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Why Reba Got Choked Up by Donny Van Slee and Josh Sanders' “Neck and Neck" Battle

Even when there's a clear winner, Battles produce very emotional endings. 

By Matthew Jackson

Battle rounds on The Voice can produce a lot of different results, including ones that seem obvious to the audience well before the Coaches have made their final decisions. But even the most clear-cut victories can bring some serious emotion, as Coach Reba McEntire proved in her team's lead-off battle Monday night. 

How to Watch

Watch the Season 26 premiere of The Voice on Monday, September 23 at 8/7c on NBC and next day on Peacock. 

For her latest Team Reba Battle, McEntire selected dueling country vocalists Donny Van Slee and Josh Sanders, and chose Luke Combs' "When It Rains It Pours" as their song. For Reba, it was a chance for both vocalists to set themselves apart, despite working in the same genre, and with similar voices.

"They're both country artists," she said. "They have the growls in their voices. Still, there's a difference."

RELATED: The Voice Season 25 Battles: Every Winner from the Rounds

Emotions started to pour into the performance very early on in rehearsals, when Sanders found himself caught up in the ways the song reminded him of personal tragedy. Discussing how he and his wife lost their infant son on Sanders' own birthday, the singer told McEntire that he was worried about getting too emotional onstage, thinking of his own family while performing.

"It's such a fun song, man, and I don't wanna take it there," Sanders said.

In response, McEntire urged Sanders to follow her own pre-show routine and ask God for guidance in the performance.

"Ask him for that. 'Put me in the right place for this song,'" she said.

Watch Donny Van Slee and Josh Sanders Perform Luke Combs' "When It Rains It Pours" on The Voice Season 25

When it came to take the Battle stage, both Van Slee and Sanders showed off their signature country tones. But very early on, just watching the reaction from the Coaches, it was clear that Sanders was pulling away with his vocal stylings.

"Donny, out the gate, I was like 'This is a clear cut star. I don't need to see anything else,'" Coach Chance the Rapper said. "And then Josh, you have some crazy runs that you were doin'. It became like a neck-and-neck thing. I'm gonna be honest: Either one, you don't lose."

After Coaches Dan + Shay agreed with Chance that the battle was especially hard to decide, given the difficulty in the song and the way both singers executed it, Coach John Legend took over, and discussed the difficulty in choosing between the two singers, who both brought their particular vocal personalities to the piece.

"When I'm thinking about what Reba's going to decide, Donny's voice is more interesting to me, but I feel like Josh executes a little bit better," Legend said.

RELATED: An Official Recap of Team Reba on The Voice Season 25

At last, it was up to McEntire to make a decision, and the emotion crept back into her voice as she realized she'd have to part with at least one singer.

"I feel like I've known you forever," McEntire told both singers. "When we got to be in the rehearsal, I just feel like we bonded, and that was really, really special to me, and this is gonna be a tough decision."

In the end, Sanders' vocals won out.

"Because it is called The Voice, the winner of this battle is Josh," McEntire said.

So, Sanders advances to the Knockouts as a member of Team Reba. Unfortunately for Van Slee, no one opted to use one of their Steals on him, so he's going home, but not without making a huge impression on the Queen of Country.

"Donny is a huge talent," McEntire said. "It just flows out of him onstage, but I chose Josh because, vocally, Josh stepped up to the plate."

For more Josh Sanders, keep watching The Voice, Mondays and Tuesdays on NBC, and streaming next day on Peacock.