At the start of Monday’s live finals show on The Voice, host Carson Daly reminded everyone that “this is the cowboy’s last week ever.” Yes, on Tuesday’s much-hyped and long-anticipated finale, O.G. coach Blake Shelton will finally abdicate his hydraulic red throne, after 12 years and 23 consecutive seasons. It has been widely predicted/assumed that Blake will go out on top and win for the 10th time, not just because he’s always been so unstoppably popular, but because he’s the only coach represented by two finalists in the top five, and his two team members are either country or country-adjacent. (Six of Team Blake’s past nine champions have been country singers.)
But after Monday’s final showdown, I believe that the rookie coach who Blake pretty much named his successor on the Season 23 premiere, Niall Horan, could pull off an upset with his solo finalist, pop chanteuse Gina Miles. Nothing really compared to her pimp-spot performance of Sinéad O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” Monday, and the meta staging — a nod to Sinéad’s iconic 1990 music video — was one of the most stunning productions I’d ever seen on The Voice, right up there with past winners Chloe Kohanski’s “Bette Davis Eyes” and Cam Anthony’s “Stand Up.”
Gina’s stellar vocal would have been enough to garner thousands of votes, of course — as Niall noted, she possesses an instantly identifiable tone, like Ellie Goulding or former Voice coach Adam Levine, where “you hear it and you know exactly who it is.” But as Gina belted the classic Prince-penned breakup ballad, behind her a bank of television screens flickered with pre-filmed extreme close-ups of her face mouthing along to her own live performance. This was a clever nod to Sinéad O’Connor’s John Maybury-directed video — one of the most famous music videos of all time — and the effect was nothing less than breathtaking.
“That was a special moment on The Voice for me. I won’t be forgetting that one any time soon,” Niall marveled.
On Monday, Blake said that this season’s coaches — Niall, Chance the Rapper, and Kelly Clarkson — had “ruined” his farewell season, and while that was one of his typical jokes, he may be seriously believing that Tuesday, if Gina triumphs. I also would not rule out a win by Team Chance’s harmonic sister act Sorelle, who even Blake described as a “phenomenon”; Chance actually accused Blake of being “salty” because the trio’s two Monday performances were so spectacular.
Let’s assess the rest of the top five’s performances from Monday:
Grace West (Team Blake)
This lady in red went old-school with two classic country performances: the Reba McEntire version of Vicki Lawrence’s story-song “The Night Lights Went Out in Georgia,” and the Patsy Cline weeper “She’s Got You.” When Grace was onstage, for a few minutes she made Universal Studios feel like the Grand Ole Opry, and I think this was a shrewd move that played to both Blake’s base and the show’s older audience in general. Both numbers were beautiful and sophisticated. “You saved your best two performances for tonight. … We’ve seen the best of you tonight, for sure,” said Niall. When Grace did her second song, Blake even proclaimed, “I feel like a finale just broke out now!” This season’s actual finale result might be a real nail-biter.
D.Smooth (Team Kelly)
If Grace made The Voice feel like the Opry, then D.Smooth made it feel like the 1990 BET Awards. “It was like it was your audience; it was like a completely different show,” said Kelly. Chance declared D’s first number — a totally vibey, sultry, and yes, smooth rendition of Johnny Gill’s “My, My, My,” complete with a snazzy hot pink tuxedo and a line of Motown-style backup singers — “probably one of my favorite performances of this whole season.” My only concern is that D’s groovy second cover, of the recently departed Bobby Caldwell’s 1978 Quiet Storm staple “What You Won’t Do for Love,” might have been too mellow, as his last impression before the overnight voting opened. But whatever happens Tuesday, this guy needs to be making records. “I am so glad that I even got to witness being around you,” Kelly gushed to him. “You are so creative. You’re a producer. You’re a writer. …It’s just amazing to have this artist around to inspire me.”
Sorelle (Team Chance)
Sorelle have always been a triple-threat, so to speak, with their three-part harmonies. But with their in-the-round, almost PBS-style performance of Lady Gaga’s “Million Reasons,” sisters Madi, Ana, and Bella all got their time to shine during their respective, rare solo spotlights. “This was such a nice moment — to hear you all individually,” observed Niall, while coach Chance praised Bella, the youngest, for “carrying the song.” However, it was when the siblings fully re-joined forces for the anthemic “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” that it seemed like they really could reach the top of the Season 23 mountain. “You always sound like a record when you get up here. It’s unbelievable that one person can sing that in tune and that in the pocket, but to have all three of you doing it at the same time is a phenomenon,” raved the “salty” Blake, while Chance quipped, “I know we’re live, so let me calm down before I curse on TV… that was so good!”
NOIVAS (Team Blake)
NOIVAS isn’t a country singer, per se, but the “big ole Texas guy” sure can play one on TV. “I think people kind of think of you as country anyway,” claimed Blake. NOIVAS’s dramatic performance (let’s face it, is there any sort of NOIVAS performance that isn’t dramatic?) of Chris Stapleton’s “Cold,” with his own fiery rock ‘n’ roll spin and string sextet accompaniment, was a “smart choice,” according to Kelly. NOIVAS probably gave Grace some competition tonight. But it was during Lenny Kravitz’s “Fly Away” that NOIVAS really started to fly. Chance, NOIVAS’s former coach, called that lively performance “insane” and said: “I knew you were gonna turn up, like you always do! You deserve to win the show!”
Gina Miles (Team Niall)
Gina’s above-mentioned “Nothing Compares 2 U” was arguably the performance of the night (immediately after the live East Coast broadcast, #GinaMiles and #TeamNiall started trending on Twitter), but her cover of Taylor Swift’s frothy hit “Style” was a highlight as well. It was her “big pop moment” and a big, risky departure from her previous dark and stormy performances, but she pulled it off. Of all five finalists, she definitely came across as the most modern and marketable. “You are a superstar. There is nothing you can’t do. … I can’t wait to hear what kind of record you make after this,” said her proud coach.
And now, it is prediction time. Gina seems to have overtaken Grace as the new frontrunner, and while it would be nice and nostalgic if Blake won on his last-ever finale, Niall is the only coach from the current Voice panel who’ll be back in the fall for Season 24, so it’d be cool if he returned with a victory to his credit — thus fulfilling Blake’s “successor” prophecy from the Season 23 premiere. So, I’m predicting a Gina upset win, followed by Grace placing second, Sorelle third, NOIVAS fourth, and D.Smooth in fifth. But all five singers are deserving, and anything could happen.
But regardless of what happens Tuesday regarding the result, Blake will still be a winner, because he’ll be getting a hero’s sendoff — with a finale featuring appearances by past coaches Camila Cabello, Miley Cyrus, Cee Lo Green, Jennifer Hudson, Nick Jonas, John Legend, Usher, Pharrell Williams, and even his original onscreen bromance buddy, Adam Levine (who quit the show much more abruptly and acrimoniously in 2019). See you then.
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