‘The Voice’: Our favorite blind auditions from all 20 seasons

The blind auditions of a landmark 20th season of “The Voicecame to a close this week, but after 10 years we aren’t ready to leave the most exciting round of the competition behind just yet. Before we get into “The Battles Premiere” on March 29, Gold Derby contributors Denton Davidson and John Benutty break down their favorite blind auditions of all time and the few they saw this season that is their early pick to win.

What are YOUR favorite blind auditions from 20 seasons of “The Voice”? Do any of this season’s contestants stack up to the greats? Read Denton and John’s back and forth below and then add to the conversation in the comments.

SEE ‘The Voice’: Past Winners (Seasons 1 – 19)

John: Hey Denton! So we’ve been handling the weekly recaps of “The Voice” together for quite a few years now so I can’t think of anyone more qualified to assess the first 10 years of blind auditions than us, and honestly there’s no one else I’d rather argue with about it than you. Our taste in artists runs parallel every now and then, but I feel like we usually have different takes on who will be successful on the show so it’ll be interesting to see who you looked back on and are prepared to call the best of the blinds!

Denton: Yes! I can’t believe we are already looking back at 20 seasons of blind auditions on “The Voice.” There have definitely been artists who hit it out of the park their first time onstage and never looked back. Others have fizzled throughout their season after making a huge splash with their opening performance. I have to say, I almost never trust America to align with my personal favorites so my predictions on who WILL do well and who DESERVES to do well are often at odds. But I do have a couple winners among my favorite blind auditions.

Before I get into my all-time favorites, I’ll give a couple shout outs for current contestants on Season 20. I really enjoyed Cam Anthony‘s performance of “Lay Me Down” in Episode 1. He showed a lot of vocal control without overdoing it, which I think says a lot about a 19-year old artist. I also appreciate that he chose Blake Shelton as his coach. Blake doesn’t always get a soul singer on his team, so when he does he is typically very loyal to them. For that reason I can see Cam having quite a run this season. Another artist I would watch out for is Kenzie Wheeler on Team Kelly Clarkson. Do not underestimate the power of a country singer dawning a magic mullet.

John: Nice picks! I really enjoyed Cam, too, and think he can go really far. He might have even been my favorite until the end of that same episode when Victor Solomon managed to get John Legend to turn his chair for the first time on an artist covering one of his songs. Victor’s version of the Oscar winning song “Glory” is hair-raisingly good and I think John has another winner on his hands with him. Another blind I absolutely adored was Halley Greg’s sensational take on Nelly Furtado‘s “I’m Like a Bird.” Halley made that song almost unrecognizable with the spin she put on it and I’m still flabbergasted that Kelly was the only one to turn for her. That being said, winning is probably not in the cards for someone as unique as Halley, but I’m really excited to see what she does next.

Alright, let’s get down to the reason we’re actually here which is to fight over what the best blind audition ever is. I only have one winner in my top 5 and that’s Sawyer Fredericks from season 8. He sang “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow” and within literally seven words had Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera and his eventual coach Pharrell Williams turning their chairs. They may have been turned on by the beginning of the song, but there’s a beat drop in the middle of it where Sawyer kicked his guitar playing into another gear and opened his voice to hit bigger notes and it all just makes me want to get up and dance to a song I have no business dancing to. I can’t believe he was only 15 at the time of his audition coz he sings like he spent the last 200 years walking across America singing at every local club perfecting the growl in his voice.

SEE ‘The Voice’ shake-up: Kelsea Ballerini replaces ‘under the weather’ Kelly Clarkson, but for how long?

Denton: I completely agree with Sawyer, in fact, 12 seasons later fans are still talking about him. Okay, one of my top blind auditions belongs to the artist I think is hands down the best performer to ever be on “The Voice.” The bar was set by Season 12 winner Chris Blue, who could perfectly execute a power ballad, but then nailed a dance performance of “Rhythm Nation” in the season finale. I mean, come on! The best part about his blind audition of “Tracks of My Tears” was that he was the last person to take the stage. He just caressed the notes effortlessly and, let’s be real, my favorite part was the smug look on Alicia Keys‘ face when she knew she had the only open slot left on her team. Adam looked absolutely disgusted when he realized Alicia was handed the winner on a silver platter. It was brilliant! Voice, stage presence, charisma — Chris Blue was 10’s across the board and it all started with one of the most dramatic blind auditions ever. He’s still the only artist to ever secure the final spot in the competition and go on to win it all.

John: I mean we could honestly just make a list of Chris Blue 10 times and feel like we did our job here because I agree that he’s one of the best artists ever on the show. But like you said his greatness isn’t as confined to his first audition like some of the other ones higher on our lists. For instance, I think the artist I was most disappointed in over the course of a season was Moriah Formica. She introduced herself on season 13 with a blazing, if not literal rendition of Heart‘s “Crazy on You.” It’s so rare that we get a female rock artist as skilled as Moriah in both instrumentation and vocal ability. Heart certainly has some of the hardest rock songs to pull off because of all the vocal changes, but Moriah absolutely slayed each note here. She was a slam dunk four chair turn and joined Team Miley Cyrus where she remained until she was unceremoniously eliminated in The Playoffs.

Denton: I’m glad you mentioned Moriah. I think Miley made some terrible choices that season though and she was just getting started by dropping Moriah early on. That same season she dumped Chloe Kohanski and Addison Agen, who were stolen and went on to get first and second place. But there’s another winner among my favorite blind auditions and that belongs to Season 10 champ Alisan Porter. The clarity in her voice coupled with her incredible range was the perfect combination for Linda Ronstadt‘s classic “Blue Bayou.” Adam, Blake and Pharrell all spun around nearly in unison, leaving Christina alone with the back of her chair facing the stage. Completely defeated, and seemingly hopeless after years of defeat, Christina shrugged her shoulders and pushed her button as if to say, “Okay, time to go lose another great singer to one of the boys.” But Alisan shocked many viewers, including myself, and Christina when she chose the diva as her coach. Alisan went on to become the first artist coached by a woman to win “The Voice.” And just for added excitement, I could tell right away when I saw Alisan that I was looking at the star of one of my favorite childhood movies, “Curly Sue.”

John: Not the “Curly Sue” memories reeling you in on that one! I really like Alisan, but not sure her oversinging in that blind would make a list of mine. Especially since season 10 also brought us Hannah Huston‘s immaculate “Unaware” audition. Here we get an artist that lets the song grow from a quiet beginning to the growling roar of her voice by the end. Part of the reason I love the audition so much is that the entire time it was mind-numbingly clear how great she was, and Blake knew it, but he, Christina and Pharrell all waited until the very last second to turn their chairs. Like, why?! And don’t even get me started on Adam choosing to hold back. Odd.

SEE All 14 ‘The Voice’ coaches ranked worst to best

Denton: Another unforgettable blind audition came from Kirk Jay, Season 15’s third-place finisher that many (including myself) thought would win that cycle. He sang “God Bless the Broken Road” and confused the hell out of the coaches with his soulful vocals mixed with a Southern drawl. Kirk was a four-chair turn and Blake was anything but confident facing off against Adam, Kelly and Jennifer Hudson in this contest. But Kirk assured the coaches his heart and soul were pure country before he took a spot on Team Blake that lasted all the way to finale night. There was so much conviction in Kirk’s face when he performed and that’s what I loved the most about him. You could feel every word he sang and knew the competition meant everything to him.

John: I feel you on that “thought he would win that cycle” feeling. One artist I still can’t believe didn’t win his season is Terrence Cunningham. He closed episode 4 of season 14 playing “My Girl,” delivering a tender and soothing vocal of an iconic song that I will never forget. I mean, the way he turns single words into the sweetest vocal runs ever….. swooooon. Obviously he was a four chair turn and his choice to join Team Alicia was the absolute right one, but will I ever forgive her for not saving him from elimination in The Playoffs? No, I won’t. Alicia robbed me of three more Terrence videos I could watch on loop for the rest of my life.

Denton: WOW! I had forgotten that they just let Terrence go like that. I thought he was going to win that season and suddenly he was gone. My next pick is another third-place finisher and that’s Katie Kadan from Season 17. Katie was the first blind audition of that season and she came out wailing on the keyboard singing “Baby I Love You.” The coaches were basking in all her glory, especially Kelly who couldn’t believe what she was witnessing. But things went downhill for the coach when she realized Blake blocked her, sending the diva into temper tantrum as she fell to her knees and screamed in despair. The whole spectacle was entertaining to watch, but first and foremost for Katie’s performance and animated persona she brought to the stage. It was a heck of a way to kick of the season.

John: Okay I see your Katie taking on Aretha Franklin and raise you a Kennedy Holmes doing Adele. Not many singers are brave enough to attempt songs by either of those artists, let alone succeed at it. Season 15 belonged to Kennedy for me the moment she finished singing “Turning Tables,” and not just because she nearly knocked Blake out of his chair when she disclosed that she was only 13 years old. All four coaches fought really hard to bring Kennedy to their teams, but unfortunately she went with JHud instead of jumping on the Kelly-wins-with-young-female-artists train that existed for a couple seasons in a row at this time. But then again, Kennedy and Jennifer dueting on “I Am Changing” is still an all-time series highlight for me.

Denton: My last pick is going to be a throwback to Season 4’s runner-up Michelle Chamuel. This artist was dressed like a character from the “Where’s Waldo” book and not for a second did anyone think she’d have an ounce of swagger. She began a rendition of “I Kissed a Girl” somewhat quietly, before pumping her fists and rocking out the last two-thirds of the performance like a total beast. She was such a quirky, fun artist to watch and ultimately picked Usher as her coach following that memorable blind audition. But I don’t think anyone ever thought she’d end up in the finale. She was one of the first artists on “The Voice” to really go through a transformation on their season.

John: I can’t believe you just reminded me that Usher was a coach at one point. But thankfully you reminded me to revisit the wonderful performances of Chris Blue. Man, what a star. I loved going back through some of the performances I remember loving throughout the seasons and highlighting a few of them with you!

Denton: This was a great look back over 20 seasons of blind auditions. There are obviously so many that fans could add, including top-of-mind choices for me like Javier Colon, Christina Grimmie, Jordan Smith, Wé McDonald and Carter Rubin, just to name a few. Hopefully some will chime in down in the comments! I’d love to read about some we may have forgotten. There have been hundreds!

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