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The Voice Contestants You May Not Know Passed Away

The following article contains topics of addiction, suicide, and gun violence

NBC's "The Voice" is a reality television series that pits celebrity judges (originally Maroon 5's Adam Levine, Gnarls Barkley's CeeLo Green, Christina Aguilera, and Blake Shelton, who only just retired from the show) against each other as they build teams of singers without initially seeing them perform. The concept is that the vocalists are selected purely for their sound. By the process of elimination, the celebrity judges refine and shape their teams until there are only a handful of singers left, at which point America then votes for who they like the best.

The show must be doing something right because Season 1, which aired back in 2011, was 23 seasons ago at the time of writing. That's right, "The Voice" — the American version, specifically, as there are seven different iterations around the globe — boasts 24 seasons in less than 15 years. All things considered, that's not a wide window, so it's sobering to know how many of "The Voice's" contestants are no longer with us.

As of this writing, five "The Voice" contestants have died, and their ages vary as drastically as their causes of death. Some of them dealt with health issues, others with substance abuse ... some even faced horrific violence. Here's a closer look at their stories.

Beverly McClellan (1969-2018)

The 2011 Season 1 of "The Voice" featured Beverly McClellan, a 42-year-old multi-instrumentalist with a soulful rock sound. The term "multi-instrumentalist" almost downplays her skills because McClellan could play everything from piano and guitar to French horn and djembe. Although she never achieved mainstream status before "The Voice," in 2004, she won Best Overall Performer at the National New York Music Festival. McClellan joined Christina Aguilera's team and performed personalized renditions of The Who's "Baba O'Riley," Melissa Etheridge's "I'm the Only One," and Aguilera's "Beautiful." McClellan did not win Season 1 of "The Voice," instead she tied for third with Vicci Martinez.

Since her music career began long before she competed on "The Voice," so much so that she'd already cranked out five independent albums, missing out on the grand prize didn't faze McClellan too much. Her sixth album was released shortly after Season 1 concluded. For the better part of the next seven years, she toured around the globe sharing her talents and original music. 

In 2018, McClellan was diagnosed with metastasized endometrial cancer, which had spread to a number of vital organs. As if things weren't bad enough, a GoFundMe page from the time suggests that McClellan and her wife, Monique, spent the year battling the American healthcare system with little success. McClellan passed away later that same year.

Monique confirmed McClellan's passing on Facebook shortly after, saying, "She was surrounded by so much love and we shared some beautiful last days. Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive of us. We appreciate all of the love you have given and the good vibes you have sent. Peace love and light to you and your loved ones."

Christina Grimmie (1994-2016)

In 2014, Season 6 of "The Voice" featured Christina Grimmie. The 20-year-old pop musician and YouTube cover artist won over the judges and viewers alike with her powerful sound, precise vocal control, and marketable aesthetic. It didn't hurt that her career as a YouTuber meant that she already came prepackaged with a growing fan base. Under Adam Levine's tutelage, Grimmie performed songs like Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling in Love," Jason Mraz's "I Won't Give Up," and Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know." While she didn't win, Grimmie came pretty close, ending her Season 6 run in third place.

Appearing on "The Voice" boosted Grimmie's celebrity profile, as well as the prominence of her discography. Unfortunately, some of the attention proved fatal. In 2016, during her "All the Lights" tour with the band Before You Exit, she hosted a meet-and-greet for fans at The Plaza in Orlando, Florida. An obsessive fan, 27-year-old Kevin Loibl, shot her three times at point-blank range before shooting himself. Neither Grimmie nor Loibl survived. Among those present for the murder was Marcus Grimmie, the singer's older brother, who fought Loibl before the killer took his own life.

The outpouring of grief and love from friends, family, and fans was immediate. Levine notably offered to pay for Grimmie's funeral. And, to this day, her family runs the Christina Grimmie Foundation, an organization that provides financial aid to the families of gun violence victims. The CGF's website features a quote from Grimmie's family, which states, "We want families to feel the same type of love and support we felt when we were faced with the shock and loss of Christina."

Anthony Riley (1987-2015)

Season 8 of "The Voice" did not go the way viewers expected. The 2015 run of NBC's singing competition briefly featured Anthony Riley, a 28-year-old street performer from Philadelphia who immediately impressed all four judges with his rendition of James Brown's "I Got You (I Feel Good)." The singer chose Pharrell Williams as his personal coach and, under Williams' watchful eye, he performed The Temptations' "Get Ready." There was no question that Riley would go far but he abruptly and mysteriously dropped the competition during the Battle Rounds.

At the time, rumors spread that Riley was afraid to compete against fellow contestant Mia Z., while others considered controversial political statements made by his former assistant to be the root cause for his unexplained departure. NBC only stated that the singer left for personal reasons. The truth was that Riley left to attend rehab. During an interview with Philly.com, he admitted that the long work hours and too much for him to handle, implying that the stress fed his addiction. He also offered hopeful comments about the resiliency of Philidephians, which makes what came next all the more heartbreaking. 

Riley died by apparent suicide in 2015, only a few short months after giving that interview. His best friend, fellow street performer Robby Parsons, told Yahoo, "Anthony was a gentle soul. Just a loving, caring, gentle person, is what he was."

Nolan Neal (1981-2022)

In 2016, Nolan Neal landed a coveted slot in Season 11 of "The Voice" for what is perhaps the shortest tenure of any artist recorded here. The then-35-year-old Nashville singer, who blended his country rock stylings with Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" to great effect for his blind audition, joined Adam Levine's team long enough to perform Incubus' "Drive" and ... nothing more. Neal was removed from the competition during the Knockout Rounds, so he didn't even technically reach a ranked position. But Neal wasn't the kind of guy who was easily kept down. A brief spat with child stardom didn't stop him from pursuing a music career later in life, so why would losing "The Voice" be any different?

Neal took another swing at reality television in 2020, where he appeared in Season 15 of NBC's "America's Got Talent." He made it to the quarterfinals by mostly leaning on his original music, including "Lost" and "Send Me a Butterfly," but was eliminated there too.

Like Anthony Riley before him, Neal dealt with addiction. The singer was open about these issues, once telling a local NBC affiliate, "I remember I got clean in 2010; May 15, went to rehab. Stayed clean. I joined the rock band 'Hinder,' they were all about drinking and partying. This is not their fault. I had decided I wanted to drink like a normal person. I remember trying to be normal and fitting in ... I remember pretending to be normal. I was just lying to myself telling myself that I could control it." Tragically, Neal died in 2022, with Page Six reporting that his death was caused by "acute combined drug toxicity."

Janice Freeman (1986-2019)

Lastly, in 2017, Janice Freeman appeared on Season 13 of "The Voice." The 31-year-old vocalist convinced both Miley Cyrus and Jennifer Hudson to turn around during the blind auditions with her rendition of Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive." Freeman decided to join forces with Cyrus, who helped her make it into the Top 11. Along the way, she covered songs like Etta James' "W.O.M.A.N.," Brandi Carlile's "The Story," and Collective Soul's "Shine." She might not have left "The Voice" with a victory under her belt but she did leave with a close friendship with Cyrus. 

Freeman faced a litany of health issues, including cervical cancer and lupus. In 2019, while at home, she had an extreme case of pneumonia and a blood clot that traveled to her heart. Her husband, Dion, attempted CPR, and the ambulance rushed her to the hospital, but their efforts were in vain. Freeman passed away shortly after. Cyrus posted to X (formerly Twitter) to say, "Just when my heart misses [you] so much ... nothing ends for us tonight ... Our friendship is infinite! I love [you] to the moon, my STAR!"

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