June 23, 2018 / 12:48 AM

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'The Voice' Season 9 Recap and Review: And The Winner Is...



It's all boiled down to this... The Voice season 9 crowned a winner on Tuesday night (Dec. 15). The race was between Jordan Smith, Emily Ann Roberts, Barrett Baber and Jeffery Austin. But, who was to take home the big trophy? Before you could get to the big moment, there was two hours of filler that had to happen. Well, three hours of filler, really, if you count that hour-long rebroadcast of last night's show (minus the coach performances).

The filler kicked off with a performance of "Lean On" by the entire top 24. The things we learned from this opening number is that the lyric "Blow a kiss, fire a gun" was too controversial for The Voice, that there is a reason Jordan Smith stuck to standards, Christian songs and ballads and that Braiden Sunshine is still so, so happy to be onstage, even if he came in, like, ninth place.

We then moved on to Barrett Baber and Zach Seabaugh bringing it together for "Forever and Ever Amen." While past seasons allowed the contestants to bring back, like, a half dozen of their fallen comrades, this finale seems to be fond of the duets. This take on a Randy Travis classic was nice - I forgot that when he wasn't being insufferable or insanely offkey that Zach has a really beautiful tone (and it's only been one week).

But, it seemed like the other contestants would come via their own arrangements, and we got Celeste Betton, Darius Scott, Nadjah Nicole, Mark Hood and Regina Love tackling the '70s R&B classic "Love Train." None of these soul singers got very far, and they seemed to take this opportunity to show off their chops as best as possible and grab for a recording contract with everything they've got. They all sounded fantastic, and it was nice to see some excitement and energy on the stage as well as a genuine thirst.

Emily Ann was the first of the final four contestants to get her star duet, and she took to the stage with country legend Ricky Skaggs for his standard "Country Boy." This was an odd song choice - it was more like an old-fashioned country jam band song rather than something where the vocals shine. But, here we learned that Emily Ann can play the mandolin, even if she didn't get her own solo.

Meanwhile, the duets continued on with Jeffery Austin and Madi Davis performing Amy Winehouse's "Tears Dry On Their Own," a perfect song choice for these two emotional singers. Their voices were a little too low in the mix for a show literally called The Voice, but when you could hear them the blend was so rich and satisfying... it's easy to forget these two are just 24 and 16 years old.

We also got another superstar collaboration with Jordan and former Voice coach Usher, as they took on his hit "Without You." Usher is a hard one to match vocally, but Jordan held his own. At one point, he held a note so long and high that Usher literally kept time around him. Yes, yes, we all know... Jordan is an unmatchable soul.

For his celebrity performance, Jeffery Austin was joined onstage with Tori Kelly for her new single "Hollow." These two probably didn't have much rehearsal time, but you never would have guessed it - their auras and vocals blended well together in this passionate song, which is something that Jeffery has done exceedingly well this season.

The final celebrity duet came courtesy of Barrett Baber and Wynonna, for a take on "No One Else on Earth." They both bumped up the volume and the zest for this one. At times, it seemed like neither of them could really keep up - they almost topped each other - but Barrett, who has been a controversial finalist, proved that he really DOES have the chops to be here.

And, while it seemed like the bring back performances would only be duets in the first half of the show, Jordan proved that right wrong with Journey's "Any Way You Want It." He was joined onstage by pretty much everyone (or Korin Bukowski, Regina Love, Amy Vachal, Evan McKeel and Mark Hood). This is far and away the most upbeat thing we've ever heard Jordan do, but he was hyped up with the bundles of energy around him. Everyone just seemed like they were having a good time, making this over-covered song actually feel fresh. Even poor ol' Korin and Amy, who were often stiff on stage, seemed to be loosey goosey and fun here.

We also got a big ensemble run from Emily Ann Roberts and co. She brought back pretty much every female country singer from this show (and there were a lot) along with her Team Blake comrades. This was a really fun girl-power performance of Rascall Flatts' "Summer Nights," and it's something that you wish The Voice would let happen more often. There was so much fun and chemistry on stage.

When former and present The Voice contestants weren't working the stage, we got some showings from professionals. Coldplay brought out the monkeys and balloons for "Adventure of a Lifetime" near the top of the show. Coach Pharrell and Missy Eliott also took to a NYC-themed set for a "performance" of "WTF (Where They From)." Why is performance in quotation marks? Because this was pretty much the least live thing I have seen in my life. Those puppets could have done just as convincing of a lip sync job.

Sam Hunt and The Weeknd also took to the stage with actually live vocals, sounding like the true stars they are.

The final live performance of the night came from a much-hyped Justin Bieber, who was on hand to perform his latest chart hit "Sorry." Bieber kicked this off at the piano, just to emphasize the artistry of it all, but he quickly transitioned to the original dance version. Bieber is never really the type of singer to take a lot of chance live, and once again, he played it safe here but he did so while sounding as good as ever.

Then, after hours and hours of waiting, we finally got the results. And, for anyone following the iTunes sales, the order of contestants couldn't have been more obvious. In fourth place, we had wildcard finalist Jeffery Austin, and he was followed by Barrett Baber of Team Blake in third. Then, it was down to country starlet Emily Ann Roberts and the pop Christian juggernaut Jordan Smith. In the least shocking Voice win in quite some time, there was no "country mafia" steal... Jordan took the win.

In lieu of a coronation song, he returned to his cover of "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" for his final Voice moment. His family, fellow finalists and coaches crowded the stage, but there was that sweet falsetto, permeating the room of The Voice for one final time.

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