Ariana Grande on ‘The Voice’ (Photo: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images) The Voice always makes a big fuss when a new coach joins the show, with the incumbent coaches — especially the O.G., Blake Shelton — suddenly becoming super-competitive. But as The Voice premiered its 21st season Monday, no one could blame the NBC brass for hyping up the show’s latest stunt-casting, or returning coaches Blake, Kelly Clarkson, and John Legend for feeling genuinely threatened.
“She’s so relevant right now, and so on top of her game,” Kelly marveled at the start of Monday’s episode, referring to the great ponytailed wonder that is the one-and-only Ariana Grande. Yes, not since Miley Cyrus joined the panel in 2016 has there been a Voice coach so aligned with the current pop Zeitgeist as Ariana. And certainly not since Kelly became a Voice regular in 2018 has there been a diva coach with such a stellar set of pipes. New co-stars Kelly and Ariana’s powerhouse voices blended magnificently during their mutually respectful show-opening duet of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” but once everyone was back in their big red chairs, the competition was on . Kelly sarcastically noted — after observing the delighted screams from all the Arianators sitting in the live studio audience, not to mention the assembly line of high-ponied Arianators actually auditioning for the show — that she, John, and Blake probably didn’t stand a chance this season. However, Ariana did seem intimidated by the Blind Auditions process initially, and she failed to recruit the night’s first contestant. But then she got the knack for the show’s gameplay and proved that while she may be petite, she’s not so sweet. “Ariana, she is taking over. … She is incredibly sneaky,” Blake warned.
Ariana demonstrated that she came to play — and win — when she gifted her new team members with care packages of throat-coating teas and honey lozenges, which had John calling her “one of the most technical coaches we’ve ever had.” But then she brought out the best party trick on The Voice since Jennifer Hudson’s shoe-throwing: her “thank u, next” interruption button, which she used to intercept and derail all of her rival coaches’ speeches. Kelly was especially amused by this genius tactic, as was the audience. I sincerely hope that when Ariana’s stint on The Voice is over, NBC keeps that button affixed to her successor’s chair.