Many years ago, when Voice coach John Legend was just a teenager, he entered a talent content at his local mall: “a little local Star Search competition” in which the winner would get his or her tape sent off to the national Star Search program. John won at that local level, but he failed to advance to the actual Star Search. No worries. He went on to be an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony) winner. And now, with his exquisite contestant Maelyn Jarmon, he may finally win a television talent show, as a first-time coach on The Voice.
Of course, longtime incumbent coach Blake Shelton has dominated The Voice Season 16, getting three male country contestants to the top four, and his voting block will be tough to beat. But even if Maelyn doesn’t win, she — like John — clearly has a long career ahead of her. On Monday’s final Season 16 showdown, it was Maelyn — whether she was singing solo or dueting with John on his long-ago attempted Star Search song, “Unforgettable” — who stood out. Even when she was doing "Hallelujah," the Leonard Cohen classic that’s been covered so many times on so many singing shows that it probably should’ve been retired long before Cohen died three years ago, she was, well, unforgettable.
“That was insane. Honestly, I don't know how it would be possible for you not to win this show,” raved Adam Levine — whose team was knocked out of the running early on this season, and who has clearly sifted all of his support to Maelyn — after watching her majestic “Hallelujah” tour de force. “I say that only because that song is unbelievable, and to sing it the way you did in this moment is so special. Honest to God, you're an angel from heaven. It's unbelievable to hear you sing.”
On Monday, the top four contestants each sang cover songs as well as coach duets and original singles. Let’s assess the rest of Monday’s performances, and then make our final predictions.
Maelyn Jarmon (Team Legend), "Wait for You"
Maelyn was serving Florence Welch/Bastille realness (and a bit of Vicci Martinez circa Season 1) with this confident and percussive performance, looking regal in a purple velvet maxidress and flanked by a formal drum corps. The song was somewhat generic, but she elevated the material with her elegant presence and, as John put it, her “flawless per usual” vocals. “It almost felt the beginning of an Olympic ceremony,” stated host Carson Daly. Said Maelyn’s new biggest fan, Adam: “Blake has three people out of four here. I love to hate on Blake, but this is not that moment. I do believe that everyone in this finale is fantastic. I also believe that you are the person that should be winning this thing. I really do. That has nothing to do with any coaches or anybody else. The bottom line is that's what it feels like it needs to be.”
Andrew Sevener (Team Blake), "Rural Route Raising"
This tune, with cornball lines like “Sometimes I drive my old John Deere down to the Kwik Sak” and “Waylon-wailin’, Old Glory-wavin’ Jesus-savin’,” almost seemed like it was written via some Country Mab Libs game and recorded by some Nashville version of the Lonely Island. It was actually more clichéd and pandering to Blake’s base than Gyth Rigdon’s predictable “God Bless the USA” cover last week. But Andrew sang the hell out of it, and I am sure viewers will love it. Kelly Clarkson actually advised Andrew to “make more records like this,” and John said Andrew was “in his zone.”
Dexter Roberts (Team Blake), "Looking Back"
This was the most generic of the originals. But let’s face it, no Voice contestant’s coronation single is ever going to burn up the charts. The bigger problem was that this song didn’t showcase Dexter’s actually very strong voice, when this is the guy who’s actually Kelly favorite country vocalist in the competition and, according to his own coach, is the “most ready” of the top four “to become a superstar right now.” But luckily, Dexter had other opportunities to shine this evening.
Gyth Rigdon (Team Blake), "Proof I've Always Loved You"
Gyth penned this original for his wife, and he was the only contestant among the top four with a writing credit. So, he gets points for that. It was actually a well-written and catchy ballad. But for some reason, Gyth didn’t sing it very well, and he seemed oddly disconnected. Why did he write a song for himself in such a low key? I honestly think Andrew or Dexter could have done a better job with this. Blake was still impressed, though, saying, “I think it added another level to the finale. I feel like you raised the bar. That was a great song, dude. … You're the total package. You could win this thing, Gyth. You could do it.” Blake was probably right. But I wasn’t feeling this. Even Gyth didn’t seem to be feeling it.
Dexter Roberts, "Anything Goes"
Once again, the show’s producers really played up Dexter’s country-boy-next-door appeal, with the aw-shucks everyman gushing about this Voice experience: "It's overwhelming. I'm from a small town. This stuff don't happen for people like me." Except that it does happen, because Dexter was already on a show like this, American Idol, five years ago! And he made it all the way to seventh place! But, anyway… Dexter’s career got derailed when he fell ill from a tick bite (though this detail wasn’t mentioned, he had to quit the Idol tour at the time). And now he has another chance. It was fitting that he covered Randy Houser, since it was a Houser song that earned him a four-chair turn in this season’s Voice Blind Auditions. Dexter had been saving this sentimental selection for this moment, and as Kelly said, it was “smart to do this. I love you in this vein. I think you nailed it with the soulful country.” Blake then declared Dexter the “new George Strait” as all four coaches gave him a standing ovation. Dexter has already gone farther on this show than he did on Idol, and he could go all the way this time.
Gyth Rydon, "Once in a Blue Moon"
Blake is Gyth’s hero (that was his first concert as a kid), and Earl Thomas Conley, who passed away a month ago, was Blake’s all-time hero. So the stakes were high for Gyth with this performance. And this time, he rose to the occasion. This performance was tasteful, authentic, and earnest. “This is my favorite song that anybody's sang this whole show. I love Earl. He's a legend in country music. People are going to love that about you,” said Kelly. “I know that you have a country music fanbase, and in this case, more importantly, Earl's family back home is so proud of this moment right now, that you did that song and you honored him tonight,” proclaimed Blake.
Andrew Sevener, "Lips of an Angel"
Andrew chose very wisely with the Jack Ingram country version of Hinder’s 2006 active rock hit; this sort of meat-and-potatoes, country-rawk power-balladry works really well with his grizzled voice. He just might be this season’s dark horse. Kelly was blown away by this performance, and John even went so far as to say, “I will say if I had to pick among Team Blake, as of now, I would pick Andrew.” Declared a very proud Blake, “I don’t know what's happening right now. This is your night.”
Andrew Sevener & Blake Shelton, "All Right Now"
This Free classic was hardly a game-changing moment, but it was a great partystarter and it adapted to Blake’s bro-country style and Andrew’s gravelly tone surprisingly well. Andrew should have done more songs like this as solo performances throughout the season. This had so much more energy than his most of his other Season 16 songs. Blake was right. Andrew had a good night.
Gyth Rigdon & Blake Shelton, “Take It Easy"
Team Blake remained in the classic rock lane for this laid-back Eagles tune. It didn’t have the oomph or impact of Andrew’s dynamic duet, but it was fine. And for Gyth, “fine” has been good enough all season.
Maelyn Jarmon & John Legend, "Unforgettable"
As mentioned earlier, this is the ballad with which a young John won that local talent competition, but didn’t win the real Star Search, But it could help John and Maelyn win a national talent competition called The Voice. The string-laden performance was lovely, with such a seamless vocal blend and effortless interplay. I felt like I was watching the Grammys. John and Maelyn did the late Coles proud.
Dexter Roberts & Blake Shelton, "Hard Workin' Man"
Blake sure was working hard tonight! Thankfully, he was able to muster up enough energy for his third performance of the night. And this was a ton of fun. Again, it wasn’t a “moment,” but Blake and Dexter shared convincing chemistry and seemed like equals, two pros graciously sharing the stage during this boogie-woogie Brooks & Dunn romp.
So now, it is prediction time. Who’s taking home that fist-shaped trophy Tuesday? I’m tentatively predicting that the Team Blake contestants will split the vote and leave it open for Maelyn to prevail, with Gyth placing second; it’s a toss-up whether Dexter placed third and Andrew fourth, or vice versa. But really, I think any of the four could win this thing. Tune in Tuesday to find out, and to catch performances by the Jonas Brothers, BTS, Taylor Swift with Brendon Urie, Sarah McLachlan, Toby Keith, Hootie & the Blowfish, and Travis Tritt.
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