April 22, 2014 at 9:34 AM ET
Country crooner Kristen Merlin had "The Voice" viewers mesmerized by her soulful performance of Sugarland's "Stay" on the season's first live show Monday.
And then the unthinkable happened: Her microphone went dead.
"I was right there, side stage," host Carson Daly told TODAY, "and we were all looking at the monitor like, 'Is it out?' Sometimes it can go out in the house, but it doesn't mean it's out in TV land. By the time I got my mic to take to her, the song was (almost) over."
It seemed like an eternity to Merlin, but it was less than 30 seconds before a new mic was delivered, just in time for everyone to hear her final, poignant note. But while viewers suffered in silence, Kristen never stopped singing.
"I was totally in my own head going, 'Oh my god, what do I do?'" Merlin told us. Her answer: "Just keep singing — don't stop.”
"She never broke stride; she just kept on," Blake Shelton marveled to TODAY. "I could hear her in the room even though her microphone wasn't working — I could hear her singing."
"It was an awful thing to happen on live television," added Shelton. "It's one of the worst things that can happen, and you kind of get the measure of a person in how they react to something like that. I couldn't believe it."
At first, coach Adam Levine told TODAY, he was "sad, confused, bummed briefly, but then ... amazed and impressed by her poise and her ability to come back from that. To me that's the ultimate test."
"It was so nerve-racking, and honestly I just wanted to run off and cry in a corner," Merlin admitted.
So what made her stay?
"Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance," she said. "For me, rocking a show, I don't think I'd ever really stop. I'm always in life just always going, always trying, never giving up, and I think that kind of just proved it."
"I was excited that I got to sing that last note of the song," she added, "because I would have been crushed to think I didn't get to complete it."
Every single one of Merlin's competitors cheered her bravery and composure.
"I don't think that's ever happened in 'Voice' history, so I was shocked, but she handled it so incredibly well," said Bria Kelly. "She's very poised, very mature. … She takes whatever comes at her, and that's what I love about her."
"Out of all 12 of us she would know exactly what to do," said her fellow Shakira teammate Tess Boyer. "So I'm very proud of her. Team Shakira did amazing tonight."
"I already have such incredible respect for her talent," said Team Blake's powerhouse Sisaundra Lewis. "And then for her to just be that consummate professional onstage … knowing that we're live and we're in the voting round and still just being calm and letting it all come back. She stayed in her lane."
"I hate it that that happened for my sister," said Delvin Choice. "But she showed the true sign of a real artist and performer: Keep singing. And I'm so proud of her to be able to bounce back and just keep doing what she did, because I think that actually added more value to her performance."
Now the question is could the audio malfunction cost Merlin votes?
"It makes me nervous," she admitted to TODAY. "Because I haven't had a whole lot of face time up until this point" — her battles performances were part of a montage. "So I wanted to have America see who I am, what I can do and show off some vocals — a different side of them anyways."
"I think it if did affect her votes, it would affect them positively," Team Usher's T.J. Wilkins said, "because she was so courageous in continuing on. Kristen is such a soldier, and I love her dearly because she kept on going."
Although Merlin is concerned about her chances, she is looking on the bright side. Flashing a smile, she told TODAY, "Hey, they got to hear some of it."
"The Voice" airs Mondays and Tuesday 8 p.m. on NBC.