Whether or not Tessanne Chin wins Season 5 of "The Voice" on Tuesday night, she has clearly won the affections of the Sexiest Man Alive, her coach Adam Levine.
"I am so blown away by what you do," Levine told Chin after she had delivered a killer rendition of Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing" on the season's final performance show Monday. "I know, in my mind and my heart, that you are the winner of this show."
Chin, whose voice has never once wavered off pitch nor whose onstage charisma failed to glimmer through this season, may well deserve to emerge victorious. On Monday, when the three finalists each performed three songs — a reprise of his or her blind audition song, a coach duet, and a final song chosen to prove Season 5 crown-wearing worthiness — Chin was once again right on point, and Levine was rapturous.
"Everything you do just draws me in," he told the lush-voiced Jamaican singer after she'd performed the song that made him turn his chair for her lo those many months ago, "Try" by Pink. "Your ability is so extraordinary that I really just revel in it all the time." What's more, Levine added, Chin was "one of the most genuine, loving caring people I've ever met."
Before he appeared onstage to sing the Beatles' "Let It Be" with Chin, Levine declared, "I have never been so excited about any performance before in my life." And in fact, clean-shaven, wearing a snappy tux, and gazing admiringly at Chin in her floor-length gown during their duet, the Maroon 5 singer looked like a high-school kid taking his best girl to the prom, overcome by his good luck. It was cute.
But where, you might ask, does that leave Levine's other finalist, Will Champlin? Levine — or perhaps the show — has cast Champlin as the scrappy fighter, the nose-to-the grindstone hard worker, who has pushed past obstacles to stay in the competition. Bounced from team to team and nearly sent home countless times, he is the improbable, lovable underdog. Never mind that he has a lofty musical lineage (his father was a member of the band Chicago) and an already impressive resume.
"There isn't anybody who works harder than Will," Levine said after Champlin reprised his blind audition song, Gavin DeGraw's "Not Over You," which underscored how far he'd come on the show. "Will works too hard." But, Levine told Champlin, "You wouldn't be here today if you hadn't worked as hard as you did. That's inspiring."
Champlin, an accomplished musician on many instruments, had a solid night, though he may have peaked early, outsinging and outshining Levine on their duet of Elton John's "Tiny Dancer." He also distinguished himself on a trio — the Jackson 5's "I'll Be There" — with his fellow finalists. Unfortunately, the song Levine selected for him, Bryan Adams' "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You," was a bit on the blah side. And having the cameraman repeatedly cut to his lovely wife and adorable baby daughter may only help so much.
Still, just being in the final three "is a huge, massive victory," Levine told him, not even bothering to applaud. "You've won. You're here. It's over."
Perhaps it's over, and perhaps it isn't. The voters will decide. And they'll also have to consider New Jersey 16-year-old Jacquie Lee, whose coach, Christina Aguilera, has given her her own old nickname — a "little girl with a big voice."
Aguilera sees a lot of herself in Lee, as she is wont to share, interacts with her like a total BFF (they finish each other's thoughts and sentences), and considers her to be "like my little sister."
"I love this girl so much," Aguilera announced after Lee had finished ripping the head off of her blind-audition reprise, Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black." "She is a gem .… She is going to go so many places."
In fact, Lee wasn't at her best dueting with Aguilera on "We Remain." Oh, vocally, she was fine. But stuck beside her coach on a smallish circle midstage, unable to walk around, she awkwardly rocked back and forth, like a glitchy wind-up doll.
But Lee returned to her own when she performed Jennifer Hudson's version of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" from "Dreamgirls." The song choice, courtesy of Aguilera, was calculated to show Lee's spitfire vocals and energetic stage delivery in their full-throated glory, and Aguilera clearly believed it had paid off.
"Jacquie Lee is a force to be reckoned with," she declared. "I'm scared of you. You're going to come up and give me some competition. You already have."
So will it be sultry-voiced, warm-hearted Jamaican Tessanne Chin; resilient, multitalented L.A. musician Will Champlin; or full-throttle New Jersey teen Jacquie Lee? We'll find out Tuesday night.
Who would you like to see claim the crown?
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