Kelly Clarkson is back.
The “American Idol” alum returned to her red coaches chair on “The Voice” Monday in time for the first round of knockouts after missing the battle rounds due to illness.
“This is the first day of knockouts and Kelly’s back,” John Legend said. Nick Jonas sarcastically added, “We really missed you.”
She wasn’t the only arrival. A “unique” mega-mentor joined the team: the one and only D-O double G, 17-time Grammy nominated rapper Snoop Dogg.
“I’m more excited for me than you because I get to sit this close to him all day,” Clarkson said to her stoked team members.
Here’s how knockouts works: Each coach pairs two singers on their team to go head-to head with their song of choice, where only one will advance to the live playoffs. Each coach has a steal, but there are no saves in play this round.
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Clarkson’s return was an emotional one, thanks to the first knockout battle between Ryleigh Modig,18, and Corey Ward, 34. Modig selected Kings Of Leon’s “Use Somebody,” while Ward opted for Clarkson’s own “Already Gone.”
“How does that feel when someone comes and sings your sing in front of you?” Snoop Dogg asked Clarkson. She replied, “I love it because generally they change it up a bit but it is a little bit of added pressure.”
Typically, singing a coach’s song doesn’t go over too well. (Like when Lauren Hall got sent home during Season 17 after singing Clarkson’s “Breakaway” in front of her.)
But Ward, who failed to earn a chair turn during the Blind Auditions on Season 19, said he picked Clarkson’s 2009 single because it “connects with me emotionally.” He added, “To have Kelly believe in me with this song, you can’t ask for anything better.”
His rendition was Clarkson approved and brought the “American Idol” to tears, which she said is the “coolest thing a songwriter can experience.” Clarkson added that Ward “came out singing my song better than me.”
“When I wrote ‘Already Gone’ I was going through something that I thought, it’s OK. It doesn’t have to work out,” Clarkson explained through tears. “And hearing him sing that to me in my life now… Are you like smacking me in the face with my message?”
Clarkson, who is currently in midst of a contentious divorce with Brandon Blackstock, said “it’s interesting when you write something and you don’t feel it until years later.”
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But don’t count out Modig. The 18-year-old held her own and “brought her A-game,” according to Jonas, on her ethereal rendition of “Use Somebody.”
“You have a special way of making us feel your presence as an artist,” Legend said.
Clarkson called the impossible decision between her two artists “stressful.” She added, “This is really hard and I’m hoping nobody goes home.” Mission accomplished.
After Clarkson named Ward the winner because he “killed my song,” all three of the remaining coaches hit their steal buttons for Modig. It was now up to her to pick her new coach.
Legend used his experience on the show to persuade Modig(“I would love to… help navigate you through the live portion of this show”); Jonas emphasized his experience in the industry (“I started in this business when I was quite young”); and Shelton pointed out Jonas’ inexperience on the show (“Nick hasn’t posed for a picture with the winner of ‘The Voice’ or held the trophy”).
In the end, Modig chose Legend, earning a special welcome serenade from the “All of Me” singer, his signature Team Legend welcome this season.
“Unbelievable,” Jonas said after losing. “John gets another artist and sings that stupid song.”
Knockouts on “The Voice” continue next week at 8 EDT/PDT on NBC.