On Tuesday night’s episode of The Voice (The Blind Auditions, Part 4), 14-year-old Preston C. Howell took to the stage for the final audition of the night. He earned a four-chair turn with his cover of Dream a Little Dream of Me, first recorded in 1931 by Ozzie Nelson and also by Wayne King and His Orchestra, although probably the most popular version of the song was by The Mamas & The Papas (1968).
The teenager from Miami earned a standing ovation from all four coaches — John Legend, Kelly Clarkson, Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefan — and they all made impassioned pitches to have him on their team.
There was an audible gasp from the audience when he revealed that he was only 14 years old. Stefani jumped from her seat, letting out a shout of surprise at his young age. Preston’s voice — especially his low notes — was very mature for his age.
“When I turned around, you didn’t look like your voice was coming out of your body,” Gwen said. “How are you 14 and your voice sounds like that. My boy is 13 and his voice is like… [she made a high-pitched sound].”
Stefani asked Preston what type of song he would choose if he could make a record, and he said: “Jazz really connects to me.”
When Preston said he loved the work of the jazz artist Michael Buble, Stefani realized it meant he would likely go with John Legend, so she got up and stood in front of Legend to block the youngster’s view of the singer.
“I think that we all would die to have you on our team. I would really love to work with you,” she continued.
To prove she was also into jazz, Stefani staged a brief cover of the song Miss Celie’s Blues (Sister) from Steven Spielberg’s 1985 film The Color Purple (starring Whoopi Goldberg) and added that she could “mother” Preston because she has a 13-year-old son.
Kelly Clarkson also praised Howell, saying he was a “class act” and that she would love to coach him.
“What I loved most about you, Preston, is that you didn’t imitate,” she said. “Yes, you obviously have that influence, that big band sound, but originality is something that is gonna take you really far, and possibly to the finale on this show.”
Legend also praises Howell’s performance. He said it was bold of him at his age to come out to do a jazz standard.
“The whole idea that you could come out here and do this at your age, to do a song that most people wouldn’t have the cojones to do is such an audacious undertaking,” he said. “A lot of people know I love the kind of music that you did.”
Blake was also full of praises for Howell. He described Howell’s voice as “timeless.” He added that Buble was his friend that they’d done a lot of work together in the past.
But not many were surprised when Howell finally picked Legend as his coach. After Howell said he admired Buble, most people guessed he would likely choose Legend who clearly had more experience in Buble’s jazz style of music than the others.
The Voice airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8/7c on NBC.