Maybe we’re crazy, indeed, Juliet. If you’re emphatically not in the market for any of the music that the contestants are or will be selling, following a singing show with any modicum of seriousness requires some pretty heavy-duty hacking of one’s own brain—up until the point where you’ve reached the finale and you realize that no matter who wins, it’s not really going to affect your life all that much. That person you tricked yourself into believing was going to be some sort of modern rock ’n’ roll savior will be playing at a state fair a year from now, and you’ll stumble across a YouTube clip of them on the show and wonder what you ever saw in them. Ideally, all this crushing realism happens after the finale airs, but here we are. I still have my “favorite” from the second season of The Voice, and of course we will all be seeing this through tomorrow’s finale, but I feel like a soon-to-be college grad stumbling across Nietzsche a day before getting my diploma—it kind of spoils all the pomp and dumb fun.
But enough of my gloomy reality show existentialism. We’re here to find America’s Next Top Voice of Singing The Best!! In tonight’s finals, each of the four remaining contestants sing one solo song, a cover of one of their coaches’ songs, and a duet with their coach. Only the solo is formally evaluated by the judges, but let’s not kid ourselves, all are equal chances to win votes. Here’s how the final four stacked up, in my esteemed opinion:
Jermaine gets right down to business, throwing us into the deep end of the cliché swimming pool and informing us that he is going to sing “I Believe I Can Fly.” After rolling my eyes hard enough to do permanent optic damage, I sat back and tried to listen with an open mind, and had to admit it was probably the most acceptable version I’d ever heard of this song. Granted, I knew the refreshingly restrained opening and first chorus would soon give way to JP’s now signature hyperventilating melisma, but I enjoyed the first half far more than I expected. Jermaine’s coach tribute was Blake’s “God Gave Me You,” a song that I was not familiar with (I feel so predictable in my utter lack of knowledge of Blake Shelton’s musical output, but I guess there are worse things to be ignorant about), but was perfectly generic and a capable vehicle for Jermaine’s voice. About midway through the performance, I started to worry—was Jermaine making the smartest song choices of the night?
That fear was clinched with Jermaine’s final performance, a duet with Blake on “Soul Man.” After two somber ballads, he needed a goofy, lively way to go out, and that’s exactly what this number was. The intro package did him all sorts of favors as well, presenting the two as an “odd couple” wherein Jermaine basically taught Blake how to be black. (“Teach me to do what you do!” says a wide-eyed Blake.) Let me be clear here: I’m trying to see this from the point of view of your average middle American household; I still feel nothing when I hear Jermaine’s voice, but technically and strategically, he is going to be hard to beat, judging by tonight alone.
Poor, poor Juliet. As much as I want her to win, I have to admit that she’s probably the most inconsistent of the four finalists. She’s down with a throat bug tonight, which made me hope that her tepid cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” was just a warm-up, and she was waiting to bring out the big guns for her proper solo. But when she struggled to be heard over the cacophony of her “Born To Be Wild” coach duet, my concern grew—sure, The Voice’s sound engineering is about two steps up in quality from my mom’s VHS recording of my kindergarten class’ Beach Boys program, but Juliet has got one resilient yowl—surely it should have cut through all the caged dancers and screaming guitars.
In the end, it appeared as if Juliet had been saving her reserves for her last number, but her choice of “Free Bird” wasn’t all that encouraging either. Juliet’s voice invites so many easy Janis Joplin comparisons that any actual classic-rock covers seem redundant; she’s been her strongest on soul numbers, and, uh… British reggae? (Seriously, how does one classify “Roxanne”?) She handled the song capably, but it lacked the spark of her finer moments on the show. But then, Juliet has never come off as the kind of performer you wind up and expect flawlessness from—she has her off nights and her runaway successes. She can get moody and unsure of herself, and then absolutely lose herself in a song and kill it. In theory, that should make her the most relatable of all the contestants, but the way this show’s been going, who knows what her fate will be.
Chris Mann finally realizes his dreams of covering Josh Groban and singing an Andrea Bocelli song with Christina Aguilera on national television, which pretty much sums up everything we know about him at this point. Javier Colon was about as neutral a winner as The Voice could have picked for its first season—though he show’s no sign of any post-show breakout, there’s nothing particularly tasteless or offensive about him; anything egregiously square or dated. But if Chris Mann ends up winning this show, it will pretty much invalidate it as a legitimate launch pad for aspiring pop artists—maybe it could work as a Vegas-act contest, if NBC didn’t already have one of those. The most thrilling of Chris’ performances tonight was his duet with Christina, and that was only because I was terrified that the latter’s breast would escape the sparkly confines of that ill-fitting gold dress. By the time he was singing “You Raise Me Up” with a backup signer (literally, a witchy woman translating the song into ASL) and the entire staff of Party Down Catering, I was glad that the hours I would have to expend any energy thinking about him were numbered.
Even if Tony Lucca wasn’t my No. 1 choice for the finals out of all of Adam’s contenders, I’m glad he’s made it this far, because the ongoing saga of Tony Lucca vs. Christina Aguilera has been one of the most consistently entertaining storylines this season. After accusing him of being “derogatory to women” by choosing to cover Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” she goes on to compare her own finalist favorably against him by claiming Chris is a “real man” who respects women. It’s just about the most desperate, hilarious, last-minute attempt to sabotage Tony Lucca’s Voice dreams, which raises the question: Exactly how many of Christina’s puppies did Tony throw in the L.A. River in between Mickey Mouse Club dress rehearsals? Adam’s strategy against Christina’s weird hostility is the same as it’s always been: troll, troll, troll—this time with the assistance of a glittery “Team XTina” shirt under his flannel. But since it’s Tony’s ass on the line, he plays the earnestness card, giving a sweet and heartfelt thank you to all of the coaches for their feedback and support—while Christina pretends to text someone. Ha ha, Christina is a terrible person. Good luck getting anyone to join your team next season.
As for Tony’s actual performances tonight, well, he’s been better. His Modest Mouse-tinged (and not even the good version of Modest Mouse) “99 Problems” was kind of fun and silly, but felt like another novelty act on par with the Britney cover a few weeks back. His strongest vocals were with Adam on their “Yesterday” duet, but toward the end his enunciation seemed to get a bit muddy, especially next to his coach’s much more convincing delivery. And his coach tribute of “Harder To Breathe” was nearly swallowed whole by staccato and a rapid-fire delivery he could never quite get a handle on. (“You got a lotta words in that one, man,” Tony breathlessly confessed to Adam after the performance.)
From where I’m sitting, there’s only one acceptable winner of this show, but if I had tuned in tonight for the first time, I’m not sure I would have thought it was Juliet. No matter the outcome, though, at least tomorrow night’s Return of the Bieber promises the crankiest Carson Daly performance of the season.
- Juliet appeared to miss her mark for some kind of wind machine wardrobe effect—but her guitarist certainly didn’t.
- At what point did Cee Lo start pronouncing Tony’s name like he was ordering a hit on him over a plate of pasta fagioli? This is not a complaint, by the way. Keep it, Cee Lo. It’s a good bit.
- I tweeted this tonight, but it bears repeating: Someone is getting fired for that shot of Christina’s back fat during her duet with Chris.