The Final 4 debut their original singles and their coaches request that we kindly not crush their dreams.
On Monday night, Carson Daly ended the first installation of season 8’s finale by saying, “It’s your turn to make one of our finalists’ dreams come true.” And that was after every single coach told their contestants that the best thing about their finale performances was watching them onstage, making their dreams come true. So, no pressure, but which three dreams do you plan on making not come true? Would you like to crush a 16-year-old’s dreams? How about a 17-year-old’s? Perhaps that of a man hoping to support his family with his dream? Or maybe a woman who basically had her dream once and then lost it? Which one of those people would you like to crush?
No, this was not a casual night on The Voice. This was a “Show every part of your voice, sing as loud as you can, but also as emotionally as you can, but also be as fun as you can, oh yeah, and perform an original song so everyone can see if you will or won’t blow this after the confetti falls” kind of night on The Voice. And I think it’s because this is a particularly confusing group of contestants; the vocal frontrunner is different from the iTunes frontrunner is different from the performance frontrunner… it would have been difficult to guess at any point in the competition that these are the Final 4 we’d end up with. Well, other than Sawyer, who could probably make Taylor Swift weep looking at his song sales at this point.
But I guess that’s the point that the coaches were trying to make: to convince us that each of their artists are passionate enough about their music to go out there and be successful with a Republic Records recording contract. Everyone has different ways of achieving that—Blake’s is to ask his contestants to reach every single note they can, pull out every single trick, and show the people what they can do; Pharrell’s is to brand his contestants (possibly into submission) so it is 100 percent clear what kind of album they’ll be putting out when they win; and Adam’s is to… well I’m not sure what Adam is doing this season. Whose move is smartest? Probably Pharrell’s. But whose move will win? This game is ripe for an upset (and begging for a truly breakout star recording artist).
Nobody’s performances with their coaches did them any big favors, but their finals song and debut original singles did plenty to help us along with our dream-making/dream-crushing decision. No pressure…
KORYN HAWTHORNE, Team Pharrell
Final Song: “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” by James Brown
The girl can blow. That is the bottom line on Koryn. She can sing, and she can perform, and she can throw her body around a stage and completely envelope the audience into her orbit. A song like this—a favorite for big singers on big singing shows—is on the nose, sure, but it also sounded exactly how it needed to. Another strong move is how nicely Koryn and Pharrell’s relationship came out of the course of this finale. But…
Koryn’s Original Single: “Bright Fire” written by Pharrell
There’s always been something a little off about Pharrell branding Koryn as a gospel artist, because the audience has never once gotten to hear her say that’s the type of artist she wants to be. As good as she sounded on “Bright Fire,” and as happy as she seemed to be singing it, it’s the first time I can remember her seeming a little unsure in quite some time. It’s possibly Koryn might not be ready to rein all of this raw power and passion she’s discovered on the show into an album just yet—but if she is, it’s one I’d want to hear.
JOSHUA DAVIS, Team Adam
Final Song: “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen
Joshua didn’t sound bad on “Hallelujah” by any means, and, as he was hoping to, he did semi-successfully show a bit of his voice that we hadn’t heard yet. But this song is so overdone on shows like these, I kind of couldn’t believe they chose it, and I don’t know if it was the best risk to take for an artist who does best staying in his lane. There just aren’t a lot of sides to be explored in Joshua’s voice—it’s like a warm blanket… a comforting, cozy blanket with exactly two sides. Or is he…
Joshua’s Original Single: “The Workingman’s Hymn” written by Joshua
I was, however, pleasantly surprised at how upbeat and uniquely written Joshua’s single was; inspired by Detroit, and the idea of giving his kids hope, Joshua was the only contestant working outside the realms of love in his original song, and it was pretty catchy. I hope that he can keep penning songs like that, though it likely won’t be as the winner of The Voice.
NEXT: Whose dreams are going to keep on keeping on?
MEGHAN LINSEY, Team Blake
Final Song: “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge
I know this isn’t an opinion for everyone, but at some point I reached a place with Meghan where I just couldn’t hear her sing without feeling like she was yelling at me. I recognize the sheer power and dimensions of her voice, and that those things are incredibly impressive; but I needed one or two more “Amazing Grace” performances in her Voice résumé to be able to still appreciate another powerhouse number like this from her. It was big and it had exactly as many jaw-dropping moments as Blake wanted it to, and that might be just what a big chunk of America is looking for.
Meghan’s Original Single: “Change My Mind” written by Meghan
Much more welcome to my ears was the message of “Change My Mind,” and the knowledge that Meghan had written it herself, and this is the soul music she’s been so longing to sing since her country duo broke up. I don’t still have it in my head, but I could definitely sit in traffic and imagine I was in a music video while singing it at the top of my lungs.
SAWYER FREDERICKS, Team Pharrell
Final Song: “Old Man” by Neil Young
Pharrell might have been a touch off the mark calling Neil Young classic “Americana,” but he’s right about Sawyer fitting right into this song. The boy is just a wunderkind—I love hearing him talk about the ways he interprets songs that he’s too young to have any personal experience with, but still feels a connection to. He doesn’t move a lot; he doesn’t smile a lot; but he has a voice and style all his own in a genre of music that is just begging for a resurgence with a younger generation. If Sawyer’s style isn’t for you, then it’s never going to be, but the young man cannot be stopped on iTunes…
Sawyer’s Original Single: “Please,” written by Ray LaMontagne
And that he now has a song written by Ray LaMontagne (which perfectly suits him) to his name, it’s truly something special; it says he’s going to keep loving and playing music whether it’s on his farm or on a record he won the rights to record while participating in a nationally televised singing competition. “Please” had a great melody, a catchy chorus, and sounded like something Sawyer could have possibly penned himself, but knowing that Ray LaMontagne—someone who Sawyer looks up to so much, and certainly someone who the music world could use another of—gave his stamp of approval on Sawyer is just as good.
So, now the decision must be made. I’m imagining all three of the contestants whose dreams we inevitably destroy tomorrow sobbing while singing Hall & Oates “You Make My Dreams” into the comforting arms of Carson Daly, so make sure you vote wisely. Who will you be casting your vote toward? Could Megan, Koryn, or Joshua somehow upset Sawyer’s freight train iTunes sales? Which coach used their time most strategically tonight? And who’s taking home the crown tomorrow?