Kelly Clarkson was only 19 when she auditioned for the first season of American Idol — not much older than the two final Team Kelly contestants, 16-year-olds Gracee Shriver and Damali, who competed during Tuesday’s The Voice Season 17 Knockout Rounds. Kelly struggled to choose between the two very different singers — country girl Gracee, who put a Patty Loveless-like, strummy spin on the Wreckers’ breakup ballad "Leave the Pieces,” and dark-indie-pop stylist Damali, who dedicated her raw, brave, and soulful cover of Demi Lovato’s “Sober” to a family member who is battling addiction.
“I just know it's an important moment for you. I get it. I was a teenager in a competition. It's such an important moment. I wish I had a crystal ball,” Kelly agonized when the moment of reckoning — “forever the hardest decision I've ever made on this show” — arrived. She stalled for time and even begged host Carson Daly for “10 seconds with me and the Lord.”
“You're both really good,” Kelly told the girls. “Damali, you have this Annie Lennox thing for me. And Gracee, God, you're so original. You are both fantastic. It's like a young Mariah and a young Dixie Chicks, both things I grew up on and love. And this was a really, really hard one for me. And I have never twisted this ring on my finger so hard, because I really do love both of you. I am so nervous!”
Damali, in my opinion, was the clear winner here — and it seemed Kelly thought so too, because Damali’s performance actually brought her to tears. But Kelly was still torn, and her tears flowed anew when Carson finally forced her to choose. But ultimately, she chose wisely, and she went with the more compelling and original Damali.
But soon Kelly was shedding happy tears, when Blake Shelton used his one Steal to recruit Gracee, a natural fit for his team. Gracee and Damali wept with joy as well, thus bringing the Knockouts to a feel-good conclusion. Aw.