You knew it was an Important Night on The Voice because not once did social-media dingbat Christina Milian begin one of her excruciating interview segments by screeching her go-to salutation, “Hey-ey, what’s UP, Carrr-son?”
But that wasn’t the only holiday miracle on the Season 3 finale: With a two-hour running time for an announcement that could’ve/should’ve been handled in 15 seconds, odds were that the telecast would wind up feeling interminable. To my surprise and delight, however, the producers packed the proverbial stocking with so many musical goodies that I was forced to let go of my Grinchiest tendencies and just enjoy it. Okay, so my fantasy collaboration of Amanda Brown, De’Borah and Nicole Nelson never materialized, but as the Stones once told us, “you can’t always get what you want.”
What we did get was a pretty darn satisfying conclusion to three months of intense, sometimes thrilling, sometimes infuriating competition. Without further ado…the envelope please…
Third Place: Nicholas David
Second Place: Terry McDermott
Season 3 Champ: ¡Cassadee Pope!
I’ve got to admit that while Cassadee’s early-season hype-to-performance ratio often left me with the sinking feeling that the show’s producers were trying to force-feed me government cheese with an artisanal label, the former Hey Monday frontwoman improved so rapidly and so markedly over the last seven or eight weeks that all I can do now is wish her sincere congratulations and root for her to become (along with Amanda) The Voice‘s first post-show chart-topper. In both the semifinal and final performance-show telecasts, she took more risks, sounded more current and hit just as many big notes as any of her competitors. And having that charming bastard Blake Shelton as her coach didn’t hurt a bit, either.
But let’s press pause on the larger Season 3 picture for a moment and do a quick review of the 13 performances from the finale:
Rihanna: “Diamonds” | Is it weird that I get all conspiracy-theory crazy when Rihanna sings on pitch? Yeah, she used a backing track instead of background vocalists on the chorus, but she actually sounded really good. And I don’t think it was a ventriloquist’s trick, either! Grade: B+
Terry McDermott (joined by Amanda Brown, Michaela Paige, Bryan Keith and Rudy Parris): Kiss’s “Rock and Roll All Nite” | I could be nitpicky and complain that the stage manager had the backlighting cranked up so high that there were moments where keeping my eye on the TV screen felt like looking directly into the sun. But that aside, Terry showed excellent taste in collaborators, and while it’s almost impossible to make Kiss’ party anthem much more than fun karaoke, Amanda’s incredible solos on the verse left me squee-ing. Grade: A-
Nicholas David and Smokey Robinson: “Cruisin’” | I was really hoping the show’s producers would pair Nicholas with a current radio artist (but not Ke$ha) or have him sing a current-ish radio hit (but not anything by Ke$ha), but it’s hard to complain too much about Smokey. I just wish the sound mix hadn’t put the background singers front and center on the chorus. Grade: B
The Killers and Cassadee Pope: “Here With Me” | For what was billed as a duet, it was kind of weird that Cassadee only got to come out for the final chorus. (On a shallow note: How come I don’t recall Brandon Flowers ever being quite so hot? Adam Levine beware!) Grade: B-
Mackenzie Bourg, Diego Val, Julio Cesar Castillo, Cody Belew, and Dez Duron: “Stacy’s Mom” | The old-fashioned diner set, the dancing waitresses, the sound mix that had whole chunks of the melody disappearing? And, oh, the utter randomness of the quintet itself, which was low on chemistry and high on awkward choreography? A total mess. Sigh. Grade: C-
Kelly Clarkson (with Cassadee Pope and Terry McDermott): “Catch My Breath” | Kelly’s atrocious Golden Girls-collection bathrobe notwithstanding, this was a musical delight that allowed for Team Blake’s Top 2 to shine as well. Also: Isn’t it great that the original American Idol is such a success, she transcends reality-show boundaries? (Although it had to sting Simon Fuller when Kelly called The Voice the biggest show out there right now. Then again, at least she didn’t try to convince us that title belonged to Duets.) Grade: A-
Cassadee Pope (joined by De’Borah, Liz David, and Melanie Martinez): “It’s Time” | Love her or not, there’s no denying Cassadee has great taste in collaborators — or that the quartet’s voices blended rather nicely on this pop-rock ditty. Here’s hoping Cassadee’s new label loves the idea of a De’Borah duet on her solo debut album! Grade: A-
Peter Frampton and Terry McDermott: “Baby I Love Your Way” | I can’t help but feel like this was Frampton’s (or Mark Burnett’s) scathing response to Emblem3′s awful cover on last week’s X Factor. And while I wasn’t always the biggest fan of Terry’s musical choices this season, this stripped down rendition was really sublime. Grade: A
Sylvia Yacoub, Joselyn Rivera, Adriana Louise, Devyn Deloera and Loren Allred: “Best of My Love” | This quintet of talented but inconsistent contestants barely missed a note while breathing new life into a disco classic. They might seriously want to consider joining forces to break through the public consciousness in their post-Voice careers, though I’m not sure who’d be the Beyoncé: Sylvia or Joselyn. (Side note: How jacked-up was the opening shot of Devyn’s shimmying back while Adriana was the person actually singing the start of the verse?) Grade: B+
Bruno Mars: “When I Was Your Man” | I always feel like big stars who show up for reality-show finales should share the spotlight with a contestant (like, say, Amanda Brown). But Bruno was in such fine voice — and the song was such a winner — that I’ll make the rare exception here. Grade: A
Nicholas David (joined by Amanda Brown, Trevin Hunte, and Dez Duron): “End of the Road” | I can’t lie and say that a Boyz II Men ballad would’ve made a list of the top 5,000 songs I’d want to hear, but this quartet made me borderline enjoy it. Still, someone needs to have a talk with Trevin already about the dangers of acid-wash denim. Grade: B+
Avril Lavigne and Cassadee Pope: “I’m With You” | I’d have preferred the duo chose a duet that Cassadee hadn’t already covered this season — maybe “Girlfriend” or “Keep Holding On”? — but it was cool to see the Season 3 champ get a chance to sing with her idol. Did anyone else think Cassadee was really generous handing off almost every one of the big, showy notes to Avril? Grade: B+
Blake, Xtina, Cee Lo and Adam: “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” | Here’s something Simon, L.A., Britney and Demi would never be able to pull off on X Factor, that’s for sure. Oh, and Xtina’s super-high harmonies at the end were a real treat: She may be a bit of a hot-mess as a TV personality, but damn she’s talented. Grade: A-
Oh, and before I turn things over to you, I’ve got to give Blake the MVP award for bringing tons of cheeky humor to the season finale. I was howling over his “Damn, boy. You’re hot.” remark in the segment about how he has no problems telling other men when he thinks they’re good-looking. And his eyebrow raise during his “I have a special package for you” birthday wish to Xtina is just further proof that he needs to host SNL before that show’s Season 38 comes to an end.
Anyhow, now it’s time for your take: Did the right contestant take home the big enchilada? What was your favorite results-night collaboration? Sound off below, and for all my Voice-related news, contestant interviews, recaps and video, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!Follow @MichaelSlezakTV