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'Voice' contestant's heartbreaking audition right after mom's death: 'I just can't believe I have to do this part without her'

·Editor in Chief, Yahoo Music
·6 min read
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Tuesday was the closing night of Blind Auditions for The Voice Season 21, so the coaches were being understandably picky. “I’m not going to turn unless I absolutely feel moved,” warned Kelly Clarkson, who ended up being the last coach to fill her team with the final contestant of the episode, country/soul/pop Nashville artist Parker McKay. “Welcome to the obvious team for you!” she quipped cheerily, upon learning of Parker’s genre-blurring tendencies.

But Kelly was moved by Parker’s voice alone, only learning of the 29-year-old singer’s heartbreaking backstory in the episode’s final seconds. “Sometimes on the Blinds, we don’t get the whole story. But I was really glad that I was moved enough turn around, because sometimes in life, when it rains it pours, and you just need a break from the storm,” Kelly mused later.

Before Parker hit the stage in a sparkly flamingo-pink suit to confidently croon Niall Horan’s soulful “Slow Hands,” she revealed the sad story of her beloved mother, her No. 1 fan and best friend, who five years ago starting acting unlike herself and was ultimately diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. “Her fire was just dwindling,” Parker recalled tearfully. However, when Parker recently shared with her mother the happy news that she was going to be on The Voice, her mom lit up with excitement — and for just a moment, a spark of that old fire returned.

Tragically, Parker’s mom died right before Parker left for her audition, on the day before what would have been her mom’s birthday. As Parker prepared to sing for the coaches Tuesday, she lamented, “She gave me my love of music, and she gave me my courage, and I just can’t believe I have to do this part without her.” But Parker’s father, watching the audition remotely and giving his daughter a pre-show pep talk via video screen, told her, “She’s looking down on us, and I think it’s time you show the world — and her — how awesome you can be.”

It was only after Parker successfully landed on Team Kelly, and her new coach walked onstage to share a congratulatory hug, that Parker told Kelly of her mom’s death, saying she was “just really grateful” for the opportunity to do her mother proud. “I’m not going to cry,” vowed the typically verklempt Kelly, as she later reflected on this sweet, unscripted moment.

Parker was the final auditioner before next week’s Battle Rounds, and she brought the Blinds to an emotional close. But Blake Shelton, new coach Ariana Grande, and John Legend all filled their teams too — and John snagged not only the best contestant of the night, but one of the best of the entire season. Check out those performances below:

Aaron Hines, 28: “Heartbreak Anniversary”

This church-trained wedding singer’s first public performance was “Ordinary People” at an 8th grade talent show, and when he told John that he covers “All of Me” at a lot of weddings, the two men engaged in an impromptu “All of Me” duet. But John was not the only coach that turned for Aaron’s butter-smooth, made-for-slow-jams voice. Aaron’s fellow Texan Kelly told him, “A lot of people think you have to wail. I think you did a really good job of being sincere and intimate, but also giving us big notes.” Ariana praised his “super-clean” runs and said, “Your tone stopped me dead in my tracks.” Blake played the Cam Anthony card, pointing out he won last season with a soul singer. But John was so confident that he had this one in the bag, he kept his commentary short and sweet, simply telling Aaron, “You just sounded like you knew what you wanted to do with the song. … You executed it beautifully,” before letting the other coaches do most of the talking.

Who turned? All four coaches — an especially big deal, considering all of their teams were almost full.

Result: Team Kelly! I guess John should not have been so confident after all. Texas waters run deep.

KCK3: “No Tears Left to Cry”

Season 21 is the most group-heavy Voice season ever, with a record number of trios. This sibling act caught Ariana’s attention right away with their song choice (even though she oddly claimed that she didn’t recognize it as her own song at first). Ariana literally screamed, then jumped out of her seat and started vigorously dancing. But I think she was more excited by the idea of KCK3 than by their actual execution. They had some nice harmonies and a fiery, En Vogue-like stage presence, but as is the case with many groups on this show, their solos were lacking and unimpressive.

Who turned? Just Ariana. “I think there’s an obvious reason why none of us turned around,” Kelly chuckled.

Result: Team Ariana.

Tommy Edwards, 27: “Drops of Jupiter”

I am genuinely surprised that this fisherman/family man turned two chairs at a point in the competition. He went with a very big and blustery song, and his feathery voice had none of Train frontman Pat Monahan’s wind-power or evangelical delivery. Kelly admitted that she didn’t turn because “she was waiting for more range.” I think she made the right call.

Who turned? John and Blake.

Result: Team Blake.

Shadale, 29: “That’s What I Like”

A corporate band singer who has toured the world with a group called the Gospel People, this dynamite diva came to the stage with poise, professionalism, and vocals, vocal, vocals worthy of a J.Hud shoe-toss. Even with their backs turned, the coaches could tell right away this was a vivacious performer from all the personality in her delivery. But their backs didn’t stay turned for long. “I felt like I was watching a mix of Bruno with Beyoncé — sassy and confident, but also kind of witty. I think you’re gonna be fun as hell to watch on this show,” said Kelly. “Not only were you able to sing your butt off, but you came on here and put on a show. … I see you being able to make it to the finale,” raved John.

Who turned? Kelly, very quickly, followed by John just a few seconds later. But as Blake noted, Shadale got the “equivalent of a four-chair turn,” because he and Ariana totally would have hit their buttons if their respective teams weren’t already full. Ariana called Shadale an “amazing vocal technician” and went crazy for her “sustaining, pure, gorgeous vibrato notes.”

Result: Team Legend. John really did save the best for last.

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