This is the end. Hold your breath and count to 10.
has reached the conclusion of season 4 and, just like last season,
Blake Shelton has two contestants left. Tonight Danielle Bradbery and
The Swon Brothers, plus Team Usher's Michelle Chamuel, compete for the
title. Will Blake go for the three-peat and be vindicated for his
all-country strategy that saw deserving singers like Luke Edgemon,
Christian Porter and Grace Askew go home before they should've? Will
Usher shock the world by coming in and winning the show his first time
out? Will Adam Levine start a write-in campaign for Judith Hill?
Danielle is the obvious frontrunner, dominating iTunes every week and being anointed as The Most Important Human Being Who Has Ever Lived by Blake. Sadly, that's not that much of an exaggeration from the things he's actually said about her.
Then we have The Swon Brothers who have been consistently entertaining, thoroughly likeable and completely non-threatening. No one ever thought they'd make it to the finale (I didn't think they'd survive the Battle Rounds), but they've persevered through hard work and, possibly, with a little help from Oklahoma sympathy.
Finally there's Michelle Chamuel, who has received the loudest, most enthusiastic applause from the studio audience. She's the beloved underdog, a weird, unconventional girl with glasses who seemed like a novelty, but quickly became known for her power, ferocity, determination and vulnerability. She's who I'm rooting for, and who I know many other online Voice fans are rooting for too.
Michelle is the grass roots heroine doing battle against two establishment candidates. Can she triumph against Blake Shelton's Frank Underwood-style manipulations? Or will she wind up passed out in a parking garage? If you don't know what that means, check out Netflix's House of Cards.
This is The Voice live blog!
Since we only have three singers and two hours, there's bound to be lots of filler. We open with a look back at the journeys of the final three. Blake calls Danielle "one of the strongest vocalists on Earth" while Usher says Michelle is "the standard that changes everything." Those are both a little extreme.
The finalists will sing solos and duets with their coaches. But we begin with the coaches.
The Coaches: "With a Little Help from My Friends" by The Beatles
As always, the four coaches sound great, but I still don't like non-contestant performances in these performance shows. It detracts from what the show is really about. Do you want to know why The Voice doesn't have a Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood yet? It's because the show focuses more on the coaches than the contestants.
For some coach chat, Adam Levine just wants to have fun and Shakira wants to be a cheerleader. Usher gets philosophical about how we're human beings who should be, not human doings who just do.
The Swon Brothers: "I Can't Tell You Why" by The Eagles
They want to show off their vocal range with some falsetto. Instead, they succeed in putting me to sleep. Could they have chosen a less interesting song? Colton doesn't sing any solos, as always, but he does get to try out his Barry Gibb impression. Usher agrees with me about the Bee Gees comparison. Ugh, this whole "Coaches can ONLY say nice things" is killing me. Blake is under the delusion that this performance constitutes evolution. If this is evolution, then I'm becoming a creationist. After all, the success of The Swon Brothers is due entirely to Blake Shelton's intelligent design.
Michelle Chamuel:"I Knew You Were Trouble" by Taylor Swift
So each singer will do a new song, a duet with their choice and a reprise of their defining performance. This seems like a weak choice to me, but I get it because it probably sold the most iTunes downloads because it's pseudo-country. Still, "True Colors" or "Grenade" would've been better choices. The other problem is that we just heard this two weeks ago and this time around it lacks the element of surprise or coolness. I still like her energy, but this just feels like a misfire and a missed opportunity.
Danielle Bradbery and Blake Shelton: "Timber, I'm Falling in Love" by Patty Loveless
Let's ignore her voice for a second. Because, yeah, she's a vocal prodigy who never hits a bad note. But she's singing a song about "falling in love" as a duet with Blake, which is creepy on 17 levels. And performing with him only highlights her complete and utter LACK of stage presence. She's singing about falling in love, but her face makes her look like she's chasing butterflies in a field.
But it doesn't matter. She's singing a country song from 15 years ago, which means young people have never heard of it and will now download it because it's a catchy, fun tune. That's been Blake's strategy from day one. Danielle sings like a perfect robot and he gives her songs that he knows will be huge on iTunes because they're not current or popular, but they're gems from the recent past he can expose to a new audience. It's the easiest formula in the world. If she wins, it means any coach can mass produce a winner out of any semi-decent singer using the same strategy next season.
The Swon Brothers: "Danny's Song" by Loggins and Messina
Seriously? Their "defining moment" came last week with this simple song? So were they just an undefined blob up until seven days ago? Why do they even bother saying "defining moment" when it's obvious the coaches are just picking the best-selling song from iTunes? I don't even care at this point. I'm so jaded.
Michelle Chamuel: by "Why" by Annie Lennox
OK, so this is why she didn't reprise "True Colors," because this has the same effect. It focuses her emotional, powerful vocals. Just as impressive is the stage show. She starts out singing into a mirror, but then she starts singing AT her reflection and we discover it's not a mirror, it's a prerecorded video. That's a super cool effect, though it does distract a little from the vocals. It's not quite as impressive as "True Colors" (which is probably an unfair comparison) because the orchestration and chorus is too loud. The mirror trick alone, however, is worth the price of admission.
The Swon Brothers and Blake Shelton: "Celebrity" by Brad Paisley
So The Swon Brothers are singing their THIRD AND FINAL song, but Danielle still has two more to go. How is that even remotely fair? On the bright side, we meet the Swon Parents, and they're every bit as likeable as the brothers. That's ruined when they choose to sing a silly, gimmicky, novelty song. Also, Blake gets more solo lines than Colton, which seems wrong. And every monitor on the stage has an American flag on it, which feels like shameless pandering.
Danielle Bradbery: "Maybe It Was Memphis" by Pam Tillis
Thanks for going back more than two weeks for this reprisal. I don't know who this girl is, but it's not Danielle. She's not smiling the whole time like some happy-go-lucky robot. She's (dare I say it) emotionally connecting to the song! What the what? For the first time all season, I feel like Danielle's performances matches all that crazy crap Blake has been saying about her all season. It feels weird being so complimentary to someone I haven't liked all season, but I can't deny that this was the best she's been all season. Of course she's still not the Messiah Blake seems to think she is. Adam Levine says he thinks Danielle will win, so either he's trying to look like a prophet or he's trying to jinx her so Michelle can win.
Christina Milian meets up with all of the final 3's moms in the Sprint Skybox. Thank God Vedo isn't in the finale, because that would be awkward.
The Final 3 and the Top 16: "Home" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Why? I mean, it's awesome that the Top 16 all come back for this totally kick-ass song, but why isn't this a performance on tomorrow's results show? Why is it being performed now? In the middle of the actual finale competition? Man, The Voice is really screwing the pooch on it's finale.
Michelle Chamuel and Usher: "One" by U2
If you were wondering about Michelle's origins, her mother was an Egyptian Jew who immigrated to the U.S. for obvious reasons. I could watch Usher and Michelle eating dinner for a full hour, I love their dynamic that much. They perform well together, but I think Usher sings a little too much. I'm guessing that's because they see this as less of a competitive song and more of a fun duet between two close friends.
Danielle Bradbery: "Born to Fly" by Sara Evans
So not only does Danielle get to go last and perform three times in the last half hour of the episode, but she gets to end with her new solo song. And it's an uptempo country song from 13 years ago? We get it, The Voice wants her to win. Sorry, Michelle, but you can't fight City Hall. Blake Shelton built season 4's House of Cards, and he will gladly step over your corpse for a shot at the White House.
Do you know what's odd? All season I've mocked Danielle for smiling too much and I wished she'd sing more fun, uptempo songs. But now she's finally doing an uptempo song and she barely smiled at all the whole time. She looked mad. It made no sense to me. Does she understand what human emotions are and how to convey them via her facial muscles? Because I think she was going for fierce determination, but it came across as anger. This is one of those performances where it would've made sense to plaster that goofy grin on her face, but she didn't.
That does it for the infuriatingly dull and unimpressive final performance show. Danielle is going to win (start accepting it now so it will hurt less tomorrow night), The Swon Brothers already seem like a forgotten footnote, and Michelle Chamuel made a new and very powerful BFF in Usher, which should bode well for her future. It's hard to be that angry about Danielle's inevitable victory considering how genuine Usher's connection to Michelle seems to be. That's gonna be worth a lot more than being crowned the winner of The Voice season 4 a few years from now.
(Image and videos courtesy of NBC)