The season 8 finale of The Voice ended up being the inverse of the season 7 Finale in every way: whereas last season started with a small talent pool and whittled it down to a dynamic Final 3, any of whom could have taken the whole thing home, this season started with an overwhelmingly talented Top 20, and came down to a group who sang well, but only one artist who could really sell a song.
And that artist was Sawyer Fredericks, the completely unsurprising, but very much deserving winner of The Voice season 8. The soft-spoken musical wunderkind from a small farm in New York is barely old enough to legally drive the Nissan he was gifted tonight, but, in addition to the car, he’s the brand new owner of a record contract with Republic Records and the weight of being The Voice’s eighth winner to date, without a single superstar to speak of. That’s not to say there haven’t been some solid singles from former Voice winners (and losers!), but that is to say there’s a good bit of pressure on the owner of a hat collection so impressive, it’s only rivaled by his coach Pharrell, to do something big with the opportunity he’s won.
As a whole, this season of The Voice produced a number of artists who I thought at various points in the competition could not only win this thing, but become viable recording artists. And those people (okay, women) returned tonight, proving that they very much still could. But the influx of talent in this season and their potential to succeed in the future with or without the “Voice” title, doesn’t make the winner any less likely to become the show’s biggest breakout yet. Considering that Sawyer currently has 14 songs on the iTunes Top 200, and that his original single is sitting pretty at #2, topped only by the unconquerable Taylor Swift, the 16-year-old stands a good chance.
Sawyer’s winning moment may not have been surprising, but it sure was sweet… and especially welcome after an hour of “recap” of Monday night’s performances, and one hour and 55 minutes of the results not being revealed. Still though, the Bring Back performances were fun, each of the coaches had a funny moment or two, and of course, the most aspirational of all singing show winners, Kelly Clarkson was on hand to show the children how it’s done. Here are a few of the best moments leading up to Sawyer’s coronation…
Was there ever really a Top 20? We were young… so young.
The now mostly eliminated Top 20 opened the show with a melody of Fun. songs, but the most fun thing about the performance was recognizing the artists you’d totally forgotten about—Lexi Davilla, hey girl!—and those you can’t believe are here for Bring Back performances instead of confetti-filled celebratory winner’s singles… always in my heart, Kimberly Nichole.
Let’s Keep This Famous Person Around
Sometimes when I hear Meghan Trainor talk I feel like she’s playing a joke on me, but the woman is clearly a savvy recording artist: She can write a damn hit, and she can sing it too. Trainor performed an acoustic version of her jazzy hit, “Dear Future Husband” with a ukulele in hand, and co-writer Kevin Kadish on guitar (and a bunch of precariously placed lamps), offering a good example for our soon-to-be crowned winner that there’s room in the record industry for music that sounds like a current spin on a different generation of music. Now, next year, let’s get her to write one of the Top 4’s original songs.
Xtina Makes a Funny
Christina Aguilera is constantly full of surprises. If you’ve seen her recent visit to The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, then you already know that she can do seriously convincing Cher, Shakira, and Britney Spears impression while singing; but tonight, she went all the way in with full impressions of those three, in addition to Miley Cyrus, Sia, and Lady Gaga auditioning for The Voice. Hearing Christina impersonate Cher saying, “Adam Levine, is that my accountant?” was never something I knew I needed but… it is. And also maybe an entire Xtina Variety Hour. (In fact, all of the coaches’ skits were pretty great.)
NEXT: Kelly Clarkson is a singing show’s dream, even more famous people perform, and our winner is crowned…[pagebreak]
Kelly, Pt. 1 featuring Koryn
As soon as Carson announced that Koryn would be singing Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind” alongside Kelly Clarkson, I swear, I lost the feeling in my face. It was just the perfect pairing for Koryn, who possesses a similar raw power to Clarkson, but has yet to quite master the artistry of what kind of music best suits her. But after these two slayed this duet, all I can think of is Koryn singing the entirety of Breakaway and hoping that the powerhouse American Idol winner might take the powerhouse Voice loser under her wing and show her how to take it to church on the pop charts.
Kelly, Pt. 2 featuring Meghan
And then Clarkson came out again to perform her new single, “Invincible,” alongside Meghan Linsey, and while the matchup wasn’t quite as dynamic as the duet with Koryn, the song is as catchy and belt-worthy as can be, and I appreciated Clarkson being willing to share the stage with a rising artist while debuting it.
Bring It On Back to The Voice
The Bring Back performances are always fun, not only because they give the fallen artists the chance to sing one more time, but because the remaining Finalists get to hand-pick their friends and talk about how talented they are for a while. They Baby Mad Men vibes in Sawyer’s teen-riddled “Lie to Me” were great, Joshua’s “She Talks to Angels” was a great song choice, and Meghan’s “Piece of My Heart” duet with Sarah Potenza could probably have lit a small village with its power; but my favorite has to be the entirely denim-clad divas of Koryn’s “Uptown Funk” Bring Back. Mia Z was hitting all the notes, India had gone full-J-Lo glam, Lexi was totally feeling herself, and Tonya… Tonya was feeling two men in coveralls while getting down on a raised platform. Get. It.
And a whole bunch of star power
Tonight’s finale saw Ed Sheeran perform “Photographs” in front of a bunch of precious ginger-tinged home video footage; Adam and Maroon 5 bleep themselves into oblivion on “This Summer’s Gonna Hurt” (like a mother-uh-huh); and Luke Bryan look like he was singing in a glitter storm while debuting his new single, “Kick the Dust Up.” And they were all perfect examples of the cawn-fi-dence that comes along with being a super star. Perhaps the fate of our almost-crowned winner…
The B-I-G Moment
After almost two hours of waiting, the last five minutes of tonight’s finale were used to crown Sawyer Fredericks the season 8 winner. Koryn placed fourth, Joshua went out in third, and Meghan landed in second with an undisclosed discrepancy in votes, but it was Sawyer who sang “Please,” while confetti rained down and his parents bustled forward from the audience for a hug, with pride shining in their eyes. The 16-year-old embraced his parents without missing a note, gave a small little laugh as he looked out as his victorious achievement, and sang until the credits rolled. It may not have been the most unpredictable final, and there might not be a clear cut place in the music industry for Sawyer just yet—but the kid has the chops, the coach, and the contract to make his post-finale journey into something much less predictable.
What did you think of tonight’s finale? Did it shake out the way you expected it to? Do you see stardom in the future of the season 8 winner—and even more curious, do you see it in any of its losers? Sound off in the comments and, as always, thanks for watching along with me this season!