to be her protege, "I know you guys. I gotta keep it under control otherwise you all turn and then make my life miserable."
The last contestant, Hill, got all the four judges turning their chairs and asked her to be her mentor. The contestant from Pasadena, Calif. wowed Levine and Usher even before she finished the first few lines of Xtina's hit "What a Girl Wants". "You are the first person who has ever come on this show and done a Christina song as well as Christina Aguilera," Levine said.
"I'm gonna claw everyone's face," he added enthusiastically. "I'm gonna light myself on fire to make sure you're on my team." Shelton gushed, "It's like a star just hatched out of a shell up there," while Shakira said, "My heart is beating fast right now because I really feel I am in front of a star." As for Usher, he resorted to his seductive tactic by calling her his "first lady."
In the end, Hill picked to be coached by Levine.
In addition to fighting with each other to get the best contestants, the judges also traded banter from their seats. At one point, Usher drew the night's biggest laugh when he said Nashville was a state. "I'm still fascinated by Nashville being a state. ... He's from there, that's what's really sad about it," fellow judge Shelton joked.