It's anyone's game now

By Amanda Bell
December 18, 2017 at 11:02 PM EST

The Voice

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Coming into the first leg of The Voice‘s live finale, most viewers probably already have their ballots drawn out for who’ll land where on the top 4. We’ve heard from all four of these contestants for months, and if nothing else, they’ve all been pretty consistent in their strengths (and occasional weaknesses), so we know what to expect.

But somehow, these last live performances have still managed to subvert those expectations in a big, and not always good, way. After this round, it’s a bit harder to guess who will walk away with the win. Let’s take it from the top, shall we?

Team Adam: Addison Agen
“Humble and Kind” by Tim McGraw

We haven’t gotten to hear Addison Agen lean too much into the country music arena this season, so when she decides to take her grandpa’s advice and try this Southern song on for size, it seems like an intriguing prospect. After all, Keisha Renee isn’t here to do the soul-country crossover thing anymore, so Addison should be the perfect person to fill that void.

Unfortunately, she turns what ought to be a pretty uplifting and quaint melody into something that sounds like a lover’s lament, and her voice isn’t completely on point throughout either. We don’t get to hear those silky notes that make Addison so pleasing to listen to. Still, the fact that she’s overcome with emotions and loses it in the last few lines is endearing. Addison is just capable of more impressive moments than this.

Team Blake: Chloe Kohanski
“Wish I Didn’t Love You”

Blake Shelton knocked it out of the park by securing this original song for Chloe Kohanski because tonally, it couldn’t be a better match for the kind of singer that she obviously wants to be. No, it’s not the most obvious earworm and has some derivative moments, but it suits her mood and style to a T.

That said, it also exposes a few of her flaws. Chloe struggles more than once to hit a higher note for the chorus after leaning on the lowest parts of her register for most of the song, and she cracks a bit more often than usual, to the point that it almost seems like she’s got some kind of cold. But it’s fair to expect a lot of downloads from those who’d like to hear the cleaner studio copy because this song gives us a chance to hear what she might bring to the table with her own record.

Red Marlow and Blake Shelton
“I’m Gonna Miss Her” by Brad Paisley

Well, credit to them both for just going with the local-yokel shtick Red Marlow’s been leaning on all season, what with his colloquialisms and drawn-out drawl. He and Blake Shelton have a surprisingly difficult time harmonizing, though, and while Red does throw in a few Willie Nelson-style note shivers that make him slightly more interesting, it’s just a shrug of a performance.

Team Miley: Brooke Simpson
“What Is Beautiful”

Custom-written by Miley Cyrus (and some unnamed pals of hers), this original song invites Brooke Simpson to punch at the ceiling with closed fists for three-odd minutes and remind everyone in the audience that, yes, the girl can wail. Lyrically, it’s pretty obvious why Brooke is feeling this “go me” anthem right now, which includes lines like, “Who’s to say I’m not strong when I stand on my own?” When considering her perceived trajectory for much of the season, it’s a pretty timely line.

It’s a little much, and I’m not sure we always need Brooke to be at max-10 power to recognize her skills, but it’s a suitable song for her all the same. (Recap continues on page 2)

Addison Agen and Adam Levine
“Falling Slowly”

This song is pretty similar to that somber mood she’s already been showing off tonight. The problem is that while Adam Levine does try to soften his own presence in the song to let her take the fore, she’s still super hard to hear throughout and seems to fade into the background for most of it. Also, this is a song that’s supposed to make you feel things, and these mismatched vocals make that hard.

Brooke Simpson and Miley Cyrus
“Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus

Ding ding ding! The prize for most useful duet of the night goes to Team Miley as she and Brooke bring back her mega-hit from a few years back (sans the titular destructive object) and share the lines — and bathroom tile. The surprise benefit of playing a song that’s so familiar and unique to Miley here is that we aren’t distracted at all by Miley’s half because it’s exactly what we’re expecting to hear. And the fact that Brooke is left to play around in her mid-range means that we’re hearing a new element of her sound, as we should…even if just briefly.

Team Blake: Red Marlow
“I Pray”

Well, well, well, looks like Red Marlow knows how to write. Here’s a song I could easily imagine hearing on any one of my local radio stations here in the deep Southeast, as it’s got all the elements of a country crowd-pleaser: solid structuring, a story arc, and enough heart to hit the feels. It’s not the most original thing that ever happened to music, but with the song’s backstory (it was written for a pal’s father’s funeral), it’s still touching. This is exactly the kind of thing that nudged Sundance Head over the finish line. Not too shabby at all, Red. The downloads should be hot on this one.

Chloe Kohanski and Blake Shelton
“You Got It” by Roy Orbison

You know what? This song selection is actually pretty lit, too, because I’m willing to wager not a single Voice voter the world over could’ve predicted it. It’s peppy, well known, not over done, and a surprisingly good match for both of these singers, even offering them some prime opportunities to harmonize in ways I didn’t expect. There is an awkward misstep there in the third act where they miss some lines, but otherwise, this is an entertaining duet.

Team Blake: Red Marlow
“To Make You Feel My Love” by Bob Dylan (by way of Garth Brooks)

Other than that hokey duet from earlier, Red Marlow is pretty much firing on all cylinders tonight, no? For his cover part of the evening, he’s shooting for another “The Dance” moment, and man, he’s getting it. This song doesn’t ask him to do anything he’s not capable of, range-wise, and it’s familiar and evocative enough to draw the ear. It’s a smart song choice for him, and it’s especially well played as his closer showcase. Like he said in the prepped footage, he can go forward from this knowing he has left it “all on the stage” after this surprisingly good night for him. (Recap continues on page 3)

Team Miley: Brooke Simpson
“O Holy Night”

Brooke Simpson is also gamely attempting to recreate one of her best — or at least, most effective — moments from the earlier rounds with this holiday hymnal, given what her “Amazing Grace” rendition did for her in this competition. Not only is the song timely — hello, Christmas is next week — but it also gives her a chance to sing something she’s obviously done a million times over in her family’s traveling ministry. What I like the most about it is that she’s not having to force anything here; her energy for the anthem is authentic, and it shows in how smoothly she executes her own little riffs on the classic number.

Team Adam: Addison Agen
“Tennessee Rain”

This is far and away Addison Agen’s strongest showing of the night. The song is heartbreaking, the staging is just right, and her attachment to the lyrics is strong, even though we all know how personally disconnected she is to the story she’s telling. It would have been nice to hear her sing something a little happier just to avoid this becoming a whole night full of sad Addison songs, and I’m not sure what genre this particular tune belongs to — is it country? Is it blues? But even so, this is a good way to wrap up her time on the show and leave fans thirsty for more of her sound.

Team Blake: Chloe Kohanski
“Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes

OOF, this song choice. Before tonight, I thought this was Chloe Kohanski’s competition to lose, but picking this niche number to close out an otherwise successful season is a risk. Sure, it fits into her ’80s-chic vibe, but at what cost? It’s almost like she’s singing to an audience of one: the girl in the mirror she’s checking out in the beginning of the performance.

On the one hand, I’m digging the Cherie Currie-style ditch-the-demure attitude she’s got here, but on the other, THIS ISN’T EVEN SINGING. Chloe’s probably still got some loyal fans who’ll follow her to whatever wacky corner of three decades ago she wants to play in, but this is poor timing. And her voice in this particular performance? Not great, Bob.

PREDICTIONS:

  • Setting aside the very WTF last song choice here, I still think Chloe’s built up enough momentum over the last few weeks to carry her to the winner’s circle, although perhaps not as triumphantly as if she’d picked a less bizarre final show.
  • On the other hand, Addison’s stated a solid case for why she might deserve the victory; as Adam so emphatically points out, she’s got such a unique cadence.
  • The third hand is popping in here to say Red Marlow has always surprised us with his staying power, so we shouldn’t count him out, especially after tonight… and Brooke has had a pretty convincing power moment as well.
  • I still give Chloe the edge, with Addison as a strong second. But we’ll have to wait and see how this all plays out!

TEAM STANDINGS:

  • Team Adam: Addison Agen
  • Team Miley: Brooke Simpson
  • Team Jennifer:
  • Team Blake: Chloe Kohanski, Red Marlow

Episode Recaps

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly listed Adam and Addison’s duet title.

The Voice

A rotating chair-full of judges search for the next great superstar singer on this NBC reality show.

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