'The Voice' recap: J Chosen and Anatalia Villaranda turn four chairs, disowned Stephanie Rice evokes emotion
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 02/28/2017
The Voice's twelfth season debuted with some incredible stories and talent Monday night on NBC.
Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani's romance wasn't the only thing heating up on The Voice's two-hour premiere, as some of the contestants blew the coaches away and even brought them to tears.
Two contestants in "The Blind Auditions" round influenced Blake, Gwen, Adam Levine and Alicia Keys to all press their buttons and turn around. One of those two people was Joshua "J Chosen" Hunter, a 29-year-old special education teacher from Albany, GA.
After shattering his knee and, as a result, his NBA dream, J Chosen found music to be an even bigger passion. His goal is to provide for his son through music. J Chosen sang "Sexual Healing" by Marvin Gaye and got a four-chair turnaround as well as a standing ovation.
Adam said he wouldn't be able to sleep if he can't be the coach for him because they can win The Voice together. Blake called the performance "pitch perfect" and added that J Chosen has an amazing tone.
Alicia noted that Marvin was in heaven clapping over that performance because it was powerful, emotional and vulnerable. Gwen called the artist "instinctual" and said he's present in the moment and poured his heart out.
Adam attempted to argue that he can understand J Chosen as a male artist trying to make it in the industry, but Gwen explained she grew up in a band -- No Doubt -- with all men and could therefore relate to him just as much. In a shocking result, J Chosen picked Gwen as his coach because he's looking for diversity and different melodies.
Anatalia Villaranda, a 16-year-old from Temecula, CA, also got a four-chair turnaround. The spunky 4'9" brunette told the cameras that good things come in small packages. She was previously a member of an all-girl group, but just as they were about to sign a record deal, the band fell apart.
Anatalia sang "Runaway Baby" by Bruno Mars. Blake complimented her "colossal energy" and personality. Alicia made it known that Anatalia seems unafraid of who she is as an artist and is amazing. Gwen related to the singer's energy and felt passionate about her and her positivity.
Gwen noted they could also talk fashion together. Adam said her greatness cannot be taught and she has a raw ability -- not to mention he tried to bribe her with cake backstage. But in the end, Anatalia joined Alicia's team.
Two artists peaked the interest of three of the show's four coaches.
Lauren Duski, a 25-year-old from Gaylord, MI, who currently resides in Nashville, TN, comes from a family of dentists but decided to pursue music instead of dental school. Lauren noted before going onstage that she'd love to work with Gwen.
Lauren sang a beautiful rendition of "You Were Meant For Me" by Jewel, and Blake, Gwen and Adam all turned their chairs. Adam said she had a "subtle soulfulness" the winner of The Voice must have.
Gwen loved how she sang in every part of her voice, including her chest and head voice, and would love to work on getting her personality to shine.
Blake said Lauren could "clearly win this thing" and become a star. Gwen argued she has "no genre boundaries" because she's in the middle of what Adam and Blake tend to perform and she's dipped her toes in many pools. However, since her heart is country, Lauren selected Blake as her coach.
Felicia Temple, a 28-year-old from Teaneck, NJ, has music in her blood. Her father, a police officer, is also a musician in The Sugarhill Gang. Felicia revealed she's a cancer survivor after being diagnosed with a rare cancer that resulted in stomach surgery and six rounds of oral chemotherapy.
Felicia took the stage with "All I Could Do Was Cry," and Alicia, Gwen and Blake all turned around.
It was instantly clear Felicia's voice has influence from Alicia, so Adam suggested Alicia should get up onstage with Felicia and sing a duet. After the girls belted out "Fallen," Felicia unsurprisingly chose Alicia as her coach.
Arguably the most compelling storyline on The Voice's Season 12 premiere belonged to Stephanie Rice, a 27-year-old from Texarkana, TX. The preacher's daughter hasn't had a relationship with her parents in eight or nine years because they disowned her for being a lesbian.
She felt secluded in the family, and her father wanted her to seek counseling because she was "sick" or go to college and never speak to them again.
Stephanie worries she disappointed her two sisters, but she has worked hard in life. Stephanie earned a college degree in biology and now the published author does research. She also has a fiancee now who supports her. Stephanie decided to sing "Piece by Piece" by Kelly Clarkson.
Although only Gwen and Blake turned their chairs around, her performance was moving and almost chilling. Gwen was seemingly never more excited for an artist, and so after Adam and Alicia helped persuade Stephanie to choose Gwen, that's exactly what happened.
Gwen could simply feel the pain Stephanie was singing in and it was clear the artist uses music as her outlet. Gwen noted her reason for being on The Voice this season is to work with her. Blake hopes to steal Stephanie in a later round.
"Team Adam" also picked up Mark Isaiah, a 19-year-old from Mt Pocono, PA, and Johnny Hayes, a 29-year-old from Mobile, AL.
Blake also snagged Brennley Brown, a 14-year-old from Apple Valley, CA. The Voice lowered the age one can audition from 15 to 13-years-old.