How much voice was on The Voice's finals last night? Pitbull, Ne-Yo and a vocal-track approximation of Nayer acted magnanimous, Brad Paisley acted cautionary, all four coaches acted woefully unrehearsed again for Queen (that pitchy Xtina note!), and Alison Haislip acted her way through palpitating product placement and backstage interviews given under duress. (In his "interview," Javier rivaled Brad Paisley's keyboardist in sulk.)
Elsewhere in song and dance, we got two performmances per teammate, except NBC would really prefer if you forgot half. See--as Carson explained about sixteen times--you were only supposed to vote on the original songs, penned by mostly-relevant songwriters but grown barely a field away from the "This Is My Now" musical content farm. If you wanted to vote based on the duets, which were uniformly better? You're doing it wrong! Now, it's fairly straightforward that The Voice will only count sales of the original songs (and making sales count as votes pre-empts the first-week Idol single chart-scouring), but who's stopping me from hypothetically voting Beverly after she tore through "Beautiful," or Vicci after Cee Lo's psychedelic freakout? The premise is ridiculous. All it's going to do is speed up fans' Stockholm-syndrome attachment to these four mediocre songs until someone seriously tries to argue that "Inventing Shadows," "Love Sick," "Afraid To Sleep" and "Stitch By Stitch" are solid works of songwriting. But they're also the only real songs we'll get until tonight, as we watch Stevie Nicks wonder how she blundered into a sentence with Ryan Tedder and Pat from Train and as we experience the protracted pageantry of crowning a winner.
Until then, we've got to judge the performances, because the show clearly didn't. Click NEXT to read our take on both the original songs and the duets, because come on, they should both count.
4. Dia Frampton - "Inventing Shadows"
Sabotage! The song itself isn't bad, a Snow Patrol/Taylor Swiftian piece with enough angst for the former Meg & Dia singer to be stormily secure. Problem is, it's completely wrong for her. The jump in the chorus can only be cleared by those with really high belts. Otherwise, you're forced to yo-yo between vocal registers within seconds--impossible to consistently pull off live, especially when it's in the chorus. So poor Dia gets forced into her shaky head voice and sounds like she's stepping off twelve consecutive cliffs, even on the studio version. Beverly could have pulled this off. Vicci could have pulled this off. So could Frenchie or Nakia or any of the flung-aside belters. But asking Dia to try is like asking Javier to sing Sabbath or Carson Daly to host properly.
This is not Dia's fault. It's the songwriter's fault for not writing for Dia's voice (the entire point of these original songs), and it's Blake's fault for not noticing. Also somebody's fault: the shadowbox mime passel. I've been repeating Xtina's MIMES! MIMES! MIMES! bit and cracking myself up all night and now all morning, but jokes aside, all the dancers accomplished was to distrac--MIMES!
3. Beverly McClellan - "Love Sick"
In which Beverly takes all the gravitas she found on "The Thrill Is Gone" and tosses it away into a whirl of shouting, gimmicky dance moves and Christina's introductory squeeing. There's nothing but staccato bluster where the chorus should be, and the opportunities for Beverly to really sing are scarce. Imagine that this were anyone else--an auditionee, perhaps--and that the coaches actually coached. The criticisms would abound: shouty. Bar singing. Out of breath. Without Beverly's likability, this is all that's left, and it's really disappointing for someone so unstoppable just a week ago to sound so winded.
2. Vicci Martinez - "Afraid to Sleep
Another page from the bad songwriting textbook: if your song's high note falls on the word "sleep," or almost anything with a long E, even the best singer is going to bleat like Casey Weston. As with Dia, it happens enough to wreck what's a fogged-over power ballad otherwise perfect for Vicci, now a noted fan of Dashboard Confessional and aurally punching someone in the face. Setting those notes aside--so in other words, setting aside every chorus--Vicci sounded fine if strained, and her big note expired with a gasp.
The hiccups weren't limited to her performance--when did Vicci take choreography lessons from the Beverly McClellan School of Bounce? What about "Afraid to Sleep" prompted Adam's once-an-episode jab at Idol? How many more creepy Blake comments will it take before Miranda Lambert is entitled to break out the gunpowder and lead?
1. Javier Colon - "Stitch by Stitch"
Darkchild! By far the hitmaking-est of the hitmaker-songwriters The Voice rustled up, but in Beyonce terms, "Stitch by Stitch" is less a "Say My Name" and more a "Cater 2 U," if "Cater 2 U" sounded oddly like The Script. Nevertheless, it has one distinct advantage over every other original song: it's plausible that somebody wrote it for Javier's voice instead of (ahem) stitching together something throwaway from the scraps in their computer cache. It makes the coaches' faint praise--Cee Lo's "It sounds like it's your song" (uh, yep) and Adam's "You must be so relieved to have gone through that (uh, what?)--even more inexplicable, because really now. It's vaguely romantic, vaguely vulnerable and able to be slathered in melisma; of course Javier will meet those expectations. If only he exceeded them.
4. Javier Colon and Adam Levine - "Man in the Mirror
Adam Levine, you shrewd bastard. It's both smart and insensitive to capitalize on MJ-anniversary goodwill in the name of snatching up misplaced votes from Michael fans. For half the song, though, things sound really good! Sadly for Adam, it's the half where Javier sings lead.
3. Dia Frampton and Blake Shelton - "I Won't Back Down"
What does it say that our sole standard for a Dia/Blake duet was no creepiness from the coach? "I Won't Back Down" isn't the greatest duet choice because Dia's verses sound like a snip beside Blake's, although that fixed itself by the second chorus or so just in time for Blake to pull out some indulgent "watch this!"/"to the front!" calls without responses. But his shades made him look like Ahnuld, so it's forgivable.
2. Beverly McClellan and Christina Aguilera - "Beautiful"
Ditch the skepticism. Forget your snarking about how of course Christina Aguilera picks a Christina Aguilera song. Recover from your inspirational-song fatigue. And just listen. Beverly kills (her strength is singing, not screaming), Christina's voice sounds better than it has in months, and the acoustic guitar is graceful, not gratuitous.
1. Vicci Martinez and Cee Lo Green - "Love is a Battlefield"
How does Cee Lo Green's brain even work? There's the bonkers half, which stages Mad Max re-enactments led by Mr. T in a red ponyhawk and Vicci in Adam Lambert liner, a feather appendage and war paint. Then there's the analytic half, which determines precisely how much Vicci Martinez will destroy "Love is a Battlefield" and nuclear-fuse it together again. It must be nice to be Cee Lo. Especially when his team gets the spectacle and the pimp spot and the night's best vocals all in one show-ending phenomenon.
That's all well and good, but who's going to win? Who should win? Are they the same person? Click NEXT to read our take!
WHO WILL WIN:
Ugh, The Voice makes this too easy. You don't even need DialIdol's pseudostatistical tea leaves to look up the iTunes top 100 and see Dia Frampton chilling up there at the top, followed by Javier Colon, with a chasm of Redfoo and Hot Chelle Ray before Vicci comes in at No. 12 and Beverly flounders at No. 25. And while fans with money and fans with phone time aren't the same set, they've overlapped quite nicely in the past.
So it's a Dia - Javier race. But really, it's Dia's race to lose. Think about it. What Moments has Javier had throughout the show? Not many. He's coasted on his assumed front-runner status and his vulnerability, but from day one, his collected performances are a blur of chutes-and-ladders melisma. Dia's moments are much more discrete. "Heartless." "Losing My Religion." If Javier's a consistent crooner, Dia lands her singles--and it's much easier to be shocked into action than lulled.
But there's another thing working in Dia's favor, and it's something we refuse to shut up about: Meg & Dia. The one thing The Voice refuses to acknowledge in favor of mentioning Dia's mythical children's books that have never been written and saying she's shy! enough times to audition for Once upon a Mattress, but the one thing that not only gives Dia a built-in fanbase but expands it any time someone Googles her or reads recaps (hi!) and sees that she's got a proven and quite good record of records. Javier's also got records, but they're nowhere as commercial as what viewers--and voters--are apt to reward.
WHO SHOULD WIN:
Let's get right to it: Vicci Martinez. It's not surprising in itself that she's the dark-horse contender--you could see it coming by how often The Voice's producers teased us with her "Rolling in the Deep," as if she was the next Adele and next Duffy and next Amy Winehouse rolled into one much-recapped performer. You can also see it in her trajectory. The weird thing about how often "Rolling in the Deep" was recapped was how shaky and jostly she was, how much she seemed like semifinals fodder. Then came "Jolene," then "Dog Days Are Over." Tonight came "Love is a Battlefield." Every time, some new spectacle bursts from the stage (thank you, Cee Lo); almost every time, she's given a plum spot to end the show. And every time, she sounds better and better.
That said, there's just no way Vicci's going to win. She and Cee Lo have the best chemistry of any of the teams (Christina's gushing doesn't count, nor does Blake's leching and definitely not Adam's bizarre disconnect), but as a person, we don't know much about Vicci. What we do know is a little prickly--she turned down Idol, for instance, because she didn't like the rules. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this, but it's not the sort of thing that inspires devoted fanbases. But if The Voice judged solely by the voice, Vicci would've had the crown two weeks ago.
Are we out of our mind? Got different ideas about who should win or who's going to? Leave us a comment! And check back tomorrow as we live-tweet and recap the finale.