'Voice' contestant's emotional performance brings John Legend and fans to tears

Anything can happen on live, without-a-net television. And I theorize that it’s those unscripted moments — the ones that put the “real” in “reality TV” — that keep viewers tuning in to shows like The Voice after 17 seasons. One such moment happened on Monday’s top 13 Live Playoffs episode, when John Legend’s finalist Marybeth Byrd struggled to get through her teary performance. It was real, it was touching, and while I do not think she was pandering or strategizing at all, it likely secured her a place in the top 11.

Monday’s episode was dedication-themed, and Marybeth decided to honor her late grandfather with a heartfelt, and heart-breaking, performance of  “Go Rest High on That Mountain” by Vince Gill. It was wise of her to go back to her signature country-folk sound, which she had disappointingly deviated from on last week’s top 20 show… but it was the personal story behind the song choice that made this Voice moment so special.

“This next performance is going to be challenging to get through,” Marybeth confessed. “The day before I flew out here, my grandpa passed away. I miss him every day. … I wouldn't be on The Voice if it wasn't for him showing me his love for music. … I can't think of a better way to honor his memory than to do what he wanted me to do since the day I was born. I know he has the best seat in the house for Monday.” 

“I'm so proud of Marybeth for picking this song,” said John, as he encouraged her to power through her weepy rehearsal. “Some of those lyrics hit directly home. It's going to make it more powerful, but it’s also going to make it more of a challenge.” However, John advised her to “embrace the grief” and use those unavoidable, choked-up lapses effectively. “Marybeth is so poised. She has a real sense of who she is. she's not afraid of this moment.”

Marybeth definitely did her grandpa proud. She held it together for most of the performance, delivering a strong and unwavering vocal. At the very end, she crumbled, but the audience was with her, rooting for her — it reminded me of when Season 12’s Aliyah Moulden had a similar breakdown while dedicating Labrinth’s “Jealous” to her late father, which turned out to be one of the most magical and memorable moments of that season.

“I was just talking about that particular song today and what it meant to me through the memory of my dad, so I know how you feel trying to get through it,” said a sympathetic Blake Shelton. “I can't even listen to it sometimes, because it's so heartbreaking. Great job, sis.”

“We talked about how hard it was going to be to do this song, and  what I told you then is what I'll tell you now,” said John. “You can share your grief with America, and they can see all the parts of you that make you who you are as a person, and who you become as a singer and musician. It's because of your grandfather in part, and America got to see all that. It was beautiful. What a wonderful performance.” 

While Marybeth did what she had to do, vocally and emotionally, to advance to the next round, two singers will be going home Tuesday.