The voice resounded with the controlled depth of Tracy Chapman, the force of Aretha Franklin and the rich, smoky soul of Nina Simone, who first turned the song, "Feeling Good," into a classic a half-century ago.
As the coaches on "The Voice" whipped their chairs around one by one, they were surprised to see the ethereal vocal emanating from baby-faced 17-year-old Wé McDonald. The teen's speaking voice later proved just as pleasantly jarring: As new panelist Alicia Keys accurately put it, McDonald talked like Minnie Mouse.
The opening from last month's preview of the 11th season of "The Voice," which premieres Monday, not only presented the competition's early front-runner. McDonald's bravura performance re-established the power and charm of a show where, when it comes to the music, what you hear is what you get.
The blind-audition format helped distinguish NBC's "The Voice" from Fox' "American Idol," which reinvented the TV singing competition field 14 years ago before taking its final bow in April. The first fall TV season to begin in the post-"Idol" era" arrives with "The Voice" vying to become the genre's new standard-bearer.
"The Voice" has the advantage of learning from the slow downfall of "Idol," which lost its way when the once wildly successful show became more about glitz and the judges' bickering than the contestants' talents.
"The Voice" also better manages panel changes, rotating coaches largely as a matter of course rather than as the product of controversy.
Last month's post-Olympics preview installment bodes well for the latest lineup. New additions Keys and Miley Cyrus joined Blake Shelton and Adam Levine in channeling Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, a former "Idol" judge, on "Dream On."
They put on a good show, complete with verbal and actual pyrotechnics.
But the team couldn't outshine the performance of McDonald, who, with her stunning rendition of "Feeling Good," offered a feel-good reminder of what "The Voice" is all about.