On the one hand, this finale was a hell of a lot of fun, showcasing professional and amateur performers alike in a series of unexpected, intriguing collaborations. On the other hand, this finale was also a two-hour march to an inevitable, ultimately disappointing conclusion.
But more on that later.
As with last year, The Voice didn't reveal a single result until the last five minutes. In fact, the finale was so packed with performances and interviews and costume changes and flashbacks that it was easy to forget there were results coming up at all. This tactic might seem like ratings-grubbing (and there’s nothing to suggest that it isn’t, especially given how NBC supersized this season on just about every possible level), but the impressive breadth of acts coupled with everyone’s infectious enthusiasm made it easy to forgive the delay. At the very least, the judges’ hilarious conceptions of formal attire give me constant joy. From CeeLo dressing as Millennium Bowser, to Adam Levine’s bowtie I can only describe as “bar mitzvah big,” to Christina’s All That Jazz top hat, to Blake finding a suit that fits giant humans, they were all in rare form.
But while it’s always a pleasure to watch The Voice judges having fun, this night rightly belonged to this season’s contestants. Almost every group performance triumphantly combined vastly differing voices and genres, like the Terry-fronted “Rock and Roll All Nite” or Nicholas David’s group tribute to Boyz II Men (because sometimes God or whatever’s up there loves us and wants us to be happy). A collection of Adam and Christina’s best teen girl belters plus Adriana is the most exciting surprise of the night, as their “Best of My Love” showcased the very best of their abilities while keeping their giant voices in check enough for some wonderfully tight girl group harmonies. There was, however, a glaring exception to the group performance rule in “Stacy’s Mom.” It’s not the guys’ fault that they were dressed in 50’s greaser drag and forced to sing an ode to hot moms at a bunch of twentysomething diner waitresses, but I think it’s fair to blame them for the fact that every guy onstage didn’t realize he was singing in a group. Seriously, guys, sporadic riffs do not automatically equal harmonies. Take a note from “Best of My Love” and try again.
The most startling aspect of this finale, though, is the sheer volume of famous pinch-hitters. Sure, season two’s featured Hall and Oates and some tiny Canadian crooner, but this finale had so many celebrities that it might as well have patted last year’s condescendingly on the head and given it an A for effort. Some of these celebrity/Voice contestant collaborations are awesome, as in the case of Terry’s gorgeous duet with Peter Frampton(!) that shows off both their voices beautifully. On the other side of the spectrum, Cassadee and her musical idol Avril Lavigne(!!) singing Lavigne’s “I’m With You” is one of the best things to happen to this show, if only because it’s so awesomely bad. Lavigne’s style doesn’t do Cassadee’s already nasal voice any favors here, and Lavigne has never been a particularly electrifying performer.
Kelly Clarkson’s appearance reminds everyone that reality show graduates can still kick serious ass; she’s so immediately great on her own that Cassadee and Terry joining in seems superfluous. It doesn’t help that Terry looks like he’d rather be anywhere else, which, come on, Terry. No one likes a music snob. If you were singing The Who with Kelly, she’d not only match you perfectly pitched scream for perfectly pitched scream, but give you a serious run for your money. Respect the Clarkson.
The most fun collaboration comes at the beginning of the night when Carson Daly utters the phrase, “Ladies and gentlemen, Nicholas David and Smokey Robinson!” I’ll be honest; I just about lost my mind. It was a perfectly on-point collaboration that truly showcased Nicholas’ voice, much to the audience’s and judges’ delight.
Nicholas David is exactly the kind of contestant who could only make it to the final three on The Voice. His blues meets Fraggle Rock aesthetic might have scored him a “look how quirky this guy is!” montage on American Idol, but he never would have been taken seriously enough to get that far. As silly as it seems, his journey this season has also highlighted another aspect of reality competition shows that The Voice has done better this season than its peers: the makeover. Yes, hippie dad Nicholas David has a completely different look than he did at his initial audition, but it fits his soulful personality to a tee (and it doesn’t hurt that he’s consistently beating the judges at their own funky blazer game).
But as much as I want to applaud The Voice for being able to push more unconventional contestants like Nicholas David or Terry McDermott through, this is where I have to address the final, unsurprising result.
So, let’s be honest. As far as The Voice goes, there were eliminated women on that stage tonight who ran circles around Cassadee Pope, not just tonight, but throughout the entire competition. While singers like Amanda Brown, De’borah and even 17 year-old Melanie consistently nailed their assignments, Cassadee has always had serious pitch issues, and her lower range simply doesn’t exist. I want to love that a woman won The Voice, but the most important takeaway here is that out of the three finalists, the safest person won. When you take into consideration the staggering amount of talent this season had, a “safe” result is a letdown.
Still, I can’t begrudge The Voice too much. Yes, the Amanda Brown elimination gave me an unpleasant flashback to the first season of American Idol (why, Tamyra Gray? WHY?!), and none of the final three would have been my choice. But regardless of the result, The Voice is still the most inventive and well-intentioned singing show on television. It’s the only one that doesn’t cross its fingers for someone to fail for the sheer spectacle of it, but rather hopes to reveal untapped, unexpected talent in every contestant. It encourages creativity and collaboration, vision and talent, optimism and determination. Let’s just hope the show, or more accurately NBC, remembers that going forward.
- This is where I acknowledge my predictions before the knockout rounds were completely off. Et tu, Avery Wilson?
- Carson: “Kelly Clarkson, extended member of the family!” I recommend running that burn under some cold water stat, American Idol.
- For the record, my favorite hillbilly is Ray Gillette.
- I know I should have hated it, but I was totally into the judges singing Green Day’s “Time of Your Life” like the finale was a high school graduation circa 2004. (You know Blake was Teacher’s Pet.)
- Ditto to the “sneak preview” of next season with Adam and Blake chauffering new judges Usher and Shakira. What can I say? Adam was chewing on a toothpick! A “Total Eclipse of the Heart” singalong! Carson finally got to look at them all like they had completely lost it! America’s Embarrassing Dad Blake tried to switch the radio to dubstep! I'M ONLY HUMAN.
- Favorite accidentally existential gaffe: Carson asking Terry, “what would meaning it all mean?”
- Next Halloween, I’m going as Saint CeeLo Green.