On Monday’s episode of The Voice (Monday and Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET/MT on CTV TWO), coaches Jennifer Hudson, Blake Shelton, Kelly Clarkson and Adam Levine each added one more singer to their rosters, completing their teams and finishing up the Blind Auditions. Not wasting any time, the second hour of the episode introduced three of this season’s celebrity mentors, including Keith Urban (Shelton), Halsey (Hudson), and Thomas Rhett (Clarkson). But what was even more impressive than the celebrity cameos and inspired performances was Coach Blake Shelton’s brilliant strategic moves. The coach’s shrewd tactics often go unnoticed behind his Canadian tuxedo, southern drawl, and long discography of genre-specific music, but Shelton is changing what it means to be a country artist in 2018.
As an artist, Shelton is strictly country, with his 2017 Christmas collaboration with girlfriend Gwen Stefani the closest he’s come to a crossover hit. Where Shelton shines in making country accessible and inclusive is in his work as a coach. In Season 13, he won with retro pop singer Chloe Kasinski. In Season 14, Shelton championed soul singer Kyla Jade. And on Monday night’s episode, Blake chose an artist that wasn’t an obvious fit for his team, but someone that Blake felt deserved to be on the show.
During the Battle Rounds, Jennifer partnered soul singer Patrique Fortson and pop singer Colton Smith. The men performed a gospel version of Shelton’s song “God Gave Me You,” with both singers delivering performances worthy of winning the Battle Round. Hudson ultimately chose Fortson, but Shelton made a last-minute steal, scooping up Smith and keeping his chances of winning The Voice alive.
Smith is not an obvious choice for Shelton. The 22-year-old singer from Alabama has survived growing up gay in the South and now is proudly out, rocking a pink velvet blazer and nail polish in front of millions of viewers on Monday’s episode. Shelton is a good ole’ boy, the gatekeeper to country music and a CMT winner who named his last album Texoma Shore. That’s real country.
But throughout his 15-season tenure with The Voice, Shelton has continually cast as wide a net as possible when it comes to artists from different genres. He consistently turns for non-country artists, often losing out to his fellow coaches who boast pop, rock and R&B backgrounds. Shelton’s greatest limitation is his own success in his field, with country artists only wanting to work with Shelton and non-country artists scared to have a coach that doesn’t sound like them. But being a director doesn’t mean you can act better than Tom Hanks. It means you know how to pull Forrest Gump out of Hanks.
Shelton has won four seasons of The Voice with country singers and two seasons with non-country singers. That means Colton, who currently stands out on a team full of country artists, may have just won The Voice by getting cut from Hudson. Now that’s a silver lining.
Team Blake FTW.
FINAL LINE UP AFTER THE BLIND AUDITIONS AND BATTLE ROUND
Josh Davis – Just Added
Cody Ray Raymond – Won Battle Against SandyRedd
Matt Johnson – Just Added
SandyRedd – Stolen From Team Kelly
Patrique Fortson – Won Battle Against Colton Smith
Katrina Cain – Just Added
Colton Smith – Stolen From Team Jennifer
Joey Green – Eliminated
Michael Lee – Won Battle Against Joey Green
Emily Hough – Just Added
Watch The Voice every Monday and Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET/MT on CTV TWO. Catch up with new episodes online the day after broadcast.