At one point during “The Voice” Season 14 premiere last week, Adam Levine was so excited he dropped to the ground and pretended to make snow angels. Alicia Keys was similarly ecstatic. So was Kelly Clarkson.
The reason? In a new twist, the celebrity coaches can block one another from competing for certain singers during the blind auditions. As a result, Blake Shelton was barred from persuading a country powerhouse to join his team.
“I won’t even be mad if you don’t go with me,” Levine told contestant Justin Kilgore. “Because one thing I know for sure that you can’t do is go with Blake.”
Kilgore chose Clarkson, as did Molly Stevens, another talented country singer. “People believe if you’re country on this show, that [only] Blake can help you, but that is not true,” Clarkson said.
The other coaches basked in Shelton’s disappointment. While they clearly play up this “drama” for the show — Shelton took his losses in stride and joked about it on Twitter — there might be genuine frustration on his part.
So why was everyone determined to gang up on him? Shelton has won the show six times, four of them with country singers.
One of country’s biggest stars, Shelton is quite a draw for aspiring Nashville artists. But it’s irritating to his fellow coaches, who frequently vent that they never have a shot with great country singers, who eagerly choose Shelton during the blind audition process.
It’s also annoying for the other coaches because country singers have an excellent chance of making it far on the show.
Ever since “American Idol,” country music fans have enthusiastically voted on reality singing competitions. “The Voice” is often criticized for being unable to produce stars, but the country acts who have won — Cassadee Pope, Danielle Bradbery, Craig Wayne Boyd, Sundance Head — typically fare better than winners from other genres.
At a recent country radio conference in Nashville, when asked why country contestants do so well on “The Voice,” the Swon Brothers responded simply: “Blake Shelton.”
“We got his phone number; we have stayed at his house; we have hunted at his house. There’s a personal connection; he goes above and beyond,” said Colton Swon, whose act landed in third place in Season 4. “He’s been like a big brother.”
“And he had our back when things got a little tricky,” added Zach Swon.
The Swon Brothers got a record deal after “The Voice,” though were later dropped, and are now releasing music independently.
Shelton’s Music City connections have helped other Team Blake members. He gave Season 7 winner Craig Wayne Boyd a song he had been saving for himself, “My Baby’s Got a Smile on Her Face.” Boyd’s recording became the second song in history to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard country chart. Recently, Shelton took Season 11 winner Sundance Head with him on tour.
So he is an appealing choice for auditioners. The show’s producers obviously realize this as they amp up the drama after Miley Cyrus’ quest last season to beat Shelton and win with a country singer. (It backfired.)
“I blocked Blake. I did what I’ve been waiting for!” Keys said triumphantly after Kilgore went to Clarkson’s team.
“Just the block alone gave me pleasure and satisfaction.”