Of the hundreds of hopefuls who brought their dreams to the Season 5 auditions, only three remain standing: Tessanne Chin, Will Champlin and Jacquie Lee. After a grueling 10-week gauntlet of blind auditions, battles, steals, knockouts, play-offs and a brutal series of votes, it all comes down to tonight. Carson Daly explains tonight's format: each of the three remaining singers will reprise his or her audition song, sing a duet with his or her coach and present a brand new song. Three singers with three shots at stardom.
But before the night's competitive crooning commences, our four coaches take the stage. They kick off the finale with a Def Leppard rock anthem, "Pour Some Sugar on Me." As a fevered crowd forms a mosh pit in front of them, Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera, CeeLo Green and Adam Levine rock themselves silly, bringing the rest of the crowd to its feet.
After a commercial break, Carson sets up the night's first performance from Tessanne Chin. She's here to reprise the song that spun all four coaches in their chairs back in September, "Try." Again, the Pink ballad serves as perfect fodder for Tessanne's cannon of a voice. The coaches are unanimous in their praise.
Will Champlin steps up next to give his blind audition encore. When he sang Gavin DeGraw's "Not Over You" the first time out, Will's voice was reedier and lacked the confidence he's now known for. He's polished as can be this time around, pushing the melody beyond its limits, reminding people why he's in the final trio. Christina notes how he struggled originally, but has come through when it counts.
Jacquie Lee returns to the stage to perform "Back to Black" again. Her take on the Amy Winehouse song is even better the second time around. Standing before a grand piano and surrounded by a series of dancers with instruments, the teen singer lets loose, much to the crowd's delight.
We return from commercial break and come back to Tessanne for her duet with Adam Levine. Both Tessanne and her coach are huge Beatles fans; their choice of "Let It Be" is a comfort and a challenge for them both. On the stage, Adam straps a Les Paul model electric guitar on as Tessanne steps to the microphone and Paul Mirkovich kicks off the familiar intro to the song. Dressed in black and white, the coach and his charge trade verses, building on the song's foundation and losing themselves in the timeless lyrics of Lennon and McCartney. It's a classic tour de force from Tessanne, made even more powerful by the addition of Adam Levine.
Jacquie and Xtina have the next slot. From the start of the season, Jacquie made no secret of her adoration and respect for Christina and her material, so it's no surprise that they'll perform one of Christina's songs. They've chosen a brand new single, "We Remain" from the hit movie "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," a perfectly incendiary choice. Knowing her voice can overpower pretty much any singer on the planet, Christina has the good sense to work off of Jacquie's abilities. But that's still an impressive foundation, and quickly the two together take the crowd to dazzling heights. Dressed in red, lit by chandeliers, with light bouncing off a complex of mirrored backdrops, the duo shimmers onstage, delivering a performance for the ages.
Adam Levine and Will Champlin have the dubious task of following the Christina and Jacquie show. Wisely, they don't try to top the previous performance, but take the show in their own direction. Standing before a white grand piano, they deliver a fresh take on Elton John's "Tiny Dancer." The song's lilting melody is a great fit for the two singers to trade off on. Adam holds back enough to let Will showcase his unique style, a combination of tone and phrasing that's carried him to the finals.
We come back from commercial break to find Carson in the Sprint Skybox, sharing live tweets from around the country before tossing it back to the stage where all three finalists have assembled for a group performance. Around a gold baby grand piano, Will, Tessanne and Jacquie assemble for a Jackson 5 sing-along: "I'll Be There." They take turns sharing verses on the soul-pop classic; the audience sways with delight. No matter who walks away as the new champion tomorrow night, there's no denying this trio of finalists is truly something special.
After a break, Tessanne is right back on the stage, this time to sing a brand new song, Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing." Like trying to emulate Xtina, covering Whitney Houston is not for the faint of heart or soul. But Tessanne has tamed every song in the book this season; characteristically, she handles this one with power, passion and musical accuracy. She builds the song layer upon layer, hitting successive high notes, before finishing the song with a delicate coda. The coaches and crowd are stunned in delight. Adam declares, "I know in my soul and in my heart, you are the winner of this show."
Will Champlin steps up for his solo song next. He's picked Bryan Adams' "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You." On a stage replete with stone columns, Will looks slightly ill at ease as he begins, but then he brings out his best balladeer. He's on solid footing soon enough, turning the song (originally written for the movie "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves") into an able showcase for his impressive range and expressiveness. He's greeted by a sustained ovation from the crowd and coaches alike.
And just like that, we're into the night's final performance. Jacquie Lee returns to center stage, ready to give what will need to be the performance of her life. The band kicks up the intro to the show tune, "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going," from "Dreamgirls." It's a challenging song, and few teen singers, professional or otherwise, would dare try it. But this is no ordinary teenager, and as Jacquie finds her connection to the song, she's quickly got the audience on her side. She pushes and shapes the melody just enough to put her stamp on it, then finishes out with her signature sustained vocal crescendo. It's an exhausting, impressive finish to a night filled with vocal fireworks. Carson hurriedly lays out the myriad voting methods and encourages everyone to get the word out - and to return tomorrow night for what will doubtless be a spectacular night of star performances and the crowning of a new champion.
Jacquie, Will and Tessanne must give their ultimate performances for your votes and the title of new Voice champion.