And so we reach the end of the long, winding, twice-yearly road known as The Voice. Am I excited? Well, not so much about the contestants, none of whom I’m particularly invested in. But I am excited in the same way that a sports fan is excited about the Super Bowl when two teams he or she is indifferent about are playing. General excitement with no rooting interest. That’s where I’m at.
Contributing to that is the sense that the winner is already a forgone conclusion. Danielle Bradberry is not quite the wire-to-wire favorite that Cassadee Pope was last year, but she’s been head-and-shoulders above everyone else on the iTunes charts, at least in terms of consistency. Michelle’s had her big weeks and the Swons had a monster semifinals, but nobody’s come close to the week-to-week consistency that Danielle has shown. That matters not only in a very direct way (iTunes sales are cumulative throughout the season and counted as votes for the finale), but also indirectly. It’s VERY unlikely that Danielle will suddenly have a down week in the finale, and even more that her slyly savvy coach Blake Shelton would allow that to happen with poor song choice. Blake has basically pitched a perfect game this season, and whatever you think of his (successful) effort to turn The Voice into a Country Music Channel production, it’s been brutally effective. There’s no way he flubs it at the end.
Speaking of Blake Shelton, his real masterwork this year isn’t Danielle, but the Swons.
Oh, the Swon Brothers. I’m not going to hate on anybody in this recap, because life’s too short and the Swons were actually really good last week; but let’s just say that Blake country-driven jury rigging played larger role in their success than in Danielle’s.
And then there’s Michelle, the bastion of the pop music that The Voice stood for in season’s past. There’s no doubt that Michelle benefits from a bit of ‘Big Bang Theory’-style nerd love, and I don’t think I’m as enamored with her as some, but I’ve still enjoyed her most weeks. If there’s anyone I’m rooting for, it’s Michelle.
Smarter and more plugged-in fans than I claim that the title is still up for grabs. I think Danielle’s got it in the bag, but we’ll know a lot more after tonight. Let’s get to it!
-Recently manufactured Android Carson Daly welcomes us to the finale. Things kick off with our usual montage that lasts for what seems like 20 minutes. Is tonight’s show only an hour? Nope, it’s two. Sigh.
-The coaches take the stage for a rousing rendition of the song from The Wonder Years. Adam almost misses his first line, which is great. You know what The Voice needs more of? Just total train wrecks. Not American Idol-style “let’s laugh at the bad singer” atrocities, but performances where things just GO BADLY. This performance kind of comes close – it’s all too busy and everyone’s trying a little too hard – but it’s not quite a full-on train wreck. Also I think I’m watching this finale like I’d watch a NASCAR race, which is rooting for harmless crashes. Can you tell that I’m ready for this season to be over? Because I am.
-Shakira calls herself “a cheerleader imported directly from Colombia.” All in all, I think Shakira’s really helped her overall image with this season. She’s been adorable, positive, and had some real artistic insights during coaching sessions. Contrast that with Xtina’s ice cold bitterness, and you’ve got a home run for Shakira!
-Hey, performance time. Up first, it’s…
The Swon Brothers, “I Can’t Tell You Why”
Still holding out hope that the big one hits the small one over the head with a folding chair, WWF-style, and performs as a solo act tonight. THERE IS STILL TIME FOR THIS! Anyway, they’re harmonizing on an Eagles’ tune, so I can’t really hate on that. This is the very best version of the Swon Brothers – soft rocking, led by Stimpy’s powerful vocals, with harmonizing limited to the chorus. A little disappointed that Ren didn’t even take the guitar solo. I’ve still yet to identify why exactly he’s there. Anyway, really nice performance, enjoyed it quite a bit. Usher trolls his competitors by comparing them to the Beegees and offering faint praise. Blake claims this is the best season of The Voice. Duh Blake, you’ve run the entire season like a mob boss.
Michelle Chamuel, “I Knew You Were Trouble”
We open with Usher delivering a…poem?…about Michelle. Anyway, this is that thing where contestants perform a song they already did earlier in the season, and I can think of no better choice for Michelle. Not only does she perform this song excellently, but it captures the ‘country crossover’ voters who otherwise would favor Danielle. I’m still not 100% sold on Michelle as a singer of upbeat songs, but then you look at the landscape of pop music, and it’s FILLED with singers who aren’t great a singing upbeat songs. Michelle’s charisma is magnetic, and for the kind of artist she appears destined to be, that’s more important than anything.
-Walking disaster Christina Milian interviews the Swons. Highlights including her worrying that “Okies” is a slur and telling the Swons she loves them 3 times in 2 seconds. Glad she’s here.
Danielle Bradbery and Blake Shelton, “Timber, I’m Falling in Love”
Blake hangs out with Danielle and her parents, then joins her on stage. It’s weird to see Blake without a guitar, and even weirder for him to be singing a duet with a high schooler about “falling in love”, but sure. Both of them do some timid crowd work. This season has made it abundantly clear that I am not qualified to judge this kind of country music, so I’ll leave it at that.
The Swon Brothers, “Danny’s Song”
I was secretly dreading that Blake would choose “Okie From Muskogee” as a way to personally troll me for uncovering his plot to turn this into the country season. Nope – he plays it safe (and smart) with the obvious choice for the Swons’ reprise performance. Once again, can’t hate on ’em. Stimpy playing piano + singing lead vocals is generally a recipe for Swon success (Swoncess?).
Michelle Chamuel, “Why”
Here’s Michelle’s solo performance. If the former baker is going to have any shot tonight, she better crush this Annie Lennox song. Most of Michelle’s best moments and iTunes successes have come on tender ballads, so on paper this is a brilliant play by Usher. He’s like Blake Jr., in terms of making the right song choices at the right times. Even the famous mirror is brought back…but it’s a sneaky trick! And also there’s a full choir. Usher really pulling out all the stops here. Michelle delivers vocally, and that could be massive on iTunes. She’s in play!!
The Swon Brothers and Blake Shelton, “Celebrity”
Even the Swons’ parents seem genuinely shocked and confused about their success. Hey guess what the Swons and Blake are singing? That’s right, a country song!! I know, I know, I’m shocked too. Anyway, yeah. So that happened. Glad Blake gave me an opportunity to hate the Swon Brothers one last time before they surprise everyone and win this season and cause me to kill myself.
Danielle Bradbery, “Maybe It Was Memphies”
Blake rightly notes that it’s hard to nail down a ‘defining moment’ for Danielle, who has had a bunch of strong performances this season without a real standout. She’s always pretty much excellent. I personally would have gone with the first song she did last week, which was fantastic, but no real complaints about this choice. The performance is representative of Danielle all season – she’s a great singer, she stands still most of the time, and I would never in a million years even entertain the thought of having this song on my iPod. Yep. Anyway, a haggard Adam picks Danielle as the winner.
-All three finalists take the stage to perform “Home”, a song that was great at one point but we can all agree that we’re pretty much done with at this point, right? Anyway, everyone does a reasonable job with it, and hey all the finalists from every team join them! Good to see the likes of Vedo and Garrett Gardner back out there. Since Stimpy didn’t take a folding chair to Ren, I’m now hoping Sarah and Judith team up to do so the finalists. Nope.
Michelle Chamuel and Usher, “One”
I think I could watch an entire show starring Michelle’s mother. A documentary at the very least. And whoa what a song choice. I’ve been looking forward to this duet all night, because unlike Blake and his contestants, Usher and Michelle could’ve gone in any direction here. Why not shoot for the stars with the legendary U2 ballad? Sure! Just taking a step back here, it’s kind of wild to be watching Usher performing “One” on TV, right? Yeah, it’s wild. Anyway, I loved this.
Danielle Bradbery, “Born to Fly”
Here we go. Michelle and the Swons both had monster performances that could do very well on iTunes. A misstep here could be costly. So you know Blake’s going to play it safe…wait, he’s giving Danielle an UP-TEMPO song?? For the first time this whole season! Seriously bold. Well, it’s not exactly “upbeat”, at least in the outside-of-country-music sense. It’s pretty much mid-tempo, like all of Danielle’s songs. And it sounds like most of Danielle’s performances ,really, which is to say: very very good. Although – and this could really just be my own desire for an upset talking – I’m not sure if this was quite as memorable as the individual performances from the other two finalists. I’m also not sure it’ll matter, I suspect Danielle will still win, but maybe it’ll get interesting.
So there you have it. Based on the performances tonight, picking a winner is almost impossible, and largely comes down to exactly how into country music you are. That makes me think that whatever lead Danielle had going in is going to hold up, meaning that my SNAP-TAKE PREDICTION is that Danielle is going to be crowned tomorrow night. But, we’ll see how tomorrow’s iTunes looks. Until then.