Usually by the time this episode of a singing show rolls around, I have a strong opinion about who should win.
Candice Glover on Season 12 of American Idol. Cassadee Pope on Season 3 of The Voice. Juliet Simms on Season 2 of The Voice.
And I’m not a big believer in the final performance episode being the determining factor in who should win. Certainly not if one contestant has been dominant to that point.
This season of The Voice might be different on both counts.
Danielle Bradbery captured the hearts of fans early with her sweet vocals and poise at such a young age. But she’s been pretty much standing still lately.
Michelle Chamuel is the most dynamic performer left standing, and she’s shown the most versatility to date.
As for The Swon Brothers — they might be the most improved. And they’re the ones I’d probably opt to see live right now if I had to chose between the three, even though they face the longest odds tonight.
Speaking of tonight, each singer or group should get to perform three times, twice alone and once with their coach, if The Voice follows the same format as in past finales.
And now, it’s time for some grades.
After a musical number by the four Voice coaches — “With a Little Help from My Friends” — that is.
1. The Swon Brothers: Like last week, they’re forced to sing first. And that’s a big disadvantage, because this will be their only new solo performance tonight, and it’ll come nearly two hours before voting begins. They’ll sing “I Can’t Tell You Why” by the Eagles. The song fits nicely with the set list they’ve compiled during Season 4. Zach brings a nice growl to the verses … but, hold it, did he miss a line there. The falsetto parts sound a little more of a stretch for these guys. Not a particularly great song choice or performance from The Swon Brothers, who needed a knock-your-socks off performance to gain ground on the frontrunners. But Shakira is waving an Okie flag though, and they get compliments from Adam for tackling such a big song. Grade: C+
2. Michelle Chamuel: I’m not a fan of repeat performances; they’re never a surprise the second time around and they’re seldom as good. But if The Voice is requiring one in the finals, I’d rather be in Michelle’s position — getting it out of the way first. Usher has decided to have her repeat Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble.” Which demonstrates what I just wrote. One of the reasons this was so successful the first time around was because it was such an unexpected song choices for the electro pop singer. Solid, high energy performance from Michelle, who clearly has a lot of fun on stage. Oh, and she’s looking a lot more confident these days, isn’t she? And Adam points out how wonderfully the audience responds to Michelle. Grade: B+
3. Danielle Bradbery and Blake Shelton: For their duet, Blake has selected Patty Loveless’ “Timber, I’m Falling in Love.” Let’s forget that it’s a 16-year-old singing a love song with Blake and focus on Danielle’s vocals. Because she’s in fine voice. And they sound pretty darn good together, don’t they? Most impressive, this teen seems totally, totally confident on The Voice stage. Not affected at all by the pressure of the situation. Are duets released as singles on iTunes? If so, here’s betting that one does very well tomorrow. Grade: B+
4. The Swon Brothers: For their defining moment, Blake is going to pick “Danny’s Song.” Hold it. OK, that was their most successful song on iTunes. But it was also a song they did just a week ago. Another reason to hate repeat songs. And strike two against The Swon Brothers tonight. Come on, Blake, are you trying to sabotage them? Oops, I think we might have just had another little lyric miscue. Blake better have one heck of a duet planned with these guys for round three. Otherwise, I think they can kiss any dreams of winning The Voice crown goodbye. Folks who are already fans of The Swon Brothers are going to support them, but that won’t win over any new fans. Solid performance but again, not what The Swon Brothers needed. They should have performed “American Boy” or “I Won’t Back Down” again. Grade: B–
5. Michelle Chamuel: This will be Michelle’s most important performance of the night — the only time we’ll get to hear her sing a new song as a soloist. She’s selected “Why” by Annie Lennox. And she says the song is pure emotion, and it sounds like it was selected by Usher, not Michelle. She’s using mirrors again. Neat special effect. The image in the mirror stopped singing, but not Michelle, who turns to face the audience to continue her performance. My why? Why did The Voice have to bring out a chorus on stage to join Michelle. Once again, Michelle delivers a passionate performance with a big ending. She did a fine job with Usher’s song choice. Just not sure it was the best song choice with The Voice title on the line. The crowd clearly loves Michelle. Now Shakira has donned glasses in support of Michelle. Grade: B+
6. The Swon Brothers: Hmm, we’re changing up the order. Interesting song choice, since it takes a swipe at singing shows in the first verse. But it’s a fun song, which was called for after the first two song choices for Zach and Colton tonight. They’re performing Brad Paisley’s “Celebrity.” I really wish they would have gone upbeat twice tonight. But it’s nice to get to see them perform with Blake. The best part of that entire clip was Blake’s visit with Zach and Colton’s parents and the revelation that when they’d misbehave, their dad would send them to a room and tell them not to come out until they had finished writing a song. I imagine we’ll get to hear some of those songs on a Swon Brothers album, regardless of how the voting goes tomorrow night.
7. Danielle Bradbery: Well, that little performance order shuffle works to Danielle’s advantage. Now she gets to perform twice in the final three songs of the night. She’ll reprise “Maybe It Was Memphis.” Now this makes sense, because it was the first song she performed when the live shows began, so it’s been a while since we’ve heard it. And she did a wonderful job with it. Really loved the way her pitch perfect voice sounded, especially when the music faded low and we could concentrate solely on her vocal. Very nice. The best of the defining moment performance. Still can’t believe she doesn’t show the slightest hint of nerves. To complete her support of all three finalists, Shakira is now wearing a cowboy hat. And, with two performances left, Adam is already proclaiming Danielle the winner. Grade: A–
8. Michelle Chamuel and Usher: Turns out Michelle’s parents were refugees from Egypt who came to the U.S., hoping Michelle would pursue the American dream. They’re singing “One.” Usher sounded great on the first line, but I’m not sure Michelle’s mic is working correctly. You could barely hear her lines on that first verse, and I can’t imagine it was intentional. Love the way they’re taking turns belting out big notes here at the end, though Usher is, quite honestly, stealing the show. Well, at least until that last big glory note from Michelle. Really cool duet. Not sure it will be enough to catapult her past Danielle Bradbery, but that was the best of tonight’s duets. Grade: A–
9. Danielle Bradbery: I don’t think she’s gotten to close many shows this season. But she gets the pimp spot tonight. Sorry, Danielle, hard to believe you were ever shy, the way you’ve taken to The Voice stage. And she’s going upbeat with Sarah Evans’ “Born to Fly.” Good choice. We’ve heard Danielle do plenty of ballads and mid-tempo songs. Very lyrically appropriate, too. She gets to sing about her dad and her mom and her rising star. Very smart idea to strip down that song to nearly nothing but Danielle’s voice toward the end to remind us how remarkable her voice is. And it sure did soar at the end of that song, didn’t it? Best song choice of the final night on The Voice. And very well executed by the 16-year-old from Texas. Grade: A-
And who should win The Voice?
It’s a two-gal race, and on this night, I think, by the narrowest of margins, Danielle took it.
The Swon Brothers were done in by a pair of lackluster solo song choices that made them an afterthought.
I thought Michelle and Usher turned in the best duet of the night.
But that final song choice was the best of Monday’s new solos, and Danielle’s reprise performance was the best of those as well.
Check back tomorrow night. I’ll be live blogging the finale as The Voice Season 4 crowns a champion.