As the 24th season of “The Voice” premiered on September 25, 2023, it did so for the first time without country star Blake Shelton, who served as a coach on the show for 23 seasons until his retirement from the show in May.
But his wife Gwen Stefani has returned as a coach alongside John Legend, Niall Horan, and his replacement, heralded on the show as the “Queen of Country,” Reba McEntire. While Stefani has said she’s thrilled to be back on the show, the first night of competition had her experiencing a roller coaster of emotions, from missing him to being mad at him.
But in recent interviews, Stefani has said her husband is doing well, which makes it a little easier for her to cope with being without him on the series.
Reba McEntire Says It’s Not Fair That Gwen Stefani Can Promise Input From Blake Shelton
At the top of the season premiere, McEntire was given a giant scissors to cut a ribbon wrapped around her new red coaching chair. When host Carson Daly said that it was time for her to take over the chair long held by Shelton, Gwen gasped and said, “Oh my God, I’m gonna cry!”
The premiere episode was filmed back in July, but Stefani recently told “Access” that doing the show without him has continued to be “nerve-wracking” without him and hinted that she may not do another.
Seated with her fellow coaches for the interview, she said, “I never want a season without Blake for the rest of my life, guys.”
During the season premiere, Stefani also used her marriage to Shelton as a bargaining tool right off the bat, telling the first contestant of the evening — 33-year-old country singer Jordan Rainer, who sang McEntire’s classic hit “Fancy” — that she could call up her husband for extra advice at any time.
“I am new to country music,” Stefani admitted. “Eight years ago, I met Blake and that got me into the genre more but it’s really about ‘How do I get you to grow and compete with everybody else that’s on the show?’ One thing that I could also help you with is, obviously, song choices. You know, I could just be like, ‘Blake?'”
McEntire quickly turned to Stefani and said, “Oh, pulling that card now? Really? Is that fair?”
Stefani smirked and happily exclaimed, “No!”
McEntire replied, “Okay, I want to call Keith Urban!”
As all four coaches fought over Rainer, reigning champ Horan revealed that he had buttons on his chair’s dashboard that played Shelton’s voice giving compliments about him, in hopes of swaying contestants.
In the first soundbite, Shelton could be heard saying, “Niall is like a son to me” and it shocked Stefani to hear her husband’s voice.
Horan hit the button again and Shelton’s voice said, “Niall is a global superstar.”
“How much did you pay him?” McEntire asked, and Stefani exclaimed, “I am so mad at him right now!”
Horan replied smugly, “I told you our relationship was strong.”
Gwen Stefani Says Blake Shelton is ‘Just Chilling’ Away From ‘The Voice’
In the end, Rainer chose McEntire, who invited her to enjoy some of her tator tots from a food cart Carson rolled out onstage. Typically, coaches give the artists who chose them some kind of team gear, like a jacket or shirt, to celebrate.
“My gift for my artists is a little different than everybody else,” McEntire explained. “Because my nickname is Tator Tot, given to me by my boyfriend Rex Linn.”
McEntire and Linn knew each other for years through a mutual friend, but started dating in early 2020, she told Jennifer Hudson on her talk show in April. On one of their early dates, McEntire got so excited that the restaurant had tator tots on the appetizer menu, that Linn decided to call her that as a term of endearment.
All of the coaches sampled McEntire’s tater tots in between performances and as they did, Stefani couldn’t stop thinking about how much her husband would be enjoying that moment.
“I know Blake is so pissed right now,” she said. “He would really wanna be here.”
But Stefani told Access he is actually enjoying his retirement, “just chilling” and finally is able to live without a rigid filming schedule for the first time in 16 years. Though she was worried being away from “The Voice” might impact Shelton’s happy-go-lucky demeanor, but she said he’s the “same Blake, no matter where he goes!”
Stefani also told the “Today Show” on September 20 that knowing Shelton is enjoying his time off has made it a little easier for her to enjoy her time on “The Voice”
“It’s really different being on the show without him,” she said. “I miss him so bad on the show. But at the same time, it hasn’t been as hard as I thought it was going to be because I think he was just so ready to have a break.”