'The Voice' Season 9 Recap & Review: Final Four Perform Christmas Songs to Declare a Winner
So, it has all come down to this. On Monday night (Dec. 14), The Voice season 9's final four contestants Jordan Smith, Jeffery Austin, Emily Ann Roberts and Barrett Baber competed and sang their hearts out on three songs apiece to crown a final victor.
This season, there was a little bit of a twist... to tie in to the upcoming Christmas holiday and surely to boost iTunes sales out of the wazoo, an original coronation song was pushed to the side for a classic Christmas tune. The results were... mixed at best. The best part of an original coronation song is to find out 100 percent who these artists want to be and what kind of album they'll make if they win The Voice. And you can't do that with a Christmas song that has been covered time and time again.
That point aside, this was, of course, the Jordan show. He started the program with a big ol' performance package and got the second-to-last performance (because he can't get the money final spot to weeks in a row; that would just be blatantly unfair). But, the other contestants showed up to play too, and it seems like Emily Ann really could give her (and Coach Adam) a run for their money.
Until the results are revealed tomorrow night, let's look at a rundown of the final four's performances...
Jordan Smith, "Climb Ev'ry Mountain": If there was any doubt that this finale would be Jordan Smith's show, The Voice's dubbed "unicorn," you had to look no further than his opening package with Coach Adam. The show ran through all of his chart successes and press coverage, so even if you had a doubt in your mind or hadn't watched the show... you knew that this was the guy. Jordan brought out all of the stops for this opening performance, with soaring vocals that just went higher and higher as the song went on. It was big note after big note after big note. This was a smart choice - Jordan has done really well with his Christian music - and he did it again here with some pitch perfect control.
Emily Ann Roberts, "Blue Christmas": Whereas Jordan Smith got the most glowing pre-performance package in reality show history, Emily Ann Roberts of Team Blake got NO package, making the segue into her Christmas song "Blue Christmas" feel incredibly clunky. For as jarring and awkward as that transition was, Emily Ann's performance made up for it (more or less). Her take on this Elvis Presley classic got a country fried spin, with fiddles and banjos making the melody. And, despite that fun rearrangement, Emily Ann sang this straight. Her tone sounded great and strong, but this was otherwise fairly unexciting, but that's just a song choice thing.
Barrett Baber, "Rhinestone Cowboy" (with Blake Shelton): Well, this is a real cheesy song choice, isn't it? In a night with relatively dull song choices, at least this one has a bit of a pep to it, even if it's a little dorky one. Blake Shelton clearly gels well with his contestants, and his fun sensibility came across in this performance. It was just two country bros country bro-ing it out to some Glen Campbell. The vocals here were fine, and before I never really noticed how similar Barrett and Blake's tones are, which may be why they've worked well together on this show.
Jeffery Austin, "O Holy Night": For Team Gwen's Jeffery Austin, a Christmas song also meant making things a little boring - he went for "O Holy Night." This song choice could have been successful, but Jeffery was so incredibly flat that he was actually an entire note down from where he was supposed to be. Jeffery has some major pipes and he could have been the next Sam Smith type, but this didn't show that by any stretch, at least in the first half. By the second portion of the song, Jeffery picked this back up and he gave some much needed richness and power, but it was only a mild recovery.
Jordan Smith "God Only Knows" (with Adam Levine): All of the coach duets this finale were really dated song choices, and the normally ~hip with it~ Adam Levine played along, performing this Beach Boys classic with golden boy Jordan Smith. To emulate the original song, the two sang in unison throughout the majority of this song, and while it sounded totally fine it didn't make for an incredibly engaging performance.
Barrett Baber, "Die a Happy Man": Barrett and Blake made some weird song choices throughout the evening, but this Thomas Rhett song was the best of the three. Barrett does best when he can bring out more of the blues influences, which is exactly what comes through in "Die a Happy Man." Barrett missed some of the emotion in his other two performances, but he seems to really have connected to this song, which he later dedicated to his children and doting wife. Was this a standout performance of the evening? Compared to everything else, this still sits in the middle, but for Barrett, this was a definite highlight.
Emily Ann Roberts, "Islands in the Stream (with Blake Shelton): Blake has played happy older brother to Emily Ann Roberts' little sister all season, and that mentorship has been clear every single time these two interacted... until they took to the stage. Emily Ann seems to have lost a bit of her spark, and while she and Blake clearly have a good rapport, in this performance they both went a little stiff. Were they scared to fully engage in this love song because Emily Ann is 17 and Gwen Stefani is currently dating Blake Shelton? Sort of seems like yes. Those things aside, both Blake and Emily Ann sounded good, so there's always that.
Jeffery Austin, "Stay": Jeffery had some problems finding the right notes all night, and that was once again clear when he performed a pop-switched version of Sugarland's "Stay." Jeffery connected to this song very well, which is something that he's always excelled out, but he was once again like half a note flat. No matter how much gusto you inject into something, it doesn't matter if you can't get a hold on the basic notes. But he eventually recovered and once again sprinkled in his Jeffery magic, so this ended up being a middle-of-the-road effort.
Barrett Baber, "Silent Night": "Silent Night" is one of the more pensive, quiet country songs, so why The Voice's music team and Barrett decided to add a bunch of country instruments and ham this song up is beyond me. This arrangement just felt... tacky? Barrett's voice sounded perfectly fine, but he didn't connect at all to the deeper meaning of this song, and when he should have been quiet and contemplative, he was loud, proud and smiling. Barrett could have played this off as a tribute to the tragedy in his life, but instead, he made some weird artistic choices. This was the biggest sort of flop of the evening.
Jeffery Austin, "Leather and Lace" (with Gwen Stefani): All of the coach's duets were really dated this season, and this Don Henley/Stevie Nicks cover was no exception. Jeffery and Gwen's voices actually blended in shockingly well together. It was clear that these two actually connected this season beyond Gwen being able to play makeover. She really seems to believe in Jeffery, and that chemistry showed. Jeffery seemed to have struggled with confidence all evening, but with Gwen by his side he got the most confidence and sounded the best. It's too bad the coach songs don't count toward the iTunes vote boosts, because this performance was a real standout.
Jordan Smith, "Mary Did You Know": Of course this is Jordan Smith's favorite Christmas song. Like... just of course. Coach Adam claims that he had never heard this song before and at Jordan's insistence, at the last minute, he switched it up to this song. That was probably a smart choice; the incredibly religious lyrics mixed with a slow rise to some sweet falsetto high notes is the perfect combination for a massive Jordan Smith iTunes hit. Expect this song to hit No. 1 on the iTunes chart... not only was it a smart pick for Jordan's core audience, but the flawless execution of this relatively little known Christmas song just screams "Add me to your holiday playlists!"
Emily Ann Roberts, "Burning House": Cam's "Burning House" is one of the most gripping songs on country radio right now, so having Emily Ann Roberts take it on is a very lofty goal, but it's one that she seemed ready to take on. She stripped away a lot of the dramatics of this song and made it as basic and emotional as possible. As Gwen Stefani pointed out, she's got this innate ability to tap into the meaning behind a song and make it the focus of her performance. It's really very engaging. Jordan Smith probably has this show in the bag - everyone knows that - but something this pure could maybe cause an upset... just you wait and see.