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Harlem Teen Wé McDonald Wows on NBC'S 'The Voice'

By Dartunorro Clark | November 3, 2016 4:58pm | Updated on November 4, 2016 2:45pm
 Wé McDonald performs on NBC's
Wé McDonald performs on NBC's "The Voice"
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Tyler Golden/NBC

A hush fell over the audience as Wé McDonald stepped onto the stage to perform on Season 11 of NBC’s “The Voice.”

She began to sing — a deep, soulful and powerful rendition of Nina Simone’s 1965 classic “Feeling Good.”

“Wow,” exclaimed judge Alicia Keys, just 15 seconds into the blind audition.

About a minute in, the other three judges — Blake Shelton, Miley Cyrus and Adam Levine — were sold.

Their chairs lit up: “I want you.” (The show has each judge listen to auditions while their backs are turned before turning around and trying to recruit their favorite singers into their teams.)

McDonald ultimately chose Keys as her mentor. The video of her performance has garnered millions of views and, since her debut weeks ago, McDonald has become a show favorite — easily advancing each round.

In a phone interview from Los Angeles, the young Harlem native told DNAInfo New York how music became an escape for a girl who was bullied for being different and how the singing competition is boosting her confidence.

“I was bullied because I was misunderstood,” she said. “I’m definitely past that point now.

“This is sort of like an affirmation that I got here and I’m okay.”

She grew up in a musical family in which her mother was a singer and music was “something that was always around me,” she said.

She began playing the piano at age 6 and, by 12, she was being trained at Harlem School of the Arts.

At the school, she studied classical vocals, jazz, musical theater, R&B and “everything in-between,” she said.

It helped nurture her range and style, she said.

Another pivotal moment in her singing ambitions was when she listened to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

 McDonald with her vocal coach Yolanda Wyns  at Harlem School of the Arts.
McDonald with her vocal coach Yolanda Wyns at Harlem School of the Arts.
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Harlem School of the Arts

“I wanted people to feel like that song made me feel,” she said.

Her influences also range from soul and jazz artists like Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald and Amy Winehouse to rock bands like Bon Jovi.

“I don’t want people to see me as a one-trick pony,” she said. “I feel like if you love music, you love music. And that’s that.”

And on the show she’s proved it, showing the judges she can croon to Janis Joplin’s “Maybe” just as well as Mary J. Blige’s “No More Drama.”

And her voice has consistently amazed the judges.

“She has absolutely a one-of-a-kind voice. Period. End of story,” Keys said on the show.

“There’s never going to be another person on this planet with a voice like Wé.”

The show is airing a two-hour special episode on Nov. 7 at 8 p.m, where the top 20 contestants will compete for a coveted spot in the top 12.

The remaining artists will then move on to the final live show phase of the competition, which begin on Nov. 14.

McDonald’s family has been there cheering her on, but she’s also been taking advice from Keys, her show mentor.

“The main thing she tells me is that you have to be yourself and you don’t have to worry,” she said of Keys' advice.

“If you’re true to yourself then nothing you can do can be wrong.”

Watch McDonald perform "Feeling Good" on NBC's "The Voice."