The forecast for Monday’s episode of The Voice called for a thunderstorm — make that a Thunderstorm Artis, the memorably-monikered contestant whose impeccably-polished vocals made Blake Shelton remark that his Blind Audition “sounded like it was prerecorded.” Kelly Clarkson didn’t even think that there was anything the coaches could teach him. “We’re just gonna be your cheerleaders,” she said. Read on, and we’ll not only review our new frontrunner’s Beatles cover, we’ll discuss all of the evening’s tryouts, from the “meh” to the “amazing.”
Allegra Miles (Team Nick), “Use Somebody” — Grade: A- | A human sunbeam who said that she’d been shaped by her upbringing in the Virgin Islands, this 16-year-old revamped Kings of Leon’s hit with an eyebrow-raising depth and vocal richness that belied her age. Some of her runs made me go “Hmm, is it supposed to sound like that?” But in a way, the weirdness only made it cooler — she was sorta like a lil’ Fiona Apple. I was with Kelly when Allegra was done; couldn’t believe this was a two-chair turn, not a four-chair.
Cammwess (Team Legend), “Earned It” — Grade: B | This twentysomething jock-turned-singer comes from a family of Voice fans, so the pressure was really on for him to score in his Blind Audition. And score, he did, pouring out a vocal that started off as smooth as melting chocolate. As he went for bigger and bigger notes, he got a little pitchy and forced-sounding, but if he can get and keep that in check, he could be a contender. Either way, after the coaches sang him “Happy Birthday” — and forgot his name! — hey, the least he was owed was some training with the pros.
Joei Fulco (Team Blake), “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” — Grade: C | Presented as a real Blind at first, Joei won me over at once with the tone of her voice. As she went on with her Cher cover, though, she kinda lost me. I dug her rasp, but there was a wobbly-ness to her warbling that made me feel like she was doing a Cher impersonation rather than her own interpretation of the golden oldie. Blake probably could’ve chosen more wisely the singer for whom he was going to block Nick; eagerness to block the new guy isn’t in and of itself a good reason to do so.
Sara Collins (Team Kelly), “Johnny and June” — Grade: C- | This native of Baton Rouge, La., was so pitchy at the offset of her performance that I suspected she was going to be our no-chair turn of the first hour. (There’s always one.) She got stronger as she got louder, but I didn’t think she ever got, you know, strong enough. Even Blake admitted that the country girl’s pitch issues had been so significant that they’d kept him from turning his chair along with Nick and Kelly. (I’d have preferred for cello player Clerida to have gotten in.)
Samantha Howell (Team Kelly), “Take It On the Run” — Grade: C+ | A 19-year-old from Virginia Beach, Va., Samantha admitted in her pre-performance interview that she hoped to work with Nick even though, if he did end up coaching her, she’d probably be too distracted to learn anything. On stage, she had some nice moments here and there — if that wasn’t just me short-circuiting from how fun I thought it was that she’d countrified REO Speedwagon — but mostly, she was shouty and forgettable. I know Kelly was eager to get a country singer on her team, but she could’ve held out for a more solid one to deploy her Block.
Jamal Corrie (Team Blake), “Be Alright” — Grade: C+ | A busker unaccustomed to singing indoors, Jamal was eager to do well in hopes of helping to provide for his family, including two brothers with autism. At first I worried that his soulful audition was too same-y vocally — he hit at one level and kinda stayed there throughout. But he has a strong voice, and if his coach can do what he said he intended to — lessen Jamal’s nerves and increase his confidence — he could make it past the Battles.
Samuel Wilco (Team Nick), “Lately” — Grade: A- | An enlisted man for more than two decades, this soon-to-retire 39-year-old Army trainer gave an audition that was really worth saluting. His vocal was rich enough that you could drizzle it over ice cream, his notes were so round, you could use ’em as hula-hoops, and every time you thought he couldn’t possibly open up wider and go bigger, damned if he didn’t do exactly that. I was stunned that he only got Kelly and Nick’s chairs to turn; Blake, this was the kinda performer you save your Block for.
Thunderstorm Artis (Team Legend), “Blackbird” — Grade: A | Not just one of 11 kids in his family but a one-in-a-million auditioner on The Voice, Thunderstorm — yes, that’s his real, actual, birth name — earned a four-chair turn first of all by singing with breathtaking control and second of all by singing with the naturalness of an element. Like, his performance was so raw, so real, so organic — listen for yourself below — that I thought by the time he was done that Thunderstorm should be added to the list that already included earth, water, fire and air. Final Four or bust. My favorite so far. Well, besides Joanna Serenko. And Samuel… OK, I like a few!
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