Prior to last night's part one of the finale
, I would have said finalist Juliet Simms of Team Cee Lo would be the clear frontrunner to win the second season of The Voice
. Two hours and twelve performances later, my confidence is admittedly shaken. Here's what I took away from last night's ode to the four finalists (and their coaches), and what that means for who is most likely to be crowned the winner tonight.
Team Blake: Jermaine Paul
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My impression of Jermaine Paul from the beginning was that he was going to be a strong contender this season. Ever since his blind auditions performance ("Complicated"), he has been consistent in every performance (with the possible exception of his first mismatched live performance, "Livin' on a Prayer"), and last night, his emotional investment was evident.
His "I Believe I Can Fly" performance brought Christina to her feet and had Adam calling his singing "so powerful, engaging and elegant." Papa Blake couldn't have been prouder and during their duet, their bond and fun-loving energy was truly endearing. But his strongest performance, in my opinion, was his tribute to his coach, "God Gave Me You." Paul's strengths are his powerful, soulful voice and his emotions that back up his words.
But this is the finals, and somehow, I don't think Paul has grown enough during his journey on the Voice to edge out the other competitors. Yes, he has been consistent and he has arguably one of the better voices, even amongst the superb talent in the top four - but he doesn't have that special something to distinguish him, which the other three finalists do. As strong of a singer as he is, I don't think Jermaine Paul will be taking home the title tonight.
Team Adam: Tony Lucca
For some reason, Tony Lucca never popped in my memory of this season until two weeks ago, when he made the gutsy decision to sing a Britney Spears cover and fully embrace his Mickey Mouse Club image, for better or worse. Since then, he has emerged from the pack through his good-natured spunk to match his versatile vocal ability. With the guidance of coach Adam, it's clear this pair welcomes risks - risks that have paid off well.
Singing "99 Problems," for instance. That was about as unexpected as "... Baby One More Time," and his jazz/bluesy rendition made the song wholly his own. I think fans will reward Lucca for pushing boundaries and exhibiting his artistic creativity. Lucca also gave a sweet Beatles duet with Adam that again showcased that versatility Adam emphasized.
But is Lucca the winner? I think he has enough fans to make it a close call. All four contestants have amazing voices, and what Lucca brings to the table is that refreshing range of unexpected styles.
Team Christina: Chris Mann
Like Lucca, I didn't quite see the appeal of opera singer Chris Mann until recently - as in, last night. Before then, it was clear there were many "Mann fans" out there (he wouldn't be in the final four otherwise), but I continued to be surprised that this seemingly one-dimensional classical singer would be doing so well for an audience that probably doesn't listen to a lot of arias.
Then last night, it clicked. Mann probably had the best overall night (considering all three of his performances) of all the finalists. His "Prayer" duet with Christina (apparently a life-long dream of the singer's) was epic and moving, his "The Voice Within" tribute finally showed his voice can shine just as bright in a non-operatic song, and his solo performance just solidified what America seems to have known all along: if this show really is about "the voice" and the voice alone, Mann takes the cake. There's simply no denying that, objectively, he has the best voice.
But will it come down to the best voice? Mann hasn't been as effortlessly smooth as Paul; he hasn't been as bold and relevant as Lucca; and his voice is not as unique and interesting as Juliet Simms'.
Team Cee Lo: Juliet Simms
Ah, Juliet Simms. In a sea of great talent this season, Simms has stood out because, as Adam said last night, "No one sings like you." Her voice is so intriguingly gritty and seems to bear the meaning of her every haunting word. Paul and the boys might get emotional when they perform, but Simms seems to live and breathe her lyrics, with a fierce vulnerability unmatched this season. Most significantly, Simms was the clear winner on the nights of two of her last three live performances ("Roxanne" started her stand-out streak, and "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" confirmed it).
At this final stage of the competition, I think the most important factor is the ability to be remarkable amongst the others (sadly, the reason why I think Paul will probably not win). It's actually not about pure voice anymore (except maybe if you're Chris Mann, and that is what distinguishes you so clearly). Simms' performances are so riveting and leave such an impression, I think she still has the best chance of winning. It's also no small detail that she's the only female remaining, and any overlap, say between Lucca and Mann, between types of fans will likely work in her favor.
As I stated at the beginning, last night's plethora of performances made this ultimate prediction very, very difficult (it didn't help that Simms was sick and didn't perform her best, while some of the others did). Still, I've believed in the power of Juliet Simms
for a while now, and that conviction is strong enough to make me believe she will be proclaimed the winner of The Voice.
Tune in tonight at 9pm on NBC to see if my prediction (or yours - comment below!) is proven right.
(Image courtesy of NBC)