Kelly Clarkson can't take 'glued' eyes off 'Voice' contestant Ian Flanigan: 'It was inappropriate!'

Lyndsey Parker
·Editor in Chief, Yahoo Music
·8 min read

The Voice Season 19 Battle Rounds wrapped Monday, and going into this final night, only Blake Shelton had a Steal left in play, while Gwen Stefani and Kelly Clarkson still had their Saves. The newly single Kelly was in a noticeably flirty frame of mind during this episode, gushing about how “so sexy” it was when the male contestant that ultimately scored her Save, Ryan Gallagher, interpreted a rarely covered “female powerhouse song.” But her real self-described “inappropriate” moment came during one of Team Blake’s Battles, when her one of favorite vocalists of this season, alpha-male nomad musician Ian Flanigan, took the stage.

Kelly Clarkson is riveted on 'The Voice.' (Photo: NBC)
Kelly Clarkson is riveted on 'The Voice.' (Photo: NBC)

“I was like, glued to you. Like, it was inappropriate! I was like, ‘I gotta stop looking!’” Kelly gasped, after she’d witnessed Ian’s grizzled duet with retro-rocker Aaron Scott on “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. (It’s a good thing that her eye infection had cleared and she was no longer wearing that vision-blocking pirate patch.) “I would listen to you sing ‘You Are My Sunshine.’ You have such a storyteller vibe, and I’m attracted to that.”

Blake apparently had noticed Kelly’s bedroom-eyed, dilated-pupiled stare as well, quipping, “I saw her doing that, by the way. I looked down the aisle and thought, ‘What’s Kelly doing?’”

Kelly Clarkson on 'The Voice.' (Photo: NBC)
Kelly Clarkson on 'The Voice.' (Photo: NBC)

Surely Kelly would have eagerly stolen Ian if she’d had the chance, but that’s a moot point. Not only was Kelly fresh out of Steals, but Blake was seemingly just as attracted, in his own way, to Ian’s singularly Satchmo-like baritone — what he called “the most unique voice that maybe I’ve ever heard on The Voice.” So, Blake unsurprisingly kept Ian for himself. This Battle’s song selection seemed tailor-made for Ian, so this was probably Blake’s plan all along. (Maybe Blake was just looking out for his fiancé Gwen by railroading Aaron off the show, since she’d once confessed that she found Aaron’s ‘90s alt-rock style “triggering.”) Kelly said the rootsy CCR classic “tamed” the more technically rangy but generic-sounding Aaron, who’d previously auditioned with a much more aggressive Fuel hit; additionally, John Legend praised the “identity and character” and “rasp and gravel” in Ian’s compelling delivery, while telling Aaron, “It wasn’t clear who you were.”

All that being said, it’s pretty clear that Kelly is (inappropriately?) aware of who Ian Flanigan is by now, and when the Knockout Rounds commence Tuesday, if she has a chance to steal him, she’ll likely hit her red button with such force that she’ll shatter her wrist. In the meantime, these were Monday’s other final Battles:

TEAM GWEN: Carter Rubin vs. Larriah Jackson, “Like I’m Gonna Lose You”

Gwen made a point of saying she’d put a lot of thought into picking an age-appropriate song for 14-year-old Carter and 15-year-old Larriah. But while the Meghan Trainor/John Legend duet was certainly G-rated enough, I questioned whether such green, teen singers could tap into the ballad’s sense of desperation and yearning, even if they both possessed big enough voices to technically pull it off. Larriah, whom guest adviser Julia Michaels called an “old soul,” was much more convincing (“You have already lived whole life at 15 years old,” Julia said, referring to Larriah’s rough childhood), with Carter giving off a theater/boy-band vibe onstage and not really connecting to the lyrics. So, I was shocked when Gwen picked Carter — one of her several highly questionable split decisions this season — explaining that she thought he had more of a “unique sound.” Thankfully, Gwen also saved Larriah… but as Larriah heads to the four-way Knockout Round, she will face some stiff competition from Team Kelly’s Ryan Gallagher, Team Legend’s Julia Cooper, and Team Blake’s Taryn Papa. So this sadly might be the end of the Voice road for a young contestant who showed genuine potential.

WINNER: Carter Rubin/ SAVED: Larriah Jackson moves to four-way Knockout

TEAM LEGEND: Casmé vs. Rio Souma, “You’re All I Need to Get By”

John’s two Motown-inspired soul stylists performed like legends on The T.A.M.I. Show, so brilliantly that guest adviser Miguel was actually in tears. “I feel like I’m at the Grammys!” raved Gwen. But while this Battle was a fairly even match vocally, there was no denying what John called the “joyful,” “soulful,” and “charming” Casmé’s “superstar quality.” She just looked regal, like a legend (no pun intended). Kelly was as wowed as John and Gwen were, stating, “I was like, ‘Diana Ross is here!’” and telling Casmé, “I think you’re one that everyone should be worried about, honestly.” I am sure that the quickly eliminated Rio was worried when he found out who his Battle opponent would be, but he did put up a noble fight.

WINNER: Casmé

TEAM KELLY: Ryan Gallagher vs. Marisa Corvo, “I Surrender”

“I don’t think I’ve ever given anyone a song this big,” Kelly admitted, but she seemed confident that both of her contestants would “blow the roof off” the Voice set with this melodramatic Celine Dion power ballad. I am sure she expected that Ryan, a classically trained vocalist and former backup singer for obvious predecessor Josh Groban, would nail this. And he did. But the real revelation here was Marisa, who — despite thinking she’d be at a disadvantage — gave the song an exhilarating stadium-rock feel, channeling Lita Ford circa “Close My Eyes Forever” or Heart’s Ann Wilson. There was a certain ferocity and rawness to Marisa’s performance that was lacking from what Kelly called the more “stoic” and “James Bond”-like Ryan. “Marisa just absolutely took over the room here and destroyed the place,” said Blake. “This moment was just built for Marisa to shine,” said John. “Marisa came out ready to have her moment,” said Gwen, “and it was hard to ignore that.” Kelly did note, however, that Ryan’s effortlessness was “deceiving,” so she advanced him to the four-way Knockout Round, where he may soon effortlessly knock out Larriah, Julia, and Taryn.

WINNER: Marisa Corvo / SAVED: Ryan Gallagher moves to four-way Knockout

TEAM KELLY: Emmalee vs. Kelsie Watts, “I Love Me”

TEAM BLAKE: Ben Allen vs. Sam Stacy, “Free”

TEAM GWEN: Tori Miller vs. Van Andrew, “Exile”

Based on this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it triple-montage, Kelly and Blake made the right decisions here, but that third Battle might be an addition to the ever-growing list of Gwen’s Season 19 mistakes. I found Van’s aggressive, pointy stage presence off-putting (and all wrong for the gentle Taylor Swift song he was assigned). But Gwen assured Van that she can help him keep improving, so we shall see.

WINNERS: Kelsie Watts, Ben Allen, Van Andrew

TEAM GWEN: Liam St. John vs. Ryan Berg, “I Need a Dollar”

I am honestly surprised that this Battle was not montaged. There was no contest here, no suspense. Ryan exuded relaxed swagger, settling into a natural pocket immediately and not even losing his cool when his mic pack came loose from his actual pocket. Meanwhile, Liam was “SO INTENSE,” as Kelly put it, even annoyingly letting out a misplaced Axl Rose screech in the middle of this laid-back Aloe Blacc groover. It was all too much, and yet still not enough to distract from Ryan’s performance. While Gwen had been worried during rehearsal that Ryan’s vocal would be too linear and lacking in dynamics, she was instead “shocked” by his “tasteful” showmanship. So this time, Gwen made the right call.

WINNER: Ryan Berg

TEAM LEGEND: Cami Clune vs. James Pyle, “Wicked Game”

The Battle Rounds went out with a bang, and definitely not with a figurative or literal whimper, as Cami’s “stylized” and sultry vocals perfectly paired with James’s stratospheric wail (which earned comparisons to the late, great Jeff Buckley). I feared these two power-belters might develop acute Liam St. John Syndrome and oversing this dramatically noirish Chris Isaak slow-burner, but they reined it in beautifully, like true pros. This Battle was a master class; my only minor quibble is that due to the new socially distanced stage, Cami and James weren’t able to play off each other more — but that wasn’t their fault, and they did an admirable job of trying to crank up the heat between them. Blake said he’d never heard such an “inventive” version of a song on The Voice (it was actually inspired by rock band Boy & Bear’s version) and called James his “big discovery” of the season. Kelly told Cami, “Your voice moved through every part of your body.” John compared Cami to Season 16 Team Legend winner, Maelyn Jarmon, a comment that made it obvious he would favor Cami… but Blake still had his Steal, so we all knew how this would play out. And it was well played, Blake. Well played.

WINNER: Cami Clune/ STOLEN: James Pyle moves to Team Blake

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