"The Voice" may have kicked off its fourth season Monday night with a stomping live band cover of "Come Together," courtesy of all four coaches — but by the end of the first round of blind auditions, all four were clawing over each other for their top contestants.
Even newbies Usher and Shakira, in for Cee-Lo Green and Christina Aguilera this season, showed how quickly they knew how to play the game, pulling every trick in the book to woo their favorite singers.
At the top of the heap was Monday's penultimate performer, 28-year-old Judith Green, the daughter of pro musicians and herself a former back-up singer for Michael Jackson. Judith, clearly at home on the stage, peppered Christina's own "What a Girl Wants" with her own effortless flourishes.
U.S. & World
Her performance led the coaches to shower her with praise and fight to the teeth for her on their teams. Adam Levine promised to "light himself on fire" to guarantee her presence on his team — a tack that, oddly, worked. Judith chose him as her coach.
And with the last act of the night, Adam nabbed his first team member.
Not that he hadn't contended for others.
The first act of the night had also united all the coaches in adoration — and in confusion.
That act was a pair of identical twins, the self-proclaimed Morgan twins, who marked the first set of identical twins ever to grace "The Voice."
"We do everything together," one of the statuesque blondes, wearing identical little red dresses, said. "Whenever we're apart, there's definitely separation anxiety."
Anxiety was nowhere to be seen in their confident performance of Alicia Keys' "Fallin'."
"They had me even before I knew it was a duo," Blake Shelton said of their song, awe-struck once he turned around and saw the pair. ("Like a Doublemint commercial," he remarked.)
Usher called them "pitch-perfect," Adam gave them "major unique points" and Shakira said she had major faith in their talent — but they chose Blake as their mentor.
Next up was Jess Kelner, a 21-year-old hairdresser from Austin whose low, silky voice and subdued take on the Elvis Presley classic "Can't Help Falling in Love" drew an Adele comparison from Adam. With Usher and Shakira competing for her talents, Jess went with Usher.
That came in spite of Shakira's insistence that Jess needed a woman's help — a remark that drew disbelief from her male cohorts.
But the gender call-out was far from the most shameless mode of persuasion Monday night.
That dubious distinction fell on the season's other brand new coach, Usher, when he, Blake and Adam fought over 16-year-old country upstart Danielle Bradbery, who sang a spirited take on Taylor Swift's "Mean" — in the first big performance of her life.
"Your pitch is amazing," Blake said, touting his country cred. "I wanna be the guy who introduces you to Nashville."
Usher's calling card? (Besides calling Nashville a state, to his fellow coaches' ridicule and his own horror?) His erstwhile protégé Justin Bieber.
"Are you bribing her with Justin Bieber tickets?!" Adam asked incredulously.
Whether or not he were, the bribe didn't work anyway. Danielle chose Blake.
But Usher got a team member of his own in another Belieber: the once-homeless Vedo, who choked up backstage thinking of what he wants to achieve for his mother. Although she is dying of lung cancer, she had urged him to compete and cheered him on from the wings.
Vedo's delivery of the Bieber hit "Boyfriend" won Usher over with what the coach called his "killer personality."
Shakira went home with two of the biggest surprises at the end of Monday night.
First she nabbed 27-year-old Mark Andrew, whose unusual take on Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," which he dedicated to his two late bandmates, she lavished with praise.
"I loved your performance from top to bottom," she told him. "I haven't felt this way so far."
Later, on a night full of surprises, Shakira nabbed one of the most stunning of them: Kris Thomas. The coaches, with their backs to the stage, mistook his falsetto-laden take on Whitney Houston's "Saving All My Love for You" for that of a woman — and after Shakira took a chance on him, she kept a poker face and didn't let on what she saw.
"I am so glad that you're on my team, because you are really a gem," she told him.
But plenty of other gems at the blind auditions just needed more polish before they could be picked. Construction worker and new dad James Irwin was one. Newark-bred bachata singer Janetza Miranda was encouraged to come back on the show again. And Leah Lewis, 15, was reassured that she had plenty of time to hone her craft.
"If you're 99 percent amazing and you're 15, you've got nothing to worry about, sweetheart," Adam reassured her.
"The Voice" is back for more blind auditions Tuesday night.