Who stood out among the pack?

By Maggie Fremont
December 14, 2020 at 11:00 PM EST
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Credit: Trae Patton/NBC
S19 E17

Here we are, folks: We've reached The Voice season 19 finale week. Tonight, our Top 5 get two chances to make their case for The Voice trophy — they'll each be singing one new cover and an original, debut single. Tomorrow, one artist will be named the winner. But before all the confetti and the filler performances and, fingers crossed, the triumphant return of John Legend's creepy glove-on-a-stick, let's take a look at the Top 5's final competitive performances of the season.

Team Gwen: Carter Rubin // “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus

Gwen’s teen sensation Carter Rubin could become the youngest male winner of The Voice ever, as well as Coach Gwen Stefani’s first victory. He kicks off the finale doing what he does best — a pop power ballad. What more can be said? The kid has perfect vocal control and is unreal at connecting emotionally to whatever he happens to be singing. His coach praises him once again, calling out how calm and natural he is as a performer: “It feels like you’re just meant to be doing this,” Gwen tells Carter as he effortlessly puts another performance behind him.

Team Kelly: Desz // “Holy Ground” by Desz

Desz is the first contestant to debut her original single. In meeting with one of the song’s producers, Justin Tranter, he compares Desz to her coach, Kelly Clarkson: “a technical superhero” who can tell a story. Desz displays exactly that in her performance. Uh, friends, the second half of this performance is unreal. There’s so much emotion and power there, but it’s never over the top — it feels like the only way to sing this song. John Legend applauds Desz’s song choice because it shows that she knows who she is as an artist. She’s always sung with a purpose and this is just another example of that. And then we go to Coach Kelly Clarkson, who is bawling and thanks Desz for singing a song that she needed to hear. “Hands down, you’re the greatest vocalist I’ve ever worked with on this show,” Kelly barely gets out. Anyway, we’re all bawling now. 

Team Blake: Ian Flanigan // “In Color” by Jamey Johnson

Who doesn’t love a good “one chair turn who makes the finale” story on The Voice? Blake believed in Ian and his distinct voice from the beginning, even if Ian didn’t — he considers himself more of a songwriter than a vocalist. So it feels appropriate that for his finale cover, Ian picks a storytelling song. It’s a country favorite but feels a little sleepy for the finale. Ian’s post-performance comments are less about the specific performance and more about noting once again how much of a unicorn voice Ian has. Coach Blake Shelton still can’t place where Ian belongs but calls his voice “iconic sounding.” That’s the way you want to end your journey on The Voice, for sure (well, also winning but, you get it).

Team Blake: Jim Ranger // “Last” by Jim Ranger

We’re getting the softer side of Jim Ranger tonight. For his single, he’s picked a country love song. This song is like country catnip. Jim’s playing to the Blake fanbase! He tells his coach that he really connects to the song through his 18-year marriage, but some of what makes Jim Ranger so special as an artist is lost here. He keeps things toned down throughout most of the song — or, as Gwen says, he keeps it “understated” — and only fully opens up Jim Ranger-style at the end. This is Jim really leaning into country music and Blake assures his artist that if “country ends up being that lane [Jim] wants to stay in, there’s a place for [him.] Jim did his coach proud.

Team Legend: John Holiday // “Where Do We Go” by John Holiday

We know that John Holiday could go anywhere with his voice — both technically and genre-wise — and he ends up picking a pop-rock song for his original single. By the end of it, John’s hitting those signature high notes, but even though he can really navigate through any song, this particular one isn’t going to win him any new fans. There’s no real place for an emotional connection nor does John get to let his vocal acrobatics fully fly. Still, Kelly praises his ability to nail a song with very little space to breathe and John’s coach, John Legend, loves that they’re continuing to see his versatility as an artist and he applauds him for always challenging himself throughout the competition.

Team Kelly: Desz // “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac

Just when I was finished crying over Desz’s last performance, she’s going to step on stage and sing “Landslide”? LANDSLIDE. Coach Kelly Clarkson admits she was a little surprised by this song choice since it was so different from anything Desz has done on the show, but in rehearsals, she’s immediately reduced to tears and then realizes Desz made a smart choice to show this side of her artistry now. Like Jim Ranger’s performance, Gwen Stefani calls this “understated” but even in its most intimate, quiet moments, it feels very Desz (at the end, Carson Daly tells Desz that he’s heard that song countless times, but "never Desz-ified like that”). Her runs are effortless and the emotion pours out of her. Kelly Clarkson tosses loving, high-praise adjectives at her artist, calling her “believable,” “pure,” “raw,” and full of precision. 

Team Blake: Ian Flanigan // “Never Learn” by Ian Flanigan

Listen, I didn't show up this evening expecting to be crying so much but I am fragile and here we are. Ian Flanigan! Singing a heartfelt song to America’s youth! Ross Copperman, who co-wrote the song, wants Ian to show off his “pure” head voice and his big chest voice and Ian gets to do that with this lovely little song. In rehearsal, Blake had very aptly referred to Ian’s voice as “a friendly monster” and he does it again afterward. It’s kind of perfect? Ian’s unique sound draws you in and as Blake says, people “listen to what [he’s] saying because they just want to hear [his] voice.” This song put Ian’s quiet storytelling ability on display. 

Team Legend: John Holiday // “Halo” by Beyoncé

This! Song! Choice! As John Legend points out, “Halo” “shows everything [John Holiday] can do in one song.” It’s a great note (or, like, all of the notes) for John Holiday to go out on. We’re always blown away by his spectacular high notes — which he shows off here, naturally — but the low notes he hits in this song moved me. Kelly Clarkson — who had turned for John in the Blinds but was blocked by John Legend — calls his range “stupid incredible” and his performance “beautiful” and loves that she could hear what kind of record John might make in that rendition of the song. John Legend heaps on the praise: He loves how much John shows his heart in everything he does, and says he’s “so happy [John] got to soar” on this song. 

Team Gwen: Carter Rubin // “Up From Here” by Carter Rubin

Has Carter ever sounded so contemporary and ready-for-radio as he does on this song? He gets to go out showing a new shade of himself and that’s important. Gwen Stefani loves the song choice because yes, it sounds modern, but also it easily lets Carter put his own stamp on it. Gwen reiterates how incredible it is that Carter remains “calm and cool and in the moment” throughout this entire thing. He has a ton of confidence on stage and he shows that off here, debuting his own single. 

Team Blake: Jim Ranger // “With a Little Help From My Friends” by the Beatles

This is the Jim Ranger I had been hoping to see in this finale. From the moment he opened his mouth on this song, it just felt like the right way to close the show. This performance is full of emotion and storytelling but also just lets the dude wail (plus, all the points for a perfect outfit choice). Kelly Clarkson tells him that this song “felt like it could’ve been [his] original” because it was perfect for both his voice and this moment. Gwen tells him that watching him was like watching “a huge star” up there because it was just so natural. And Blake Shelton tells his artist that he “timed it just right to let it all out.” It’s Jim’s best performance on this show, which is one way to end your run on a vocal competition.

So with all of our performances wrapped up, who do we think has done enough to win this whole thing? 

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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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