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

On Tuesday night’s (October 31) episode of The Voice, two soulful women battled it out on stage to Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man.” Wild-haired Mara Justine and angelic Claudia B. went head-to-head in the recent Battle Round, but this wasn’t much of a knock-down-drag-out. Instead, the two singers harmonized beautifully on the Springfield hit, coming together in a soul-filled performance that was more of a duet than a competition.

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Claudia B. started off the bluesy hit with her pop-infused voice, easily staying ahead of the song and letting her vocals speak for her, which are clear, bright, and call to mind Sabrina Carpenter or early Kelly Clarkson. Mara Justine joined after, with a surprisingly low register and a scratchy soulfulness reminiscent of Janis Joplin or Nina Simone. It’s possible one of these two could be on her way up there with the greats, but that all depends on the judges.

After the showstopping performance from Claudia and Mara, the judges were thoroughly impressed, giving them a standing ovation. Reba McEntire commented on their ages, 21 and 25, and expressed disbelief that they could put on such a performance at such young ages.

“Claudia,” McEntire continued, “unbelievable vocals [and] stage presence. Mara, your voice, your range, your attitude, you got in there and you were all tough about it. When y’all got into it, I got into it. That’s a good performer. You let the person who is watching and listening forget all the troubles. You draw them in. So that is a great trait both of you have.” McEntire’s verdict: “I guess if I had to pick one,” she said, “I’d say Claudia.”

Niall Horan then shared his thoughts with the two. “I haven’t heard that song sung that well in a while,” he said, “probably since its first release.” He continued, “I remember both of your auditions extremely well. The two of you, I turned for and felt very sad that I didn’t have you on my team. Mara, I remember just thinking ‘superstar.’ And Claudia, what I loved about you is … you were still able to have that much power and control while still being yourself in the song. It’s very easy to try and get up and do the stuff that Mara wants to do, and you still managed to make it your own.”

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Horan continued, “Singing harmony like that, the way you did, it was flawless.” He then joked, “My God, John, you have got a problem here,” referencing the fact that John Legend has to make the final decision for his team. Horan’s verdict: “I would lean towards Mara.”

Gwen Stefani spoke up next, first addressing Claudia. “What I love about you is your style,” she said. “You have a very strong identity through your voice, that’s something you can’t really teach somebody, and that makes us get to know who you are.” She then addressed Mara, saying, “The moment Mara walked on stage, there was a star quality in her walk … the performance was animated, and flawless.” Stefani’s verdict: “Because of this ‘other thing’ that you can’t quite put your finger on I would say Mara.”

Then it came down to Legend’s final decision, which, as his fellow judges attested to, was a tough one. “You just delivered today, and I am so proud to be your coach,” he began with his thoughts on the performance. “Your tones are so different,” he continued. “Claudia, yours has a lot more clarity, it’s more pure in one way, and then Mara’s is a bit more edgy and has got a lot of rock energy to it. But, I have to decide.”

After all of his deliberation and thoughts from the other coaches, Legend chose Mara Justine as the winner of the battle. Mara will move on to the Knockouts on Legend’s team, where she will compete again to see if she has what it takes to be a full-fledged contestant.

“Both of these artists really did what they do best,” Legend said in his closing remarks. “This is a very tough choice because Claudia did nothing wrong. She sounded so great, she has such a great tone. But Mara just has a little bit more edge. I can see her doing really well as she advances to future rounds.”

At the very end there was a surprise steal, with Claudia being available to join someone’s team. Niall Horan grabbed her immediately. “I love how pure Claudia’s voice is,” Horan said. “There’s no way I was going to let Claudia go home.”

To catch more recaps of The Voice Battle Rounds, check out Kaylee Shimizu vs. Elizabeth Evans, Ruby Leigh vs. Al Boogie, or Deejay Young vs. Ephraim Owens.

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