How Did Pharrell Williams And Gwen Stefani Do As New Judges On The Voice?

Let me admit right from the outset that I’m not the ideal audience for NBC’s The Voice. I’m wary of reality TV in the first place, and talent competitions tend to be repetitive almost immediately. Still, this is probably the most watchable of them all, as it generally is all about “the voice,” at least when it comes to the contestants. When it comes to the judges, however, it’s an entirely different ball game. Tonight was the first time Grammy winners Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams had their hands on the buttons, replacing Cee-Lo Green and Christina Aguilera. Although one might have thought that Stefani actually replaced everybody else, given how much of the spotlight she tried to steal.

As it always goes with The Voice, this seventh season began with the blind auditions, in which singers tell their stories and sing their songs, hoping that the turned-away judges like what they hear enough to invite them onto their team. And there were a good crop of performers in this first round of the auditions, particularly the leadoff singer Luke Wade, who belted out “That’s How Strong My Love Is” with enough soul to make Otis Redding swoon in his grave. Other enjoyable acts include TSA agent Damien’s rendition of “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” and Elyjuh, who sang Beyoncé’s “XO.” But enough about the contestants.


How Did Pharrell Do?

When you get right down to it, Pharrell’s presence almost mirrored that of Usher Raymond’s in years past. He’s the guy who doesn’t play fight like Adam Levine and Blake Shelton, and he doesn’t really have as boisterous a personality as Cee-Lo. (I laughed each time Blake drawlingly called him “Frell.”) Still, he’s got Pharrell swagger, and that’s more than enough to earn him a spot on the show. He’s been a brilliant producer for so many years, and his masterful touch can turn a musician from a nobody into a record-selling monster. Because of that, his opinions and advice to people seemingly meant more than that of everyone else.

In this first episode, he chose the previously mentioned Luke and Elyjuh, both of whom have voices that Pharrell could easily create soulful beats for. It was really when he didn’t get singers on his team that his personality shone through a little more, such as when he followed Adam’s chair-standing pleading poetry with an impromptu poem of his own. And he wisely namedropped a few acts, such as Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke, to try and win people over. All in all, Pharrell is a fine addition to the team, and he’ll hopefully start to open up a little more as it goes along.


How Did Gwen Do?

On the opposite side of the coin is Gwen Stefani, she of the “revolutionary” band No Doubt. At least, that’s how they were described at the top of the show. And if you weren’t aware that she sang for No Doubt, maybe her incessant reminders would have clued you in. Like, say, when she went up and usurped Clara Hong’s stage time to sing “I’m Just a Girl” for a few seconds. (That the song title became a small running joke also didn’t bode well for my pleasure.) You know how Hodor in Game of Thrones can only speak his own name? It’s kind of surprising that “Gwen Stefani” isn’t the only thing she’s capable of saying. I get that part of the judges’ purpose is to sway singers to their teams with past accomplishments, but I’m hard pressed to remember Gwen saying anything to anyone that wasn’t about herself. Is it obvious that I’m not a fan?

All of that said, she did choose two fairly interesting contestants to add to her team, including 16-year-old Bryana and dog hotel employee Taylor, whose rendition of Kanye West’s “Heartless” was insanely good. So it’ll be interesting to see how she coaches these two (and the rest of her team), and if she’s able to do it without saying “walking into spiderwebs so leave a message and I’ll call you back.” And if she could refrain from running up on stage to hug every other performer, that’d be cool too.

Don’t let my incredibly biased opinions alter your own. What did you guys think about Pharrell and Gwen joining the show?

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Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.