The Voice Performance Finale Recap: Cam Vs. Kenzie — Who Had the Edge?


By now, we’ve all said it before, and at least I’ll say it again: Season 20 of The Voice has come down to a two-contestant sing-off between Team Blake Shelton’s spectacular Cam Anthony and Team Kelly Clarkson’s dang-likable Kenzie Wheeler.

Yes, yes, I know as well as you that three other contestants performed in Monday’s finale: Team John Legend’s Victor Solomon, Team Nick Jonas’ Rachel Mac and Team Blake’s Jordan Matthew Young. But the odds of any of them beating Cam and/or Kenzie are about on par with the chances of the show going back and naming Kennedy Holmes the winner of Season 15 (which, yes, I still wish it would, thank you very much).

Regardless of how narrow the playing field actually is, we’re going to review all of Monday’s numbers, a ballad and an uptempo song from each contestant — but, oddly, no original singles. Ready? Let’s recap!

Kenzie Wheeler (Team Kelly), “Heartland” — Grade: A | In rehearsal, Kelly told Kenzie that she wanted his peppy George Strait cover to make the audience feel like they’d just been to a honky tonk. Now I’ve never been to a honky tonk, but if that’s what they’re like, I wanna go. (Added bonus: Kenzie’s awkward-as-heck moves suggested that even my spasms might pass for dancing.) Vocally, Kenzie was as solid as a frying pan. You could actually hear that he was having a good time. Your move, Cam.

Victor Solomon (Team Legend), “I Can’t Make You Love Me” — Grade: B | Dedicating his ballad to his significant other, Victor attacked the song a little hard perhaps at first (popping his P’s in the mic, that kinda thing). But he was magnificently present, and heaven knows, it was a heartfelt take on Bonnie Raitt’s classic. I just didn’t think that it was inventive or memorable enough to move the needle as far as putting him in contention for the Top 2, never mind the win.

Jordan Matthew Young (Team Blake), “Key to the Highway” — Grade: A | “This is the kinda stuff that got me into being a musician,” Jordan said before rehearsing his B.B. King/Eric Clapton cover. And damn, from the first note he sang on stage, you could hear that he was living it! He fit the song (or vice versa) more snugly than his bellbottoms did his butt. Dunno if a blues number, no matter how well-performed, will inspire as many votes as, say, Kenzie’s country-to-the-core show-starter — Jordan definitely wasn’t playing it safe — but boy, was this good.

Rachel Mac (Team Nick), “I Hope You Dance” — Grade: C | Before hitting the stage, Rachel shared that she was dedicating her downtempo number to her baby nephew. After I got done wondering why she appeared to be wearing a Statue of Liberty crown, she really sold me on the emotion of her performance; she had a nice level of “cry” in her voice. Unfortunately, she wandered in and out of pitch often enough to distract from what could’ve been quite a moving effort, and ended on a dud stretch. Fifth place is all Rachel’s.

Blake Shelton, “Minimum Wage” | Credit where it’s due: Blake’s twangy enunciation on his fast-singing new hit was so good, I actually understood every clever syllable. Mumble-mouths thinking of auditioning for the show should take note; this is how it’s done.

Cam Anthony (Team Blake), “Stand Up” — Grade: A+ | After dedicating his Cynthia Erivo cover to the visionary in all of us with a singularly beautiful speech, Cam gave a performance that should win a Grammy, never mind The Voice. Look, I like Kenzie as much as anybody, but there’s just no comparison. He’s a fun, appealing, dang-fine singer. But Cam, man. He’s not just an artist with a capital A, he’s got the R, T, I, S and T capitalized, too. The very definition of “in another league.”

Kenzie Wheeler (Team Kelly), “The Keeper of the Stars” — Grade: C | Kenzie’s downtempo number was dedicated to the town that raised him, Dover, Fla. And dang if he didn’t make me misty when he choked up reading his letter to his home. If only his performance had been as poignant. There were nice, long chunks of good in his Tracy Byrd cover, but there were also patches of pitchiness that were so overt, even someone as tone-deaf as I’m often told I am could hear them. Advantage: Cam.

Rachel Mac (Team Nick), “The Chain” — Grade: C- | In rehearsal, Nick advised Rachel to have as much fun as possible — curious, since her intense Fleetwood Mac cover didn’t exactly lend itself to “fun.” On stage, if I’m not mistaken, she missed her cue to start singing. From there, Rachel just kinda careened around vocally, as if the notes were mere suggestions, not requirements. I can’t fathom how her coach or anyone let her go near a Fleetwood Mac song again after she helped massacre “Go Your Own Way” as part of a trio in the Semi-Finals.

Jordan Matthew Young (Team Blake), “Stay” — Grade: C+ | Jordan’s grandmothers were the recipients of his dedication. And once again, he opted to play it anything but safe, putting his own rootsy, bluesy spin on Rihanna. I loved the creativity on display, but wouldn’t you agree that it wasn’t necessarily the best demonstration of his vocal talent? The number just sorta lay there and lightly flailed. We know that Jordan is a more exciting performer than this.

Cam Anthony (Team Blake), “Wanted Dead or Alive” — Grade: A- | Yikes. To pull this one off, Cam was going to have to not make me think of Deadliest Catch — a tall order. But if anyone could do it, it was him. As his performance went on, I had to question the wisdom of his choice to cover Bon Jovi. He wasn’t bad; I don’t think he can be bad. It just felt like almost a waste of his talent; I would have liked to have heard him do something a little more left of center. Then again, for his last number, going middle-of-the-road was probably the smarter, safer move. He can take more chances after he wins. Also, I didn’t think of crab-fishing once, so there was that.

Victor Solomon (Team Legend), “Freedom” — Grade: A | On his Beyonce/Kendrick Lamar cover, Victor was on freakin’ fire! He really earned that end-of-show slot, not just singing with a passion that could spark an inferno out of embers but dancing like he was performing at the Grammys (and remaining vocally there throughout). “That was the best performance I’ve witnessed on this stage,” marveled his coach. Definitely (along with Cam’s first number) one of the two most memorable of Monday evening.

So, based on the performances Monday and Monday alone, who do you think should win Season 20? And based on the season as a whole? Vote in the polls below, then back up your assertion in the comments.

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