The Voice recap: 'Live Finale, Part 1'
The final four make their case, one last time
Here we go! It’s the last week of The Voice‘s twelfth season, and the quartet competing for the win could not be any different. Team Blake’s got two ladies on the final stage — in Aliyah Moulden, he’s got a teen pop hype girl who’s managed to strengthen her emotional resonance in recent weeks, and in Lauren Duski, he’s got the measured country classicist with a dreamy voice. Meanwhile, Adam Levine’s bringing Jesse Larson, a guitarist with a soul-punch sound, and Alicia Keys boasts her last-minute blinds find Chris Blue, who’s a bundle of energy with some serious spirit to boot.
So, how’d their final performances shake out? Well, I think it’s fair to say that some were certainly better than others. Let’s break down the finale performances and make some predictions heading into tomorrow’s finale.
Aliyah Moulden (Team Blake): “Never Be Lonely” (Original)
It’s a smart move for Aliyah to introduce an original number that helps identify exactly what kind of music she’s interested in performing, because her Voice history has been eclectic at best. This song, with its bubblegum aesthetic and ’50s sock-hop lyrical innocence, is actually a nice fit for her. Granted, it’s a little one-note and sounds like a middle school-age, low-rent redux of Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop,” but still. At least we know what she’s hoping to become in the mainstream so there can’t be any more “what if”s about her going forward.
Jesse Larson (Team Adam): “Taking it to the Streets” by the Doobie Brothers
Adam Levine is right about (at least) one thing when it comes to Jesse Larson — the man is consistent. With this song, he’s got the same steely soul sound that he’s had all season long without missing a beat, and the only real difference is that he seems a little more joyful than usual. That enthusiasm might be more owed to his upcoming fatherhood than being on this stage in this round, because it was pretty much just the same old, same old for him, musically… which isn’t necessarily an insult when it comes to Jesse. It’s obviously gotten him this far. Compared to some of his competition, consistency might just be king for Jesse Larson.
Chris Blue and Alicia Keys: “Diamonds and Pearls” by Prince
Next season, The Voice should really consider trimming out any and all duets and group performances and find another way to fill airtime, because these are rarely good and frequently terrible. Alicia sounds great here with this one — almost a little like Mariah Carey at points — while Chris Blue struggles to find his way through the lowest register. And the whole thing is made all the more awkward by this forced enthusiasm they put on to emulate Prince’s unique stage presence. It’s just not a great seller for our Voice hopeful.
Lauren Duski (Team Blake): “The Dance” by Garth Brooks
There is something special about Lauren Duski; when she’s emotionally connected to a number, her voice emanates an undeniable chill (see also: her blind audition with Jewel’s “You Were Meant for Me” and her recent download win with “Ghost in this House”). And as much as I wanted her to be there with this one, because the song is powerful and it seems like the right a decision to pair her with it, it was just… shaky. There are a couple of chill-inducing moments, but it’s not the deal-maker it could’ve been in a deeper key. That said, I also don’t think she deserved to be compared to a chandelier by Adam Levine and told she was only appealing because she sounded so familiar, either. What was that?
Aliyah Moulden and Blake Shelton: “Dancing in the Street”
Again with these duets. First of all, this song doesn’t flatter either of these two, and Blake’s uncoordinated shimmying is a bit foolish. This performance is so cornball I’ll have to lay off carbs for the rest of the week. Zero points to anyone except the band for this performance.
Chris Blue (Team Alicia): “Money on You” (Original)
My default reaction to anything Chris Blue sings is to like it, and when we hear the in-studio clips, the original tune has some heart and intrigue. Unfortunately, that doesn’t quite translate to the stage, and it feels like a song that someone else — perhaps a reggae artist — should be handling instead. But Alicia Keys is still right to say that Chris Blue has an “electricity” that comes with his stage presence, and it’s no surprise he’s become such a fan favorite. I could see people downloading this one just to hear it with the proper synthetics because this is definitely one that’ll benefit from the studio shell casing.
Jesse Larson and Adam Levine: “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince
Let’s just be real here. This song was just an excuse for these two to have a jam session on their guitars. There’s nothing wrong with it. They just wanted to, as the song title indicates, go crazy together, and as far as these duets go, this is okay in my book.
Lauren Duski and Blake Shelton: “There’s a Tear in My Beer” by Hank Williams
Whereas Blake Shelton seemed hellbent on showing off his fun side in his song with Aliyah, his second tour on duet duty is spent trying to show off that twang thang that got him onto the charts in the first place. It’s a little much, but it’s still fun. He seems to be hogging the mic for a full minute, though, before Lauren gets a lyric in edgewise, and once she does, there are some Loretta Lynn and June Carter Cash vibes running through her performance like we haven’t seen before. I guess the point is to show that she really is built to hang in that Southern sweetheart spot her coach swears by.
Jesse Larson (Team Adam): “Woman” (written by Chris Stapleton)
It’s a pretty big compliment when you’re chosen to debut a song by a hit recording artist like Chris Stapleton, but it’s also not a bad idea for Jesse Larson here to try to channel the original song moment that earned Sundance Head the win last season. I like the upper-register grabs at the climax here, and this tune definitely feels like the subgenre he could work well in. I do think it could’ve been a little bit more powerful if it were slowed down a step, but otherwise, this was pretty great.
Aliyah Moulden (Team Blake): “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” by Stevie Wonder
If people vote on Aliyah Moulden based on this performance, then I do not understand this show. Stevie Wonder’s collection has already been pillaged this season, and she brings exactly none of the zing and spirit of this piece to her performance, which is peppered with too many growls. Thank heavens for the extended saxophone solo.
Lauren Duski (Team Blake): “Deja Vu” (Original)
Annnnd that’s what you call a showstopper. With this song, I think Lauren Duski just proved that she’s the one this season. Her emotional connection to the song, which she wrote, brings out her sparkly side, and it’s a gorgeous little number that has some serious radio play potential. Between her warm vocals, the solid lyrics, and the identifiable message, this is easily, inarguably the most authentic performance of the evening. The iTunes downloads on this one are gonna be insane.
Chris Blue (Team Alicia): “Rhythm Nation” by Janet Jackson
To close out the show on a funky note, Chris Blue throws some unmistakable nostalgia on the stage, performing this piece with all the requisite throwback gear and dance moves to match. I’m not sure his vocals get the attention they deserve, but his ability to moonwalk should not go unnoticed. He’s obviously having a great time and trying to take everyone to church the way he did a few weeks back, but we’ll have to see if the entertainment factor was enough after everyone was so stunned by Lauren Duski before him.
Predictions for the final results:
I think Aliyah Moulden just secured herself fourth place in this competition, given that she didn’t do anything new with her rendition of a Stevie Wonder earworm that viewers will already know by heart. Her opening number might’ve drawn in a few votes because it was fun and well choreographed, but the rest of it was deflating.
I predict Chris Blue is going to get third place. His performances were happy-making for anyone who already likes him, but I’m not sure they would draw in any new votes from those just tuning in to see the finale.
That means it’ll be down to Jesse Larson and Lauren Duski. Jesse had a good night — a great night even. But he’s been in the bottom before, which Lauren hasn’t, and her final performance of the evening was riveting. Perhaps ironically, it didn’t give me any sense of deja vu.
I think Lauren takes it home tomorrow night.