Guildo has done a great job covering the live shows up to this point, but due to other commitments has handed over the season finale to me.
It’s the same format as last year’s final. Each act will perform one new song, and a duet with their coach. After the first public vote the fourth placed contestant will drop out. The remaining three will then be given a chance to reprise a favourite performance from an earlier round before facing the final public vote.
Here’s my lowdown on the runners and riders.
Sally Barker – Team Tom (6/4)
With over thirty years of experience Sally is a confident and consummate performer. It’s been her ability to connect to the songs, and put in such moving and emotional performances which make her stand out. For the semi-final, ‘Whole of the Moon’ looked like a good song choice and a chance to do something different – but didn’t quite make the same impact as earlier performances.
This week we can expect her to be back to her best with some great choices. ‘Both Sides Now’ is a beautiful number – melancholy and reflective – and for Sally it’s really getting back to her roots. A note of caution – she probably needs to keep it slightly lighter in style as the original version, the later ‘Both Sides Now’ album version is too dour and introverted.
‘Walking in Memphis’ is another great song for the duet – again they need to keep it closer to the Marc Cohn original, and the voices should complement each other well as long as Tom holds back a bit more than last week’s group number. Finally the favourite song will be ‘Dear Darlin’ from the battle rounds – a great choice as this is probably what broadened Sally’s appeal most among the audience. Overall, this looks like a good mix of songs.
Christina Marie – Team Ricky (6/4)
Christina’s got a strong vocal, accurate and technically skilled, and she put up a string of impressive performances in the earlier rounds. However, ‘Bang Bang’ in the semi-final was a poor song choice and looked like a lost opportunity to show a wider range of what she can do.
Her selections for the final look much better, with Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’ as the new song. It doesn’t seem an obvious choice, but it should allow Christina to show a much more stripped-back and mellow vocal, and if she gets it right it could turn out to be a good pick. It’s a popular song and should appeal to the audience.
The favourite song, ‘Power of Love’, was the stand-out performance from the battle rounds. Singing this as a solo version should allow the song to build more gradually than the battle and it could be a great choice. The risk is that it loses the impact of the battle format performance.
The song for the duet has not been announced, but I would assume that they’ll go for a rock song, which will suit both Ricky and Christina – last week’s ‘You Really Got Me’ was probably the most successful of the group numbers. Potentially these selections offer the chance to play to her strengths and to show some more variation between the song styles.
Jermain Jackman – Team Will (10/1)
Through the course of the series Jermain has proved himself to be a well-developed performer, with a very strong voice, big range and technical skill. He’s been at his best performing soulful arrangements of classic songs, and when he’s done this it’s been great (as Tom would say).
In the semi-final there seemed to be a loss of focus, with too much going on, and too much emphasis on technique which detracted from the overall performance. With this in mind the song choice for the final – ‘Wrecking Ball’ by Miley Cyrus – seems slightly odd.
Undoubtedly there will be a twist to the arrangement, but I still can’t see this choice being too helpful – experimenting in the final seems to be a risk. Last week the staging was a bit awkward and again it would probably be better to keep this simple. Unfortunately, Will might find it too hard to resist.
We don’t yet know the song choice for the duet, but it needs to be a much better song and arrangement than last week’s group number to give Jermain any chance. However, if Jermain does make the final three then he’s reprising ‘And I’m Telling You’ – his blind audition song – and this at least is a choice that should show him at his best.
Jamie Johnson – Team Kylie (17/2)
Jamie is the act that seems to have slipped through under the radar this year. Looking back however, he’s always put in good, consistent performances – and has become stronger as the competition developed. In my opinion, he has deservedly emerged as a finalist.
He gained most in the semi-final, with ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ showing just how well he can connect with the song – and convey that to the audience. That impressive performance allowed Jamie to close the gap with the leaders going into the final.
His solo selection is John Waite’s ‘Missing You’. Again it’s not an obvious choice – to me it’s more of a song of its time rather than a classic. It will be interesting to see if they do anything with the arrangement to make it more contemporary. I expect a musically stripped-down version to allow the vocals to shine through – perhaps aiming for a similar feel to last week, and if they get it right it could be good.
This week Jamie will have the benefit of performing the duet with Kylie – get this right and it could be a huge boost, such is Kylie’s popularity. The favourite song from Jamie will be ‘Sex on Fire’ from the knockout rounds, which looks a decent choice of a more up-tempo and powerful number to balance the first song. The two picks we know both look like solid rather than inspired choices – so the song for the duet is also looking crucial to Jamie’s chances.
Where does this leave us? If the previous two years are anything to go by the answer would be it’s still anyone’s guess. The difficulty of predicting The Voice is that the teams don’t directly compete against each other until the final, and in previous years the betting odds and the polls have been very unreliable indicators. This year adds the unknown element of free internet voting for the first time too.
In the Sofabet community, the majority are backing Sally, with Guildo, Natasha and Stoney all firm backers. Sally certainly appears to be the one to beat. She’s neck and neck with Christina in the betting, and just slightly behind in the Tellymix poll. This probably translates to being slightly ahead with the general public at the moment.
However, between the two it might still come down to performances on the night. Both seem to have good song choices and it could be very close. The short odds available now don’t make either a very attractive betting proposition, unless you really do feel that Sally has it in the bag.
Can the two boys threaten the girls? Jermain seems to have a strong element of support, but I also feel that it is below the level which Sally and Christina might be able to achieve. The song choices may try to widen that appeal – but it equally might risk losing core support. Short of a spectacular performance, I can’t see Jermain finishing better than third.
Despite presently lying fourth in the Tellymix poll, it seems to be Jamie rather than Jermain who might have the better chance – and with best odds of 17/2 available, some might feel he’s well worth a flutter. Jamie’s certainly getting stronger, and whilst Sally, Christina and Jermain probably have more underlying support from earlier weeks, Jamie seems to be the one with the momentum from the semi-final.
Many viewers may well make their decision based on the performances on the night – and his duet with Kylie could be a vote-winning bonus for him in that case. He certainly has a chance, but my feeling is that the polls won’t be as far out as they were last year, and I think it will be difficult for Jamie to win from this position.
It would probably need a combination of great performances from Jamie, and poor performances from both Sally and Christina to allow Jamie through now. The song choices are making that seem unlikely.
Good luck to everyone, whoever your backing. Please add to the debate below.