The takeaway message of "The Voice" Season 5 blind auditions, Night 4: "Life ... is full of second and third chances," and if you're motivated, you can make those chances pay off. That's what Shakira told contestant James Irwin last season when he failed to turn any chairs during the blinds. On Tuesday night, Irwin returned to prove her right.
The 31-year-old St. Louis father of a toddler son, who'd heartbreakingly described the loss of his premature newborn twins last season, had spent the months since his last audition honing his craft -- giving up the construction work that had apparently proved a distraction -- and returned determined to turn at least one chair.
His emotional take on "Losing My Religion" intrigued the coaches right off the bat, prompting all four to push their buttons in rapid succession.
But although Irwin had initially sung with warmth and nuance, the pressure of facing the coaches seemed to loosen his grip on the song and he struggled to keep control. Still, when he'd finished, and dropped to his knees, Christina Aguilera stood to applaud. (To be fair, Irwin's good looks alone may be considered worthy of a standing O.)
Adam Levine, for his part, ultimately looked somewhat unimpressed by Irwin's singing, though not by his perseverance. "I don't think anyone has ever come back after not making it and had all the chairs turn around. I think that's the first time ever, so congratulations," he said.
But while the others offered praise, Levine offered tough love, telling Irwin he'd started off "super-strong" but "faded," and that there was still work to be done.
Irwin rewarded Levine for his honesty, picking him as his coach. "I want to get better," the singer said backstage. "And I want the person that's real with me."
Levine also had two other big wins on Tuesday. Right off the bat, he scored Will Champlin of Sherman Oaks, whose father was a member of the band Chicago. Champlin had also caught the attention of CeeLo Green and Blake Shelton, but said he felt he had "more of a connection" with Levine.
Levine, unaware of the singer's lineage but impressed with his funky glasses, as well as his singing, predicted that people would connect with Champlin, calling him a "male version of [Season 4 runner-up] Michelle Chamuel."
The Maroon 5 singer also beat out his fellow coaches following a four-coach turn for Ashley DuBose, a 23-year-old single mom from St. Paul, Minn., who wept as she described the strain of trying to balance parenthood, full-time work as a computer programmer/analyst, and her musical aspirations.
"I don't want to live a life of constantly wanting something that's not going to happen," she said, before universally impressing the coaches with her take on "Diamonds."
"Your voice cuts like a razor through this entire place," Levine said, adding that those are the voices that made it far on the show. "That's why we turned around."
But though Levine may have racked up some of the night's biggest wins, the other coaches didn't come up empty. Shelton landed upbeat crooner Sam Cerniglia, a 25-year-old Groupon customer service representative from Chicago motivated by an ill older sister, admiringly comparing him to his pal Michael Buble.
He also snagged full-on country dude Justin Chain, scaring the other coaches away from even making a play for him, and Emily Randolph, whose audition we barely glimpsed.
Aguilera added three singers to her team, all women. She outmaneuvered Green to score country-singing blond beauty Olivia Henken, 25, of Louisville, Ky., who said she'd entered more than a hundred contests over the years but had yet to propel herself to the next level.
"She's like Barbie," Aguilera commented, predicting that "those dimples are going to win over America."
Aguilera also beat Green to nab versatile, classically trained cruise ship musician Stephanie Anne Johnson, who told her, "You haven't had a winner yet, and we're going to fix that."
Levine, who hadn't turned his chair, seemed even more optimistic about Johnson's chances than her newly selected coach, saying she was "going to surprise everybody ... I'm telling you that right now."
Aguilera's third addition of the night, Amber Nicole, got little screen time, as did Green team member Keaira LaShae.
Green also picked up family man R. Anthony, 33, of Tampa, Fla., who had once had success as part of a gospel trio but had left the music industry for a "real job" after his wife became pregnant with their first daughter.
Aguilera turned early for Anthony's "Hall of Fame," but Green slipped in at the last minute and made a heartfelt plea. He said he'd waited not because he was unconvinced but because he was too busy enjoying the music.
After Anthony opted for "my man, CeeLo," Aguilera called Green's move a "one-two punch," but she didn't seem too crushed. After all, she may yet get a second (or third) chance.
Green has three spots left on his team of 12, Levine and Shelton have two each, and Aguilera has just one heading into next week, when the blinds wrap up.
Do you have any favorites so far?