The Season 8 premiere of “The Voice” on Monday night produced the usual seeming never-ending line of great vocalists, but, as per usual on the show, some stand out from the rest. They do so for various reasons: the way they’re dressed, a unique vocal delivery, a surprising or different arrangement of their audition song, their looks, their age. But what sets “The Voice” apart from other reality singing competition shows is that, while looking for the next winner during the Blind Auditions, some of those attributes are unknown to the coaches prior to hitting their buttons and turning around. No better case for that can be made than with the final audition of the night — a shy, very long-haired 15-year-old homeschooled farm boy from New York named Sawyer Fredericks.
As Michael Slezak recapped for TVLine on Feb. 23, it wasn’t difficult to “love” nearly all the performances on the first night of Blind Auditions for Season 8. (Still, that’s standard fair on “The Voice.”) But when he ranked his top auditions for the night, he had the teen on top of his list.
“The depth of this kid’s tone,” Slezak wrote, “the originality of his arrangement and the fact that he chose a traditional folk song re-popularized in a very weird George Clooney movie aren’t the kind of attributes you’d expect from a super-shy home-schooled teenager from upstate New York. The delicious juxtaposition, however, is what makes him a real contender for the crown.”
Sawyer Fredericks gave off a very 60s-70s vibe, looking every bit like Joni Mitchell reincarnated in the body of a 15-year-old boy. For his song choice, he took the traditional standard, “I’m A Man Of Constant Sorrow,” the song made famous by George Clooney’s lip-synching to Union Stations’ Dan Tyminski’s vocals in the Coen Brothers movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”, and rearranged it, giving it a fresh sound. His guitar-playing was top-rate. His vocals were superb.
Needless to say, all four chairs turned for the teen. And sensing that this kid could actually win it all, the four immediately commenced to verbally sparring to get him to choose them as coach. Well, that is, all sparred except for Adam Levine, who was reduced to basically begging Fredericks to pick him so he could crush Blake Shelton.
Said Levine: “I’m on a thin thread right now, Sawyer, and I need someone like you. I need someone to crush Blake with – which is you. I promise you, you’re not going anywhere, until you’re the last person standing in this competition. … Go with the person who wants to propel you all the way to the finish line.”
“As soon as you started singing, it took me to another time,” Pharrell Williams said about the performance. Shelton said it sounded like Fredericks was “singing into an old vintage microphone.”
In the end, Fredericks chose Pharrell Williams for his coach. This prompted the Grammy winner to do a little dance to celebrate and Adam Levine to walk off the set. As Christina Aguilera called for him to come back, Blake Shelton, never one to miss an opportunity to torment Levine, yelled, “Want me to call Usher?” That line produced an appreciative roar of laughter from the crowd.
But could Levine be correct? Pleading or not, desperate or not, could Sawyer Fredericks be the last contestant standing on “The Voice?”
Of course he could. And if he is the ultimate winner, he would be the youngest ever to take the crown. (Danielle Bradbery is the current youngest. She was 16 when she won Season 4.)
“The Voice” airs on NBC Television on Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. (EST).