It's hard to believe there was a time when top three Voice contestant Josh Kaufman was considered an underdog. It's even harder to believe that he almost went home in the Battle Rounds, before Usher swooped in, stole him, and gave him a second chance. Why? Because after Josh capped off Monday's final three showdown with a literally fiery performance of Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain," it's difficult to imagine that he won't win Season 6.
The candles. The flames. The white suit. The fleet of violinists. The crazy vocal acrobatics. The intriguing, Alison Moyet-esque androgyny of his voice. The knee-drop. This was theater. This was epic. This was the heaven-and-hell performance of the night, of a star, of a champion.
"You were lost and found. This is the representation of what The Voice is. It cannot happen that this guy doesn't win The Voice. You are the winner," declared Josh's proud coach, Usher. Usher may have been right. I sure hope he was.
Josh's fellow finalists, Christina Grimmie and Jake Worthington, had their own impressive moments this Monday — each doing one encore song chosen by America, one coach pick, and one coach duet — but neither burned up the stage quite like Josh.
But the competition definitely did heat up this Monday. Read on for the full recap…
Christina Grimmie – Christina got four chairs to spin around with her original "Wrecking Ball" audition. It was great then, but I am a little surprised that America picked it for her reprise performance instead of, say, "Hold On, We're Going Home." Anyway, I don't recall Christina's "Wrecking Ball" being so hair-metal the first time around. This was a real headbangers' ball — pyro explosions, hair extensions, fingerless gloves, spiderweb graphics, and a whole lot of Halford/Dio-style screechiness. Christina was hell-bent for leather, indeed. Shakira called Christina's upper register "just insane." Christina's coach, Adam Levine, told her, "I felt like I was watching you perform your single on an incredible awards show. You're that good." I mostly liked this; hey, I like hair-metal! But it did feel a little forced, a little fake. I don't really buy Christina as a rocker chick. She's no Kat Perkins.
Jake Worthington – Jake also reprised his first audition. No, not "Keep Your Hands to Yourself." That was Season 5, and that didn't go so well. He did his Season 6 comeback song, the song that inspired a three-chair turnaround, Keith Whitley's "Don't Close Your Eyes." This was way better than his Blind Audition. He performed like a CMT-ready pro, and inspired his coach, Blake Shelton, to give him a standing ovation. Usher praised Jake's hard work and perseverance. Shakira told him, "You've gained credibility, and credibility is such an important factor in country music." Adam seemed to throw a little shade by calling Jake the type of singer whose voice doesn't "break glass," and he sort of gave him a kiss-off by saying, "It's been fun to watch you, man" — but he was generally kind. Jake is not necessarily my personal pick to win, but his growth this season has been remarkable, and I think he could have a real career after this show, regardless of whether he places first, second, or third.
Josh Kaufman – I still do not know how "Stay With Me" or "All of Me" was not chosen by America for Josh's do-over performance. Did Jake or Christina tamper with the votes or something? Well, if they did, it backfired. This was a very redemptive performance, because it was of "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," the Battle Rounds song that almost got Josh eliminated. The first time Josh did this song, he was facing off against Delvin Choice on Team Adam… and Delvin prevailed. This time, he performed it solo (with a bit of Delvin-inspired scatting thrown in), and he, to quote Blake, "sang the crap out of it." This was the most vivacious and flat-out entertaining performance of the encore round. "It's unbelievable that you nearly went home when you sang this song. Thank God Usher saved you and stole you," said Shakira.
Josh Kaufman & Usher – Usher is a fine vocalist, but honestly, I think Josh outsang him here. The Police's "Every Breath You Take" was a good fit for Josh, even if Usher tried to well-meaningly but strangely change it from a stalker song to an ode to their budding bromance. However, later in the night, when Usher did a duet of D'Angelo's loverman anthem "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" with Adam, I wished that he'd selected that song for his Josh duet instead. Josh would've slayed "Untitled."
Christina Grimmie & Adam Levine – This duet of Gotye's oft-covered "Somebody That I Used to Know" tapped into the indie-ingénue side of Christina's persona, which is always a good thing. She and Adam exhibited fantastic chemistry here, and thankfully, Christina didn't oversing the song, which is my biggest complaint about her. Nicely done, you two.
Jake Worthington & Blake Shelton – This was the only duet in which I think the coach upstaged the contestant. As I've mentioned, Jake has made great strides this season, but when he sang Hank Williams's "A Country Boy Can Survive" with Blake, he seemed out of his depth. The country boy barely survived, so to speak. In some ways, he seemed to regress, going back to that shy, awkward amateur of Season 5. After watching this, I have a feeling Jake and Blake may have to settle for third place.
Jake Worthington – Last week, Jake had a real moment countrifying a schmaltzy '80s power ballad, Bryan Adams's "Heaven." So clearly Blake was hoping lightning would strike twice by assigning him Richard Marx's "Right Here Waiting" this week. And guess what? It worked! Jake's vocal hit a couple of rough patches, but he really did make the song on his own. "You're young, yet you still pulled it off. And that right there is the trait of a real artist," said Usher. "I'm loving these countrified versions of iconic songs. You really are making the songs new," said Shakira. "Thank you for bringing that back into country music," said Blake. He should've thanked Jake for bringing back the '80s, too. You know, I am beginning to think an album titled Jake Worthington Sings the Soft-Rock Hits of '80s might not be such a bad idea.
Christina Grimmie – Perhaps it is a bold assumption to think that people who are watching The Voice this year are also regularly tuning in to American Idol. But there has to be some audience overlap between the two singing shows. So Christina was definitely taking a risk by doing Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling in Love," a song that, just a couple weeks ago, created a major moment for Idol top two finalist Jena Irene. If I were to compare Christina's more traditional, torch-singer version of the King's classic to Jena's rendition, Jena would come out way ahead. But vocally, on its own, Christina's version was a tour de force, and she took her own liberties with the arrangement. "I was in complete awe. This wasn't a conservative choice, nor an obvious choice… You push the envelope and put your own stamp on everything you do," raved Shakira. Said Adam: "This is yours. I think that you're going to win this show."
Josh Kaufman – Whoops. Adam had spoken too soon. After Christina, Josh did Adele and shut it down. The end.
So, who will win Tuesday? Does Josh have it in the bag, or will aggressively pimped season-long frontrunner Christina ultimately be unstoppable? Does Jake, America's sweetheart, have a chance of winning the popular vote? I'm still calling it for Josh, but we won't know for sure until Tuesday night — or at least until we see Tuesday morning's iTunes numbers. See you then.