Make-A-Wish teen with 'sudden death disease' gets to try out for 'The Voice': 'Dream come true'

His screentime on The Voice’s Blind Auditions episode was brief Tuesday, but Berritt Haynes made an impression and had a Voice experience he will never forget.

The 19-year-old indie-pop singer's original dream — submitted to the Make-A-Wish Foundation last year — was simply to attend a live Voice taping. That wish wasn’t granted, because COVID restrictions meant there was no studio audience last season. But then Berritt’s mother submitted a tape of her son singing to the show’s producers — and as it turns out, on Tuesday Berritt ended up not in the audience, but on the stage. And he even scored a spot on Team Blake, after crooning Shawn Mendes’s “Mercy” — a performance that had Blake Shelton declaring him a “damn good singer.”

“Not only do I get to meet [the judges], but I get to sing for them too, and that’s a dream come true,” Berritt gushed.

At age 8, Berritt was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy — sometimes ominously known as “sudden death disease” — a condition that causes the heart muscle to become abnormally thick and unable to easily pump blood. When he was 14, he received an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), a device placed in the chest to detect and stop abnormal heartbeats. “I’m truly grateful to be alive,” he told Voice host Carson Daly, as his Make-A-Wish dream was fulfilled in ways he could have never imagined.

“I’m very excited to have Berritt on my team,” said Blake. “He's got a cool voice. He's got a cool vibrato.” Of course, it remains to be seen how well Berritt can do in Season 21, as this cycle is already very competitive. His audition wasn’t shown in full, and he only turned one chair (Blake’s, obviously) — while Tuesday’s episode opened with the resolution of Monday’s four-chair audition, when powerhouse Holly Forbes eventually chose to join Team Kelly. But regardless of how far Berritt eventually makes it this season, he’s clearly already a winner.

These were the other Blind Auditions of Tuesday night:

Bella DeNapoli, 22: “Damaged”

This sassy girl from a big Italian musical family sang a slowed-down, theatrical version of Danity Kane’s mid-aughts pop banger, and at first I thought she was doing way too much. The arrangement was busy and her runs were all over the place. But somewhere in there, there was no denying that Bella had a bella voice. John Legend loved her “interesting whole new version” and told her, “You can do anything!” Kelly Clarkson described Bella’s voice as “so intricate but fluid and emotional. … It had a lot of heart to it.” New coach Ariana Grande bonded with her fellow Italian diva and declared Bella a “goddess” and one of her favorite Season 21 contestants so far.

Who turned? Ariana, John, and Kelly — but it took them a while to get into Bella’s groove.

Result: Team Ariana, of course.

David Vogel, 23: “Breathing”

The grungy indie dude did what he called a “rock-influenced” rendition of Ariana’s pop hit, but it was really more soft-rock-influenced, with sort of a John Mayer vibe. Ironically, despite the song title, David didn’t have very good breath control here. His performance also lacked dynamics overall. Ariana claimed to love his “really unique take” on her song, but I think this was a pity turn.

Who turned? Just Ariana, at the very last minute.

Result: Team Ariana, by default. David was thrilled, because she was always his “dream coach” (he’s a big admirer of her production work and vocal arranging). But his Voice dream may not last very long.

Janora Brown, 22: “Angel of Mine”

John gave Janora a standing ovation and told her, “Your voice really cuts through so nicely.” Kelly was less effusive in her praise, frankly telling Janora where she needed to improve. “It’s a lot of control to do the runs you did,” said Kelly. “I feel I’m really good at knowing when to round out notes and make them sound really full, and I think I’m a really good coach for that.”

Who turned? Kelly and John — although I got the impression they were more excited about the “really cool” Monica song choice than about the performance itself.

Result: Team Legend. Janora went with the safe choice — the coach who lavishly praised her — instead of with the more critical and straight-talking coach. We will see if that strategy pays off. Kelly, meanwhile, lamented that her tough-love “tactic” had “backfired.”

Kaitlyn Velez, 21: “Please Don’t Go”

A young, ukulele-strumming singer-songwriter who had a COVID-era viral indie hit last year with “FOMO,” Kaitlyn switched up this upbeat Mike Posner ditty and did a mellow, moody version. She quickly established herself as this season’s token quirky girl, and I liked her pluck and personality, but I’m not sure if this song was the best showcase for her vocal range. However, John loved Kaitlyn’s raw vibrato, and Blake noted, “Instantly as I turned around, I said, ‘Oh, she’s a songwriter,'” comparing her to Grammy-winning ukulele enthusiast Meghan Trainor.

Who turned? Blake and John.

Result: Team Blake. Kaitlyn admitted that she was so shocked (and grateful) that Blake actually turned around, she felt she couldn’t turn him down.

Clint Sherman, “Brown Eyed Girl”

A one-chair turn who received very little air time, this montaged troubadour is definitely fodder and will probably get montaged in the Battle Rounds too. But Blake seemed happy to recruit Clint, inexplicably declaring, “Team Blake is on fire!”

Who turned? Just Blake.

Result: Team Blake, obviously.

The Cunningham Sisters: “Never Alone”

Sisters, besties, and church-trained, self-described “pop-gospel” singers, Marie (age 14) and Macie (15) poured all their heartache from being bullied biracial kids in a small town into this grand Tori Kelly/Kirk Franklin cover. They had deep, resonant, elastic voices, like baby Toni Braxtons, and the crowd went wild for them, like it was Showtime at the Apollo on a good night. John, who like the Cunninghams hails from Ohio and started singing in church, was very excited to arrange songs for the girls; Kelly was equally excited, but she once again pointed out their (small) room for improvement, detailing how she could help them blend their vocals as well as learn to let each other shine during their solos.

Who turned? Only Kelly and John. I was really surprised this wasn’t a four-chair audition.

Result: Team Kelly! This time, Kelly’s tough love actually worked.

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