The Voice Premiere: Adam Levine Wins Emotional Battle for Singing TSA Agent

The Voice Season 7 Premiere Recap
From left: Adam Levine, Gwen Stefani, Pharrell Williams and Blake Shelton; Damien Lawson (inset)
Trae Patton/NBC; Paul Drinkwater/NBC

09/23/2014 AT 09:05 AM EDT

Damien Lawson, a TSA officer from Los Angeles, sang the Boyz II Men classic "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" on Monday's season premiere of The Voice.

But judging by his performance, it might be easier than he could have dreamed to let go of the past.

Lawson, 35, was one of the standout talents on the season 7 premiere, and his song choice certainly seemed like a metaphor for his future – which hopefully includes fewer pat-downs and many more stages.

His elegant, tearjerking performance drew chair-turns from veteran coaches Adam Levine and Blake Shelton as well as newbies Pharrell Williams and Gwen Stefani. Lawson was so stunned by their full-on love that he broke down in heaving sobs.

"Tell me the definition of those tears," Williams demanded.

"I've just been told no so many times. It just feels so good to see you guys turn around for me," Lawson replied.

The "Happy" singer assured him that the coaches' approval was his destiny. "These moments happen in our lives as confirmation," he said. "If someone tells you no, it doesn't mean that you stop."



The Louisiana native's success was all the more touching after he shared his story of witnessing an airport shooting in Los Angeles. He later sang at the funeral of a colleague who was killed in the incident.

"It made sense that afterward you burst into tears because that's how you sing," praised Levine, whom Lawson chose as his coach.



Conflict and Comedy

The first night set a competitive tone, and a playful one, as both Levine and Stefani acrobatically climbed to the tops of their chairs to woo country singer James David Carter, 34, who sang last.

Shelton joked that he wouldn't be following suit, "mostly because I've been drinking too much." But he added, "I haven't lost my hearing."

Carter, from Jacksonville, Florida, dazzled with Kevin Sharp's impassioned ballad of unrequited love, "Nobody Knows" He drew laughs when he shared that he once opened for Shelton at a honky-tonk bar. "You had a mullet," Carter recalled.

"There wasn't a nervous second in your performance," Williams told Carter. "You were totally in key, you had so much finesse. As a coach, this is what you dream for. You are the total package."

Added Levine: "I've never seen a blind audition that was so starlike."



In the end, Carter stayed loyal to his genre, picking Shelton, the country superstar, and disappointing the others, even as he sweetly thanked "Miss Gwen" for "teaching me how to spell bananas."

The win added a second country artist for Team Blake after he earlier picked up Allison Bray, an 18-year-old from Louisville, Kentucky, who returned strong singing the Kacey Musgraves hit "Merry Go 'Round" after failing to turn chairs in season 6.

Others moving ahead were Dublin, Texas, blue-eyed soul singer Luke Wade, 31, who earned four turns and a promise from Williams, his new coach, who assured him: "I know a thing or two about blue-eyed-soul. You can ask Justin … You can ask Robin. I know what to do with that voice … All I want to do is be your amplifier."

Also joining Williams's team was Long Beach, California, soul singer Elyjuh René, 18, a lithe tenor who showed originality in singing Beyoncé's hit "XO."



Team Gwen picked up Bryana Salaz, 16, of San Antonio, and Taylor John Williams, 23, of Portland, Oregon, while Atlanta singer Clara Hong, 22, joined Team Adam after a stylized and original turn on the 1979 Rickie Lee Jones hit "Chuck E's in Love."

The second night of blind auditions airs Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.



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