'The Voice' pays touching tribute to late Season 1 contestant Beverly McClellan

Lyndsey Parker

The first live results show of The Voice Season 15 wasn’t without its controversies, as fans tweeted angrily about ridiculous team quotas and the unfair fast-tracking of an online-competition “Comeback Stage” contestant. But there was one thing all viewers could agree on: The tribute to Season 1 top four contestant Beverly McClellan, who died on Oct. 30 from endometrial cancer at age 49, was deeply touching.

“We want to remember a special person in the Voice family,” host Carson Daly announced somberly. “Finalist Beverly McClellan blew us away with her powerful voice on our first season of the show. Unfortunately, she lost her battle with cancer — a brave battle at that — just two weeks ago. We want to take a second to remember her infectious spirit and her undeniable talent. Beverly, we love you so much.”

When The Voice debuted way back in 2011, Beverly represented what the show was supposed to be all about. An out lesbian, over age 40, who rocked a shaved head, kilts, and multiple tattoos, Beverly did not look like the sort of cookie-cutter pop star that could have ever landed a major-label record deal under normal circumstances. (Prior to auditioning for the show, she had released five independent albums.) But man, could this Tennessee lady sing.

“People, they’re not always what they look like. It’s not what they look like; it’s what’s inside,” Beverly later told Yahoo Entertainment when marveling over how Voice voters had enthusiastically embraced her. “And I think America got that loud and clear when it came to me. I just stayed true to me, and that meant everything.”

Beverly’s fiery, fearless “Piece of My Heart” Blind Audition turned chairs for Adam Levine and Christina Aguilera at the time, and she ended up proudly representing Team Xtina in the first Voice finale.  (“I thought as a female in the industry since 9 years old, if anybody had anything to teach me, it would be [Christina],” Beverly later explained in her Yahoo interview.) In Season 1’s finale week, Beverly truly embodied the meaning of Christina’s empowerment anthem “Beautiful” during their contestant/coach duet; seven years later, that duet remains one of the loveliest moments in Voice history. Speaking to Yahoo about that experience, Beverly later said, “Sitting there with [Christina] singing the song — with Linda Perry, the original writer of the song — that’s what the dreams are about right there.”

Beverly’s sixth and final album, Fear Nothing, was independently released shortly after her Voice season, at which time she told Yahoo, “The train is taking off. It’s just a matter of I gotta stay on it and keep going — because it’s been a real good ride.” Rest in power, Beverly McClellan. You were a reality TV trailblazer.

And now, on to Tuesday’s top 13 results:

Team Blake
Saved by America: Kirk Jay, Chris Kroeze
Saved by Blake Shelton: Dave Fenley
Eliminated: Funsho, Michael Lee, Natasia GreyCloud

I predicted Monday that Kirk (who could possibly win the entire season) and Chris would make it through — and they deserved to. But, while Dave is talented, I feel Blake should have diversified his team lineup by picking soul singer Funsho, whose sublimely funky Charlie Puth cover was one of Monday’s top 24 highlights. Come on, did Blake really need a third male country singer?

Team Adam
Saved by America: DeAndre Nico, Reagan Strange
Saved by Adam Levine: Tyke James
Eliminated: Kameron Marlowe, Steve Memmolo, Radha

Conversely, male country singer Kameron is the one contestant of this season who could’ve given Team Blake some stiff competition — and maybe even fulfilled Adam’s dream of beating his longtime rival Blake with a country contestant. Meanwhile, Tyke’s disastrously shouty Kings of Leon cover Monday was actually the worst performance of Monday night, so I have no idea what Adam was thinking here. Adam may be relying on Tyke’s longhaired-heartthrob appeal, but that’s not going to be enough.

Team J.Hud
Saved by America: MaKenzie Thomas, Kennedy Holmes
Saved by Jennifer Hudson: SandyRedd
Eliminated: Colton Smith, Patrique Fortson, Franc West

This was the most talent-stacked team of the top 24, so it was inevitable that some worthy contenders would go home too soon. (Damn these dumb team quotas!) I wasn’t surprised that viewers voted for 13-year-old prodigy Kennedy, but MaKenzie, a reject from last season, was a bit of curveball. Colton and Franc were two of this season’s most interesting contestants, and Patrique one of the most technically skilled, so it is a shame that none of them are moving forward. However, Jennifer absolutely made the right call saving SandyRedd, the most dynamite diva of Season 15.

Team Kelly
Saved by America: Chevel Shepherd, Sarah Grace
Saved by Kelly Clarkson: Kymberli Joye
Eliminated: Keith Paluso, Abby Cates, Zaxai

Kelly has ended up with a strong team, but I don’t know what it says about this show’s viewership that two of this season’s amazing African-American female singers (a demographic that’s frankly never had a great track record on The Voice) had to be saved by their coaches. I really hope America gets behind SandyRedd and Kymberli on future episodes.

Comeback Stage
I still feel, just on principle, that Team Kelsea’s Ayanna Joni and Lynnea Moorer, two also-rans who failed to turn any chairs during this season’s Blind Auditions, should have done what MaKenzie Thomas did: Go home, hone their craft, and try out next season. But instead they competed on YouTube this season, returning to TV this week. Ayanna did Ariana Grande’s “No Tears Left to Cry” and Lynnea did Ella Mai’s “Boo’d Up,” and kudos to both of them for at least doing modern and relevant pop songs.

Anyway, I appreciated Ayanna’s swagger and sassy rapping, but Lynnea was vocally superior, so she rightfully won the instant (East Coast) Twitter vote by a landslide — 85 percent! Lynnea then got to choose her coach — and she went with Kelly, who seemed oddly delighted.

I don’t hold out much hope that America will vote for Lynnea by a landslide moving forward, though, for various reasons. But I wish her and the other top 13 contestants luck. Considering that so many other promising contestants have already gone home, this is looking to be the weakest season in Voice history, so they’re all going to need all the luck they can get.

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