Tacoma’s Vicci Martinez was a fan favorite and critical darling on “The Voice” in 2011, going on to finish second on the debut season of NBC-TV’s hit talent search. But could one of her Stadium High School classmates go one step further and take top honors on this year’s season five?
Tacoma singer-songwriter Stephanie Anne Johnson’s fans knew she had tried out for the show, and social media was abuzz with speculation on when and for how long she might show. She finally made her debut on Tuesday night’s episode as celebrity judges CeeLo Green, Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton continued to fill out this year’s teams.
During her interview segment, fans learned of her eclectic music upbringing, her classical training and of the soul searching she did following her stint at Pacific Lutheran University.
“After college, I had no idea what to do,” the PLU alumnus said during her interview segment. “I was working in a day care, and I just wanted to sing. So I got a job working on a cruise ship in Alaska.”
She’s seen performing her lounge act and getting some encouraging words from her grandma before the moment of truth. “In the last three years I’ve given a thousand different performances in a bunch of different countries,” Johnson said. “But none of them compare to what’s about to happen today.”
Johnson chose to perform K.T. Tunstall’s “Black Horses & The Cherry Tree” for her blind audition, strutting around stage and looking maybe a little naked without the acoustic guitar her local fans are used to seeing her with. Green seemed most enthused with her performance; and, in a move that would prove to backfire, he encouraged Aguilera to join him in pushing the big, red button that would spin their chairs and reveal who they had been listening to.
“You’re such a pleasant surprise. I can’t believe that was you singing that record,” Green declared. “I kind of saw Vicci Martinez from season one.”
“I went to high school with her,” Johnson replied.
That seemed to excite Green, who had been Martinez's mentor on the show and who appears on "Come On," the lead single from her major label debut, "Vicci."
“That’s what they call serendipity,” he said. “We got her to second place that first season, so maybe we can take you all the way to No. 1.”
Though Green seemed to be Johnson’s biggest booster, she decided to go in another direction. “You haven’t had a winner yet, and we’re gonna fix that,” she told Aguilera.
In one of the episode’s funnier moments, CeeLo ripped his sunglasses off and seemed to give her the stink eye. It wasn’t obvious whether or not he was kidding.
Viewers also saw local teen rocker Jason Kertson, singer-guitarist for Jason Kerts0n & the Immortals (as quoted in our recent coverage of Dream Fest 2013.)
Kertsen worried that his grittier, rock vocal style would put him at a disadvantage in a pool of singers that skewed heavily toward R&B and country. He chose Hinder’s “Lips of an Angel,” and though his husky vocals piqued the judges’ interest, he failed to turn any chairs.
“It makes me feel like less of a man to know there is a 16-year-old that sounds like more of a man than I ever will,” Maroon 5 front man Adam Levine joked.
“Jason’s voice was so mature,” country star Blake Shelton added. “I thought we were gonna turn around and see this big, burly bearded guy up there singin’. ... There’s somethin’ special about that guy. I hope he comes back.”
“The Voice” continues at 8 p.m. on Monday, though it’s not clear if Johnson will be featured on the next episode as judges finalize their teams.
Johnson's performance from Tuesday night, however, can be downloaded on iTunes. And local fans can next see her live on Oct. 5 at the Gig Spot, 6615 38th Avenue NW, in Gig Harbor. The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $15; (253) 853-4188 for further details.