On Tuesday’s Season 17 finale, Team Kelly’s country crooner Jake Hoot made The Voice history, becoming the first true one-chair contestant to win the show. (Season 12 champ Chris Blue was technically a one-chair turn, but he auditioned last, when Alicia Keys was the only coach with an open spot left on her team, so that doesn’t really count.) However, many Voice viewers seemed to focus more on who didn’t win — namely Team Legend’s dynamite show-woman Katie Kadan, who surprisingly placed third. Katie’s fellow diva, Team Gwen’s Rose Short, came in fourth.
Some fans may have been shocked by this outcome, and spectators in the studio audience seemed deflated when Carson Daly read Katie’s results. Katie was the star of Season 17, and she definitely had the strongest and most consistent run — from the moment she cold-opened the premiere as the first auditioner, right up through Monday’s final competitive performances. Rose also got the “pimp spot” Monday and closed the show in spectacular fashion, thus seemingly having some advantage.
Perhaps on Wednesday there will be multiple angry thinkpieces in the blogosphere about the fact that two plus-sized, thirtysomething women — one of color — lost out to two everymen. But really, Voice viewers should never underestimate the power of the country music genre... or the power of a popular country music superstar like Blake Shelton, who coached second-place rocker Ricky Duran. And Jake is an extremely marketable and recordable singer — it’s still surprising to me that only Kelly Clarkson turned for him in the first place — so it’s understandable why he connected with mainstream viewers. Once the season got to the voting round, Jake almost always was the most-streamed contestant on Apple Music... so, perhaps his victory was no surprise after all. The numbers don’t lie.
Really, Katie sort of won the night anyway, by performing the most flawless duet of the finale with Adam Lambert, on his famous ballad version of Cher’s “Believe.” This song was a game-changer for Adam during Hollywood Week of his American Idol season, announcing the arrival of an exciting new talent, and it seemed to do the same for Katie. Remember, Adam didn’t win on Idol, either, and that was a huge shock at the time. And, well, Adam did quite all right for himself. So, Katie will be just fine. Someone please book her to sing on the Kennedy Center Honors next year.
On Tuesday’s two-hour Voice finale, Ricky was also perfectly paired with his idol, blues-rock guitar god Gary Clark Jr., on a fantastically fiery and falsetto-laden “Pearl Cadillac.” Their voices and licks blended so seamlessly, I often couldn’t tell them apart. This duet had a lot of previously unseen soul, grit, and artfulness, and if Ricky had delivered more performances like this during the season — or even on Monday night — he might have won instead. (He actually charted higher than Jake this week, going to No. 1 with his original single “A Woman Like Her,” so this race was close.)
Rose also impressively held her own alongside gospel legend Yolanda Adams on “In the Midst of It All,” while the always-professional Jake practically seemed like a fifth member of Little Big Town during “Over Drinking,” indicating that he is indeed ready for the big-time.
Other standout finale performers included former Voice coach and current Cats star Jennifer Hudson gunning for her next Oscar as she super-dramatically belted “Memory”; last season’s Maelyn Jarmon reminding us all why she won with her exquisite “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”; Best New Artist Grammy-winner Dua Lipa and her groovy rollerdisco backup dancers party-startin’ with the club banger “Don’t Start Now”; male semifinalists Alex Guthrie, Will Breman, Max Boyle, and Shane Q forming a snazzy ‘60s soul combo for "Gimme Some Lovin’”; and Hello Sunday, Myracle Holloway, and Joana Martinez supremely singing "You Keep Me Hangin’ On."
The Voice starts up again in the spring, with new coach Nick Jonas replacing Gwen Stefani. See you then.