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The Voice Performance Finale Recap: Which of the Top 5 Sang Like a Winner?

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All eyes — and ears — were on Carter Rubin Monday night. Though The Voice and its coaches had at one point appeared to be working overtime to stage a Season 19 finale comprised of only country singers, Team Gwen Stefani’s 15-year-old wunderkind has emerged as the frontrunner — at least according to your responses to TVLine’s polls. Was the youngster able to nail what amounted to his final exams? Or did he falter, paving the way for a potential upset? Read on, and we’ll go over not only his but all of the contestants’ performances.

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Carter Rubin (Team Gwen), “The Climb” — Grade: A | In rehearsal, Gwen advised the youngster to insert himself into his Miley Cyrus cover as much as was humanly possible. If he followed that advice on stage, what he is… is totally kickass. The kid sings with an enviable emotional openness and a confidence that belies his years. And given the fact that he has the voice of an angel, it seemed altogether apropos that he performed among heavenly puffs of clouds. Just give him the trophy already. (Is there a trophy?)

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DeSz (Team Kelly), “Holy Ground” — Grade: B+ | Before hitting the stage, DeSz said that, listening to the song, she had been in tears before the 30-second mark. When the spotlight fell on her, I got it — the number certainly spoke to our trying quarantimes. But it didn’t really grab me till the choir kicked in on the chorus. The bigger DeSz was allowed to go, the better she got. This just wasn’t the best showcase of her talents that we’d heard. (That would be her Top 9 cover of En Vogue, right?) Great performer, OK single.

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Ian Flanigan (Team Blake), “In Color” — Grade: B+ | Rehearsing with Blake, Ian admitted that his Jamey Johnson cover was the kinda song that made him wish he’d written it. To his credit, Ian performed it as if he had written it. The guy just slipped into it like it was a well-worn pair of Levis. As he went on, it felt less like he was giving us a performance than telling us a story that he knew by heart. Really lovely. The only possible downside? It might have lacked the explosiveness needed to move viewers to vote.

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Jim Ranger (Team Blake), “Last” — Grade: A- | Though Jim sounded great on his single in rehearsal, I couldn’t help but think, “Ugh, another ballad? Let’s wake this show up!” On stage, he matched Ian’s level of storyteller realness and made me walk back my complaint about another ballad — it was really beautiful. And though the coaches have fallen all over themselves to praise the uniqueness of Ian’s voice, I’d put Jim’s up against his teammate’s any day. I’d even argue that Jim has greater range and versatility.

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John Holiday (Team Legend), “Where Do We Go” — Grade: B- | In talking with producer Justin Tranter, John was advised to connect with his falsetto or the audience wouldn’t connect with him. A smidgen less shrieky would be OK, too. Just sayin’. In the moment of truth, the opera singer turned out a competent pop-soul vocal and managed to keep his high notes for the most part piercing without being painful. It was also nice to see him looking more comfortable on stage than he sometimes has.

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DeSz (Team Kelly), “Landslide” — Grade: A- | When Kelly heard that DeSz had chosen Fleetwood Mac for her cover, “I was like, ‘What?!?'” she recalled. Me, too. It seemed to me that DeSz needed to bring more fire than rain if she was going to tip the scales in her favor. But almost immediately when she hit the stage, she shut my mouth right the hell up. DeSz sounded gorgeous, the delicacy of her vocal inspiring an altogether different kind of “wow” than her usual go-for-broke belting. Smart.

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Ian Flanigan (Team Blake), “Never Learn” — Grade: A | In rehearsal, Blake described Ian’s vocals as being like a “friendly monster,” which was kinda perfect, no? A storm you wouldn’t mind hitting you. On stage, Ian performed like the total pro that he is. I know I’ve gone on a bit about how I often want more dynamism from Ian, but let’s be real: The guy is special. And this number, about the things a parent hopes their kid never learns, was perfect for him. Explosive? No. Range-y? Not terribly. But effective? Yeah, mega. Soft and bittersweet, it just might have won Ian the contest.

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John Holiday (Team Legend), “Halo” — Grade: B+ | John’s coach liked Beyonce’s hit for him because it let him in a single song demonstrate everything that he can do, from go low to get operatic. And it definitely did the trick as a kinda musical Swiss Army Knife. But for my money, it didn’t really allow John to do what he does as well or better than anyone else in the contest, and that’s belt those big, long notes (as he did on “All By Myself”). Nice as this was, it wasn’t going to move him to the front of the pack.

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Carter Rubin (Team Gwen), “Up From Here” — Grade: A- | Running through the song in rehearsal, Carter sounded like he had the win all sewn up; his single was cool and modern but allowed him to really swing for the fence vocally. On stage, OK, it was a little duller than I expected. But Carter sang with a clarity and forcefulness that reached through the screen to shake our sofas. And those last runs? Chills. If he doesn’t win this thing, I’ll be more irked than I’ve been since Kennedy Holmes lost Season 15.

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Jim Ranger (Team Blake), ” With a Little Help From My Friends” — Grade: A | Shrewdly, Blake backed the Beatles classic for Jim in hopes of capitalizing on the fact that the audience digs it when he vocally detonates. And Lordie Lou, he sure did that here. The band was loud as hell, and Jim was even louder, Vesuvius erupting into a microphone. And he wasn’t just loud, he was on — this was some spectacularly glorious noise, a thrilling roar. What is this, like the third time in one night I’ve said “OMG, so-and-so should win”? At this rate, I’m starting to sound like the coaches.

So, who do you think will win Season 19? Did Monday’s performance sway you at all? Vote in the polls below, then hit the comments.