The Voice Finals: Three Shots, Few Misses

And here we are. It’s the finals performance night on The Voice and all four vocalists have plenty of chances to help you decide who to vote for (or who not to vote for if they slip up). But as we’ve seen throughout the season, there is some serious talent here and after the performances, you’ll find very few slips. All four competitors brought their A games, which should make Tuesday’s revealing of the winner at least interesting.

As stated, each of The Voice finalists received three shots to make an impression — one with a cover song like they’s done all season long, one as part of a coach’s duet which depending on the coach and how well they match up could be a good thing or bad thing, and each artist for the first time this season performs an original song. So we’ll break it down with our favorites in each category.

Coach Duets

1. Alisan Porter and Christina Aguilera team up on “You’ve Got a Friend,” the Carole King and James Taylor classic. This is an interesting choice and perhaps a sign that Aguilera has learned something in her years of coaching on the show. In the past, she’s frequently outshined her own singer with her ability to belt big notes. But here, both she and Alisan are powerhouse singers and this display of restraint is refreshing. It’s a simple setup, with the pair performing on a dimly lit stage sitting on a pair of stools and you hear this more as a collaboration as they bring subtlety to the song. But this being Christina and Alisan, there are definitely some runs in there too.

2. Laith Al-Saadi and Adam Levine may seem like a mismatched pair, but they managed to find a song that seemingly works for both of them. The Beatles medley of “Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End” is the perfect choice, with Adam initially starting on drums and letting his higher register carry the opening of the song, before letting Laith’s gritty power take over. Even when sharing vocals, Levine scales back letting his competitor take the lead and in a moment you know Adam’s been waiting for all season, he hops out from behind the kit, straps on a guitar and the two trade licks. You wouldn’t think it would work, but it does quite well and rivals Alisan and Christina.

3. You might think that Adam Wakefield and Blake Shelton would make a great pair, but Blake’s voice didn’t really fit Adam’s. They choose the Hank Williams Jr. and Waylon Jennings song “The Conversation,” a swampy rocker aided by backing violin and piano. But there just appeared to be a disconnect in the delivery, making it a substantial drop off from the top two performances in this category.

4. Hannah Huston and Pharrell Williams team up on “Brand New,” a track Pharrell initially did with Justin Timberlake. This funky dance number though feels out of place as this is something Hannah hasn’t really done most of this year. While billed as a duet, this felt more like Hannah was Pharrell’s backing vocalist and didn’t really do much to help her battle for the title.

Cover Song

1. If it does turn out that Alisan Porter wins it all, this is likely the performance that sealed the deal. In a shimmering brown gown, Alisan chose Barbra Streisand’s “Somewhere,” a song that allowed her voice to shine through, starting with her lower register, showing some tenderness and intimate moments then building to some of the big notes that tend to stick with listeners.

2. All season long, Laith Al-Saadi has mined the classic rock catalog for all it’s worth, but he’s likely been saving Cream’s “White Room” in case he got to this point. The track is perfectly suited for his commanding vocal, and where Eric Clapton ventured more into melodic higher notes at parts, Laith is able to keep the power and grit intact. There are serious props to be given to The Voice house band on this track, but as with a lot of the season, Laith also earns points for some well-placed guitar licks and a wicked late song solo while backing female vocalists kick in with some timely “ooh-ooh-ooh’s.” It’s definitely a standout moment and started the night on a high note.

3. Hannah Huston easily took the biggest risks of the finale. Not only did she go dance-y with her coach duet and original song, but she took a familiar classic on its ear. Elegant in red atop a staircase, we quickly pick up on the fact that Hannah has turned The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” into more of a soulful torch song. It starts off tender and intimate, but builds in intensity to where she’s just dripping full emotion as the song reaches its peak. During the chorus, a long-held power note really sells it, before a tender closing just as smooth as can be. In all honesty, there is not that much difference between Laith, Adam and Hannah in this category, as all three delivered memorable performances, but Hannah’s ranks here just for its ability to be the most polarizing choice among those voting. It could just as easily be the genius move needed to win it all.

4. Adam Wakefield went to the tear in my beer well again, this time pulling out the tear-jerking Vince Gill classic, “When I Call Your Name.” Sitting at the piano as the lonesome guitars and pedal steel played under, you can once again hear the hurt in his voice, though with Adam’s vocals it feels more bluesy than the original. Once again, it was solid, but it also was something we’ve seen him do before.

Original Songs

1. Laith Al-Saadi has been the artist that seems most in tune with who they are and what they do throughout the year. And here he delivers a brilliantly crafted song called “Morning Light,” a bluesy soulful track that feels like it came right out of the Solomon Burke songbook. He simply nails it and makes you feel it.

2. Adam Wakefield top performance of the night came with his original track, a song called “Lonesome, Broken and Blue.” It’s a heartbreaking country song with distinctive guitar picking and the sounds of a mandolin and violin adding to the vibe. It feels ready made for Adam to make the transition to a country career regardless of whether he takes home the title or not.

3. Alisan Porter was the first artist of the night to deliver her original song, and “Down That Road” is the perfect reminder of her journey to get to finale night. It’s a slow-building, heartfelt ballad that picks up the pace with piano and guitars filling out the arrangement. It did deliver one of the more interesting production pieces of the night with a group of synchronized lantern holders onstage with Alisan. Surprisingly, after showing her subtlety in her coach’s duet and her cover, she also went more tender for her original track too.

4. Hannah Huston kept the risk taking going. While the other three singers delivered more soulful, bluesy and tender fare, Hannah’s original track was a song titled “I Call the Shots” that was filled with interesting percussion, and a few power moments that remind you of why she’s made it this far. When compared to the other three in this category, it’s distinctively different, but it remains to be seen if that’s a good thing or bad thing. There is no doubt that not only did Hannah clearly deliver something that the other three finalists weren’t doing, but she also broke free of the groundwork she’s laid up to this point.

So where does that leave us? Alisan Porter has been the frontrunner most of the season and Adam Levine didn’t do anyone any favors by once again proclaiming her to be worthy of winning the show despite not being on his team. Her performance of “Somewhere,” her duet with Christina and her original song “Down That Road” were all solid and among the night’s top performances, so there’s no reason to think she won’t win.

Going into finals night, I would have pegged Adam Wakefield as Alisan’s biggest threat, but he didn’t have those knockout moments to put him over the top. His best performance was his original song “Lonesome, Broken and Blue,” which is readymade for country radio. But his coach duet was one of the few performances of the night that fell flat and his Vince Gill cover felt like something he could have performed any other week in the competition and not the championship performance you might have hoped for.

Hannah Huston has been right in the thick of things all season, but likely knew that it was in the cards that one of her competitors held the lead going into the finals, so why not pull out all the stops. Props are given to the stellar rendition of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” and a risk that should pay off well. However, the original song “I Call the Shots” didn’t seem to fit what we’ve come to expect from her and could be more polarizing. And her coach’s duet did more to propel Pharrell than it did Hannah.

And Laith, who had to compete for the final spot on finale night, arguably had the best night of anyone not named Alisan Porter. His show-opening cover of Cream’s “White Room” was powerful, commanding and a memorable performance. His original song “Morning Light” felt like the most polished of the original tracks and perfectly fit his voice, while his coach’s duet with Adam Levine was surprisingly great. You could argue he had an even better night than Alisan, but given her track record on the season, it’s hard to see her not winning it all.

Prediction:

4. Adam Wakefield (Team Blake)
3. Hannah Huston (Team Pharrell)
2. Laith Al-Saadi (Team Adam)
1. Alisan Porter (Team Christina)

THE VOICE -- "Live Finale"  Alisan Porter -- (Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC)
THE VOICE — “Live Finale” Alisan Porter — (Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC)

Tune in to NBC Tuesday night at 8PM ET/PT to see who wins The Voice.