Pop Culture

Usher gets a geography lesson on 'Voice' premiere

Adam Taylor/NBC / Today
New "Voice" coach Usher made a bit of a geography boo-boo on his first night of the show.

Returning champion coaches Blake Shelton and Adam Levine welcomed single-name superstars Usher and Shakira to "The Voice" on Monday night, as season four began the Blind Auditions with banter, bribery and tear-jerking backstories.

The new quartet of coaches began with a performance of The Beatles’ “Come Together,” further reiterating that this singing competition touts working musicians who each play instruments as mentors. As the only female coach on the show, Shakira knows she’s got big shoes to fill -- so if you miss Christina Aguilera belting on Cee Lo Green’s “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley, Shakira makes up for it with...a harmonica.

Meet the first additions to "The Voice’s" fourth season (and the ones who almost made the cut):

The Morgan Twins

Song: “Fallin’”

Coaches Who Turned Their Chairs: All four. How else would the show kick off the blinds?

The coaches had no idea that a pair of blonde bombshells in red cocktail dresses were standing behind them. But after one sister nailed Alicia Keys'signature opening, Shelton and Usher immediately hit their buttons, with the other two coaches following suit. “This is a dream come true for most...men,” jokes Shelton. “Like a damn Doublemint commercial!” Looks like being a two-time champion is a nice selling point -- the duo opts for Team Blake, even if it does get him in trouble with wife Miranda Lambert.

Jess Kellner

Song: “Can’t Help Falling in Love”

Coaches Who Turned Their Chairs: Usher and Shakira

Using music to heal emotional scars from an alcoholic mother, Kellner’s brassy tone and patient phrasing departed from typical "Voice" auditions. Shakira took a nurturing approach -- praising the “haunting” timbre of her voice -- but Usher simply smiled with his leg up on that rotating chair and let his sex appeal ooze out. Clearly, the latter approach works, as Team Usher gained a first contestant.

Mark Andrew

Song: “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”

Coaches Who Turned Their Chairs: Levine, Shakira

Andrew -- a vocal blend of "Voice" alumni Tony Lucca and Nicholas David -- was hesitant to give music a second try, after two of his former band members recently passed away. After Shakira pointing out that Levine only won with a beginner’s luck that she now has (“Don’t be blinded by lust, my friend!” pleaded Levine), the “Hips Don’t Lie” singer successfully recruited Andrew. Looks like sex appeal won again, even when she’s pregnant!

Janetza Miranda

Song: “Titanium”

Coaches Who Turned Their Chairs: none

The Bachata singer who rocks bird call wanted Shakira to coach her to a bilingual musical career. After a shaky, nervous performance, the pitchy powerhouse is consoled with hugs from a compassionate Levine.

Danielle Bradbery

Song: “Mean”

Coaches Who Turned Their Chairs: Shelton, Usher, Levine

Bullied as a kid for having bad teeth, the 16-year-old stuck it to haters with the Taylor Swift song, and turned three chairs. While Usher tried bribing her with Justin Bieber meet-and-greets, he accidentally referred to the city of Nashville as a state -- a geography flub that must have cost him. Bradbery chose Team Blake, probably with hopes of following last season’s winner Cassadee Pope into the country music scene.


Song: “Boyfriend”

Coaches Who Turned Their Chairs: Usher

With experiences of homelessness and a mother with stage-IV lung cancer, this R&B singer sang through the whispers of the Justin Bieber hit and received a standing ovation -- and his first-choice coach.

Christian Porter

Song: “Sexy and I Know It”

Coaches Who Turned Their Chairs: Shakira, Shelton, Usher

The bar musician (aka a champion of covers) took a creative risk and put a blues twist on the LMFAO hit that displayed his vocal range and got Shakira all hot and bothered. “The women were going so crazy, I really thought I was gonna turn to a stripshow!” said Usher, and Shelton scolded an audience member who shouted for Porter to choose Shakira. Looks like intimidation worked -- Porter then chose Shelton.

Leah Lewis

Song: “Blown Away”

Coaches Who Turned Their Chairs: none

Lewis was adopted from China as an infant and hopes to break the country music stereotype as an Asian American. Though the 15-year-old blew raw and untrained notes throughout the performance, there’s no doubt "The Voice" will be seeing her again. “if you’re 99 percent amazing and you’re fifteen, you have nothing to worry about, sweetheart,” said Levine as she left.

Kris Thomas

Song: “Saving All My Love For You”

Coaches Who Turned Their Chairs: Shakira

This pastor’s son fell into depression and alcoholism after losing a record deal, and got a wake-up call when he found himself drunk at the wheel. Only Shakira picked up on Thomas’ feminine timbre and controlled falsettos, while the other three coaches were surprised to see a man standing before them. “I wish I knew you were a guy!” shouted Levine with regret; “Women go crazy over a guy with falsetto; they love that,” Usher (who discovered Bieber) told Shakira.

James Irwin

Song: “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved”

Coaches Who Turned Their Chairs: none

A carpenter whose twin daughters died only minutes after a premature birth, Irwin’s subdued performance didn’t turn any chairs. “Life, thank God, is full of second and third chances,” said Shakira to Irwin. “You should try it again, because you deserve to come back.”

Judith Hill

Song: “What a Girl Wants”

Coaches Who Turned Their Chairs: All four

The female duet singer and background singer set for Michael Jackson’s This Is It tour spent two months rehearsing with the legend before he passed away. Though offers poured in after she sang at Jackson’s memorial service, Hill said “it seemed like poor taste” and instead opted to try "The Voice" and put a soulful spin on coach Aguilera’s early hit. “You’re the first person who’s ever done a Christina song, and done it as well as Christina Aguilera,” says Levine. After plenty of four-way banter, Hill became Levine’s first contestant of season four.

But all of this is only half the story -- the two-night premiere of "The Voice" continues Tuesday night at 8 p.m. on NBC.

How do you think the new judges did on their first night? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page!

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