Gwen Stefani declares ‘Voice’ rival Reba McEntire ‘a major threat’: ‘Congratulations on winning’

Monday on The Voice, John Legend (the current panel’s most veteran coach) and Niall Horan (the reigning champ) were vying for the affections of the Season 24 premiere’s standout auditioner, 21-year-old indie chanteuse Mara Justine. That cliffhanger was resolved in the first few minutes of Tuesday’s episode, when Mara — who’d just impressively held her own during an “impromptu” duet with John on his hit “All of Me” — unsurprisingly joined Team Legend. (Apparently, Niall had never really been in the running: Mara confessed that until John won her over, Reba McEntire had been her first choice.)

So, John got all of Mara, and the show’s focus shifted back to Reba — as it should, and inevitably would. Studio audience members were all decked out in red cardboard-cutout wigs to honor the show’s new much-hyped coach, and no one seemed more excited than Tuesday’s first auditioner, small-town Missouri spitfire Ruby Leigh.

Reba McEntire superfans get in the spirit on 'The Voice' Season 24, night two. (NBC)

Reba McEntire superfans get in the spirit on ‘The Voice’ Season 24, night two. (NBC)

Alternately singing and yodeling “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” a 1935 classic by Patsy Montana — “a country-and-western singer, not just country,” Reba noted — this vivacious 16-year-old and four-chair-turner gave a rousing performance that instantly livened up the room. “Your energy is just insane,” raved Niall. “I’ve truly never heard anything like you just did,” said John, who loved Ruby’s “clear and precise and piercing” tone, and surprisingly, was the first coach to spin around.

Then wannabe country star Gwen “Mrs. Blake Shelton” Stefani — who brags about her husband and their two No. 1 country hit duets so often, it feels like Blake in still on the show — demonstrated her own yodeling skills. Gwen once famously yodeled on her Sound of Music-sampling Sweet Escape single “Wind It Up,” but her yodel was no match for Ruby’s — or for self-described “third-generation rodeo brat” Reba’s, either. “I’m very proud of my heritage that you’re singing this song,” Reba smilingly told Ruby.

And so, Ruby joined Team Reba, of course. “Reba is a major threat,” admitted Gwen, joking to her new rival: “Congratulations on winning The Voice, Reba, in your first season!”

John Legend cosplays as  Reba McEntire on 'The Voice.' (NBC)

John Legend cosplays as Reba McEntire on ‘The Voice.’ (NBC)

But this perceived threat only seemed to fire up Gwen — who explained, “Any time I’m the underdog, I’m going to fight” — and the other coaches. For the remainder of Tuesday’s hour-long episode, Reba actually didn’t recruit any other contestants, while Gwen secured two and Niall and John got one each — with John even winning over other four-chair singer of the night. Reba does still seem like the one to beat, based on experience, popularity, and hype… but perhaps Gwen’s congratulations were a bit premature.

Juliette Ojeda, 20: “Hopelessly Devoted to You”

Cuban-American diva from Miami turned Olivia Newton-John’s lovelorn Grease ballad into a festival-pageant tour de force, belting in both Spanish and English. The performance was manic at times, but it was passionate and, as John noted, “exciting.” Gwen told her, “I love your energy, you spirit, I can tell you’re about ready to blossom.”

Who turned? Gwen, Niall, and Reba, all at the last minute.

Result: Team Gwen. The fired-up Gwen fought hard for Juliette — she claimed it would be a “big mistake” if Juliette picked another coach — and the effort paid off.

Julia Roome, 13: “Dream a Little Dream”

The youngest contestant of Season 24, Julia said she “usually gets the jaw-drop” when she sings, and while she was clearly nervous, this middle-schooler seemed like an old soul. “The fact that you’re 13 and sing like that makes me want to vomit — in a good way,” said former teen star Niall, describing Julia’s voice as “very dreamy, Lana-esque. … I had goosebumps the minute you opened your mouth.”

Who turned? Niall — at which point Julia totally acted her age and fangirled adorably — and Gwen, who’s always had a soft spot for young female singers.

Result: Team Niall. “I have a bit of thing with girls with unique tones,” noted Niall, who won last season with teen chanteuse Gina Miles.

Jenna Marquis, 19: “Teenage Dirtbag”

Jenna made a clever choice with a gender-flipped rendition of Wheatus’s early-aughts indie-sleaze hit, which recently went viral on TikTok. Gwen was immediately reaching for her button, although she held back until the song’s big chorus, probably because Jenna did struggle with her lower register. Jenna eventually impressed not just Gwen but also Niall, who compared Jenna to Olivia Rodrigo, and John, who compared her to Billie Eilish and Rihanna and assured her, “So much of pop music is open to you.”

Who turned? Gwen, Niall, and John.

Result: Team Gwen, again!

Ephraim Owens, 36: “Beneath Your Beautiful”

This construction worker and devoted dad wowed the entire panel with his emotional Labrinth cover. “When you feel angst in a singer’s voice, that’s the best thing you can have. Big songs need big singers,” said Niall. “It’s an honor to get to hear you sing. You’re a firecracker. You were explosive,” said Reba. John loved Ephraim’s “urgency,” telling him, “You were singing it like your life depended on it, which is a powerful thing to witness.”

Who turned? All four coaches.

Result: Team Legend. At first I was certain that Ephraim would pick Reba when he revealed that his wife had “screamed at top of her lungs” upon finding out that the country superstar had joined this season’s cast. But then Ephraim’s toddler daughter dueted with him on John’s “Nervous”… and it seemed like the younger Owens lady helped tip the odds in John’s favor.

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