Deaf Singer ALI Shocks ‘The Voice’ Coaches with Roberta Flack Classic

When California native ALI took the stage for her blind audition on The Voice on Monday (March 13), the judges were stunned to later learn that the 24-year-old singer, who sang through Roberta Flack‘s 1973 hit “Killing Me Softly,” was deaf.

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Her soulful pop and gospel-leaning performance made coaches Kelly Clarkson and Chance the Rapper turn their chairs.

“A fun fact about me is that I’m hearing-impaired,” ALI told the coaches following her performance. “I was born deaf, I wear two hearing aids, and I’m so blessed to be able to share this.” She added, “I’ve always been told, ‘You’re not going to be able to do the normal things that other people do,’ and I want to prove to them, ‘You know what? You’re wrong.'” 

Stunned by the singer’s revelation, and grace, the coaches praised ALI for her singing ability, despite her disability.

“Your runs were so intricate and cool and different,” said Clarkson. “That’s a gift. Sometimes you hear a song that you know so well, that’s embedded in you, and when some people change it, it can kind of be weird. But the changes you made, they were so you. I was like, ‘I need to turn around and see who is singing this.’”

Chance the Rapper shared with ALI that he has worked with the organization Deafinitely Dope, which produces ASL (American Sign Language) hip-hop performances for national music festivals.

“I made a lot of friends from the deaf and hard-of-hearing community [through Deafinitely Dope], and I think it’s so dope if they could look to somebody that loves music as much as they do,” Chance told ALI. “I think that’s super-important and powerful, and naturally you just have an amazing voice; all the choices that you were making felt very soulful. I would love to hear you sing some gospel.”

Coach Niall Horan, who along with Blake Shelton didn’t turn his chair for the singer added: “Any adversity that you’ve had in your life, you are just jumping hurdles here. It’s incredible to watch.”

ALI’s musician father first recognized that his daughter was born with “profound hearing loss,” when he hit one of his drums hard and the then toddler-aged singer didn’t flinch. “It was devastating,” her mother said, who along with ALI’s father shared a pre-recorded interview with Carson Daly before their daughter’s performance. “All these things go through your head like, ‘What about music?’”

In her pre-interview, ALI added, “My parents, they never really looked at it like I was ‘broken.’ We worked around it. We worked with it. Music is something that I love so much. As much as I doubt myself, I’m going to do it.”

The singer added, “Even though I can’t really hear every single thing that’s going on, I can feel the music — what it means and what the lyrics are about — and I can also feel the beat. I can feel every little thing coming out of the speaker, and that’s how I’m able to do the things that I do. That’s my superpower.”

“Killing Me Softly,” originally written by Charles Fox, Norman Gimbel and Lori Lieberman, first became a No. 1 song for Flack in 1973. It later hit the charts again when Lauryn Hill and the Fugees released their version in 1996, which went to No. 1 in 20 countries. 

Finding it hard to choose between Chance the Rapper and Clarkson, ALI decided to join Team Kelly.

Photos: Casey Durkin/NBC

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