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‘The Voice’ react: Welcome to season 7

Season 7 | Episode 1 | “The Blind Auditions Premiere” | Aired Sept 22, 2014

Ready or not, season 7 of The Voice has arrived. As a season 2 alumna, I’ve written about the show for four seasons now, and I’m excited for my recaps to find a new home here in the EW Community. Now let’s grab a fancy drink and chat about this week’s premiere episode.

Hella Good
The Voice welcomes two new coaches tonight: Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams. They join regulars Adam Levine and Blake Shelton onstage to perform “Hella Good,” and it’s hella odd, but it works. Most important, it gives us the opportunity to hear Blake sing the words “hella good,” something wonderful that we probably won’t witness again.

That sweater can SANG
Our first audition of the season comes to us via Luke Wade, a 31-year-old from Texas who is styled like everyone’s cool English teacher. Luke’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is” is assured and surprisingly soulful for a white boy in a sweater and pressed pants. It’s enough to earn him three chair turns, and he quickly becomes the first member of Team Pharrell.


Let me write you a poem

Clara Hong, a 22-year-old from Atlanta, is up next with her take on “Chuck E’s in Love.” Her voice is breathy and unhurried in the vein of Norah Jones, and her performance inspires three coaches to push their buttons. The coaches fight hard for her, and despite Gwen’s onstage demonstration of her awesome call-and-response skills, Adam wins Clara to his team with a love poem. In true poet-like fervor, Adam tells Clara he would kill for her. Things just got really weird, y’all. Welcome to season 7.

Adam

The girl card
Gwen may not have won Clara Hong to her team, but she isn’t down for the count, putting her salesmanship skills to good use for our third contestant. Bryana Salazi, a 16-year-old military kid from Texas, gives a spirited rendition of “Problem.” While her tricks aren’t terribly clean, Bryana’s solid upper range and pure sass are enough to turn three chairs. Gwen woos Bryana to her team by using the tried-and-true method of playing the girl card. Blake also makes a play for Bryana, but the minute he calls himself “Uncle Blake,” all hope is lost, because referring to yourself as “Uncle” anything is creepy.

But that was my favorite pocketknife
One of the best auditions tonight came via 35-year-old TSA employee Damien. While I’m not usually a fan of emotional backstories, his recounting of the 2013 LAX shooting is almost as moving as his performance. Damien’s “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” is lovely and emotive, showcasing his pretty vibrato and understated falsetto. When he breaks down afterward (and I’m talking an ugly cry—not the kind where people delicately fake it on this show), I start tearing up. Luckily, Blake breaks the spell by telling Damien the TSA in Nashville took his pocketknife and asking, “Do you know anyone I can call?” Despite Blake’s plea for help, Damien joins Team Adam.


Smartest song choice

The savviest song choice of the night goes to Allison Bray, an 18-year-old returning to audition again after being turned away in season 6. Despite starting behind the beat and struggling with pitch, Allison’s smoky tone is a perfect match for the deceptively simple “Merry Go Round.” This song elevates a good performance so it becomes a great performance, earning Allison a spot on Team Blake.

The Yoda of The Voice
After 23-year-old Taylor John Williams’ silky “Heartless” inspires chair turns from both Gwen and Adam, Pharrell steps in to add some clarity to the situation. He mediates, telling Taylor “I didn’t press [the button] because I thought wow, Adam’s gonna kill this. However, I feel like Adam understands your voice, but Gwen understands your future.” Whoa, it’s getting pretty deep in here for a singing competition. Has Pharrell fully transitioned to become the Yoda of The Voice? See photographic evidence below and decide for yourself.

Pharrell_Yoda-question_mark

Taylor follows Pharrell’s advice and lands on Team Gwen. Yoda wins.

Mama’s boys are the best
The 18-year-old Elyjuh Rene is a firecracker, a fashionista and a self-proclaimed mama’s boy from Long Beach, CA. He is also one of my favorites tonight. His “XO” is joyful and adorable, a performance given by someone who clearly loves what he does. Adam and Pharrell obviously feel the same, pushing their buttons for Elyjuh, and he ultimately lands on Team Pharrell.

The mullet will not be beaten
Our last audition of the night is 34-year-old James David Carter, a working musician who cut his musical teeth opening for larger acts (like Blake Shelton) at a honky-tonk. James’s “Nobody Knows” is a fantastic country reworking of a ’90s R&B staple. His voice is fantastic, and his performance is pretty flawless, milking one final pause for all it’s worth. All four coaches quickly turn their chairs, and Adam and Gwen make their cases by competing to see who can climb the highest. During these shenanigans, Blake sneaks in and adds James to his team. Blake doesn’t even have to work for it, since he won James over years ago with an opening slot and a mullet. No one can resist the mullet.


So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good night

While we had plenty of happy endings tonight, we also had a few who didn’t make it onto a team. The 52-year-old Dennis Bell had a rocking cowboy hat and sweet demeanor, but his “She Used to Be Mine” showed his nerves and emotion a little too clearly. Megg, a pink-haired 23-year-old, did an energetic performance of “Celebrity Skin,” but her pitch couldn’t catch up to her enthusiasm. Last but not least, 21-year-old Bianca Espinal was very sweet, but her “Foolish Games” never really picked up steam, and she went home after getting a hug from Pharrell and an invite to audition again next season.

Who were your favorites from the premiere? Which moments had you laughing or crying? Leave your thoughts in the comments, and I’ll see you back here after the next episode of The Voice. You can also follow me on Twitter as I live-tweet the show Tuesday, September 23, at 8 p.m. EDT. Thanks for reading!

The Voice airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8/7C on NBC.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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