"Three months ago, the journey began," host Carson Daly wantonly reminded us as the final night of The Voice performances kicked off. And, yes, we have all indeed sat through three months' worth of blind auditions, battle rounds, live shows, judges' egos and Blake Shelton's quest for world domination, among other things. But now, the end is nigh, and we're mere hours away from crowning a Season Four winner.
With Adam Levine and Shakira having been knocked out of the race last week, evil mastermind Blake and Usher were left to face off, with the remaining three contestants singing three songs each. So, who will walk away the winner? Let's break it down.
Team Blake's Swon Brothers – the first-ever duo to make it to the finals – can do no wrong. Each week their fan base seemingly grows, culminating with them nearly topping the iTunes songs chart last week with the Loggins and Messina (by way of Anne Murray) tune "Danny's Song," which they reprised Monday night as their "defining moment" of the season. They also sang the falsetto-heavy Eagles track "I Can't Tell You Why" and hammed it up alongside Blake on Brad Paisley's "Celebrity," in which Shelton gave a wink and nod to his rising star status with a huge grin while singing: "I'll make the supermarket tabloids, they'll write some awful stuff; but the more they run my name down, the more my price goes up."
Why they will win: Never underestimate the power and appeal of White Guys With Guitars on these types of reality competition shows. (See: Seasons seven through 11 of American Idol.) After weeks of middling out in the 30s on the iTunes chart, they suddenly shot up to Number Two last week, overtaking everyone else on the show. This week they've done almost as well, making them the latest dark horse of the competition.
Why they won't win: The producers of The Voice have given them the opening "death slot" two weeks in a row, leaving them with an uphill battle to fight. That said, they bucked the trend last week and came out on top – which makes us wonder if they're the real ones to beat and the show's slowing them down to move the others to the head of the class. Still, it's hard to contend with the fact that they finished all three of their songs 80 minutes into a 120-minute show.
Meanwhile, Team Usher's Michelle Chamuel has gone from dark horse to frontrunner over the course of the past few weeks, moving into the upper echelon of the iTunes chart with her take on Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble" two weeks ago. She took on the song again as her defining moment this season, since "defining moment" apparently means "highest-charting song." She also tackled Annie Lennox's "Why" and did a duet with Usher on U2's "One," a strange song choice considering Usher isn't best known for power ballads. (Why didn't he choose something more upbeat that would have shown off both their strong points?)
Why she will win: America loves an underdog, and Michelle certainly carried that torch this season. Watching her go from Geeky Girl With Glasses to Bona Fide Rock Star was quite an impressive journey. Plus, she's by far the most entertaining contestant to watch in terms of stage presence, proving she's the overall package.
Why she won't win: As exemplified by his choice of "One," Usher has picked some questionable songs for Michelle over the course of the season, focusing far too much on ballads when she's better suited for uptempo fare. Still, it's gotten her this far. So the real culprit here if she loses is that indie rock can't compete against country music when it comes to who mainstream America is willing to vote for.
And then there's Blake's Danielle Bradbery, the 16-year-old cutie pie with the pitch-perfect country voice who's been the season-long frontrunner. While it was hard to pick, Blake chose Pam Tillis' "Maybe It Was Memphis" as Danielle's defining moment, because it was when she really broke away from the pack. (Again, in terms of charting.) The do-over performance prompted contestant-less Adam to declare that she should be the winner. She also did a borderline creepy duet with Blake on "Timber, I'm Falling in Love" by Patty Loveless and nabbed that coveted pimp spot once again for her take on Sara Evans' "Born to Fly."
Why she will win: Two words: Pimp spot. Yes, The Voice would be remiss if they didn't jam the crown on her head, seeing as the show has yet to produce a huge star – and Danielle could be it. She's been an almost unstoppable presence on the iTunes chart week after week, leaving everyone else trying to play catch up. And deservedly so, as she's been consistently good, virtually pitch-perfect all season, and she has a girl-next-door-meets-pageant-queen look that is probably very appealing to a wide swath of viewers.
Why she won't win: If Danielle does have an Achilles' heel, it's her age. So if she happens to fall short, it's most likely because people think she's young enough to "have another shot" at fame.
So, there you have it, folks. Seems like a win-win-win no matter who wins, right?