Was it Girl Named Tom, Hailey, Jershika, Paris or Wendy? -- Plus, performances from Jennifer Lopez, Carrie Underwood, Kid Cudi, Ed Sheeran, Coldplay and BTS, Alicia Keys and more!
And just like that, “The Voice” crowns its 21st winner. But will it be Girl Named Tom, Hailey Mia, Jershika Maple, Paris Winningham or Wendy Moten?
After an incredibly tight finale performance show on Monday, we were more stumped than perhaps we’ve ever been. Everyone had slight misfires and stellar moments in surprisingly equal measure. In fact, using a weighted average based on our rankings per round, we wound up with a four-way tie for first (poor Paris!).
Obviously, it’s not going to play out like that, but that shows just how talented this crop of finalists is. And since we are gluttons for punishment, we did go ahead and make our predictions for how we think things should go and how we think they’d probably go.
For should, we sorted them fifth to first as follows: Wendy, Paris, Girl Named Tom, Jershika and Hailey as our winner. She’s just got so much commercial potential. But … we didn’t think that’s how it would play out.
So for how we thought you would vote, we came up with (again in reverse order fifth to first) Jershika, Paris, Wendy, Hailey and Girl Named Tom. GNT have been fan favorites all season long, they’ve dominated iTunes charts in ways that no one else has, and they’ve never been close to in danger, though they’re not alone on that front.
To help us await the long agonizing two hours until we finally find out who won and in what order the others fell behind them, NBC packed this finale with tons of guest stars and performances, including Coach duets for each of our five finalists.
Fair warning, since I'm safe at home, I'm probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Ariana Grande and Blake Shelton.
And just for fun, I'm going to rank the performances from worst to first in the Duets Round to see who my favorite was, and then see how close you were to getting it right with your votes (i.e., agreeing with me).
(“My Universe”) Certainly an interesting way to kick off the show, with Coldplay performing live (such as it is) while the boys from BTS joined in via digital holograms. The South Korean boy band wasn’t supposed to look believably here, as they digitized in and out through the number, but it certainly created a cool visual. The actual audio performance sounded suspiciously record perfect, but considering how the entire piece was structured, it could be that they had little choice in that matter -- especially as far as BTS’ vocals go.
(“Come Back as a Country Boy,” Blake Shelton) We saw Blake Shelton perform his new single, but did we know that Ariana auditioned to be a part of it? Usually, these comedy clips are just meh, but Ariana really went all in to portray just how fish-out-of-water she is for this kind of portrayal. And yet, she managed to do it with such earnest drive and effort that you were almost rooting for her to pull it off, even as we couldn’t stop laughing at just how bad she was.
(“Fancy Like”) TikTok was the best thing to ever happen to Walker Hayes, as a dance he choreographed with daughter Lela blew up on the social media platform making the pair and the song juggernaut hits. It’s a catchy song in its own right, with the perfect attitude for that country swagger -- and a pretty clever little dance. Here, he brought both the dance and the song to life as he has been all over the place lately. It’s a fun number with a great tone that had everyone clapping along.
(“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” Darlene Love) Side by side, Tori definitely has the bigger and richer voice, but they harmonized beautifully on this Christmas classic. Both of them have a lot of great range and a beautiful tone to their voice, it’s just that Tori has so much more power that comes out of her effortlessly. Eventually, they got a ton of “Voice” artists from the season to join them in a backing capacity, but all eyes were on the two sitting at the center of the chaos just belting back and forth like their lives depended on it..
(“Shivers”) It was fascinating watching Ed build his own accompaniment sound by sound until he had a full-bodied series of tracks looping behind his vocals. As always, he sounds fantastic live, with that beautiful cry in his voice that makes you feel every word. Tonight, he paired that with an intimate look into the full depths of his artistry and vision. This was a fantastic performance, choreographed as much as it was sung and played. There were so many moving parts, he was like a solo artist conducting himself through the symphony of his soul.
This is what we were talking about when we said not all comedy bits are winners. Blake Shelton took a throwaway line by Ariana and turned it into his latest fragrance, following his 2016 fake ad for Manure. As parodies of fragrance ads go, this was just terrible. It wasn’t funny, clever or interesting. It was just a waste of time.
(“On My Way”) It really is a beautiful song, and Jennifer Lopez knows her lane and her vocal range perfectly. It was just a bit shaky the first time she really went for it with a full belt, but otherwise she sounded quite lovely through most of it. The stage setup with all the grand pianos at different angles (and movie scenes playing on them) created a nice visual for her to walk through. All we can say is that it was a really lovely performance.
(“Hallelujah”) Carrie and John both really poured everything they had into their vocal acrobatics, complementing one another nicely on their collaboration of a year ago. There is so much effortless passion coming from Carrie it looked as if she pushed John to new heights (literally) in his own talent as he soared into his falsetto, belted with more power than he usually delivers and really gave a beautifully rich sound. Their harmonies, solo moments, everything about this was almost palpable in the most delicious way.
(“Old Memories”) A master at her craft, Alicia always draws you in immediately and leaves you hanging on every note she chooses on piano and voice. She is one of the absolute best at what she does, a beautiful storyteller, performer and vocalist. Honestly, she’s one of those artists who reminds you (as if you could forget) every time she performs just how incredible she is.
A little funnier, if only because of Randall Park and Ed Helms, this piece spent way too long trying to come up with names for a fake a cappella group than actually finding out they can sing. We did appreciate the randomness of Ed and Randall joining John for this venture, but overall the piece didn’t quite bring the laughs.
(“Just Look Up”) The movie is “Don’t Look Up,” but Ari and Cudi are telling us to look up. Color us confused, but we’re not at all confused by her beautiful vocals on this song. We’re not as enamored with the song itself, as it gets a little repetitive and doesn’t really go anywhere musically, but what a treat it always is to hear her sing live. She has such an incredible gift, with a unique texture and quality to her voice that just doesn’t come around that often. She was great, the song was just okay.
Playing off of Kelly’s penchant for saying the word “navigate” over and over, the Coach and talk show host took to the wheel to test drive a new GPS system based on her voice, and personality. It doesn’t always get what you want right, and it definitely is paying close attention to what you’re doing, but at least it’s friendly and offers plenty of positive affirmations. The whole thing was pretty cute with Kelly’s affable personality shining through … twice!
(“Leave Before You Love Me,” Marshmello & Jonas Brothers ) This song exposed those moments when GNT falters a bit in their solo work, though it also featured some of Bekah’s strongest moments of the competition. The harmonies, though, remain absolutely incredible. About halfway through, the song really found its gear and all four sounded incredible for several measures, but it faltered again toward the end. Still, this trio is well on its way to having a great shot at realizing their dreams if they’re willing to do the work. The fans are there, just don’t leave them hanging.
Wendy Moten (w/ Blake Shelton)
(“Just a Fool,” Christina Aguilera) What a fascinating song choice, and boy did it strain and push Blake Shelton to the full extent of his abilities. It might actually have been a good thing for him to see that he could not only keep up with Wendy side by side, but do it on a song written by a vocal genius like Christina. The voices were a bit of a mismatch, yes, but we were impressed with how both of them wrangled it. Were this a Battle, though, it would have gone to Wendy, hands down. She’s just so good at what she does and does it like it’s nothing at all.
Paris Winningham (w/ Blake Shelton)
(“Love Train,” The O’Jays) Who knew that this was the vibe where Blake and Paris could actually sound good together. Obviously, Paris was right in his wheelhouse here -- in a way that almost felt too safe at times -- but it was impressive how confident Blake was. And while he had his country twang a bit, he actually stepped up to match Paris’ grit and offer a more universal sound. He also stepped back and let Paris do most of the heavy lifting on this one, settling for harmonies and the occasional line here or there. Just as we’ve felt in the past several weeks, though, we wish Paris would go back and bring that passion that made us fall for him in the first place.
(“Funny,” Zedd & Jasmine Thompson) If you want a testament to the strength and control of Hailey as a young singer, just have her perform a duet with one of the greatest vocalists of her generation. Haile and Kelly were flawless together, with each staying true to their own signature sounds and styles while meshing together to create something truly special. Hailey needs to work on volume in her head voice a bit, as we would lose her when she went up there, but she was stunning and so relaxed throughout this piece. You can see how close the two have grown on this journey, and it’s just so sweet.
Jershika Maple (w/ John Legend)
(“O Holy Night”) An interesting song choice, but one that makes perfect sense for this pairing of coach and artist. Jershika’s faith has been a driving force throughout her journey, and both have this classic sound. John’s laid back crooner vocal complements Jershika’s power beautifully. But she also knew how to rein in her own instrument to match his tone, creating beautifully tender moments. By the end of the piece, both of them were taking us to church and we were happy for the ride.
Finally, after a long night of waiting, it was time to see if we were right and you ranked the finalists like this: Jershika, Paris, Wendy, Hailey and Girl Named Tom as your winner. After Carson’s little tidbit about GNT dominating the iTunes Top 10 chart, we were definitely feeling confident about our winner.
5th Place: Sadly, despite a stellar season and an incredible consistency, we had a feeling that Jershika Maple’s struggle with audiences these past two weeks would come home to roost in a fifth place finish. She’s such a gifted artist, though, we believe her when she says she’s determined to do this for the rest of her life. And what a gift that would be for all of us.
4th Place: This one came as a bit more of a surprise. It’s not a knock to the artists above her, but Hailey Mia is such a fresh and exciting new voice in music, and at such a tender age. We should have weighed out more the fact she needed a Save earlier this season, so clearly America wasn’t quite as enamored with her as we were.
3rd Place: With Hailey slipping to fourth, things are perhaps back on track with our predictions as Paris Winnigham slid into the third place position. We had Wendy in third, so if she comes in second, we were only off by one artist (technically). As for Paris, we think he lost his way as an emotional contestant, and that’s what cost him a higher position.
That left Wendy Moten, who has been consistently incredible vocally, but in a way where she seemed bored at times, and Girl Named Tom, who’ve dominated the conversation this season -- and the charts. Both would make worthy winners with incredible stories. But who actually took it home?
2nd Place: She sang through two broken arms and won the heart of America with her second act emerging from the background to take center stage. There’s no denying Wendy Moten’s vocal prowess and how easily she soars, but we found ourselves growing bored as it would look as if she was bored. We’ll never know if America was really all about her voice, or if her injuries (which happened on the show) were a factor, but she’s still a worthy runner-up as she really has a great instrument.
1st Place: Not the strongest vocalists in the competition, but a breath of fresh air and something never really seen before, Girl Named Tom has managed to have quiet moments that touched our hearts. Perhaps even more importantly, they’ve grown throughout the competition, strengthening as individual singers and tightening those harmonies.
Can a trio like this move on and make a mark in music? They’re already breaking “Voice” records on the iTunes charts, so if they strike while the iron is red hot, this sibling trio might just manage to get a foothold in the music industry. The question is, in what genre would they land?
"The Voice" reportedly won't be back for Season 22 until Fall 2022 -- nothing has officially been announced yet about the future of the show -- as it shifts to a once-a-year format similar to "American Idol" and "Dancing with the Stars."