Rising Star Season 1 Finale Recap: And the 'Winner' Is…

rising-star-recap-jess-kinch-austin-french-season-1-winner

“Mr. Groban, tear down this wall!”

Trust me, I’m as surprised as anybody that I’ve managed to rework a famous quote from President Ronald Reagan into an intro for a reality TV recap. But just as the Berlin Wall fueled The Gipper’s ire, so too has ABC’s Rising Star — with its cumbersome “interactive wall” setup, questionable casting and tiresome “experts” — threatened the sanctity of my love for singing competitions.

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It’s a shame, really. The idea of using a smartphone app to vote — and getting real-time results by the end of every performance — was kind of cool, at least on paper. But as easy as it would be to blame Kesha and her “I just huffed paint fumes” brand of critique for Rising Star‘s failure, the real issue is that the show’s producers forgot the cardinal rule of any good talent show: “It’s the contestants, stupid!”

In other words, when three-quarters (or more) of Rising Star‘s semifinalists wouldn’t have made it past The Voice‘s blind auditions or American Idol‘s Hollywood Week, you’re not going to achieve any kind of (positive) water-cooler buzz.

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And so, with Season 1 in the books, the only way I can imagine ABC bringing Rising Star back for 2015 would be by embracing its Sharknado camp potential. I’m envisioning a tagline like, “If you thought The X Factor was terrible, just wait ’til you hear Kesha tell another deluded shrieker that she luvvvvvvs ‘em!”

Before the idea of Season 2 sends you into the emotional fetal position, let’s get to recapping the Season 1 finale festivities. Host Josh Groban explained that producers had seeded the final four — Jesse Kinch, Austin French, Audrey Kate Geiger and Dana Williams — based on season-long voting tallies (without actually telling us who was seeded where). Here’s how Round 1 played out:

Dana Williams, “At Last” — Grade: C+
vs.
Jesse Kinch, “Fortunate Son” — Grade: B
Jesse wins with 87% “up” votes over Dana (with 30%). Yeah, the season-long front-runner essentially screamed his way through CCR’s classic — how come Brad Paisley didn’t talk about dynamics during their mentoring session! — but Dana’s tone proved way too wispy and her approach way too tentative for the iconic (and oft-covered) Etta James love song.

Austin French, “In Love With a Girl” — Grade: C+
vs.
Audrey Kate Geiger, “Love Me Like a Man” — Grade: C+
Austin wins with 70% “up votes over Audrey Kate (with 44%). This one was a draw for me. Both of ‘em can sing (mostly) in tune, so it comes down to which you find less egregious: Austin’s complete and utter absence of soul or Audrey Kate’s ridiculous, old-timey enunciation.

And then it was time for the final showdown:

Jesse Kinch, “Love Reign O’er Me” — Grade: C
vs
Austin French, “God Bless the Broken Road” — Grade: C+
Despite an opening third that was peppered with flat notes and one really embarrassing voice-break, Jesse takes home the Season 1 title — 76% to 61%! Clearly, the audience was voting more on the basis of “body of work over the past two months” than on the final-round vocals. Austin, despite rushed phrasing and insipid “I’m feelin it!” hand gestures and squints, definitely hit more notes per minute in his Rascal Flatts cover. But if I’d bothered to vote, I’d have gone #TeamJesse, too, so… yay?

After Jesse got the good news, his family, the judges and dozens of former contestants swarmed the stage, leaving our host unable to find the champ for a victory interview. “Jesse is lost in a sea of contestants!” Josh exclaimed. For the sake of the growling retro rocker, here’s hoping that statement doesn’t become a prophecy for his post-show music career.

What did you think of Rising Star‘s maiden voyage? How did the finale sit with you? And did the right person win? Take our poll below, then sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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49 Comments
  1. Kaba says:

    Oh yeah…this happened.
    Well, congrats to Jesse……..I guess.
    Welp, I’ll be back to roam the slezak blogosphere once The Voice is back up.

  2. volcfom says:

    The app crapped out on me a few times last night. It wouldn’t let me check-in for Jesse on round 1, and automatically registered me as a no-vote for Audrey. For round two, it set it to automatic yes for Austin. I wonder if others were having this issue as well.

  3. Tran says:

    Hope Rising Star is done after one season. ABC better not thinking about a Season Two.

  4. TinLV says:

    Well, the right person won.. he was really the only contestant all season that had the talent to make it on other talent/singing shows. But overall, this show was a bomb.. though the concept seemed exciting at first, it just didn’t work. Josh Groban was fine as host, but I’d much rather listen to him sing. Keisha and Ludicrous were awful. Brad was just ok.

  5. tardisrepairman says:

    Considering the coverage was more snarky than respectful, I can’t imagine how many readers voted with a positive frame of mind.

  6. Lana says:

    I enjoyed the show, but the judges (Kesha mostly) were horrible and if there was a season 2 I would bring in all new judges. I thought Josh was a very good host, much better than the guy who does the Voice, but not as good as Ryan. It was a neat idea to have real time voting but the show does need work. Jesse was my favorite from the start so I was pleased with the results.

  7. LOL says:

    Wait a second, didn’t he just win American Idol?

  8. flychick86 says:

    I knew Jesse would win! :) Wow!

  9. colton says:

    Congratulation to jesse ,
    austin doesnt lack soul ,his voice is very soulful and he deserves the
    second place
    I enjoyed the show mostly

    • Jill Moy says:

      COLTON,

      Michael was too kind to Austin! This guy stinks! He has no soul and he has a terrible tone! He’s always smirking and making faces! He will never go ANYWHERE IN THE MUSIC BIZ!

  10. Jill Moy says:

    Well, like I said from the first minute I heard Jesse from day 1, HE WILL WIN! The most predictable outcome in TV history! He beat out fluttering owl Audrey, screeching Dana and little shrimp wannabe singer French! The public was not fooled this time, especially by horrible, wannabe cutsie Audrey….I cringe whenever I hear that crazy voice!

    Anyway, as for FRENCHY……COLTON, IN YOUR FACE!

    • colton says:

      in my face? i love jesse and he won
      and french got second , what wrong with that?
      the great thing about finishing the season is finishing arguing with
      you , so see ya!

      • Jill Moy says:

        COLTON,

        We were never arguing! Don’t take it so seriously! We had a difference of opinion…pure and simple!

        Take care,

        JILL!

    • writerkzhou says:

      Come on. I think all of them did good. Audrey did “have balls”, as what Kesha said and Austin did a great job by having awesome stage presence and a lot of soul. Dana was good, but I think she could of done better. Austin was great, and I thought he should of won the whole show. I’m not saying that Jesse was bad, I am just trying to encourage the other three singers.

  11. Jill Moy says:

    Another comment…I never saw any show where all season there was only one decent contestant! It was no contest whatsoever! Second place AF was a VERY DISTANT RUNNERUP! WHAT A SLAUGHTER!

    Jesse, I know, screams a little much, but he still outclassed the others all season, by a mile!

  12. Jill Moy says:

    Audrey, please go back to teaching yoga! Singing is not your thing!

  13. Jill Moy says:

    If there is a season 2, get rid of all these horrible judges!

    All 3 judges were unethical! I mentioned the things they did on the 8-17-14 blog of RS, if you care to know! No use going over it all again!

    And….they need some good talent! Maybe they can search karaoke venues to find singers! Karaoke is certainly better than the talent this show presented! KARAOKE BATTLE USA HAD 10 times better talent!

  14. Rodg says:

    The Who always beats Rascal Flatts

  15. Jill Moy says:

    Well, nobody else is commenting so I’ll gime my final thoughts on RS! The 3 judges were all idiots and unethical several times each! Kesha is the worst judge ever on any show (JLO on AI is 1000 times better)!
    The talent was horrible, with Jesse the winner from day 1!
    The most comical moment was April’s last singing performace! Where did they dig her up from?????? She may have been planted for comic relief….WHO KNOWS??????????
    Dumbest moment was when Nicole bragged about her singing prowess! Nobody voted for her the next time she sang,
    We had 3 black so called Divas…..LOL…..Nicole, Punch, who on her last performance jumped around like a kangaroo with her arms flying around all over the place, and Crawford, who was constantly showed with her hubby as they changed all her arrangements, thinking they were famous or something!

    Those 3 were nobodys! The look Crawford had on her face when the West Coast didn’t save her and she was eliminated, was PRICELESS! It happened at the end of the West Coast Show, in a few seconds!

    So, I had plenty of laughs along the way and I can thank ABC for that! We all need to laugh!

    I feel overall the show was a D- rating! ABC needs to cancel this show!

  16. Jill Moy says:

    Also, Crawford over sang all her songs…her voice was all over the place and she was in her own world, way off key! Her vibrato was too much and I thought it was funny! Oh well…she’s goin’ nowhere whatsoever!

    • Jill Hey! I thought you would get a real KICK out of this! Just went to the AI show with meet and greet tickets on the 21st and I met your favorite 2 people! Jena and Jesse. Everyone looked way smaller in person, and shorter! Caleb was his usual hyper self as seen on tv. But the nice, nice, nicest one was CJ Harris! Just a really sweet guy! Got a kick out of MK Nobilette! I said, “How do you like Oregon” and she said ” I love it, Im going to Portland State University and going to live here!! Well, now we just wait for the voice and come back to critique as usual! LOL LOL Oh and I met Pee Pants as well! LOL He didnt have much to say!

      • Jill Moy says:

        BECCA,

        Great you got to see them! CJ was a nice guy all along! Too bad his pitch was off!

        I don’t watch The Voice anymore as I was to be a regular on the show at one time and they reneged on the money I would receive and I told them to F themselves and I never watched the show again! If I did watch it again it would be to see and respond to your comments….You’re a blast!

        AGT was great tonight….What talent huh??????

        • Jill Moy says:

          BECCA,

          I’ll pop in on a VOICE blog to say hello when it appears but I won’t be watching the show! Take care!

          JILL.

        • OMG I had no idea the voice treated you like that! Its actually not my favorite show. I liked x factor and also AI. The only season I loved was Terry Mcdermot, Nicholas David season! Was that the season that they did that to you? As far as Americas Got Talent I like Miguel, Emily, and Quantavious! He is the little boy that just blew me away last week!

        • Jill , by the way, I am a huge horror movie fan! I have over 2000 horror movies! My favorites are the old ones, “The little girl who lives down the lane” with Jodi Foster, “When a stranger calls” etc, classics!!! Anyway I saw an interview Caleb gave about being a horror movie fan and he said he loved Evil Dead and Army of Darkness! Two of my favorites also. Love Bruce Campbell. So I looked on amazon and found an evil dead ash 18 inch( bruce campbell) figure thats moveable and talks (motion sensored). I bought it for caleb! Its from the early 90s and very hard to find! Collectable! He absolutely loved it! I am the only one who brought any gift, but I thought he worked really hard and deserved it! I hope AI next year has some great singers that ROCK!

          • Jill Moy says:

            BECCA,

            I also love horror flicks! I also love older movies dating back to 30’s and 40’s! 1931 Frankenstein and The followup.. Bride of Frankenstein and the original Invisible Man were great, just to name a few! Screwball comedies My Man Godfrey (1936) and Libeled Lady (1937) were both terrific! There are so many older black and white movies are great and the greatest actors and actresses were in the old days! But, people these days usually don’t like the older stuff and they are missing a lot! I’m young but I love oldermusic

          • I love the classic movies too! Movies just arent the same! As I said, you have been a pleasure to talk with and hope you come on and comment even if you dont watch the voice!

          • Jill Moy says:

            BECCA,

            I also love horror films! I also like really old movies…Frankenstein, Bride Of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, etc., etc.! I also like old screwball comedies like My Man Godfrey (1936), Libeled Lady (1937), etc. etc.! Those were when MOVIES WERE MOVIES! Great actors in the golden years of Hollywood! Best year 1939!

            I’m actually young but I just happen to like old movies, old music, etc.

  17. Watched finale live so I could vote for Austin. I checked in but the app only had a red arrow to vote no. I didn’t vote no but the app turned in a no vote because I checked in and didn’t vote. Read the app reviews to see more people this happened to. I had people on Facebook tell me they had similar problems. Very unfair.

  18. Jill Moy says:

    FRENCHY may have had a chance to win but chose to sing a boring slow song! Sing something upbeat that my hide that awful voice of yours FRENCHY BOY! As far as voting being stuck on NO for him, people also complained on being stuck on YES as well! So?????? It balances out!

  19. AlyB says:

    LOL Same here. I just checked the comments to see who was here from the Voice/Idol boards . GTSY Kaba.

    Michael congrats on surviving this mess. I downloaded the app & made it through 2 or 3 shows & realized that they had indeed forgotten about the talent part of this talent competition. I actually forgot about this show (or blanked it out from horror) till I saw your tweet right now. Just wanted to read your post to see if they had actually found someone who could sing. I guess not lol. If someone had told me I HAD to watch this entire season I may have been found whimpering noooo, noooo in a corner by now.

  20. Jill Moy says:

    18 comments by people other than me is pathetic! Reason probably is Jesse was the winner from day 1 and there really isn’t much to say! Well, the show was no good so nobody cares! Thank you everyone for my honest comments! If you took it the wrong way, I’m sorry!

    Michael, great recaps as usual!

    I’m out.

    JILL!

    • Jill you have been a blast and a hoot to talk to! I really hope I chat with you again. If not the voice than I will talk to you the next American Idol show! YOU ARE AN AWESOME PERSON!

      • Michael, Thanks for letting us share our thoughts here! Lets all hope The Voice Is better!

      • Jill Moy says:

        BECCA,

        My comments on movies etc. went through twice. The first one I never actually clicked to post it! Weird!

        You are also great to know, a genuine person and loved commenting with you very much! Thanks for everything and as a friend, you’ve been wonderful! It’s because of you I like the blogs! Take care and God Bless!

  21. Mabel says:

    Did anyone else notice that when Josh Groban was announcing Jesse as the winner he started to say “Jesse Kinch is your American.,,, Rising Star!” and then he turned into the crowd to hide his embarrassed face?

  22. Jill Moy says:

    I wonder when this tripe will be cancelled? What horse droppings this show was, but it provided comic relief which was good with stupid unethical judges and terrible talent, not worthy of karaoke!

  23. writerkzhou says:

    Austin was great! People didn’t vote for him because they liked Rock n Roll and Jesse has a much bigger fanbase. So, don’t go complaining about Austin. I loved him!!! He truly has talent and a lot of soul. If you are someone who likes pop/country music, you would like him. I think that Jesse screams too much when he sings and only won by having a big fanbase. STOP SAYING THAT AUSTIN IS AWFUL.