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December 16, 2015 at 06:25 AM EST

With tears in their eyes and a song in their hearts, the final four Voice contestants took the stage at 9 p.m. tonight as hopeful amateurs looking for their big break. Two hours later, one singer emerged a victor. Who was crowned the winner of The Voice’s ninth season? Before he or she can be revealed, let’s talk about those performances.

Carson promised us an epic finale, and he wasn’t lying. There were 15 performances crammed into the episode — not to mention individual tributes to the four coaches and silly skits about go-karts (you know, the children’s carnival sport most related to vocal ability — duh).

The show brought back our Top 24 for a big group performance of “Lean On” by Major Lazer and DJ Snake. (Although no one mentions it, it’s actually the Top 23 that performs: Ellie Lawrence tweeted earlier this week she couldn’t make it.) Then, Carson tells us how this shebang will play out: Each finalist will sing once with an eliminated singer of their choosing and once with a celebrity who dropped by for the event. Coldplay, Missy Elliott, Sam Hunt, The Weeknd, and Justin Bieber also perform, but they’re too dope to duet with reality-show finalists. (In all seriousness, Missy and The Weeknd both crushed it. They are transcendent live, and the energy of their performances was the highlight of the episode.)

For his Bring Back performance, Barrett chose to duet with Zach Seabaugh on Randy Travis’ “Forever and Ever, Amen.” It’s disconcerting to hear the much-younger Zach bust out with his classic bass, which sounds more world-weary than Barrett’s cool tenor, despite the fact that Barrett’s twice as old as Zach. It’s also a good thing voting is closed, because Zach’s half of their duet blew Barrett’s out of the water. Where was this distinctive, confident sound during the semifinals?

Then Coldplay performs their new single, “Adventure of a Lifetime” (aided by some dancers in monkey suits that seriously cross the line into the uncanny valley). Following that oddness, we hear “Love Train” by the O’Jays from five eliminated R&B singers: Nadjah Nicole, Celeste Betton, Darius Scott, Mark Hood, and Regina Love. 

Getting back to the finalists’ performances, Emily Ann duets with country icon Ricky Skaggs on his song “Country Boy.” Emily Ann seems to have a knack for winning over the legends of the genre, and she, Ricky, and the rest of the band have a grand old time on stage. The stars of the performance are the musicians (Skaggs include) who pick and pluck the hell out of their instruments, but the upbeat performance is a breath of fresh air on this tense night.

NEXT: It’s all about Missy

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