Only three contestants remain on “The Voice” and only two coaches still have a shot at claiming a win. But one of those coaches, two-time champ Blake Shelton, clearly has the upper hand over newbie Usher. He’s mentored two of the Top 3, and he corners the rabid country market. So who will reign supreme? Will Blake’s two country acts cancel each other out and hand the win to Usher’s protégé? Or will Blake score his third win in a row? Looking back at this season’s best and worst performances, we try to predict a winner.
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The youngest contestant on the show consistently made the older folks look awful. We were reminded repeatedly that Danielle had never sung publicly before her audition. So on her second show, that was her second time ever performing. On the third show, her third, and so on. But that’s just insulting to people who have been gigging for decades, scraping by and trying to make a career for themselves.
Danielle’s best performance was probably her audition of Taylor Swift’s “Mean.” We heard snippets of that audition replayed for weeks to the point that it has become emblazoned on our minds and ears. In it, Danielle tapped into the innocence that Taylor long ago lost, but what had made us love her in the first place.
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Her worst? Vocally, they’re hard to come by. But the treacly stage design and boring country ballad deep cuts were plentiful. But let’s just say I lost all faith in her when she sang the Judds’ “Grandpa” from a porch swing. It was the equivalent of greasy politicians kissing babies.
Conclusion: Danielle’s life is just a bit too charmed to root for. On the other hand, her pitch tended to be spot on every week, despite godawful song choices and her coach Blake’s blatant pandering to country fans and no one else. Those country fans can and do vote. The youthful prodigy is primed to win.
Little Swon is cuter, Big Swon is a better singer. Together, that somehow equals old-timey country magic. The duo consistently hearkened back to a bygone era of roadhouse harmonies. Individually, they’re nothing, but together, Blake’s duet has tapped into something unusual and kind of exciting for a show like this.
The Swons were at that their best when they stuck to the basics. Tributing George Jones with “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes” showed their respect for the genre (they chose the song themselves) and gave them a canvas to display their talents by splitting up with one on guitar and one on piano. It was intimate and lovely.
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Their worst was “Okie from Muskogee.” Now, granted, they are actually Okie’s from Muskogee, and Oklahoma has been going through a hard time. So I might have let it go. But those lyrics, which railed against pot smoking and other big city vices, were so ridiculous when delivered in front of a set of a barn. It was so laughable it was hard to notice if they sang well at all.
Conclusion: The Swon Brothers are an oddity on shows like these, which make for a fun time. And their devotion to country classics is honorable. They’ll have a great career playing mid-sized Midwestern saloons and recording in Nashville, but their time in the mainstream limelight is probably over.
Usher’s queen of weird, his deep-squatting nerd ambassador, his obtrusive eyeglass wearer is as of-the-moment as a contestant can be on this show. An untraditional pop singer with a pop singer’s voice, Michelle as we know her was born in a “Glee”-filled era of PSAs about bullying, and Pink and Katy Perry anthems devoted to the uncool. Her vibe is so current, but it is not long for this world. We are already overloaded on the downtrodden, it’s only a matter of time before the popular mean girls strike back. Christina Aguilera has already signed on for next season, and she always teams up with a cadre of pretty girly girls. But Michelle just needs to coast on the zeitgeist one more episode. Can she do it? Her coach is a devotee. He’s called her “medicine” for this world. And since we always turn to mush when the hot guy falls for the awkward girl, his endorsement just might be enough to get her the title.
Her best performance was of Pink’s “Just Give Me a Reason.” Though she’d already done way too much Pink to have that song choice be sensible, it was the beginning of a streak of pitch-perfection and a reigning in of the squats. When I didn’t look at her and get a mega dose of Michelle’s message, but just closed my eyes and listened, it was her absolute best vocal of the season.
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Her worst came a week earlier when she sang “True Colors.” This was all message—too much message. The song is so lovely, but when sung by the mascot of weird people, right after Usher makes her sing it while staring at herself in a mirror, it’s totally cringeworthy. She’s lucky that her voice was good enough to still win people over, because honestly, the broken record of her story had me writing her off at that point.
Conclusion: Michelle’s definitely speaking to people, and that’s great, but it’s not enough to make her a breakout star. But it might be enough to win her “The Voice,” if Swon and Danielle split the country bloc.