Trae Patton/NBC
Kathy Ehrich Dowd
February 24, 2015 12:00 AM

The Voice is back – and the high-octane performances that kicked off Monday’s season 8 premiere forced the all-star coaches to take their groveling to a whole new level.

Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Pharrell Williams and Christina Aguilera – back in her red swivel chair for the first time since giving birth to daughter Summer Rain in August – duked it out for the most promising singers who took the stage during the blind auditions.

Who were the standouts? Here are PEOPLE’s picks for the top five performances of the evening:

5. Rob Taylor

Age: 22
Hometown: Donaldsonville, Louisiana
Song: “I Want You”
Chairs Turned: 3
Schmaltzy Backstory: His mother had a stroke when he was in the sixth grade. Now wheelchair-bound, she continues to be the Berklee College of Music graduate’s source of strength and inspiration.
Performance: Aguilera struck first, slapping her button early in the song. Williams and Levine joined her once Taylor switched into his impressive falsetto. After he finished, Aguilera ran over to him and declared, “You gotta come home.” Later, she added, “Do you want some clowns or someone who takes you seriously? I want to meet your mom. I want to be part of your family.”
Coach: Christina

4. Meghan Linsey

Age: 28
Hometown: Nashville
Song: “Love Hurts”
Chairs Turned: 3
Schmaltzy Backstory: Linsey was one-half of the country duo Steel Magnolia, which signed a record deal, had a top-five country song and opened for stars including Shelton before breaking up in 2011.
Performance: Linsey belted out the tale of sorrow in a manner that “enraptured” Aguilera, as well as the other coaches. “I turned around because I sensed your soul, your Joplin-esque attitude,” Williams also said.
Coach: Pharrell

3. Sarah Potenza

Age: 34
Hometown: Nashville
Song: “Stay with Me”
Chairs Turned: 4
Schmaltzy Backstory: Moving to Nashville to launch their musical careers, Potenza and her husband work at a restaurant to make ends meet. Her father, who has Parkinson’s, inspires her to pursue her dreams.
Performance: The rock ‘n’ roll singer kicked off the show with an electric performance that had all the coaches enthused. Williams rushed to join her onstage, exclaiming, “Just like you, I’m caught up in the moment.” Levine then locked her in a snuggle, a move she likened to a dream. Shelton stayed planted in his seat but lifted his boot in solidarity with the singer, who was dressed a little bit country. “I think we have a connection,” he declared.
Coach: Blake

2. Sawyer Fredericks

Age: 15
Hometown: Fultonville, New York
Song: “I’m a Man of Constant Sorrow”
Chairs Turned: 4
Schmaltzy Backstory: Homeschooled on his family’s 88-acre farm, the precocious teenager’s previous gigs had been limited to local open mics and farmer’s markets.
Performance: Choosing a song of unknown origins was by design, Fredericks said in his pre-performance interview. The decision paid off. “As soon as you started singing, it took me to another time,” Williams said, while Shelton said it sounded like he was “singing into an old vintage microphone.” Levine gave the most impassioned plea: “I’m on a thin thread right now, Sawyer. 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.”
Coach: Pharrell (sorry, Adam!)

1. Cody Wickline

Age: 20
Hometown: Beckley, West Virginia
Song: “He Stopped Loving Her Today”
Chairs Turned: 4
Schmaltzy Backstory: This diamond in the rough had never been on airplane before going wheels up for his Voice audition. The first person in his family to attend college, Wickline and his salt-of-the-earth clan seem like they walked right out of a Built Ford Tough commercial.
Performance: Wickline captivated the audience with his emotional delivery of the heartbreaking George Jones tune. “Truly brilliant voices transcend all genres. That is the best country music performance I have ever heard anyone perform on this show,” Levine gushed. Williams declared all the coaches “would love to rise to the occasion to work with an anomaly like you,” while Aguilera told him she pressed her button because “it just became so undeniable, your gift.” Shelton, being Shelton, was blunt in his pitch, telling the overwhelmed Wickline, “What the hell are you even talking to these people for?”
Coach: Blake

The Voice airs Mondays and Tuesdays (8 p.m. ET) on NBC.

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