Mara Justine Belts Out “Without You” in the First Knockout Round of ‘The Voice’ [Watch]

Mara Justine faced off against two of her fellow Team Legend competitors, 17-year-old powerhouse Kaylee Shimizu and soulful Caleb Sasser, on Monday night in the first Knockout round of The Voice Season 24. The 21-year-old New Jersey native chose to sing “Without You,” the soaring, heart-wrenching ballad that was a No. 1 hit for Harry Nilsson in 1971 and that Mariah Carey took back to the Top 20 in 1994.

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In a pre-performance segment, Justine told coach John Legend and guest mentor Wynonna Judd that she intended to do the Carey version of the tune, explaining that she remembered when she was a child, she’d watched the video of Carey performing the song live over and over again.

“I would see the crowd at the end, and they would go crazy,” Justine recalled. “And I just remember being like, ‘I want that!’ To think I’m finally getting that moment, it makes me emotional.”

For her performance, Justine wore an all-black ensemble that included long, rhinestone-covered gloves and thigh-high boots. She began the dramatic song singing in the deeper part of her range and showed off intensity and power as the soaring chorus kicked in. Justine also threw in a couple of controlled runs, but perhaps the most engaging aspect of her voice is the gritty rasp that she displays when she hits some of the high notes.

[RELATED: Niall Horan Makes a Steal as Mara Justine and Claudia B. Battle it Out with “Son of a Preacher Man” on ‘The Voice’]

Then it came time for the coaches to share their comments. Reba McEntire chose Shimizu as the standout while telling all three contestants they did a great job.

Niall Horan had plenty of positive things to say about Justine’s performance.

“Mara, I’ve always been a huge fan. I think it was just about getting you through the first line of the song, and then you were cruising from there,” he noted. “And then some of the notes you … hit and the energy you brought and your stage presence, I find when I’m watching you, I can’t keep my eyes off of you, ’cause you’re … very emotive face with your body as well as your voice.”

Gwen Stefani also had high praise for Justine. “It doesn’t matter what song you sing, it sounds like it could be your song, that you wrote,” Stefani offered. “You feel like a real, true artist. So I’m kind of leaning towards Mara.

It was then time for Legend to choose the winner of the Knockout round. “I feel honored that I got time to spend with all of you,” he told the three contestants. As for his opinion of Justine’s performance, he said, “That was so good. I think it’s your best performance you’ve done on the show so far. You sold your connection to the song, your conviction. You really do feel like you have a point-of-view as an artist, and it’s very compelling.”

Unfortunately for Justine, Legend was more impressed by Shimizu, whom he chose as the winner of the Knockout round. But as Justine began thanking Legend, Horan, and Stefani both smacked their “Steal” buttons.

The two singers got out of their chairs and jokingly bickered, as Stefani accidentally dropped her coat on the floor and Horan picked it up and tried it on.

Stefani then tried convincing Justine to choose her as her coach.

“Mara, it’s obvious that you need to come home to Team Gwen,” Stefani said with a laugh. “I’m actually feeling nervous right now because I feel really passionate about you. There’s so many people that can sing amazingly, but there’s not a lot of people that can connect with people through their own originality. I’m not an actress right now. This is my real heart talking to you, so I would love to have you on Team Gwen.”

Horan then reminded Justine that he had wanted to choose her from “day one,” but she ended up on Team Legend.

“John will tell you, I hounded him with text messages going, ‘I’m going to get you back for this,’” Horan explained. “When I think of who’s great on The Voice this season, you’re the first one that comes to mind. You’ve got something serious about you.”

The ball was then in Justine’s court, but the show left things on a cliffhanger, and fans will have to tune on Tuesday night’s episode of The Voice to find out if she chose Team Gwen or Team Niall.

Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC

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