The Voice 9 – Live Blog and Recap – Live Finale, Part 1 (VIDEO)
Welcome to the live blog and recap for The Voice 9, “Live Semi-Final Performances”! Coaches Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams pit their teams against each other as we enter the Season 9 finals!
Last week, we said goodbye to FIVE singers as Shelby Brown, Braiden Sunshine, Amy Vachal, Madi Davis and Zach Seabaugh were eliminated, leaving us with a final four of Team Adam’s Jordan Smith, Team Blake’s Emily Ann Roberts and Barrett Baber, and Team Gwen’s Jeffery Austin, who survived the sing-off to become Gwen Stefani’s first-ever finale artist as a coach on The Voice! But only one artist can be declared the winner of The Voice, and tonight is their last chance to win your votes! Who will win The Voice Season 9? Let the race begin!
Keep it locked right here, as I’ll be updating with commentary, results, and videos as soon as they become available!
Let’s get this show on the road!
-Let’s go over tonight’s song spoilers!
(Click on the title to download the song on iTunes)
TEAM ADAM LEVINE
TEAM GWEN STEFANI
TEAM BLAKE SHELTON
Barrett Baber, “Silent Night”
Barrett Baber, “Die a Happy Man” by Thomas Rhett
Barrett Baber and Blake Shelton, “Rhinestone Cowboy” by Glen Campbell
Emily Ann Roberts, “Blue Christmas” by Elvis Presley
Emily Ann Roberts, “Burning House” by Cam
Emily Ann Roberts and Blake Shelton, “Islands In the Stream” by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers
What the HELL is with these song choices? Even in the first five seasons, I don’t think American Idol ever got THIS corny in the live shows. “Rhinestone Cowboy”? “Islands In the Stream”? Okay, yeah, Idol most certainly did get this corny (how soon we forget Bobby Bennett singing “Copacabana”), but that doesn’t make it RIGHT. If he hadn’t charted so high last week, I would have thought it virtually impossible for Jordan to have another No. 1 with a song from The Sound of Music, or a gospel Christmas standard. I just don’t get these song choices. They’re so dreadfully dry and uninspired and old-fashioned. Jeffery has the best song choices, and I’m not even that crazy about them outside of “Stay”. And he’s probably going to finish fourth, for crying out loud. And while I get why they would do Christmas songs for the fall season, doing it at the expense of a proper winner’s single seems downright silly. But I guess it’s getting into broken record territory to complain about song choices, but give us recappers something we can sink our teeth into! Bah, forget about it. Let’s get this show rolling, guys!
-We open with a retrospective of the respective journeys of each contestant. I completely forgot Jeffery was clean-shaven when this whole thing started. He should definitely keep the beard forever. Live in the studio, Carson Daly introduces the coaches, as well as the entire Top 24 in the audience! I say it every season, but I LOVE how they bring back the entire Top 24. I really wish other shows like American Idol and The X Factor would do this for their finales. But I digress. We head right into the first performance of the night…
TEAM ADAM LEVINE: JORDAN SMITH opens the show!
-Carson sits down with Jordan and Adam, going over the entire journey, including Jordan’s unprecedented five-week run in the iTunes Top 10. Jordan says he wasn’t really thinking of songs that would chart, he was just looking into songs he connected with the most. Jordan will be singing “Climb Every Mountain” from The Sound of Music, and Adam says he couldn’t think of a better winner’s song for him than this. Well, that’s certainly how it appears. In an emotional moment, Jordan fights back tears when talking about having made it this far. I really hope the performance order gets shaken up with each round, because I worry about him getting the death slot. Then again, I can’t imagine this show would deny Jordan the pimp spot for the finale. Of course, he DID get it last week too, so I guess we’ll see.
-Well, my issues with the song choice are pretty much moot right now, because Jordan delivered yet another all-time classic. This vocal was just blindingly excellent. There wasn’t a single moment where he wasn’t in control of his voice and its direction. The runs, the falsetto, the extended power notes. EVERYTHING about this just screamed iconic. He earned the standing ovation he got from all four coaches, and while the choir was definitely expected for this song, I would argue he didn’t even need it. This guy is amazing. Just amazing. In a funny moment, Carson tells Jordan he must be used to this rabid reaction, and then wonders aloud why Adam looks so mad sitting in his seat (took the words right out of my mouth, Carson).
-Blake is amazed by how Jordan is able to wow them every time. Pharrell feels everyone should give it up for Jordan’s incredible form of humility, saying everyone in America is standing up for him. “There is only one word: fantastic,” Pharrell says. Gwen states that Julie Andrews and The Sound of Music is her favorite, so she was extra emotional to hear Jordan sing this, saying that she would have been done if not for the makeup. Adam seems genuinely moved when trying to figure out what to say to Jordan. He says that the way Jordan projects himself to the world is one of the most beautiful things he’s ever seen, and that while it would be great if Jordan won the show, Adam mostly just thinks it’s beautiful how grateful he is for everything that he has.
TEAM BLAKE SHELTON: EMILY ANN ROBERTS is up next!
-No pre-performance video package, as we get right into Emily Ann’s performance of “White Christmas” by Elvis Presley. This is basically a ham sandwich. Nothing wrong with it. Gets the job done. But painfully bland. I like Emily’s voice, and I think she has a rich, lovely tone. But this just did nothing for me. However, I will say I like the styling on her. It makes her look a bit more grown, getting away from the “little cowgirl” look without making her a sexed-up adult.
-Pharrell praises Emily for her performance through some anecdote that takes way too damn long to process (I love ya to death, man, but succinctness is key!). Adam, meanwhile, declares that Emily is the real deal, as far as country music is concerned. He even gives props to Blake for Emily’s development. Blake, for his part, feels Emily is ready now, and somehow ends up calling her “sis” in the process. Yeah, I got nothin’.
WATCH AND DISCUSS: Emily Ann Roberts Sings ‘Blue Christmas’ on The Voice 9 (VIDEO)
TEAM BLAKE SHELTON: BARRETT BABER AND BLAKE SHELTON are up next!
-Barrett and Blake will be singing “Rhinestone Cowboy” by Glen Campbell, and the pre-performance video package is basically two minutes of Blake congratulating himself for this song choice, saying that fans want more classic country, and adding that it reflects Barrett’s journey in country music. While that might all be true, this is still a corny-ass song for the finale of a singing competition. Then again, I wouldn’t put it past America to be sold on this, considering we’re just a year removed from Craig Wayne Boyd beating Matt McAndrew in The Voice finale. But I digress. There are some neat little moments of Barrett and Blake bro-ing out while singing this song together, and if anything gets Barrett votes, I think it’ll be his inherent likability.
-While technically proficient, I just didn’t get much out of this song. But hey, Barrett and Blake seemed to have a lot of fun with this, and I think that type of positive attitude is a big draw for fans of theirs. They like having a good time and not being bogged down by the self-seriousness that often plagues these sorts of shows. So I wouldn’t be surprised if that free-wheelin’, good-time vibe is part of why Blake has been so successful as a coach. Was this performance my cup of tea? No. But it’s not like it was bad or anything. And I imagine this will go over pretty well with the country demographic.
TEAM GWEN STEFANI: JEFFERY AUSTIN is up next!
-Jeffery is up next to sing his Christmas pick. He sings “O Holy Night”, an all-time favorite of mine for the holidays. Perhaps that’s why I was so disappointed by the first half of it, since it sounded strangely subdued. For a considerable portion of the song, Jeffery just sounded flat, like he was in the wrong key. And that’s when he wasn’t looking angry. But as the song picked up at around the midway point, Jeffery delivered a much stronger vocal, with some rich notes and effortless runs. I also really dug his power notes towards the end. This wasn’t my favorite Jeffery vocal, but hey, you can’t win’em all.
-Adam praises Jeffery for his vocal ability, while Pharrell talks about Jeffery’s journey on the show, resulting in Jeffery noting that this is one of his grandparents’ favorite songs. Gwen, for her part, can’t get over how talented and cute Jeffery is. She simply thanks him over and over again, while looking like she’s holding back tears (albeit with the world’s biggest smile on her face. Hey, it’s an emotional night!).
WATCH AND DISCUSS: Jeffery Austin Sings ‘O Holy Night’ on The Voice 9 (VIDEO)
TEAM ADAM LEVINE: JORDAN SMITH AND ADAM LEVINE are up next!
-Adam talks about why he picked “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys. Namely, it’s because he feels it’s the most beautiful song ever written. And I find it hard to disagree with him, but then, I’ve loved this song for as long as I can remember, so my objectivity is basically non-existent right now. While recording their iTunes version, Adam calls Jordan “the future winner of The Voice”, causing Jordan to blush and say “whatever” in a moment that’ll probably get him more votes than most other singers’ entire songs. Just a lovely, genuine little moment.
-I get why they decided to sing in unison for this one, as a sort of mirror of The Beach Boys’ version, although I selfishly wanted to hear individual verses from them on this. Still, I love this song, and I love both Jordan and Adam as vocalists, so it’s not like I disliked this. That said, I do worry, since this isn’t really the best song for showing off one’s vocals. But the coach duets don’t count towards overall vote totals anyway, so it’s a bit of a moot point. I thought this was an endearing performance overall.
WATCH AND DISCUSS: Jordan Smith And Adam Levine Sing ‘God Only Knows’ On The Voice 9 (VIDEO)
TEAM BLAKE SHELTON: BARRETT BABER is up next!
-Barrett and Blake sit down with Carson to go over Barrett’s journey, and while I give him a hard time about his awkward onstage mannerisms, I think his run has actually been stronger than a lot of people give him credit for. Barrett has never really had a bad vocal, and I think he’s a lot more marketable than a lot of adult contestants Blake tends to have, since Barrett sits perfectly at that intersection between country, blues and soul. And it’ll help him to be singing “Die a Happy Man” by Thomas Rhett, since it sounds like the type of song he would (and should) put on his album.
-Anyone else hear a little “Thinking Out Loud” in this? I think the guitar is what’s drawing out the similarities, for me. Regardless, I like this track a lot, and I think Barrett really did a hell of a job with it. This was perfect for his voice, and it was easy to tell how much he connected with this song. He imbued a lot of emotion into this. I wish he’d gone the simple route more often this season, because I’ve liked Barrett best when he’s just sitting there with a guitar in his hand, and a microphone in front of his face.
-Gwen felt like she was on another planet while listening to that song, reliving Barrett’s journey in the process. Adam basically states that tonight’s final four is the right final four, which is just so ludicrously false to me that I can’t believe that thought ever made it out of the concept stage in his brain’s writers room. Blake says he’s never seen someone put more heart into a performance than Barrett, and that’s a statement I can actually sort of get behind, mostly because I have a terrible memory when it comes to this show, and don’t feel like looking up the details to refute the claim.
WATCH AND DISCUSS: Barrett Baber Sings ‘Die a Happy Man’ on The Voice 9 (VIDEO)
TEAM BLAKE SHELTON: EMILY ANN ROBERTS AND BLAKE SHELTON are up next!
-The pre-performance video package characterizes Blake and Emily Ann’s relationship as that of an older brother/younger sister, even though I’ve gotten far more of a cool uncle/sweet niece vibe from it. They’ll be singing “Islands In the Stream” by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, and…blech, I just can’t get excited about that song choice, even though they sound good in their iTunes studio session. But then, the video is far more focused on how cute their dynamic is, and if that’s what they’re selling, I wouldn’t be surprised if America was buying. Or some other analogy.
-It feels like Emily’s stage presence has sort of regressed tonight. She just seems kind of bored up there, for whatever reason. And while she didn’t appear to miss any lyrics, her constant sideways glances to Blake made me feel like she was on the verge. It also didn’t help that the audio kept dropping out in places. Either that, or they kept backing away from the microphone during the song. It was hard to tell. All I know is this didn’t really set the world on fire, even while I can’t really complain about the vocal itself. They sounded perfectly fine, and I think Emily is a wonderful singer with a potentially big career ahead of her. But this wasn’t much more exciting than her first performance was, in my opinion.
TEAM GWEN STEFANI: JEFFERY AUSTIN is up next!
-Jeffery and Gwen sit down with Carson to go over Jeffery’s voice journey, and while I’ve been a fan of his all season, I didn’t even realize how many songs of Jeffery’s I’ve downloaded on iTunes over the course of the season. Just a great resume of performances. He talks a bit about how overjoyed he was to receive a congratulatory tweet from Cher for his version of “Believe”, and how frustrated he was when Carson announced he would be in the sing-off last week. Carson says Jeffery sang “Make it Rain” like he wasn’t going to leave, and Gwen calls it one of the best performances she’s ever seen. To be fair, it WAS pretty damn great. And his performance of “Stay” by Sugarland has the potential to be just as good, albeit in a different, less raw-and-ragged sort of way.
-Jeffery started out kind of flat again, in my opinion. But he quickly set himself right again. This was filled with emotion, and I LOVE the inclusion of the full orchestra, since I will maintain until my dying day that strings make everything a thousand times better. All in all, Jeffery sang the absolute HELL out of this, showing a lot of determination ins his performance just from the force and verve of each note. I don’t really know how to explain it other than that it was a powerful performance. Looks like I have another Jeffery single to add to my collection.
-Blake says Jeffery is the contestant who snuck up on all of them, which prompts me to wonder what Blake has been listening to for the last three months to somehow be surprised by this. Pharrell praises Jeffery’s artistry and his vocal prowess, while Gwen says Jeffery is going to make REAL records after this, and that he’ll have a voice people will recognize on the radio. She pleads with America to vote for him, and then proudly shouts, “First girl to win!” I like Jeffery too, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, Gwen.
TEAM BLAKE SHELTON: BARRETT BABER is up next!
-Barrett is here for his Christmas song, a rendition of “Silent Night”. My GOD, what a tacky arrangement. It’s like the backing track for a Christmas skin flick on Cinemax in the late 80s. I also thought it was Barrett’s weakest vocal of the night, and far from the best final impression he could have left. Somehow, in showing restraint with the silly mannerisms earlier, he decided to put all the strange face-pulling and expressive hands here. Look, I like Barrett. I love his voice, I think he has a wonderful story, an even better personality, and a lot of musicianship to his credit. But this was basically the antithesis of a winning performance.
-Pharrell thinks it’s amazing how Barrett’s life story comes out every time he sings. Adam admits it’s super-hard to keep coming up with new things to say to these contestants, so he just says that Barrett is amazing. It all devolves into a circular discussion about Barrett’s story, and how his family is in the audience (his child is asleep in his mother’s arms, adorably. It’s a cute enough version that I almost feel like Barrett should just get a hundred extra votes by default. But I can’t countenance another Blake Shelton victory).
WATCH AND DISCUSS: Barrett Baber Sings ‘Silent Night’ on The Voice 9 (VIDEO)
TEAM GWEN STEFANI: JEFFERY AUSTIN AND GWEN STEFANI are up next!
-Jeffery and Gwen record their version of “Leather and Lace” by Don Henley and Stevie Nicks in the studio, and it sounds really good. In particular, Gwen sounds better here than she has on any single she’s released in some time. Even Jeffery comments on how damn great she sounds. Jeffery thanks Gwen for getting him here, but Gwen asserts that Jeffery got himself here, in a touching little moment. Gwen then turns to the camera and thanks Don Henley and Stevie Nicks for being such great songwriters. Can’t disagree with her there.
-This is easily my favorite thing Gwen has ever done on this show, and I’m not talking about the ridiculously short skirt she’s wearing either. This was a terrific vocal from both Gwen and Jeffery, in my opinion, although (much like with Barrett’s last song) I’m not entirely sure if this was the ideal closing impression to leave behind. “Stay” would have been a better moment for Jeffery. Still, the placement of this performance in the night overall didn’t dull my appreciation for it. I think this is going to end up being one of the night’s more underrated performances, honestly.
TEAM ADAM LEVINE: JORDAN SMITH is up next!
-Time for Jordan’s favorite Christmas song, which, incidentally, is also one of my mother’s favorites, “Mary Did You Know”. Jordan taps into the tenderness of his voice, a quality he uses far too infrequently, in my opinion. He’s got wonderful restraint, and can really deliver these beautiful, intimate little moments within a vocal. And that’s the case here, as those tender moments add into the buildup and the drama of the bigger, more grandiose notes. I’m not entirely sure I’m making any sense at all here, so I’ll just say this was a moving, powerful performance.
-Pharrell feels the audience is ready now for Jordan to make a record, and he hopes that when the time comes, he doesn’t change anything of what people love about him. Adam, meanwhile, reveals that this song choice was a last-minute change that was all Jordan’s idea, and he admits that if they’d gone with his song, it wouldn’t have been the right choice. Ultimately, he credits Jordan with having the artistry to recognize what was best for him, as an artist. To Adam’s credit, he had the humility to recognize when an idea was better than his, going as far as to say that this is ultimately Jordan’s career, and Jordan’s world, so he had to defer to his artist on this one.
WATCH AND DISCUSS: Jordan Smith Sings ‘Mary Did You Know’ on The Voice 9 (VIDEO)
TEAM BLAKE SHELTON: EMILY ANN ROBERTS closes the show!
-Carson sits down with Emily and Blake, and they go over some of her best moments of the season. She’s had a pretty damn good run, although I can’t say I’ve actually bought any of her singles this season. That might change, however, as she’ll be singing “Burning House” by Cam, which just might be the best song choice she’s been given all season. I think this could be a make or break moment for Emily, as Blake says this could secure her the win, which Emily thinks is downright crazy. You never know though.
-Hot damn, this was really good. Like, REALLY good. This could be a hit for her. She sounds current, she looks current, she connects with the emotion of the song, delivering it with a wounded vulnerability that made it hard to look away from the screen for even a moment. This was the perfect final impression to leave for the competition. Just a beautiful vocal delivered with sincerity. She might have just made this a real race for the title.
-Gwen is amazed with how well Emily connects with the lyrics and the emotion behind each song, and feels she could be huge. Blake more or less says the same thing, saying that if anyone could secure an upset, it’s Emily with that performance. Pharrell quickly butts in to add that Emily was flawless.
-And that’s a wrap for tonight’s show! I still think this is Jordan’s competition to lose, and I can’t imagine he will, unless everyone somehow simultaneously forgets to vote. But who do you think will win The Voice 9? And who will finish in what position? Sound off in the comments!
Until tomorrow night, thanks for reading and hanging out!