Season 2 of The Voice may have been a little coaches-centric for my taste, but Tuesday’s two-hour telecast was — and I say this with no sarcasm whatsoever — structured more perfectly than any reality-competition finale I’ve ever seen. Oh, sure, there were a few awkward moments where the Top 4 were painfully grafted onto performances by big-name artists with products or tours to promote — Juliet with Flo Rida? Tony, Jermaine, and Chris relegated to undetectable backup for Hall & Oates? — but their “victory lap” ditties allowed them to bring back fallen comrades in a celebration of the weeks and months of music that preceded the crowning of a successor to Vicci Martinez, er, Dia Frampton, er, Javier Colon. (Sorry, I always get that messed up in my fantasies. But seriously, check out Vicci’s terrific new single, “Come Along,” on iTunes!)
And not only did we get to bask once more in the vocal stylings of Jamar Rogers, Katrina Parker, Lindsey Pavao, Erin Willett, Jordis Unga, James Massone, Pip, and RaeLynn, but there was also a totally awesome bathroom break thanks to a live performance of Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend.” (I kid! I kid! Not really.) (Also: I just typed the words “Justin Bieber’s ‘Boyfriend.’” Heh-heh.) Plus, Christina Milian brought enough (new word alert!) imbecilism from the Sprint Lounge that I was able to release every last bit of fury and stress that built up over the course of the season. (Jamie Lono, never forget!)
Anyhow, before we get to the results, let’s dish the evening’s musical performances:
Jermaine Paul (with Jamar Rogers, James Massone, and Pip), the Jackson 5′s “I Want You Back” | Proof that one need not reinvent the wheel to offer up a satisfying musical performance. Still, was I the only one who thought Jamar shone brightest on this number? (Side note: Christina Milian’s post-performance quote, presented without comment: “Make sure, by the way, we want everything trending because I’m sure you guys are trending right now.”)
Flo Rida and Juliet Simms, “Whistle”/”Wild Ones” | Somehow I suspect Juliet’s post-Voice career won’t include lyrics like “if I took you home/it’d be a home run” and/or “I want to shut down the club with you.” But gamely she tried on these bouncy club jams. (Side note: Christina Milian’s ridiculousness during her Flo Rida interview, presented without comment: “We’re wearing leather together. He likes me!”)
Chris Mann (with Lindsey Pavao and Katrina Parker), the Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony” | I’ve got to admit, this is the first non-classical performance by Chris that I found totally believable. Katrina matched him with power and pitch-perfection, too, and while Lindsey’s wispier tone wasn’t an obvious fit with the two power vocalists, she certainly held her own in the evening’s best musical moment. (Nope, not even those aggressive Swaybots could ruin it for me.)
Hall & Oates (with Chris Mann, Jermaine Paul, and Tony Lucca), “Rich Girl” | Was it me, or did Mr. Hall seem to lose steam/interest as the lounge-y arrangement of the song went on. Maybe if he’d let The Voice‘s three male finalists sing a lead line or two, the whole thing wouldn’t have devolved into such a drowsy, beige affair?
Kim Yarbrough, Naia Kete, Sera Hill, and Cheesa, Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” | Okay, so it wasn’t startlingly original, and there was the occasional wonky note and dropped phrase. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing these B-level contestants get one more moment in the spotlight, and that stank-face exchange between Kim and Sera was a hoot and a holler. I just wondered why Ashley de la Rosa didn’t wind up in the mix along with ‘em.
Juliet Simms (with Erin Willett, RaeLynn, and Jamar Rogers), the Beatles’/Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help From My Friends” | That hug between Jamar and Juliet at the end was awfully sweet, no? And while the sound mix got a little wonky on Erin and RaeLynn’s verse, I have to say Juliet’s banshee wailing on the final chorus more than made up for any prior deficiencies.
Tony Lucca and Jordis Unga, Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” | On paper, I was as excited about this duo tackling such a rousing ’70s anthem as I would be ordering a Panini for lunch. (Mmmm. Panini.) Alas, in practice, the sandwich was charred and disappointing on both sides. Not a great final impression for a pair of vocalists capable of better.
A few other thoughts on the telecast…
* Cee Lo’s t-shirt — bearing the names of all of each and every one of his team members (even Erin Martin!) — was an above-and-beyond show of affection from a coach to his contestants that’s pretty rare anywhere on reality TV. I won’t lie: I dig this very strange man, even if he needs to up his game in song selection and actionable feedback during The Voice‘s off season.
* Blake Shelton on Purrrfect the Cat: “It has pooped in my seat before. I hate it.”
And now, the results…
Chris Mann (And I thought this was Jermaine Paul’s spot for sure!)
Xtina, you forgot your pants! Again!
Tony Lucca (If TVLine had an office pool, I’d have definitely finished last)
Juliet Simms (Argh! Lady rockers just can’t catch a break!)
Jermaine Paul (¡?!) (Yes, that’s a word now, too.)
Um, Jermaine Paul? Well, he seems like a nice guy, and his joyous, emotional breakdown made for good TV, I suppose, but I’d rank his win as perhaps the most bizarre outcome in the history of reality singing competitions. I seriously thought Alicia Keys’ former backup singer would be an automatic ouster after a deplorable cover of “Living on a Prayer” during the first live performance show, and his subsequent overwrought renditions of “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now),” “Open Arms,” and “I Believe I Can Fly” didn’t do much to make him look like a winner in my eyes, either. As my Twitter follower @mcdeallover wondered, “I think Carson had the results card upside down.”
Ah well, maybe it was just the power of coach Blake Shelton’s quiet charisma at work. Or maybe America was hungry for a pop-R&B singer not afraid to crush whatever ballad comes his way with an anvil of melisma, vibrato, and holleration.
What did you think of The Voice season finale? Shocked as I am that Jermaine pulled off a win — even after giving us a good idea what male childbirth might sound like during “I Believe I Can Fly”? If not Jermaine, who should’ve taken the whole ball of wax in Season 2? Sound off in the comments! And for all my reality TV news, interviews, and recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!Follow @MichaelSlezakTV