In case you didn’t notice the first, oh, 517 times Blake Shelton mentioned it during Season 23’s past three episodes, this season is the longtime popular coach’s last rodeo on The Voice. And he’s milking what he hopes to be his farewell victory lap for all it’s worth, getting in every last possible jab at his longtime rival, Kelly Clarkson, and pulling every last dirty trick to recruit singers for his final team.
For instance, during Tuesday’s Blind Auditions, Blake tried to bond with one contestant, aspiring Olympian Chloe Abbott, by claiming that he’s been training the U.S. Curling Team “for a couple of years now.” An exasperated Kelly then rhetorically gasped, “Is anybody else just sick of Blake lying?” — and in one of the series’ better shticks in recent memory, she summoned host Carson Daly, who right on cue came out wheeling a polygraph machine.
Getting into full-on Maury “The Lie Detector Determined That Was a Lie” Povich mode, Kelly hooked Blake up and grilled him with questions like “Did you block me this season?” And of course, a red-X screen — which kind of looked like it was borrowed from NBC sister show America’s Got Talent — instantly buzzed and flashed the block letters “FALSE” when Blake denied it. It was also unsurprising when Blake’s “absolutely” answer to Kelly’s “Am I truly your favorite coach?” query elicited another big red “FALSE.” (We allknow rookie coach Niall Horan is his new fave.) And it was highly amusing when Carson’s question, “Did Gwen [Stefani] marry you out of sheer pity?” — to which Blake shruggingly replied, “Probably” — generated a green “TRUE” result.
“Kelly, Kelly! You should know that lie detectors don’t work on me,” Blake chuckled after Kelly’s little stunt was over, throwing to some seemingly legitimate ice-rink footage of him attending an Olympic curling practice. “I am the master of lying!”
In another humorous display of Blake and Kelly’s frenemy-ship Tuesday, when they were sparring over teen singer Mary Kate Connor, who Kelly called a “younger Brandi Carlile,” Blake recalled, “I ran into Kelly Clarkson at a Brandi Carlile concert 10 or 12 years ago…” To that, Kelly retorted without missing a beat: “Not because you were there!” But then Kelly thought she’d gone too far, yelling, “I’m just kidding, I’m just kidding!” and running to give Blake an apologetic hug. At the end of the day, or at least the end of the hour-long episode, it was evident that these two really care about each other.
In his own cranky way, Blake admitted that he missed Kelly when she sat out last season, explaining, “It’s exciting to have Kelly back, because when she’s gone, I really don’t have anyone to truly fight with. And when she’s here, the fight is on!” But when Blake was out of earshot, Kelly shared a sweeter sentiment.
“Don’t tell him I said this, but he is The Voice,” Kelly said of her co-star. “He’s the king of The Voice. So, it is going to be really weird when he’s not here. He will be missed by everyone.”
Aw. When Blake eventually sees that footage, I’m sure the dirty-trickster will use it against Kelly in some way. But really, Kelly told no lies. The show just won’t be the same without him. There’s only one more week of Blind Auditions to go before Blake can holler, “My team is full!” for the last time, but below is a rundown of who he, Kelly, Niall, and Chance the Rapper recruited Tuesday — including which team the above-mentioned Mary Kate Connor ultimately joined.
Kate Cosentino, 23: “I Say a Little Prayer”
This sassy lady with “big chick energy” from a big Italian family has the potential to get annoying in a big way (she seems to make being Italian her whole personality). But her winsome, jazzy, Sara Bareilles-like performance and self-described “clown couture” made her a “readymade star,” according to Niall. “The fact that you picked that song means you’re your standards are [high],” a seemingly smitten Niall said of Kate’s Bacharach/Warwick cover, while Chance called Kate “cool” and “so fun,” and Kelly loved her “Wayne’s World guitar” and lilting, “lullaby-ish” vocals.
Who turned? Kelly, Chance, and Niall.
Result: Team Niall. Kate explained that the Irish and Italians have to stick together, and this is what her “ancestors” would want. (Apparently Kelly’s “30%” Irish blood wasn’t enough.)
Chloe Abbott, 24: “How Deep Is Your Love”
This competitive track-and-field athlete, who’s hoping to qualify for 2024 Olympics, brought her training for the Voice stage, exhibiting what Chance noted was “amazing breath control” on her sultry Bee Gees cover. Chance also described the Detroit chanteuse as a (clearly winning) combination of Anita Baker and Norah Jones.
Who turned? Only Chance, surprisingly. He was thrilled, of course, calling Chloe “the artist I was looking to find.”
Result: Team Chance. “I think she would have stood out on anybody’s team, but I’m glad she’s on the winning team,” Chance quipped, proving that is a fierce competitor too — even if he’s not trying to join the U.S. Curling Team.
Marcos Covos, 30: “Tu Sol Tu”
After enjoying an idyllic, music-filled childhood, Marcos was disowned by his family when he came out as gay in high school — which “made pursuing music painful, because it would remind me of the old life I used to have.” Eventually Marcos and his parents reconciled, and as he strutted towards the Voice stage Tuesday, he declared, “I’ve never performed as myself; this is my first time in my life when I feel exactly who I am, and proud of who I am.” There was a sense of triumph, joy, and release in his performance, which Kelly called “gorgeous” and “passionate.”
Who turned? Kelly, who’s always had a soft spot for Latin and Spanish-language singers… and she seemed to think this one was a lock, until sneaky Blake infuriatingly hit his button during Marcos’s final note.
Result: Team Kelly, of course. “I knew there was no way I was going to beat Kelly on that one, but it made me happy to see her get mad at me for a second,” Blake admitted with a smirk.
Tiana Goss, 29: “Emotion”
Tiana tried out for Season 22, but “didn’t do as well as I wanted to do. … It honestly was a bummer.” However, as someone who in 2020 was diagnosed with a form of epilepsy that can actually affect her lyric recall, Tiana clearly isn’t the type to give up. This time around, she “picked the perfect song that showed off all the best parts of her voice,” according to Niall (last year’s Nelly Furtado cover choice was ill-advised), and she was much-improved.
Who turned? Just Niall, who clearly has a soft spot for soft female crooners. I was surprised that Chance refrained, because he looked so intrigued throughout Tiana’s Samantha Sang cover.
Result: Team Niall. “I was hoping for you!” confessed Tiana, who seemed as delighted as Niall by this outcome. “I was looking for some character, and she has that in abundance,” Niall gushed, calling Tiana a “game-changer.”
Mary Kate Connor, 17: “Stars”
A fan of The Voice since she was a very little girl, Mary Kate actually first heard her Blind Audition song, a soaring Grace Potter folk ballad, while watching the show. I personally don’t think Mary Kate version soared enough — her performance was too polite and tentative, with none of Grace’s raw energy — but this theater kid did deliver a pretty, polished, professional vocal. Kelly loved “how beautiful and tender it was,” and Blake described Mary Kate’s “Appalachian sound” as “soft and angelic.”
Who turned? Blake and Kelly.
Result: Team Blake. I felt like Mary Kate was more of a Danielle Bradbery (Season 4’s Blake-coached teen winner) than a Brandi Carlile — so this pairing actually made sense. Kelly seemed mostly OK with letting Blake have this one.
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