Alicia Keys is leaving The Voice after this season — vacating her red chair for this fall’s incoming coach Jennifer Hudson, followed by spring 2018’s Kelly Clarkson. But she’s leaving on a high note, figuratively and literally, because her soul dynamo Chris Blue won the show’s finale on Tuesday.
Not only was this a historic victory for Alicia (it was her first win, and only the second win in the series’ 12-season history for a female coach), but Chris — the very last contestant picked in this season’s selection process — became the first male R&B champ since Season 2’s Jermaine Paul, and the first person of color to prevail since Season 5’s Tessanne Chin.
Alicia was delighted, of course, but this was a truly emotional night for 26-year-old Knoxville worship leader Chris, who was joined onstage by his family and his cancer-survivor fiancée, Stephanie, while he sobbed triumphantly and pointed heavenward.
Blue was a consummate entertainer and frontrunner throughout Season 12, thanks to his powerhouse vocals and fearless showmanship. He also demonstrated incredible versatility, impressively segueing week to week from modern bedroom ballads like Miguel’s “Adorn” and Rihanna’s “Love on the Brain,” to old-school classics like Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” Al Green’s “Love and Happiness,” and Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman,” to funky-fresh jams like Bruno Mars’s “24K Magic,” Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation,” and his original single “Money’s on You,” and even a gospel number like Tamela Mann’s “Take Me to the King ” — always making make it look so easy, and so fun.
As for which musical direction Chris will take after the show — gospel? R&B? pop? — and if he will be successful, well, that remains uncertain. Most Voice champs, no matter how talented, have sadly fallen by the wayside owing to the series’ ceaseless production cycle and a general lack of record label support. (Several never even got the opportunity to release an album; others willingly walked away from their Universal contracts.) However, Chris certainly has the goods, so he could be The Voice’s most marketable crossover contestant yet.
Alicia once told Chris, “Whoever sent you to me blessed me, seriously blessed all of us, to be able to hear your voice. When you just came out here, I felt like I was watching Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Nat King Cole, the greats. And I really, really, really am so thankful that America sees how powerful you are.” Now it’s time for America to hear Chris’s powerful debut album.
Placing second on Tuesday’s Voice Season 12 finale was Team Blake’s folk/country songstress Lauren Duski, followed by another Team Blake hopeful, 15-year-old Aliyah Moulden, and Team Adam’s bluesy guitar shredder Jesse Larson.
Other highlights of the two-hour live broadcast included the return of Alicia Keys’s Adam Levine puppet, along with new Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani puppets; solo numbers by Chris Stapleton and future Voice coach Jenifer Hudson; top eight finalists TSoul and Vanessa Ferguson teaming with Motown legend Gladys Knight; a gorgeous “Don’t Speak” duet between Gwen and her utterly robbed contestant Hunter Plake, good enough to make NBC consider a recount; returning coach Miley Cyrus’s tender “Malibu,” dedicated to her friend Ariana Grande and victims of Monday’s Manchester concert tragedy; and a tearjerking rendition of R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” by Chris Blue and former Voice coach Usher, also in honor of Manchester.