Cee Lo Green is back to battle alongside Adam Levine and Blake Shelton

By Andrea Billups
Updated September 24, 2013 09:15 AM
Mark Seliger/NBC

Season 5 of The Voice kicked off with an energetic premiere and its first blind auditions on Monday, featuring two returning star coaches and the sparring chemistry of seasons past.

Soul man Cee Lo Green was back with Michael Jackson’s wardrobe and his trademark quips. Three-time winner Blake Shelton and his show nemesis Adam Levine resumed their snarky sparring. Also back and raring to win was a gam-o-licious Christina Aguilera, who represented with spunky girl-power, throwing off sex appeal and a lot of shapely leg.

The contestants brought their A-game, too, and some cute stage bravado. “What’s goin’ on, handsome?” said musical theater buff Nic Hawk, nakedly flirting with Levine, but only after killing Blu Cantrell’s “Hit Em Up Style (Oops).”

“Flattery will get you everywhere,” Levine responded, calling Hawk, 26, of Dallas, a “phenomenal singer.” Hawk joined Team Adam.

It was not the only bromance of the night. Handsome club singer Josh Logan, 33, of Manchester, N.H., dazzled on Alex Clare’s “Too Close,” which Levine dubbed “crazy powerful.”

Shelton said he had a “man crush” on Logan, but he was having nothing to do with the boys, picking a surprised Aguilera as his coach. “I’m on fire,” she announced, diva-style, pulling out a jeweled black fan.

Perhaps most dazzling was rugby player Matthew Schuler, 20, of Yardley, Pa., whose wide smile and wholesome look matched his talent. He turned all four coaches around in their chairs before he got past the first sentence of Young the Giant’s “Cough Syrup.” When he finished, the standing ovation put Levine and Aguilera atop their chairs.

Schuler, the son of two pastors who works at a bagel shop and writes songs to help him memorize menu items, seemed torn but picked Aguilera as his coach.

Shelton got off to a slow start Monday, earning just one team member. Not surprisingly, it was a sassy blonde power singer who could belt the country – and looked like she could be Miranda Lambert‘s baby sister.

Shelbie Z, 21, a hair stylist and former child beauty queen from Jasper, Ala., represented her genre well, helming Gretchen Wilson’s “Here for the Party,” with natural pluck.

“Shelbie, this is no time to monkey around. Come to Team Blake,” Shelton told her. She did, calling her experience “a complete and total dream come true to have Blake turn his chair.”

The show’s veteran performer, Donna Allen, was perhaps its most polished and watchable, sending Levine and Aguilera to battle as she sang a nuanced and soaring version of “You Are So Beautiful.”

Allen, 54, a former member of Gloria Estefan‘s band, Miami Sound Machine, couldn’t resist Levine’s charms. She picked him, and he jumped up to lift her into the air and twirl her around.

Other female singers moving ahead Monday included rocker Kat Robichaud, 29, of Raleigh, N.C., who jammed with the Kiki Dee Band’s “I’ve Got the Music in Me,” and 17-year-old Caroline Pennell, who charmed with a quirky version of Ellie Goulding’s “Anything Could Happen” – which had Green, whom both women picked as coach, calling her “the sweetest thing on earth.”

While the ladies had a strong night, the show ended with some serious nerd love. Apple Store employee James Wolpert, 22, of Lancaster, Pa., dropped out of Carnegie Mellon University to pursue a career as a singer, performing on the streets to practice his craft.

In glasses and a cardigan, the rosy-cheeked Wolpert set fire to the chorus of Jack White‘s hit “Love Interruption.” Every coach eventually turned around to see a face that did not match the raw rock chops.

“You are so versatile,” Aguilera told him, gushing, “Thank you for showing me why I came back for this show.”

Levine came up the winner, earning him a fan spanking from Aguilera. “Dude, you can win this for sure,” Levine told Wolpert.

Season 5 continues Tuesday with more blind audition rounds.