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'The Voice': Jennifer Hudson reprises Whitney Houston tribute with Davon Fleming

Lyndsey Parker

“We are all profoundly shaken by the horrific tragedy that occurred Sunday night in Las Vegas, which was especially heartbreaking knowing that people were gathered in celebration of life, love, and music,” read a stark, simple screen at the start of Monday’s The Voice Blind Auditions episode. “The Voice stands in unity with all those affected, and hopes the power of music will continue to inspire, comfort and bring us together.”

Since it was taped and edited weeks ago, Monday’s show didn’t address the day’s other major music catastrophe — the death of rock legend Tom Petty. But the two-hour episode did feature a tribute of sorts to another fallen star, when one of the night’s standout contestants, 25-year-old Davon Fleming, and his new coach, Jennifer Hudson, came together to honor their idol Whitney Houston.

It was obvious that Davon was Team J.Hud material before Jennifer (or the other three coaches) even turned a chair for his fantastically falsetto-laden rendition of Billy Paul’s “Me and Mrs. Jones.” Like the Chicago-born Jennifer, the confident R&B belter grew up in a tough neighborhood (Park Heights, Baltimore). Like Jennifer, he got his start singing as a child in church. Like Jennifer, he’s the sort of likable raw talent who just needs a break, a singer-next-door that America can root for. And, like Jennifer, he grew up worshiping at the Whitney altar.

When Jennifer threw a shoe at him — her ultimate compliment, in case you missed last week’s footwear-flying audition episodes — it was clear that Adam Levine, Miley Cyrus, and Blake Shelton didn’t stand a chance. But the other coaches gave it their best shot — for instance, Miley gushed over Davon’s rocker-meets-Michael Jackson fashion sense, and Blake even told Davon, “You’re gonna be in the finale!”

But then Jennifer and Davon had their Whitney-bonding moment, and it was clear they would always love each other — or at least love each other for the duration of Season 13.

“When I was a kid, I would sit in the hallway and create duets between Whitney and I. ‘I Will Always Love You’ would be playing, and then you hear Jennifer on the steps harmonizing to Whitney; that was my dream,” confessed Jennifer, who along with all her shoe-tossing has apparently developed a Voice habit of talking in the third person. Davon then excitedly replied that he grew up on the Bodyguard soundtrack. And while Miley intervened to mention that her godmother, Dolly Parton, actually wrote “I Will Always Love You,” that didn’t seem to impress Davon as much as Jennifer’s offer to sing the song with him right then and there.

Davon and Jennifer already looked like a professional duo, down to their matchy-matchy red-and-black outfits. And this duet felt like a torch-passing moment. When Jennifer won her first Grammy, in 2009, it was Houston who presented the trophy; three years later, Jennifer was back on the Grammy stage, paying tribute to Houston, who had died the night before. So for Jennifer to sing such a sacred song with a newbie like Davon proved she really believes in him. And Davon did both Jennifer and Whitney proud, holding his own. Blake’s finale prediction may indeed come true.

Throughout the evening, Jennifer and Blake battled quite a bit — demonstrating that they have surprisingly similar musical tastes, not to mention a similar fiercely competitive spirit. Blake may have finally met his match this season. So who prevailed — the reigning Voice U.K. champion, or the five-time winner of The Voice U.S.? Read on for the rest of Monday’s auditions.

Adam Cunningham

OK, Adam C. is a 38-year-old Iowa-born, Nashville-based country demo singer/former CCM recording artist. And he performed the Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider.” So I don’t know why Jennifer even bothered to spin around — at the very last minute — for this guy. Clearly Blake, who buzzed in before Adam C. got to the chorus and jumped right out of his red chair, was a shoo-in.

This performance wasn’t amazing — this guy has what they call in this business a “recordable voice,” which is obviously why he’s found steady work as a demo singer, but his voice is generic, which is why his real career hasn’t taken off. But his Allmans song choice scored him some cool points, and he had a meat-and-potatoes-eatin’, everyman persona that was total central-casting Team Blake.

“Congratulations to you on winning The Voice U.K. We’re in the United States of America now,” Blake told Jennifer smugly, claiming Adam C. for his own. Jennifer offered to teach Adam C. “a thing or two about soul,” but this was a done deal.

MEMBER OF: Team Blake

Hannah Mrozak

A spa aesthetician by day and aspiring pop/soul singer by night, this shy Wisconsin teen dedicated her audition of Hailee Steinfeld’s “Starving” to her brother, who took his life last year and had always encouraged her to try out for the show. It was a naturally soulful and mature performance — laid-back and easy, never trying too hard. Without shouting or screaming or getting all fussy with her phrasing, Hannah’s strong, solid, rangy vocals came through loud and clear. Her brother would be proud.

Blake appreciated Hannah’s relaxed vibe, saying, “When I was watching you perform, I was thinking, This is somebody that is in the industry; she must be somebody’s backup singer — because you have such comfort onstage. You’re almost oblivious to this chaos that you’ve stepped into.” However, it was Adam Levine, who had yet to secure a female singer for his team, who seemed the most keen. “People adore this style of music, and it’s done wrong so many times. But when you hear someone do it right, it’s so refreshing,” he said, praising Hannah’s smooth, warm tone. And finally, Adam got his girl.

MEMBER OF: Team Adam

Shilo Gold

Twenty-six-year-old Shilo had a backstory straight out of a 2017 remake of The Jazz Singer — she disappointed her father, a seventh-generation cantor, by deciding to pursue secular pop music — but she didn’t exactly possess the talent of Al Jolson or Neil Diamond. Shilo’s rendition of Lorraine Ellison’s “Stay With Me” (a massive, passionate soul ballad magnificently performed in the past by American Idol’s La’Porsha Renae and The Voice’s own Alisan Porter) wasn’t exactly a religious experience.

Shilo’s voice was gruff from the get-go, mumbly and mushmouthed, and the entire song seemed to be in too low a key. The ballad never reached its yearning, emotional crescendo, and the performance was entirely lacking in power notes and money moments. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out she had a bad cold and doesn’t normally sound this Patty-and-Selma-like. This was sort of a sick performance, and I don’t mean a siiiiiick one.

Therefore, I was shocked when Jennifer and Miley turned around at the very, very last minute (although Adam was probably the most helpful coach, since he fetched Shilo a much-needed glass of water). “I’m used to dealing with a voice like yours. I’ve got one of those. I want to make sure you take all the proper care of your voice that you need to,” insisted Miley, who later promised to put “14,000 humidifiers” in Shilo’s dressing room. If Miley wants Shilo to make it past the Battle Rounds, she better make that 15,000 humidifiers, just in case. Get well soon, Shilo.

MEMBER OF: Team Miley

Noah Mac

This young, cute home-studio geek displayed great musical taste (he covered “Way Down We Go” by Icelandic indie-folksters Kaleo) and had a heartstring-plucking sob story (the first time he ever sang was at the funeral for his sister, who died of brain cancer at age 19). And he had a very distinctive voice, reminiscent of British blue-eyed soulmen like John “Love Me Again” Newman or Alex “Too Close” Clare. The 17-year-old’s voice was tentative and wobbly at first, but his confidence surged during the chorus, prompting rivals Blake and Jennifer to buzz in. I was genuinely surprised Adam refrained.

Miley was probably disappointed she also held back, once she got a look at Noah and flirted with him in an entirely inappropriate way not seen on this show since CeeLo Green was still on the panel. (Come on, Miley, this kid’s only 17!) Jennifer and Blake focused more of Noah’s talent than his pinup-perfect face. “You were so passionate about it, and it came from your soul, and I felt that,” said Jennifer. “Your voice is so powerful. When you got into those upper parts of your vocal, your voice stayed as round and full as it was in the lower stuff. That’s so rare, it’s so cool, and it’s something like nothing that I have on my team,” said Blake.

But I think Blake sealed the deal when he learned about Noah’s funeral performance. “I can’t imagine how hard that must have been. I’m here to tell you, out of respect, a man that can sing at his own sister’s funeral can handle the pressure of this competition. I have nothing but respect for you for doing that. And I have nothing but admiration for your voice.”

MEMBER OF: Team Blake

Kathrina Feigh

This musical-theater teen from a big, loving Filipino family belted an advanced master-class song, Jessie J’s “Big White Room,” with a ton of lung power (Shilo Gold should borrow her humidifier) but not a ton of personality. This was, basically, a generic musical theater performance. I think Kathrina needs more time to develop her own style. But Jennifer and Blake (again!) heard the potential and turned around. Given Kathrina’s penchant for diva balladry and Broadway (she saw Jennifer in The Color Purple), it was no surprise that she joined Team J.Hud; however, I suspect she won’t make it past the Battles.


Alexandra Joyce, Eric Lyn, and Anna Catherine DeHart

Well, it was only a matter of time before some contestants got the dreaded montage hatchet job. Meet Season 13’s first (but probably not last) victim. Of these three, Erin seemed the most intriguing — at least he had some flash, some style, a glimpse of showmanship. But I emphasize the word glimpse, since this montage was 53 seconds total, with maybe 13 seconds of that actually featuring any singing. We’ll see if any of these poor kids get more screen time in the Battles, or if the erasure continues.

MEMBERS OF: Team J.Hud, Team J.Hud, and Team Blake, respectively

Addison Agen

Addison is the indie-rock manic pixie dreamgirl contestant of Adam Levine’s Voice fantasies, a 16-year-old raised by a music-therapist mom and record-store-owner dad who covers songs like “Jolene” (not the classic by Miley’s godmother, but the Ray LaMontagne song, of course). The self-described “alternative folk” songstress showcased a pretty, lilting tone and a sophistication beyond her years, giving an earnest and authentic performance that had Adam and Miley going head to head. Adam was determined to win this one.

“You’re one of my favorite singers. … To see this adorable 16-year-old girl singing like a grown woman who has been through some crap. … You’re the most talented person your age we’ve had maybe even since Danielle Bradbery on the show, but beyond that, you would be one of the most talented people we had at any age,” Adam gushed. Addison seemed genuinely moved by his passionate display — but she picked Miley anyway. Adam was understandably crushed, calling Addison “the one that got away.”

MEMBER OF: Team Miley

Adam Pearce

Adam P. apparently tried out in Season 12 with a pitchy “Whiter Shade of Pale,” but I don’t remember him. Returning this season looking like a lost Followill cousin, he stayed in his classic-rock lane, doing Foreigner’s “Hot-Blooded.” It was more like lukewarm-blooded. Yes, his pitch was decent, but this performance felt very bar-band, very cover-band, very karaoke — not hip or current, like some other Voice rockers who’ve managed to put a modern twist on a hoary old tune. However, this was enough to spin a couple of chair this time — Miley’s and Adam L.’s — with Miley saying, “I fought hard, because I love that a young person is keeping classic rock alive.” (Note: Miley is 24. Adam Pearce is 31. I guess Miley’s an old soul.) But it was obvious that this was going to be the Adam & Adam show.

MEMBER OF: Team Adam

Moriah Formica

Speaking of young people keeping classic rock alive, this badass chick was the real deal and my favorite contestant of the night. A guitar-slinging 16-year-old raised on ’80s hair metal (she even once sang on a solo album by Stryper singer Michael Sweet!), Moriah nailed every note of Heart’s “Crazy on You.” Granted, she sounded a lot like Ann Wilson — which is amazing, in one way, since Ann is one of the best rock singers of all time, but eventually she will need to find her own voice.

And there were four coaches turning around, eager her help her do just that. However, it was Miley who gave the best sales pitch, saying, “I don’t know if you’re a fan of Beth Hart, but I totally see a young Beth Hart on this stage. So I’d love to work with you and pick songs that you really like and arrange them in the way that will showcase your voice the best but also take people back to the past — even though you’re the future!” And with that, Moriah went back to the future with Miley.

MEMBER OF: Team Miley

Come back Tuesday for more Blind Auditions, probably more Jennifer/Blake and Adam/Miley showdowns, and hopefully no more tragic news. See you then.

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