Cam Anthony, Jordan Matthew Young, Kenzie Wheeler, Rachel Mac and Victor Solomon lay it all on the line in this performance finale — but who will win it all?
Inconsistency was the order of the night on “The Voice” performance finale, as almost everyone delivered at least one incredible performance only to falter somewhat on the other.
For one contestant, they managed to have both the best performance in one round and the worst in the other. How will America decide what to do with that, because their best was arguably the best of the whole night. Do you forget the other one?
Blake also took to the stage along the way to regale viewers with what’s perhaps his most controversial song, “Minimum Wage.” Critics considered its message tone deaf amid a pandemic-induced economic crisis, but he says they just misunderstood the song.
The question now, though, is if there will be even more controversy when America crowns its winner on Tuesday night. The contestants didn’t make it easy, though we’ve already made our prediction (you can check it out at the bottom).
It’s down to five contestants left, with 7-time winner Blake holding the edge with two finalists. His Cam Anthony and Jordan Matthew Young face off against Kelly’s Kenzie Wheeler, John’s Victor Solomon and Nick’s Rachel Mac. All five brought it, but only one can win.
In a sweet bonus moment, Gwen Stefani returned to “The Voice” with a special video message for Blake Shelton in celebration of his ten years and 20 seasons with the show. The clip featured a lot of his former contestants who he’s helped shepherd into the music industry and continued to support.
Fair warning, since I’m safe at home, I’m probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Nick Jonas and Blake Shelton.
And just for fun, I’m going to rank the performances from worst to first in each round to see who my favorites are, and then see how they fare when you pick your winner.
(“Minimum Wage,” Blake Shelton) Despite the controversy over this song when it was released, Blake nevertheless took his economic anthem — he says critics of the song are misunderstanding it — and brought all of his signature charm to it. The song feels a bit pandering to his country base lyrically, but it’s got a fun high-tempo groove that keeps you sailing through it, and Blake always brings it with consistent vocals.
Kenzie Wheeler [Team Kelly]
(“Heartland,” George Strait – 23, Dover, FL) Okay, the white cowboy hats planted in the audience to bop around on the heads of obviously non-country fans was really lame. They should have done some line dancing in there, maybe. But really, it should have just been about Kenzie, as he continues to bring authenticity to his country vocal that is absolutely undeniable. This wasn’t the most exciting song he could have sung, but it stayed true to where his heart is, and that heart sings through his vocals no matter what song he’s doing.
Jordan Matthew Young [Team Blake]
(“Key to the Highway,” B.B. King & Eric Clapton – 35, Austin, TX) This is just about the most comfortable we’ve seen Jordan on the stage. He tackled this song with guitar confidence (taking on two legends of the instrument) with a great bluesy rasp in his voice. This is exactly the kind of performance you can imagine hearing in a smoky blues bar, bringing the audience to their feet and loving every minute of it. He was clearly settled in his element here and it was just wonderful to join him where he felt right at home.
(“The Chain,” Fleetwood Mac – 16, Romeo, MI) Rachel has been growing by leaps and bounds each week, so for this last chance she tackled one of the biggest female vocalists of all time. Rachael and Stevie Nicks are already in a similar vibe with their style and approach to music, so this was her proving ground. We absolutely loved her confidence, tackling this vocal all by herself. It’s such an iconic harmony, she really had to put her own stamp on it, and she did it line by line, making it her own. Her artistry is showing and once again, she has grown week to week, achieving her greatest artistic interpretation again. She’s becoming such an unexpected performer in the most exciting ways.
(“Wanted Dead or Alive,” Bon Jovi – 19, Philadelphia, PA) A little more soulful than the original, Cam nevertheless delivered a real shocker by rocking out on this classic track. He put some stank on his voice, and had that angsty thrust that punctuates these types of rock anthems. Cam has found new ways to surprise us throughout this competition, tackling different genres. Impressively, he manages to sound true to the style he’s chosen, but also brings his own artistic style to it with key choices along the way. This was just another fine example of his incredible diversity.
Victor Solomon [Team Legend]
(“Freedom,” Beyoncé f. Kendrick Lamar – 22, Peoria, IL) Victor stepped up bigger than we’ve ever seen from him, channeling that same energy that made his first “Glory” Blind Audition such an incredible moment. We loved that he tackled both the sung lyrics as well as some of the rap. His take on the latter was almost like a preacher would deliver them, which is appropriate considering his background. But it worked beautifully here, helping to elevate the song to new heights. Add the militant choreography and the whole visual presentation and it was a truly mesmerizing experience. Our eyes and ears were glued to the screen.
Victor Solomon [Team Legend]
(“I Can’t Make You Love Me,” Bonnie Raitt – 22, Peoria, IL) Dedicated to Sierra, the woman in his life, Victor clearly had a lot of passion for the song, but this was a very unpolished vocal from him, even as he put a lot of his own style into such a familiar song. A bit of a surprise because he usually brings so much passion and control to his performances. This sounded like his voice might be starting to be a little strained. It was still connected and emotionally resonant, as he clearly was, but he’s been stronger before.
(“I Hope You Dance,” Lee Ann Womack – 16, Romeo, MI) Rachel picked a great time to come out with her most mature and moving vocal performance of the entire season. She was so connected with the message of this song, resonating emotionally within her and as she sang it out to her young nephew, thinking of the future. There was a sweetness in her voice that left her a little off key deeper into the track, but there was no denying her beautiful sincerity.
Kenzie Wheeler [Team Kelly]
(“The Keeper of the Stars,” Tracy Byrd – 23, Dover, FL) A few of Kenzie’s held notes didn’t quite work for some reason, but this overall moment was the kind of performance we’ve come to expect from him. He’s got that classic country tone, so rich in quality and believability. He takes us on a journey almost every time he picks up the mic and this was no exception. It’s a guided tour that leaves you moved in the best possible way. He is so authentically real, how could he not go on to have a career in country music no matter what happens on this show?
Jordan Matthew Young [Team Blake]
(“Stay,” Rihanna f. Mikky Ekko – 35, Austin, TX) Well this was an unexpected delight. Jordan was stunningly gorgeous on this Rihanna classic, bring so much compassion to his interpretation of every line. We could feel how much the message of the song meant to him, and more importantly, we could feel that emotional connection through his voice. It was heartbreaking and so raw, Jordan definitely put a stamp on his strongest night of the competition with this performance.
(“Stand Up,” Cynthia Erivo – 19, Philadelphia, PA) From the choreography to the presentation to the costuming to Cam’s incredible vocals, every single aspect of this performance was perfection. This was a religious experience, and with this track you either go big or you don’t bother. Cam took it to the next level spiritually and vocally. We heard his power, his grace and his soul in that one. It was otherworldly.
These singers made this a far more difficult task than we might have expected. Probably the biggest surprise for us was that we half expected Kenzie to run away with the whole season — as he’s been such a dominant and consistent force — but that’s not what happened tonight.
He could well still win, but something happened as the night unfolded. Kenzie remained his consistent stellar self, but everyone else had at least one moment where they rose above his already high standard.
Victor closed the show with a tour de force performance as part of the “Journey” round, while Rachel pushed herself to her best performances of the season. By the same token, Jordan finally seemed to find his own consistency with that great blues/rock combo vibe.
But it was also a night of inconsistency from a lot of those same artists. While Victor dominated the “Journey” round, we felt he really faltered in the “Dedication” round. Kenzie actually dropped the ball a bit on the “Journey” round, if juse because it felt kind of safe.
By math alone, only one artist killed it in both rounds with an almost consistent level of greatness. Cam stunned us with his rock performance in the “Journey” round, but he was incredible on the vocal, while he matched Victor’s stunning “Journey” with his own “Dedication” performance.
By that token alone, we’d give it to Cam. He’s been consistently incredible all season long, blowing us away every time he’s hit the stage. He’s yet to have a bad week and he’s probably more deserving of this win than anyone else there if for that reason alone. But we’re not sure it will work that way.
Rachel has grown the most on the season, so if we want to reward that, she’s definitely the one. Victor has had incredibly moving and powerful moments. If he’s on the right track and with the right motivation, he’s practically unstoppable.
Jordan is his own artist, carving an uncharted niche with honest sincerity. But so is Kenzie, who genuinely has one of the most perfect voices for country music today. He’s radio ready. So who wins a show like this?
We’re going to go with our gut and say that Cam Anthony wins — and then we’ll see how wrong you make us when you give it to Kenzie Wheeler instead.
“The Voice” returns in the Fall on NBC.