Blind auditions were wrapping up Monday night "The Voice" as the open spots for new contestants dwindled, and that meant the coaches were being choosier than ever about picking top talent.
The first singer to take "The Voice" stage was Matt Cermanski, returning to the "Voice" stage for a second stab after failing to turn a chair last season with Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream." This time around, the 20-year-old, who'd spent the interim months playing shows and working with a vocal coach, had a more serious mien.
Accompanying himself on guitar, he performed a slow-burning take on John Hiatt's "Have a Little Faith in Me." He earned an almost immediate chair turn from Adam, followed by picks from Blake and CeeLo. Both coaches who had passed on him last season praised his confident, versatile new sound and his resilience.
"Just the amount of growth I've seen in two performances is exponential," Adam said, and Matt picked him as his coach — meaning just one spot now remained on Team Adam.
The next contestant to make it onto a team was Tamara Chauniece, an apartment leasing agent and daughter of two pastors. When she showed off her boundless voice with the Beyonce ballad "1+1," Christina turned in her chair immediately, followed by CeeLo.
"I loved it. You touched my heart," Christina told her.
"It was everything that it needed to be: just enough, not too much," said CeeLo, noting that his parents, too, were both ministers. "I ended up being a sinner. It's not too late, you can still save me," he joked.
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"My gut is telling me to go with CeeLo," Tamara said. That meant there were just two spots left on Team CeeLo.
But the next contestant wouldn't fill one of them, try as CeeLo might to woo over prodigy Brandon Chase, a Texan who had graduated from college at 17 but wanted above all to succeed as a musician. His performance of Hunter Hayes' "Wanted" won over both Blake and CeeLo — and while CeeLo put up a good fight, finding a kernel of soul in the country song, Brandon chose Blake as his coach.
CeeLo had better luck with Lupe Carroll, a flower delivery man married to his cellist-turned-BFF-turned-wife and eager to find his singer-songwriter break. He performed the folk song "If I Were a Carpenter," made famous by Johnny Cash and June Carter, and won over CeeLo with it. (Christina was clearly tempted but was holding out.)
"You sound damn good," CeeLo told Lupe as he welcomed him onto his team. "I'm looking for all kinds of artists, and I'm looking to challenge someone to take a chance," he explained afterward.
That meant all four teams were shy just one team member each.
Team Adam was first to find its final member, in the form of 25-year-old Grey, a Berklee College of Music alum and wedding band singer. Her confident performance of "Catch My Breath" and her take on its crescendo won over Adam, CeeLo and Blake — although Blake's chair spun back around after the song ended, in a malfunction he blamed on rival coaches out to rob him of Grey's talents.
One of them did just that. Grey chose Adam as her coach — making him the first coach to complete his team's roster.
Christina became the next, thanks to an unlikely artist: Michael Lynch, a white guy from Chicago, of Irish ancestry, with a passion for the Spanish language and for Latin culture and pop music. "I'm not trying to be something that I'm not," Michael, who had taught himself Spanish and lived for a while in Mexico City, explained. "It's who I am."
That was clear to Christina, Blake and CeeLo when Michael took on Enrique Iglesias' soaring hit "Bailamos."
"Your pitch is so amazing," Blake told him, and he pointed out that Christina had danced in her chair during Michael's performance. "She never dances for anybody! Ever!" Blake noted.
But Michael chose as his coach the one who turned first in her chair, and who combined English and Spanish in her songs in a way he admired: none other than Christina.
She had been holding out for a striking male singer as her last team member, and in Michael, she had found one. To celebrate, she made him dance salsa with her and sing an impromptu duet.
"He's got this great voice and this strong opinion and this real need to do Spanish music, and I love that," she said.
That meant there were only two spots left on "The Voice" season five — one on Team Blake, and one on Team CeeLo.
Blake won the battle for the next contestant when he nabbed Texan folk/soul singer-songwriter Brian Pounds. The singer, whose foray into music was a stark departure from his family of devoted athletes, covered Darius Rucker's hit "Wagon Wheel," impressing both Blake and CeeLo.
When they turned, Brian said to Blake, "It's really good to see you!" — and with that, CeeLo knew all was lost. He threw up his hands in defeat, and indeed, Brian picked Blake as his coach — putting the finishing touch on Team Blake.
But Team CeeLo got a final member, and a country singer, of its own with Shawn Smith, a bartender and Army veteran who said he goes by the nickname "Big Sexy" among his friends. He performed the Zac Brown Band's rollicking tune "Chicken Fried" and was overjoyed when he learned he had secured the coveted last spot on season five of "The Voice."
A few others Monday night, though, headed home empty-handed. Those included Diego Roman Navairo, 22, who had departed from his musical family's Tejano roots to embrace punk rock. The coaches enjoyed his take on "Rebel Yell" but passed him over, knowing the space on their teams was limited.
Same went for Deanna Johnson, a 17-year-old with a thick Georgian drawl and an unexpected love for big-voiced pop divas like Adele. When she sang "Stars," the coaches praised her unique vocal tone — but they said she simply wasn't ready for a slot on a "Voice" team. ("You're only eight to 10 months away from being someone who could win this show," Blake said, though, and Christina urged her to return.)
Another 17-year-old, former child actor Dominic Scott Kay, didn't win a spot, either, even though he performed a song he knew intimately — "Easy," by the Commodores," in which his dad is the drummer.
Now that "The Voice" has finished its blind auditions, the 12 members of each team will begin working with their coaches and mentors in the hopes of sticking around to win the whole affair. That begins Tuesday.
"The Voice" airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8/7c on NBC.