Superstar surprises ‘Voice’ viewers with ‘biggest performance of their entire life’

A mystery contestant 'auditions' for 'The Voice' Season 23. (Photo: NBC)

A mystery contestant ‘auditions’ for ‘The Voice’ Season 23. (Photo: NBC)

The Voice Season 23 Blind Auditions continued apace Tuesday with new coaches Chance the Rapper and Niall Horan, and throughout the night, host Carson Daly kept teasing the series’ “wildest Blind Audition ever.”

“Right now, we have an artist backstage preparing for the biggest performance of their entire life. You’re not gonna want to miss this!” Carson declared, although viewers had to wait until the end of the hour-long episode to see this special surprise performance.

It was worth the wait.

Kelly Clarkson, Niall, and Chance all hit their buttons straight away for this mystery contestant’s smoothly crooned rendition of Michael McDonald’s yacht-rockin’ classic “I Keep Forgettin’,” and it seemed like they were genuinely impressed… until, of course, they spun around and burst into laughter at the sight of NBC’s own Jimmy Fallon.

Only Blake Shelton refrained from turning, so Jimmy naturally broke the rules and strutted over to smack Blake’s button himself. “You can’t do that!” Blake protested, claiming that he knew it was his pal Jimmy all along. “I was like, ‘I know what’s going on. There’s no way I’m hitting my button,’” Blake chuckled.

“I’m across the parking lot doing our show That’s My Jam, and I texted Carson and said, ‘I gotta come over,’” Jimmy explained. He then nicely congratulated Blake on 23 historic Voice seasons… before choosing to “join” Team Kelly, because, of course, she turned for him first.

Jimmy Fallon 'auditions' for 'The Voice' Season 23. (Photo: NBC)

Jimmy Fallon ‘auditions’ for ‘The Voice’ Season 23. (Photo: NBC)

Obviously this was all a PR stunt for Jimmy’s musical game show That’s My Jam, which uncoincidentally premiered Tuesday immediately after The Voice. But it was a pretty brilliant PR stunt. I personally think Jimmy would have been a great addition to Team Chance, since Chance the Rapper — as evidenced by his elated reaction to a Hall & Oates cover earlier in the evening — clearly has a soft spot for soft rock. But here are the actual, serious auditions that took place Tuesday:

Sheer Element: “Leave the Door Open”

Technically, only contestants who failed to turn any chairs are usually allowed to try out for The Voice again. But former Team Kelly member Jej Vinson, who made it all the way to the top 13 Live Playoffs in Season 16, made Voice history this week as the show’s first returning semifinalist, because he found a loophole and came back this season as a member of a soul-pop vocal trio called Sheer Element. Personally, I preferred Jej as a solo artist — his group’s arrangement of this Silk Sonic ballad felt fussy, messy, unrehearsed, and sometimes just unpleasant to the ear. But when he and his bandmates/USC schoolmates Izzy Kaye and Tabon Ward warbled individually, their raw talent was evident.

Who turned? Chance, Niall… and then Kelly, who waited until the song’s final few seconds to hit her button, but thankfully recognized Jej soon after she did. (If she hadn’t turned, or hadn’t realized who Jej was, that sure would have been awkward, especially since Jej was invited to duet with her in Las Vegas after his Voice run.)

Result: Team Kelly. I think Chance, with his production prowess, would have been the best coach to help Sheer Element sort out their vocal parts. (“I see exactly where you guys could go,” he assured them.) Niall’s harmonic experience in One Direction might have helped them too. But obviously, Kelly had “history” with Jej. (“I already love Jej’s voice!” she noted.) And Kelly’s last Voice win was with a trio, Girl Named Tom, so it could all work out for Jej the second time around.

Carlos Rising, 28: “Change the World”

Kelly was one of Carlos’s first childhood crushes: “I wanted to marry Kelly Clarkson,” he blushingly confessed Tuesday. Kelly is single these days, but now Carlos is blissfully married to the woman who inspired his Eric Clapton cover. He certainly had a sexy, velvety tone that could make all the ladies swoon – Chance compared him to Jamiroquai’s Jay Kay, and Niall was reminded of British singer-songwriter James Morrison.

Who turned? Blake and Kelly — the latter once again at the very last minute. Kelly explained that she was “waiting for him to climb,” but eventually realized that Carlos had “what it takes to be on this show.”

Result: Team Blake. I’m not sure if this was because Carlos was put off by Kelly’s mild constructive criticism, or because he didn’t want to make his wife jealous… but I do think Team Kelly, stylistically, would have been a better fit.

Magnus, 25: “Sara Smile”

I adored what Chance called Magnus’s “impeccable song choice.” Honestly, Hall & Oates should be covered on every episode of every singing competition. But of course, not everyone can do Hall & Oates like this choir singer and self-described old soul. (Jimmy Fallon might’ve done a decent job with it, though.) “The pacing at which you attacked the song, for a while, I was like, ‘Man, these runs are going crazy,’” Chance told Magnus. “And then, you just smacked that note at the end.”

Who turned? Chance, right away, after which he was singing along: “It’s you… and me… forever!” I guess Chance is as big a Hall & Oates fan as I am. He’s quickly becoming my favorite coach.

Result: Team Chance, since he was the only coach who turned. (“You were so excited about it that I didn’t want take that away from you,” Kelly explained nicely to Chance.) But Team Chance is where Magnus belongs, anyway. “I already won the whole show, basically!” proclaimed Chance, as he Sara-smiled from ear to ear.

Kala Banham, 24: “Both Sides Now”

This former college a cappella singer, who Chance compared to Joanna Newsom, stunned with her heartfelt, elegant Joni Mitchell cover. “You did such a beautiful job on it, so brittle and so tender in the soft moments. … You are unbelievable. You have such a storytelling voice, so sweet and so beautiful. I just want to go grab a guitar and write a song with you,” gushed Niall.

Who turned? Kelly, Niall, and Chance. Kelly was really excited about this one, but unlike the way she graciously let Chance have Magnus, Niall got up to the “dirty tricks” he learned from his new “dad” Blake, and he blocked Kelly. “This is so sad. … We would have been beautiful together,” Kelly lamented to Kala. (Side note: I’m glad that Blake didn’t turn, because he wasn’t even familiar with this Joni classic! What?)

Result: Team Niall — but maybe not for long. “I will steal you, mark my words!” Kelly told Kala. “You will be wearing this [Team Kelly] jacket at some point in the competition, I promise you.”

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