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Father and teen trans son make history with ‘The Voice’ audition: 'The only thing that matters is the art and who the person is inside'

·Editor in Chief, Yahoo Music
·9 min read
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“I do have a special connection to the concept of a Blind Audition, where the only thing that matters is the art and who the person is inside,” 19-year-old Sasha said before taking the stage to warble “Leaving on a Jet Plane” with his 57-year-old dad. “I was born female, and I never felt comfortable, and it ate away at me the more I grew up.”

Sitting with his supportive father/bandmate while opening up to Voice host Carson Daly, Sasha confessed, “I remember at night just laying in bed and thinking, ‘If I could just wake up as a completely different person, I would do it. I would give up everything I have to be able to live in peace and live comfortably without being tormented internally.’ I used to write in notebooks, ‘I feel like a boy. I want this so bad.’ And I'd shred it up into such tiny pieces, because I was so scared for anybody to know. … The only way to feel like me was to transition to male. I dealt with a lot of hateful comments, whether it was from my classmates or from teachers. I wouldn't have been able to get through high school without music and without art to express what I was going through.”

“It's a parent's job to listen to your child, even when it's hard to understand them,” Jim explained. “And that brought forth extreme sadness at not having understood what he had been going through for years. … While it is such a big and extraordinary thing to absorb, there are fundamental things that don't change about a person. And it's nice to be at that point where, you know, it's not a big deal.”

When Jim and Sasha finally got onstage to perform, they didn’t share Sasha’s backstory with the coaches, instead letting their music speak for itself, just as Sasha had hoped. Having played music together since Sasha was age 6, the father and son showcased an exquisite and effortless vocal blend. And new coach Ariana Grande, who has extensive experience arranging harmonies and producing vocals, was especially impressed, telling the Allens, “The thing about your voices together, the harmonies were so perfectly knit and peaceful that it really transported me. I felt like I was at Woodstock or something. And I really felt it. I felt really connected to it.”

Kelly Clarkson was the other coach that turned for Jim and Sasha, but she was honest and let them know that she already had a family vocal group — the aforementioned Girl Named Tom — on her team. “I'm going to be completely transparent: I have a trio, I adore them, and I was trying to keep the lane open. But there is no way I'm letting y'all go home. It's the family harmony. It's that vibe that's so special,” said Kelly.

But the Allens ultimately chose to join Team Ariana, where they’ll occupy their own lane. And as their musical journey — and Sasha’s personal journey — continues on The Voice, they’ll continue to make TV history and inspire countless other trans kids at home who are trying to find their own voices.

Jim and Sasha Allen and 'The Voice.' (Photo: Tyler Golden/NBC)
Jim and Sasha Allen and 'The Voice.' (Photo: Tyler Golden/NBC)

These were the other Blind Auditions from Tuesday’s part two Season 21 premiere:

Lana Scott, 28: “Hole in the Bottle”

This country-pop songstress didn’t have a perfect voice, but she showcased an instantly identifiable twang filled with personality and character, and she simply sparkled onstage. “That is country! … You have that whiny country thing that we just don’t hear anymore,” raved Blake Shelton. (He meant this as a compliment.) Ariana called Lana “distinctively, iconically, classically country,” and Kelly liked Lana’s “cool, stylized country sound” to Pam Tillis and Natalie Maines.

Who turned? Blake and Kelly, who then wasted about 10 minutes of airtime arguing about who was the bigger country expert while John and Ariana literally ate popcorn and watched from sidelines.

Result: Team Blake. “This is for you, Dad,” Lana said as she made her decision, revealing that her father is a big Blake fan.

Samuel Harness, 26: “Here Without You”

This belter added an emo edge to 3 Doors Down’s power ballad and showcased a pleasingly crisp voice and prominent vibrato. “You have such an incredible, unique voice and such a grip on it. I loved the whole journey from the beginning to the end, and hearing those amazing, raspy high notes that were so grungy but didn't sound unhealthy. It's a really hard thing to do to have that much grit and soul, but also make it sound clean and clear at the same time,” noted Ariana. “Sometimes artists that have so much rasp in their voice don't have the range. … But it's a really powerful thing as an audience member to have an artist emote like that,” said John Legend. “Voices like yours are rare. Instead of a rasp, it’s like a sizzle, like frying an egg,” said Blake, making a big power-play even though he had little chance of securing Samuel, who said he was “not at all” a country artist.

Who turned? John, Ariana, and Blake.

Result: Team Legend.

Carolina Alonso, 23: “El Triste”

Kelly has made it clear during her past three years on The Voice that she loves coaching Latin artists, so she was very excited when Caroline began singing, even if Carolina sounded a bit strained on the high notes. (John descried those imperfect notes as “squeezed,” and Ariana said those notes made her “nervous.”) But everyone agreed that Kelly would be the ideal enthusiastic coach to coax out Carolina’s best, and Kelly seemed very up for the task. “I am obsessed with your voice. … I just thought your tone was really present and round,” Kelly told Carolina, describing her as “like Salma Hayek singing. It’s the sexiest damn language!”

Who turned? Only Kelly. “I’m so happy! I was so nervous that [the other coaches] were going to push their buttons!” Kelly exclaimed.

Result: Team Kelly, obviously.

Chavon Rodgers, 23: “Drivers License”

This alternative-pop crooner had a sort of Fran Healy/Lewis Capaldi vibe, and his stratospheric falsetto earned Jeff Buckley comparisons from John. His obvious nerves sometimes marred his performance, which Ariana admitted “almost deterred me from hitting my button.” But Ariana then stressed, “I loved the journey of that performance. I loved the sweetness, the quietness in the beginning. It sounded emotional. You had the softer storytelling part, and then you had this extraordinary ending, and it grew. I like it when there's an arc.”

Who turned? Kelly and Ariana.

Result: Team Ariana. We’re only two episodes into this season, Ariana is already figuring out how to deliver a great sales pitch.

Joshua Vacanti, 28: “Into the Unknown”

A rangy Broadway belter who probably could have easily won The Glee Project, Joshua would have been a perfect fit for Team Ariana — but John, who loved Joshua’s “range, confidence, and chutzpah,” frustratingly foiled that plan. “This is clearly in her lane, so I was like, ‘If I want this singer on my team, I've got to block Ariana,’” John explained. Ariana was furious, later describing her first Block experience as a “personal attack.” And frankly, I was furious for Joshua, who thanks to this silly gameplay gimmick was prevented from working with the most appropriate coach. (Even John later admitted he was being “selfish.”) But maybe, hopefully, Ariana can steal Joshua during the Battle or Knockout Rounds.

Who turned? John and a blocked Ariana.

Result: Team Legend, by default.

Hailey Green, 15: “Home”

Hailey tried out unsuccessfully a year ago, on Season 19, but she has undergone quite a badass glow-up since then, returning to the show this week with a side-shaved platinum ‘do, nose ring, and even a tattoo. “Not only did my voice change, but I found my style. … And I changed mentally too,” she said, realizing in retrospect that it was a good thing that she didn’t get a turn last year. Hailey definitely seemed ready for prime time now, digging into her growly Marc Broussard song choice. Such a big, robust, rumbling voice from such a young girl! She was a bit shouty in parts, but she was unflappably confident, and she just went for it.

Who turned? Blake, at the very last minute — supposedly to psych out his fellow panelist and get Hailey all to himself.

Result: Team Blake.

Paris Winningham, 32: “Superstition”

The coaches adored this former military man, with John telling him, “You just lit this stage on fire” and Ariana raving about his big personality. John and Ariana even gave Paris a standing ovation. But I thought this was a forgettable wedding-band performance. Maybe it was the hokey song choice, which was very American Idol Season 2. I’ll have to see what else Paris can do, hopefully with some more modern material.

Who turned? John and Ariana, who seem to have the same taste in contestants.

Result: Team Legend. But I doubt Ariana will try to steal this one. I have a feeling Paris will be Battles fodder.

Gymani, 23: “pov”

Gymani understood the assignment. She knew that the way to excel in singing competitions is to make a song one’s own. And she did that so completely with her creative phrasing on Ariana’s hit that a flabbergasted Ariana exclaimed, “That’s your song now. Take it! … That was phenomenal. There were so many alterations to the melody, and I trusted every single one of them.” Kelly then gushed, “You’re so incredibly gifted. … Your voice is why the show exists.”

Who turned? All four coaches.

Result: Team Kelly!!!! Huh? Ariana looked shocked, and certainly no one could blame her. But Kelly was the most shocked of all, literally dropping to her knees when she heard Gymani’s verdict.

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