7:00 p.m.: The first night of the two-night “The Voice” Season 4 finale starts now, and now is the time for the Top 3 – Muskogee’s The Swon Brothers and 16-year-old Texan Danielle Bradbery competing for Oklahoma country music superstar Blake Shelton’s team and indie pop-rocker Michelle Chamuel representing Usher’s team – to take advantage of what host Carson Daly calls their final chance to prove they are “The Voice” to America.
7:03: After the first of what’s sure to be many montages, we’ve got the coaches opening the show with a horn-tastic rendition of Joe Cocker’s cover of The Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends.” There’s lots of flash and fun involved, and I’m realizing now that I’m really, really gonna miss Shakira when Christina Aguilera comes back next season. In contrast, I haven’t missed Xtina at all.
7:10: Host Carson Daly is thanking the coaches for a great opening number and hushing Blake. “Is he causing trouble, already?” Adam Levine asks. Naturally. “I’m sorry, sir,” Blake replies. Adam says he just wants everyone to have fun. Shakira says she is going to the contestants’ very own cheerleader – “imported direct from Colombia” – and she is going to miss the comfy chair and these jerks the next few months. Usher says he wants Michelle and everyone to remember that “we’re humans being and not just humans doing” and to enjoy it. Blake says all three of the Top 3 have shown that they want to work hard and they don’t need to beat it into their heads anymore.
7:12: Now we’ve got Swon-tage going of The Swon Brothers run through Season 3 – and even earlier than that. Their dad, Kelly Swon, told me during the Muskogee homecoming that Zach started playing music on Mickey Mouse drums when they were 2 years old, and they’ve got pictures to prove it. Blake comments that they’ve got such a wave of momentum going, and they need to capitalize. They’re reiterating that they never expected to make the finals. They’re going to do The Eagles’ “I Can’t Tell You Why.” It’s a challenging song, so I hope they nail it …
7:15: Here we go, Zach is on piano, Colton is on guitar and they’re rocking those sibling harmonies. They’re nailing the falsettos on this, which is an amazingly positive sign. I hope their next song is something really high-energy that will contrast, but I think this is a great opening salvo. I love that Shakira is waving a “Go Okies” pennant for them! What a great sport! Have I mentioned I’m gonna miss her?
7:18: Blake is on his feet applauding, and the Swons and Blake are, as Carson put it, “acknowledging the new Okie from Colombia.” Usher is praising them “for finding the girl part of their voices,” evolving from strictly country and picking a classic effort; his praise seems a little backhanded, which is maybe naturally since they’re a threat to his finalist. Shakira is gushing that she is a fan and they’ve made her like them even though she doesn’t follow country. Adam notes that he was a bit critical of their last Eagles performance and that they nailed this one and he thought they did a great job, which was a tall order considering the Eagles are some of the best singers around. Blake turns Usher’s slightly sharp comments into a straight-up compliment, saying that he believes the reason people can’t always put their finger on what they like about the Swon siblings is that they are constantly evolving. Well played, sir.
7:27: This is what they’re calling a “defining moment” performance. Michelle Chamuel takes the stage in her trademark black glasses and red jacket, and the latter seems particularly since she is performing Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” from her “Red” album. I really like Michelle’s voice and her self-deprecating awkwardness and her goofy dancing. I’m not sure I’d ever vote for her even if there wasn’t a pair of Okies in this competition, but she’s got a certain likeability and definite vocal talent. My inner once-bullied nerd-girl wants to take her out for a latte and a good girl chat.
7:31: Usher is on his feet and fist-pumping. Shakira praises her energy and her “extraordinary, out-of-the-ordinary” talent. Adam notes that there’s an energy that Michelle creates onstage that just can’t be fabricated and is “the coolest thing in the world.” Blake is again talking about the evolution of an audience from the first time they saw her on the blind audition this year to now when he has to acknowledge she is a rock star. “This is a defining moment,” Usher says, adding neither expected to pick a Taylor Swift song for her – nor did they expect Swifty to drop in on their rehearsals. “You can’t have that many relatives out there screaming that loud, that’s fans.” Indeed, she has fans now, and they were very loud.
7:38: Christina Milian is chatting with The Swon Brothers asking what they loved the most about this experience. Colton says they love playing with the band there and getting lots of advice from the coaches. Zach says “it’s definitely the relationships that you build day in and day out.” He says they’re going to miss everybody.
7:40: Blake met with 16-year-old Texan Danielle Bradbery’s parents and stepparents over lunch, and he’s got kind words for them about instilling the confidence in her she needed to make it through the competition. Blake also praises her for introducing country classics for a new generations. He says she’s in the Top 3 out of 40,000 hopefuls. Wow. That’s a big number. Her parents says Danielle just wants to make Blake proud. “Mission accomplished,” he says. He also says he’s just honored to be part of her story. See, this is why he’s so good at this.
7:42: Danielle’s first performance of the night is the Patty Loveless classic “Timber, I’m Falling in Love,” which she’s doing as a duet with Blake. She’s got a terrific voice and a fresh, youthful sweetness to her. I’m rooting for the Swon siblings, obviously, but I don’t think I’m going to be disappointed with whoever wins this season. Her parents are on their feet, along with the rest of the crowd at the end of that charming performance.
7:49: Blake says The Swon Brothers “really turned a corner” and showed how talented they were with “Danny’s Song,” which is their “defining moment” encore performance of the night. Cue the candles, piano, Colton and Zach to do the Loggins and Messina/Anne Murray hit one more time. They topped the iTunes country charts with this one last week, and it was a big part of the reason they’re here now. These guys are definitely consistent. They sound just as great tonight. Read what The Swon Brothers had to say about picking that song in my interview with them last week by clicking here.
7:53: Usher says that the fact that they personalized performance and “did it such justice” allowed them to give such an incredible rendition of the song that he practically disappeared into it. Adam says Usher stole what he was going to say and that they should feel proud because they made it feel new. “I’ll be back in Oklahoma on Wednesday and … I’ll guarantee you they’re playing it on the radio back home in Oklahoma.” Blake says they’re harmonies just get better and they just keep getting better. I tend to agree, and I’m not even saying that ’cause they’re fellow Okies.
8:00: Michelle is going to do Annie Lennox’s “Why” tonight in an all-white suit in front of a lighted magic mirrors. A bit of high-tech FX there. It’s another challenging song, and it’s good to see The Top 3 taking risks and pushing themselves right up to the end.
8:05: Shakira is now rooting for Michelle by wearing black-rimmed glasses similar to hers. She is praising Michelle not just for her talent but for her sweet and humble attitude, which she thinks will help the singer achieve long-term success. Blake says he’s still freaked out by the mirror trick, and he says he was refreshed to see a more laidback performance from her. She has shown more of her rocker song. Usher says that a combination of likeability and capability is what every artist hopes to have, and she’s got it.
8:12: Carson notes The Swon Brothers found kindred spirits in Blake, which is probably an understatement. Now, we’re seeing highlights of their parents Kelly and Tammy Swon meeting Blake and their boys for lunch. Their mom says that it’s a surprise to see them in the finals, and the boys are slightly sarcastic but smiling in telling her thanks. Their mom then tells the story their dad wasn’t sure when he talked to me that he wanted out to the world: When they got in trouble, he used to make the boys go their room and not come out until they had written a song. So funny. I’ve enjoyed chatting a couple of times with Kelly Swon, but it sounds like I need to get their mom on the phone, too! But the family gets serious when they say that Blake turning his chair at the blind audition meant so much after 15 years of hearing no.
8:14: Yes! I got my wish for Blake and the Swon siblings to do a funny Brad Paisley song. They’re crooning “Celebrity,” which basically mocks reality shows! They sound great, they’re having fun, and I love that they got to show off that ironic sense of humor they share.
8:22: For Danielle’s “defining moment,” Blake is going back to the start of the live shows and her powerhouse rendition of Pam Tillis’ “Maybe It Was Memphis.” The song is a personal fave of my mine, so yes, I approve. I love her cute sparkly silver flower-motif dress with the fringe and her sparkle-adorned cowboy boots. She has a great smile, and she sounds fabulous, per the norm.
8:26: Blake is on his feet cheering and clapping and Carson tells him “Sit down. Sit your butt down!” Shakira is now wearing a black cowboy hat to show her support for her Danielle and says she’s going to “holy cow her one more time” and that she has “taken the bull by the horn.” After saying that Shakira looks adorable in her hat, Adam says he hates Blake for managing to snag Danielle in this competition … and then goes so far to declare Danielle his predictive winner of this season of “The Voice.” He says he doesn’t want to admit that Blake is going to win again, but he’s got Blake on his feet and clapping. Shelton goes on to declare her a star and say she’s one of the most important artists that’s ever been on the show. High praise.
8:30: Carson says that the Top 3 are teaming up for a big surprise after the break.
8:34: Christina Milian has all four of the Top 3′s moms – kudos for including both Danielle’s mom and stepmom – on the upper stage and lets them give a word of encouragement to their kids. Tammy Swon reminds her boys “Remember, no backup plan. Carson responds “We see where some of that Swon humor comes from,” and then he’s introducing a special group performance of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes’ “Home,” with the quartet swapping verses. Now, we’ve got the rest of the top 16 reuniting to sing it all together. Love that the Swons gave Holly Tucker a big hug. So sweet. It’s a fun rendition of a fun song.
8:42: We’re getting close to voting time! Get ready people!
8:43: Now, we’ve got Usher meeting Michelle and her family for brunch to get to know them better. Her mom is part of a Jewish family from Egypt who came to the U.S. as refugees, so they are thrilled that Michelle is getting to be part of the American dream. It’s great to see three likeable all-American talents from such different backgrounds competing for the title of “The Voice.”
8:45: For their duet, Michelle and Usher are going to perform U2′s “One,” and he’s got the crowd clapping along as he starts it off. Like Blake, it’s been great to see Usher bond with his finalist over the course of the season. He and Michelle seem to have a really close relationship, which is cool. They sound great, and they seem to be enjoying sharing the stage together.
8:53: It’s shocking to look back and remember that her blind audition was Danielle Bradbery’s first big performance. She’s growing up fast, and she’s going to do Sara Evans’ “Born to Fly,” which is a really uptempo song with a wide vocal range. Again, so good to see the Top 3 challenging themselves.
8:55: Here is Danielle’s cover of “Born to Fly,” and she’s doing well. But the true test is on the choruses … and she nails it. Man, there are millions who would kill for that all-natural perfect pitch that girl’s got on her.
8:58: Huge applause for Danielle. Usher says “It’s obvious you did the right thing going with Blake.” Adam says she’s so perfect it’s almost boring. Blake says “At the end of the day, Danielle, honestly, it’s hard for me to even look at you, I’m one of the millions wrapped around your finger now.” He reiterates his belief that she’s important to the show and the music industry.
9:00: Voting is now open and closes at 9 a.m. Oklahoma time Tuesday. You can vote by toll-free call, text, iTunes download or online at www.nbc.com/the-voice. To see how to do it all, click here.
Please return here Tuesday night for my live blog of the results.