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Why Chechi Sarai’s Bar-Setting Whistle Note Caused an Instant 4-Chair Turn on The Voice

Sometimes the notes are high enough to get all four Coaches out of their seats.

By Matthew Jackson

There are a lot of things that can get you a chair turn on The Voice. You can bring personality, you can bring technical proficiency, you can hit the right note in a song, or you can do all three. In Season 24's third episode, the Coaches met a singer who could do all of that, and then some, when 32-year-old Chechi Sarai took the stage with a chill-inducing high note.

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Sarai, a Nigerian-American who started out going to medical school, then backtracked to follow her dream of musical stardom, took the stage after an introduction that emphasized her Nigerian heritage and her close ties to her family. It was, as so many Voice contestants show us, a heartwarming story, but then we heard her sing, and the whole room reacted immediately. 

For her blind audition, Sarai chose Minnie Riperton's 1975 soul classic "Lovin' You," a song well-known for Riperton's use of "whistle tone" singing to hit dazzling high notes. It's not every day you can meet a vocalist who can replicate Riperton's range, but from her very first note, Sarai proved she's one of them, and before long all four Coaches chair turned in appreciation. 

Chechi Sarai Sings "Lovin' You" on The Voice Season 24 Blind Auditions

Chechi Sarai performs onstage during the Season 24 Episode 3 of The Voice

By the time Sarai was done -- after busting out the whistle tone three different times, no less -- each of the coaches was eager to sing her praises as a future superstar.

"You've set the bar so high for this competition," Niall Horan said. "I can see like a finalist already in you, it's like a ready-made star in front of us."

New Coach Reba McEntire echoed Niall's comments, but added some observations on Sarai's vocal personality: "Your ability to sing is off the charts, but what I love so much is you're having fun," McEntire said. "You're classy. There's a storytelling when you're performing. Your vocals are just insane, and I would love to have you on my team."

And while all of the Coaches were wowed by her high-notes, they also pointed out that there's already more to Sarai's voice than a whistle.

"The thing about that whistle tone, sometimes it's like a one-trick pony kind of thing," John Legend said. "What you really thrilled us with today was that you have so much to your voice than just that."

Gwen Stefani added, "What I loved about you was the love and confidence that you had onstage. You were in complete control of that room, and of my heart, in that moment."

Even by 4-Chair Turn audition standards, Sarai's final decision was a bit of a battle among the coaches, as they all clearly saw the kind of potential that would take her far in the competition. In the end, though both Legend and Horan were trying to shout their way into her heart, Sarai chose to be part of Team Gwen, prompting Stefani to get up so fast she nearly tumbled down onto the stage.

How far will Chechi Sarai go? Keep watching The Voice Mondays and Tuesdays on NBC, and streaming next day on Peacock, to find out.