7:22pm PT by Ashley Lee
'The Voice' Finals Recap: Top 3 Sing to Win
Fun fact: the top three singers on The Voice are all comeback kids. Blake Shelton's country teen is a returning auditionee who was rejected last season, Usher's soul man escaped elimination during the battle rounds with a steal, and Adam Levine's YouTube star was saved via Twitter just last week.
They went head-to-head on Monday night with three performances: a duet with their coach, a fan favorite from earlier in the season, and a new performance. With Shakira out after last week's semifinals, the remaining finalists took the stage for their last night of competition performances. Here's how they did.
Team Adam's Christina Grimmie began the episode with her blind audition song, Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball," but this time with her longer, blonder hair and a slew of fireworks. Though it took more than a couple of verses to lift off into something more than just another cover -- or even to show some growth since she first sang it for her audition -- Grimmie showed off her superstar potential with a tender bridge and some major high notes at the end. Shelton and Usher patted her on the back, and Shakira praised her "insane upper register...you knocked this song out of the park during the blinds, and you did no different this time."
Grimmie then performed Gotye and Kimbra's "Somebody That I Used to Know" with her coach, letting them simultaneously showcase their now-signature high registers and a few rock-minded shouts. For her last performance, she went with Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling In Love" (which, coincidentally or otherwise, was a massive moment for American Idol finalist Jena Irene this season). In the context of this competition, it was a smart decision to remind viewers that Grimmie can go beyond a pop cover and a hip-hop reinterpretation and tout a classic track -- especially with an ending of sailing notes. Shelton enjoyed her arrangement of the classic, and Shakira called the risky choice "flawless."
Team Usher's Josh Kaufman first took the stage with his coach for The Police's "Every Breath You Take," a nice pairing of their soulful tones and some really nice harmonies. And more than ever, Kaufman appeared comfortable on the massive stage, even amid smoke, lasers and the expert performer himself, Usher. He then reprised Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," the battle-round track that got him stolen from Levine's team to Usher's. This time, Kaufman had to champion the track alone, and he filled the gaps with riffs and scats that kept the energy high "No one can ever get bored listening to you," said Shakira of his multifaceted voice. Levine expressed his remorse for ever letting him go (again), and Shelton praised him: "Not only did you sing the crap out of that, you ad-libbed the crap out of that!"
Kaufman closed out the night with Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain" -- which, of course, required fire onstage but also put the finalist in his upper register throughout the entire song. The performance might have seemed exhausting, but that was just Kaufman's vulnerability at play as he effortlessly touted the hit by one of the most vocally ambitious singers in the business. Once again, the crowd drowned out Levine's opportunity to give actual feedback, but Usher declared Kaufman the winner of The Voice, reiterating his comments that the show is overdue for a winning touch of soul (apparently we're completely ignoring the outcome of the first two seasons of the series).
Team Blake's Jake Worthington also reprised his blind audition song, Keith Whitley's "Don't Close Your Eyes," seated and strumming among the rhythmically challenged audience (seriously?!). With subtlety and tenderness, he powered through the country ballad, as he has so consistently throughout the live shows. "It's because of your hard work, it's because of your coaching that you continue to grow," said Usher, while Shakira said Worthington has gained a genuine credibility and made her pay attention to the lyrics of the song.
Worthington then went for "Right Here Waiting" by Richard Marx -- yes, another ballad, but well outside the country genre and a nice emotional moment for the finalist, especially with the bridge's big note. Usher said, "You're young, but yet you still pulled it off, and that's a trait of a young artist." Shakira loved the countrified version of the track and appreciated some new vocal tricks that showed Worthington's growth, as did Levine. Worthington also performed Hank Williams, Jr.'s "A Country Boy Can Survive" with Shelton, which was relatively more upbeat than his other two songs of the night and had a ton more of that overdue attitude he so sparingly shows.
Also during the episode, Shakira and Shelton performed their country duet "Medicine," and Levine and Usher joined to perform D'angelo's "Untitled (How Does It Feel)."
The Voice finals continue Tuesday at 8 p.m. on NBC -- click here to see who won.
What did you think of the top 3's performances? Who's in for the win on Tuesday night? Sound off in the comments below.