If I were back in Catholic grade school, I suspect Sister Mary Rita would’ve kept me after class and sentenced me to a half hour at the chalkboard this afternoon, writing: “It does not matter who wins Season 4 of The Voice. It does not matter who wins Season 4 of The Voice. It does not matter who wins Season 4 of The Voice.”
And Sister Rita, smart cookie that she was, would’ve had a point. After Monday night’s Live Finals, the Top 3 acts — Michelle Chamuel, Danielle Bradbery and The Swon Brothers — all managed to land two songs apiece in the iTunes Top 10 Singles chart. And that’s all the proof that’s needed to know that with a little hard work (and some top-notch material) (and the enthusiastic fiscal support of a major label against the shark-eyed stare of corporate radio) any or all of ‘em has a legit chance to be the first breakout success from NBC’s (still very young) reality singing competition.
[Side note: It's worth noting, as we discuss The Voice's hitmaking potential, that Season 1's relentlessly industrious Vicci Martinez has managed a fairly sizeable hit with her kickin' single, "Come Along." So booyah to that! And yes, I said "booyah," even if I'm not entirely sure why.]
But of course, from a different perspective — the perspective of those of us who’ve invested every Monday and Tuesday (and the occasional Wednesday) night since mid-March obsessing over every last song choice, glory note and lyrical interpretation by the members of Teams Blake, Adam, Usher and Shakira — it actually did matter who won Season 4 of The Voice.
The good news, though, was that no matter your allegiance, the two-hour spectacle that padded what was essentially Carson Daly’s 20-second results announcement proved undeniably, joyously entertaining.
A dozen mostly top-notch performances led into the final results announcement of the season. Shall we cut to the action? Let’s!
Pitbull and Christina Aguilera (featuring a boatload of confetti): “Feel This Moment” | I always like when Xtina gets a little bit rowdy, and while her streetwalker-on-top/secretarial-school-dropout-on-bottom ensemble was a bit of a fright, the hiatus-ing Voice coach brought the hook of Pitbull’s dancey-dancey jam to full-bodied life. Mr. Worldwide, meanwhile, threw his hands in the air, waved ‘em round like he just didn’t care and spat a rhyme or two when the track required. Nice work (and nice duds) if you can get it. Grade: B+ (half-step upgrade for choice use of an A-HA sample)
The Swon Brothers (joined by Amber Carrington, Holly Tucker and Justin Rivers): Lady Antebellum’s “Stars Tonight” | The verses got a little choppy with the five-vocalist split, but the season’s country-leaning standouts didn’t miss a single note among ‘em, and looked like they were genuinely enjoying the jam sesh. Grade: A-
OneRepublic and Michelle Chamuel: “Counting Stars” | I usually like Ryan Tedder better as a producer than as a vocalist, but he threw every bit of himself into this Mumford-pop ditty, and gave the Lady Chamuel multiple opportunties to steal the spotlight with her sparkly red pants and innate ability to get inside a lyric. Grade: A
Florida Georgia Line (featuring Nelly): “Cruise” | My least favorite performance of the night was a little wobbly vocally and a lot hokey in execution. Let’s hope the Swon Brothers can beat FGL on American Ninja Warrior and take their spot at mainstream country radio. Can I get an “Amen”? Grade: C+
Vedo, Garrett Gardner, Josiah Hawley and Kris Thomas: The Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” | Methinks this was The Voice producers’ not-so-subtle commentary on the horrors of Lazaro, Devin and Burnell’s catastrophic Motown Night trio on Season 12 of American Idol. And while, yeah, The Voice dudes definitely outdid Mr. Pitchy ForgottenLyrics, I didn’t feel like the actual song suited any of ‘em except for Vedo. Grade: B-
Danielle Bradbery (joined by Amber Carrington, Sarah Simmons and Caroline Glaser): Carrie Underwood’s “All-American Girl” | I loved the genuine camaraderie this quartet displayed while lending their very distinct (yet all extremely powerful) instruments to a honey-sweet Carrie Underwood song. I forgot how much I’d missed Sarah’s banshee rumble. And Amber’s insanely big note on the final “Honey, you oughtta know” sent me into what can only be described as some sort of rapture. Grade: A
Bruno Mars: “Treasure” | Has Bruno Mars and his amazing crew ever been anything but absolutely stellar? Bonus points to the gents for pulling off red suits with leopard shirts — a task I would’ve expected to find camped out at the corner of Impossible and Deluded. Grade: A
Bob Seger & The Swon Brothers: “Night Moves” | What’s the perfect bookend to a jaunty Bruno Mars disco moment? How about the venerable ’70s rocker and The Voice‘s best-finishing duo just hanging out on some stools, jamming out to a song that never fails to make me want to wave a lighter when it gets to that plinking piano and crescendoing drums leading into the final vamping refrain. Good stuff. Grade: A-
Cathia, Judith Hill, Sasha Allen & Karina Iglesias: En Vogue’s “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)” | Raise your hand if you miss classic girl groups like En Vogue and Brownstone and Jade and even Destiny’s Child. Now raise your other hand if this insanely good performance from a quartet of Season 4 also-rans had you thinking, “Maybe there’s a gap in the pop-music market these chicas could fill?” Given that her last couple of efforts on the Voice stage were a little lackluster, Cathia surprised me the most, proving every bit as potent as her more-heralded rivals but quite possibly taking home the statue for Sassiest Delivery. Also: If this girl-group dream isn’t going to be a reality, can we start a petition to compel NBC to get Judith, Karina, Sasha and Cathia into the studio to cut an iTunes rendition? Grade: A+ (or as Mariah Carey would call it, “A-plus-mazing.” Ugh.)
Hunter Hayes and Danielle Bradbery: “I Want Crazy” | As adorable as a puppy in a basket, as shimmery as a breeze blowing over a wheat field, as fresh as a mid-June strawberry. Those are just a few ways one might describe this very pleasant — although not exactly revelatory — duet. If Danielle’s not a Neutrogena spokesmodel by Thanksgiving, then I don’t know anything about anything anymore. Grade: B+
Michelle Chamuel (joined by Cathia, Vedo and Josiah Hawley): Stevie Wonder’s rendition of The Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out” | I was a little iffy about the arrangement when the members of Team Usher began their performance, but they quickly loosened up, caught the vibe and looked as though they were having more fun than anyone who took the stage all night. Grade: A-
CHER: “Woman’s World” | Grade: N/A (alas, Cher speaks to every gay fiber of my being, and I have no objectivity when it comes to her oeuvre…I will admit to downloading the song earlier tonight on iTunes, and already having tallied 17 plays to date. Yep, look for that on Twitter under #IHaveIssues.)
Top 3 Revelations/Observations From the Episode/Season
3. Cher’s wig should totally be Cee Lo’s animal mascot in Season 5.
2. Season 5 needs the following: A “steal” for the knockout rounds; a ban on any song covered more than one prior time in The Voice‘s first four seasons; a committment to letting contestants be more inventive and less riskaverse when it comes to song selection and arrangement.
1. NBC Needs to get The Blake Shelton Variety Hour on its 2014 schedule. I was howling laughing at the country coach’s guesstimated definitions of Shakira’s two-dollar words from the season. “A conundrum a drum used in Latin music,” Blake drawled, while also discribing “didactic” as a laxative fruit, “diaphanous” as a character on Sesame Street, and juxtaposition as a Colombian word for “just a position.” Writing these jokes out does them no justice; in Blake’s hands, they’re hilarious.
And finally, the results:
The Swon Brothers (not a surprise)
Season 4 Winner
Danielle Bradbery, giving Blake his third victory in four Voice seasons
“I don’t even know right now,” a stunned Danielle said to Carson as he tried to get her thoughts. “I’m so thankful. I’m sorry. I’m speechless.”
And after a full season of recapping, I’m out of words, too. So let me turn things over to you. What did you think of Season 4 finale night? Did the right contestant win it all? Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality-related news, recaps, interviews and videos — including Q&As with Amber, Michelle, The Swon Brothers and Danielle — follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!