Villaranda makes return to the small screen on NBC’s ‘The Voice’

Anatalia Villaranda celebrates her performance on “The Voice” surrounded by family, friends and legions of fans at Chaparral High School during a special viewing party Monday, Feb. 28. Annette Saenz photo
Anatalia Villaranda celebrates her performance on “The Voice” surrounded by family, friends and legions of fans at Chaparral High School during a special viewing party Monday, Feb. 28. Annette Saenz photo

The little girl with the big voice is back in the limelight. Anatalia Villaranda, last seen on the final season of “American Idol,” wowed judges of NBC’s “The Voice” with her performance of Bruno Mars’ “Runaway Baby.” Villaranda, 16, appeared during the first episode of the show’s newest season Monday, Feb. 23.

With her family cheering her on backstage, Villaranda, who is a senior at Chaparral High School in Temecula, nailed her blind audition, with all four judges pleading with her to choose them to be her coach throughout the season.

Throughout her performance, the judges shared amazed looks and smiles while nodding their heads and tapping their feet in tune to the music. Country Superstar Blake Shelton and Singer Songwriter Alicia Keys were the first two to turn around and lay claim to the performer. Rocker Adam Levine and Pop Star Gwen Stefani quickly followed suite.

An excited Villaranda, who began singing at the age of 8, brought her entire family onstage at the request of Shelton who said, “Don’t hurt her yet, I need her to be healthy on my team,” as Villaranda’s family shared hugs with the teen singing sensation, who appeared teary-eyed at times.

“It’s a shame you don’t have such a supportive family,” Levine joked.

Shelton said that many times performers turn her kind of energy into “a colossal train wreck.”

“And you were like, no, I am going to keep beating you guys down until somebody hits their freaking button. That’s what it felt like. Too bad you don’t have any personality,” he joked.

Keys said Villaranda, who says she struggled with her appearance, mainly her short stature, was more than just a voice, she was an artist.

“I would like you to look and see how important it is for you to be on my team,” she said. “You’re amazing.”

Stefani said she is at the point in her life where she had the opportunity to offer her skills and knowledge to help someone like Villaranda.

“I just really feel passionate about you and your positivity … I think we could work really well together,” she said.

Levine and Shelton both took a shot at obtaining the 4-foot, 9-inch songstress to their teams, too.

“The greatness that you have is something that you can’t teach and if you have that then you are just adding to this incredible raw ability that you have,” Levine said. “I do believe you could win this entire thing.”

Shleton said he didn’t want Temecula to be known for Old Town, it’s wineries or the Balloon & Wine Festival.

“I want people to go there and be like ‘Woah, this is Anatalia’s hometown,’” he said.

While all of the judges made compelling cases, in the end, Villaranda picked Keys to be her coach.

“I picked Alicia Keys because we have similar styles and musicality,” Villaranda said during a viewing party held at Chaparral High School, where she is a student, Monday afternoon. Almost 400 teachers, students and supporters, along with Villaranda’s family were in attendance.

Cole Criske, another local who appeared on Season 9 of “the Voice” in 2015, also appeared at the viewing party. He said he was excited for Anatalia and wished her the best on her new journey.

“I’m here to show her my support,” he said. “We’ve done SoCal and Boys & Girls Club Idol together four times. She beat me in the finals, I hope she goes a long way.

Kiana Guico, 16, said that her friend loves Bruno Mars so it was no surprise to her when Villaranda sang one of his songs for the audition.

“It’s the only thing she plays in the car, she knows all the words,” she said. “I’ve known Anatalia for four years and I expected something like this for her. She deserves it.”

Chaparral High School Activities Directory Don Jones said he has known the singer since she was a freshman when he was looking for someone to sing the national anthem at athletic events.

“As I looked around the audience, (during the viewing party) and the reaction was unbelievable,” he said. “The icing on the cake is that you couldn’t find a nicer young lady. I wish her the best.”

Villaranda said that there are major differences between “American Idol” and “the Voice,” something she noticed early in the process.

“Here there are four judges with their backs toward you and you find out pretty quickly if they like you. On Idol, you have to wait until you’re done with the entire song,” she said. “Also, the audience energy is different, there is more love thrown at you.”

Villaranda said during her blind audition and every performance she gives, she doesn’t feel nerves as much as excitement.

“I love to perform,” she said. “Lots of times I blackout about the actual performance,” she said. “I really don’t remember my audition; I just put my energy into the performance.”

There were lots of decisions to be made so Villaranda could participate in “The Voice.” She is taking online classes to finish out her senior year

“The most major decision I’ve had to make was what to do my senior year, missing prom and other activities,” she said. “Fun or career, I’m doing what I love. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity!”

Lea Villaranda is her daughter’s biggest fan.

“She is doing what she loves and handles all of the attention and pressure,” Lea Villaranda said. “We are so excited for her.”

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