The Voice finale was Monday, and the winner was crowned Tuesday. Fortunately, the right person won. And by the right person, I mean someone with an angelic voice who was not a) a country singer, b) a hot looking young man, or c) a cute teenage girl.
The competition was won by Maelyn Jarmon, whose voice reminds me somewhat of Florence + the Machine. (Although her duet of “Unforgettable” with John Legend reminded me of some of Lady Gaga’s duets with Tony Bennett.) She sang a duet with Sarah Machlalan, and held her own.
The final competition night she sang an original composition, the aforementioned duet with her coach, and “Hallelujah.” This song has been covered to death (I have six versions myself), including at least four times on the Voice. She managed to make it sound beautiful and sufficiently different that I purchased it. She also won brownie points with me by understanding the nature of the song. Title aside, “this is not a song of celebration; it’s a song of longing and regret.” (I wish all the artists who put Hallelujah on their Christmas albums could understand this.)
All of this on a show which has lost its way.
The Voice trumpets itself as being all about finding “the voice,” stemming from its selection of contestants via a blind performance. That’s all well and good — you could tell from her blind audition of “Fields of Gold” that Maelyn was something special.
The emphasis on teams favors Blake Shelton. Shelton is very popular with the conservative voters who tune in in droves. (The Voice is popular with Trump voters.) He tends to get many singers in the finale, which increases his chances of winning. (Shelton has won the competition more than any other coach. To his credit, he is known to keep in touch with his singers after the show, and several have opened concerts for him.)
The fresh blood helps (Kelly Clarkson the past three seasons, and Jennifer Hudson and this season John Legend.) But still, the competition part takes over from the “let’s develop new voices.” It used to be that judges would give actual feedback after performances, now all they give is profuse praise, regardless of how good it is. The rare times they do criticize, whatever the flaw was is so obvious that they have to mention it. (One exception: Adam Levine will give criticism and feedback during the blind auditions. Personally, I would go for him as a coach simply because he could be the most helpful.)
The show used to award points for purchases of competitors’ songs on iTunes. (I have a number of mediocre song by competitors that I thought nonetheless showed promise.) Now, though, you have to use Apple Streaming, a service which I have no intention of signing up for.
I still bought several of Maelyn’s singles, though. They were good enough that I am willing to put them in rotation in my playlists, alongside Jordan Smith’s cover of “Somebody to Love,” Joshua Davis’s “Fields of Gold,” Kyla Jade’s “This Is Me,” and most especially James Wolpert’s cover of “A Case of You.”
Of those last three, only Smith won. Wolpert didn’t even make the finale. Other than Smith and a couple of songs by Sawyer Fredericks, I don’t think I have any songs by winners that actually make it on to my playlists. And I’ve been watching since Season Four.
I really hope the show improves. And I hope that Maelyn Jarmon, unlike most winners thus far*, becomes a superstar.
*Season Six winner Josh Kaufman played Pippin on Broadway; Season 8 winner had success with both a Christmas album and a regular album, and wrote “Ashes” for the Deadpool soundtrack which was performed by Celine Dion. Cassidy Pope and Danielle Bradbury have had success in country music. Although they have been successful, they have not had the success that several singers from American Idol have had.