The finale feels like graduation. When you look back, it offers a time of reflection. Last night we showed video of the four finalists’ transformations and how far they’ve all come, and you look back and it’s amazing, the journey that we’ve all had. Since the Super Bowl, this season has absolutely flown by. We had a lot of the eliminated artists in the audience last night, and you’ll see some of them on the air tonight. It’s been so wonderful to see how confident everyone is now. The four finalists are all there for a reason, and they’re strong not only because they’re four of the strongest voices in the competition, but they’re the artists who have risen to the occasion. I think anybody could win this thing, I really do. There’s not a runaway winner here. Tonight’s going to be really, really interesting.
We got three performances from each artist last night: a solo performance, a duet with the coach, and a last-minute surprise for the coaches in the form of a tribute cover performance. The artists were really into it. They loved it. They wanted to do something to say thanks, so they were really excited by the idea. It was tricky to keep it from the coaches because they were on set all day yesterday — normally, they’re not necessarily there all day, but because it’s the finale, they were there early. We shoot in a soundstage, so we had to kill the monitor feed back where all the coaches trailers are so they couldn’t see what anyone was rehearsing. That way the coaches would be surprised, and I think they were genuinely moved by their artists’ sentiment. The cover songs provided for some really nice moments of closure, and that was the last time we’re really going to hear the artists talk to their coaches in that capacity. The show’s been really fast-paced, and we wanted to make sure that these final four artists had some time to address their coaches and thank them for everything they’ve done.
Jermaine, even in the first couple of weeks, sang like a backup singer. I think it was his style, when he did the Avril Lavigne song in the blind auditions. It was good, but it wasn’t what you heard last night with R. Kelly. He’s literally found his voice. He’s found his frontman voice. Background singers often sing like background singers — they’re trained to sing in a peripheral harmony, like a complementary singer, because that’s what they do. They’re trained not to overshadow the talent. Well, Jermaine has evolved now to the point where he is the talent. He needs his own backup singers now, and you saw that last night with “I Believe I Can Fly.” If you look at the progression — and the finals is a great time to do that — you can see the growth. Win or lose, Jermaine’s there, and I think Blake helped him get there. I think that “Soul Man” performance last night was a ton of fun, and I thought their rapport together was just outstanding. As I mentioned on the air, Jermaine was an unlikely finalist for Blake, but he believed in Jermaine, and Jermaine needed to be believed in, and that’s all it took for him to stand at the front with some courage. Jermaine’s in a great place as an artist, no matter what happens
The caveat for Juliet is that she was very sick last night. Behind the scenes, she didn’t open her mouth yesterday at all during the dress rehearsal. She was just nodding. She walked through all of her performances, saving all of her energy. If you look at the tape from when we first met her, she’s transformed completely. From “Roxanne,” which is when she really got Cee Lo’s attention, to Aerosmith’s “Cryin’,” when she almost got eliminated and her coach saved her, to James Brown. I mean, just look at her trajectory. She’s hit all the right notes. She’s finally probably gotten the direction from Cee Lo that she needs, which is what it’s going to take for her to be a real artist. She said herself that she was re-energized by her own pursuit of music, by making it in the blind auditions, by Cee Lo turning around. Cee Lo injected a rebirth in Juliet, so now she believes in herself again. She’s got so much star power, too, even when she’s under the weather. When she’s walking on the stage, it’s hard to take your eyes off her because she’s unpredictable. She’s really come a long way.
NEXT: Chris is the Mann, Tony takes on Christina
What great performances from Chris Mann. In the background during his tribute song to Christina, “The Voice Within,” there was an actual handwritten letter that Chris wrote Christina, which we blew up to make the backdrop of that song. I thought that was a cool addition. His solo songs, combined with his duet with Christina… overall, I thought he had a great night. It was a strong showing for Chris! People talk about him singing Josh Groban, but let me tell you: there was room for Christina and Britney, and if he wins The Voice, there’s going to be room for Josh Groban and Chris Mann, too. He’s phenomenal. He’s got a sense of pride now, singing his style of music, and it’s a very powerful style. It’s a very international style. You may not hear him 90 times a day on the radio, but I think he’ll be very successful.
Tony Lucca said a very telling thing last night when he said that Christina referring to him as “one dimensional” forever changed the course of his career, in a lot of ways. Here was somebody who, when we met him in the blind auditions, was established. When Christina came looking for Tony in the blind auditions and they reunited, it connotated that even though they weren’t on the same team, that Tony would have an ally in Christina. And that has just not been the case, as we’ve all seen. So that’s led Tony and Adam, who have this great connection, to skew their angle on the show, and that’s been to be these wildcard performances. Some of them were sort of geared towards Christina, with “Baby, One More Time” and “How You Like Me Now?” and even last night with “99 Problems.” (I know Adam said on air that it’s a metaphor, and somebody has to ask Jay-Z what he intended when he wrote that song. Christina took slight offense to it, but that’s for another day.) But Christina’s comments and the way she’s treated Tony have been fuel for him. I don’t think he ever expected that to happen, but that’s been a good thing for Tony because it’s brought the best out of him.
Early on, the Sprint Lounge was meant to be the epicenter of our social networking, to check in on the pulse of the show as it’s happening live. Now it’s the finals, and it doesn’t really matter who’s trending because we’ve gotten some great family moments; and you know me, I’m all about the family. We care a lot about our artists, we care a lot about their families, and it was awesome seeing, for example, Jermaine Paul’s family early on yesterday. The way his mom and dad spoke about him was moving. All of the families had moments last night in the Sprint Lounge. As I reflect on the season yet again, these artists, the strength of their families, and their stories of perseverance are moving. We are only as strong as the company we’re in, and what great company our four finalists are in this week with their families.
Looking at Chris Mann’s mom and dad, with their sense of pride, and Juliet’s boyfriend, seeing the look on his face… it’s just really remarkable. These are the things that make the show more than a singing competition. People ask me all the time, what is it about The Voice? This is what it’s about. It’s the families and these moments of support that elevate this show from just being another singing competition to being moving television. When TV makes you feel good, then it’s a great show.
Also, one last thing. Blogging has been a new territory for me, to wake up early the day after the live shows and try and offer some insight and put things in perspective, to give EW.com readers a look into this enormous television show. I’ve had a really great time doing it. As host and producer, trying to stay somewhat unbiased and a little bit Switzerland, I hope that it’s been as much fun for you to read as it’s been for me to write. I know the Web is a very busy place, but this has been a lot of fun for me, and I hope it’s been a useful tool for Voice fans out there! Thank you all for reading the blog and for taking a few minutes each Tuesday to join me. See you all tonight!
(As told to Marc Snetiker)