Belfast Telegraph

The Voice: It's a knockout for Northern Ireland's contenders Rachael O'Connor and Jai McConnell

BY MAUREEN COLEMAN

Northern Ireland's Voice contenders will be hoping to give knockout performances tonight as the live shows draw near.

Limavady schoolgirl Rachael O'Connor and Belfast salon receptionist Jai McConnell are just one week away from making it through to the live finals.

Tonight, viewers will see the pair – both mentored by Kylie Minogue – take to the stage once more for the knockout round of the competition.

Then the remaining 28 hopefuls will be whittled down to 12, with three from each coach going through to next weekend's lives.

Speaking ahead of the pre-recorded knockouts, 17-year-old Rachael expressed disappointment at her make-or-break performance and said nerves were now starting to kick in.

"I chose a song I really liked, New York by Paloma Faith," she explained. "It's a big song and I've always loved it. But during rehearsals I started to realise how difficult it is to actually sing.

"I think the pressure started to get to me and during the performance the nerves got the better of me. When I finished singing I was so disappointed I started to cry. I wasn't happy at all with how it went."

Rachael said that watching the other members of Team Kylie perform had brought home to her how much talent she was up against.

"I hadn't really seen the others sing on their own before and seeing them up close like that made me realise what a tough decision Kylie had, but also, how much I wanted it."

Jai (24) said she also found the knockout round extremely stressful.

"We were all on the stage together in a big line, then three went to one side, three to another and one stayed in the middle," she said.

"We had to stand there and watch each other sing. It was exciting but also very nerve-racking."

Jai, who had taken ill earlier on in the competition, chose Scissor Sisters' hit Take Your Mama Out as her knockout song and said she felt her performance was "OK".

"I had to try and dance in stilettos, which wasn't easy," she said.

"And, to be honest, I was exhausted from having had the flu.

"I know I could have done better, but I enjoyed the performance anyway."

Tonight will see Kylie and Sir Tom Jones shortlist their favourite singers from seven down to three.

Then tomorrow night, will.i.am and Ricky Wilson will choose their final three for the live shows.

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