‘That was insane’: Utah singer blows all the coaches away on ‘The Voice’
‘EJ could sing anything,’ ‘Voice’ coach Niall Horan, formerly of the band One Direction, said. ‘It was like watching a ready-made star’
Although Blake Shelton was proud to have singers EJ Michels and Tasha Jessen on his team for his final season of “The Voice,” he was “dreading” their performance together during the Battle round of the competition, which aired Monday night.
He had endless praise for both singers. Jessen, he said, had a great vocal range and was reminiscent of Norah Jones. Michels, meanwhile, had “the more shocking voice” of anyone on his team — “electrifying,” even, Shelton said.
But he could only advance one to the next round.
“They’re both artists that I could see in the finale, and they can both just blow the roof off of this place,” Shelton said before their performance.
“I am absolutely dreading making this decision.”
EJ Michels, Tasha Jessen prepare for ‘The Voice’ Battle round
Shelton, the winningest coach in “Voice” history, selected Smokey Robinson and The Miracles’ “Tracks of My Tears” for Michels and Jessen. It’s a song that particularly resonated with Jessen, a 21-year-old singer from Pakistan who currently lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “Tracks of My Tears” was a source of comfort for her during one of the “darkest” times in her life, when she and her husband were separated due to immigration issues, she said during Monday night’s episode.
“We didn’t know when we were going to see each other again,” Jessen said. “I listened to the song during our time of separation. Just the uncertainty, it was really, really difficult.
“I’m in a space where I am healed from almost all of it,” she continued, noting that she gets to now perform that song as her husband cheers her on in the competition. “It’s such a beautiful, like full-circle moment.”
Michels, a 31-year-old artist from Draper, Utah, shared how being a part of the “Voice” has been especially “validating” after grappling with issues of self-esteem and authenticity while growing up in a conservative Utah culture.
“The things you hear when it comes to LGBTQ individuals ... it was always with this negative undertone,” he said during his audition episode, which aired March 13. “It really took a toll on my mental health, and I eventually got the courage to come out. ... It took a lot of vulnerability to open up to other people, and to uproot my entire life.”
During a clip that aired before his Battle round on March 27, Michels called “The Voice” “healing.”
“It’s actually been a really healing experience for me being on the show,” he said. “I can just kind of be myself on stage.”
EJ Michels, Tasha Jessen blow the ‘Voice’ coaches away
Michels and Jessen’s duet was the opening performance on “The Voice” Monday night — and it set a really high bar.
The singers were visibly having a good time performing “Tracks of My Tears” for the Battle round, as they each took their turn in the spotlight while their harmonies blended throughout.
All of the “Voice” coaches were floored when the performance came to an end.
“Insanity,” Chance the Rapper said.
“That was insane,” Niall Horan added.
The singers held hands as they stood before the coaches and received feedback. Kelly Clarkson called the performance “evenly matched” and told Shelton he had a hard decision ahead of him. Although both Chance and Horan had high praise for both singers, they concluded that Michels had the edge.
Chance — who called it an “award show-level performance” — said he would choose Michels to move forward because of his stage presence.
“The two of you really brought that song to life,” Horan added, before apologizing for not turning around in support of Michels during the singer’s blind audition. “EJ, I must’ve had like earplugs in that day or something because I never turned. This is full regret. You were phenomenal.”
But the decision was ultimately Shelton’s to make — and it was just as hard as he expected it to be.
“I don’t really know how to make this decision,” said the country star, who is the one remaining original coach left on “The Voice.” “You’d think after all this time it’d be easier, but it’s just not.”
After some deliberation, Shelton opted to move forward with Jessen, calling her potential “absolutely endless.”
But the situation didn’t end up being a loss for Michels.
During the Battle round, each coach gets one chance to steal a contestant for their team. Both Chance and Horan used their one and only steal on Michels — a testament to their confidence in his artistry.
“I think with the right song choices, you could win this whole thing,” Chance said.
“EJ, as I said, I’m very regretful that I didn’t turn,” Horan added. “And to be honest, I think you did an unbelievable job, and I definitely don’t have a singer with the range that you’ve got.”
Although Chance was the first coach to turn for Michels during the singer’s audition, the Utah artist ended up selecting Horan, a singer-songwriter formerly of the band One Direction, as his new coach.
And Horan seemed beyond grateful for this chance at redemption.
“EJ could sing anything,” he said. “It was like watching a ready-made star.”
How to watch ‘The Voice’ 2023
“The Voice” airs Mondays and Tuesdays on NBC. Michels will appear in the show’s next round, the Knockouts, once the Battle round concludes.