Has there ever been a season of “The Voice” where the winner is this obvious?
As “The Voice” airs its season finale on Tuesday night, Jordan Smith — the Kentucky church choir leader whose voice has been deemed otherworldly by the coaches — seems like an easy guess as the champion. All four judges — Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Pharrell and Gwen Stefani — spun around in their chairs at the beginning of the season during the “blind audition” weeks.
But as we have said before, you can never count country singers out. See: “Underdog” Craig Wayne Boyd in Season 7, who won out over the more popular pop and R&B singers.
In addition to Smith, the finalists are country singers Emily Ann Roberts and Barrett Baber, both on Shelton’s team. Jeffery Austin, the publicist-turned-singer from New York who leans toward pop songs, was the last contestant saved last week.
While it would be shocking if anyone except Smith won, Roberts and Baber are gunning hard for the country vote. Roberts, the 16-year-old from Knoxville, Tenn., has performed classic country songs throughout the season, from Patty Loveless to Dolly Parton to the Judds. After her blind audition, Shelton emphasized his Nashville connections as he urged her to choose his team. She capped her season with “Burning House” on Monday’s final performance night, the breakout single from country newcomer Cam, along with Parton’s “Islands in the Stream” with Shelton for the coach’s duet.
Meanwhile, Shelton compared Baber — the 35-year-old father from Arkansas — to Garth Brooks early on after Baber sang “Angel Eyes” by the Jeff Healy Band. In the weeks since, Baber performed songs from a wide range of Nashville artists, including Lee Brice, Zac Brown Band and Conway Twitty. On Monday, Baber went with one of the hottest country songs at the moment, Thomas Rhett’s “Die a Happy Man”; he and Shelton performed “Rhinestone Cowboy.”
The country music voting bloc, which populates some major cities that tune in to reality singing shows, is a powerful one. As a result, Nashville-bound artists had a major presence on reality singing competitions, particularly “The Voice.” Danielle Bradbery and Cassadee Pope (season 3 and 4 winners, respectively) are two of the only artists who have made an impact after winning the show, while even non-winners such as RaeLynn and The Swon Brothers have gone on to success. And you just never know what the reality show viewers will do: The odds have Smith and Austin as the two favorites to win, so if they split the vote, one of the country singers could sneak through.
Meanwhile, “The Voice” is finishing its ninth season as one of the most-watched reality shows on TV; about 14 million people tuned in Part 1 of the season finale on Monday. And through it all, Smith is the one to beat. “Jordan, I don’t even know — what the hell just came out of you? It doesn’t make any sense to me,” Shelton told Smith after one particularly impressive singing performance. “Your voice is like from another planet, man.”