'The Voice': See Brooke Simpson's Stunning 'O Holy Night' - Rolling Stone
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‘The Voice’: See Brooke Simpson’s Stunning ‘O Holy Night’

Team Miley Cyrus performer breaks out in part one of season 13 finale

With three opportunities apiece to show America what they were made of, the final four contestants on The Voice took the stage on the first night of the two-part finale for a theme that was, in coach Miley Cyrus’ words, “coming full circle.” She ought to say so, because finalist Brooke Simpson performed as Cyrus’ first-ever artist to make it to the final round. And also because Addison Agen and Chloe Kohanski began the season on Team Cyrus before being swiped in the Knockout Rounds, the youngest coach wasn’t exaggerating when she said history (or “herstory” in Cyrus parlance) was being made.

Up first was Agen singing Tim McGraw’s Grammy-winning “Humble and Kind,” which she finished in tears. Her coach Adam Levine thought the crying complemented her performance, saying, “The fact that you did lose it at the end is beautiful, because your connection to life is more important than your connection to music, and that should always be the case.”

While Agen’s breakdown ostensibly garnered her more praise than the following few contestants received, Simpson’s original song “What Is Beautiful” was undoubtedly among the most compelling performances of the evening, featuring the North Carolina native’s spry vocal runs and empowering lyrics. While once a relatively unlikely contestant with what Levine called an “unclear path” for season 13, Simpson was the standout performer last night with evident confidence in herself, her sound and her image.

Tennessee resident Red Marlow’s rendition of Garth Brooks’ Bob Dylan-penned “To Make You Feel My Love” condensed the stage lighting to one simple spotlight as the singer accompanied himself on guitar for the oft-covered classic. The plaintive song, which was his strongest of the night, was a presentation of Marlow at his best: in a placid setting with his rich baritone soaring over stripped-down instrumentation.

Simpson’s version of “O Holy Night” immediately followed, and for the second time in the episode she raised the bar for the other contestants. Accompanied by a choir providing musical bedrock to her dexterous, soulful wailing, she gave new strength to the Christmas carol, and her heart-rending delivery suggested she might continue her career as an R&B-leaning artist. Both Cyrus and Jennifer Hudson received the performance by standing and rendering positive feedback. “Tonight is your night,” Cyrus said. “You’ve never shined brighter. And it’s not just about how beautiful you look. It’s about how beautiful you sound.” Watch it at the top of the page.

Kohanski closed the night with a somewhat underwhelming pop rendition of Kim Carnes’ 1981 hit “Bette Davis Eyes.” Vocally, she walked the line between appealingly raspy and hoarse on the higher notes, but overall she performed well as the hard rock-leaning, left-of-center artist she has been all season, and it was a worthy ending to season 13’s penultimate episode.

The Season 13 winner of The Voice will be revealed at 8 p.m. CT on NBC along with guest performances by Kelly Clarkson, Demi Lovato, N.E.R.D., Charlie Puth, Sia and Chris Blue. 

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