Thank u, next: Ariana Grande gets shut out of her first 'Voice' finale

·Editor in Chief, Yahoo Music
·5 min read

The NBC brass really hyped the arrival of new The Voice coach Ariana Grande this fall, no doubt hoping that a young, current pop star like her could freshen up the franchise in its tired 21st season. But when the five contestants moving on to next week’s finale were revealed Tuesday, there was no Team Ariana representation in the mix. That means that next Monday and Tuesday, Ariana will sit out her first finale, after her one contestant still in the competition, father/son folk duo Jim & Sasha Allen, failed to get the votes this week.

The Voice stopped adhering to team quotas way back in Season 3, but when the show’s last three seasons were shortened due to COVID, those quotas were reinstated. Now, with the rules back to normal — meaning that none of coaches were guaranteed a contestant spot in the season’s finale — of course The Voice was back to looking like The Blake & Kelly Show. The first four finalists announced by Carson Daly on Tuesday’s live results episode all represented the current panel’s longest-running and most popular coaches: Blake Shelton’s soul powerhouses Wendy Moten and Paris Winningham, and Kelly Clarkson’s family folk band Girl Named Tom (the first trio to ever make it to a Voice finale) and teen pop prodigy Hailey Mia. I then assumed that Team Blake’s Lana Scott, the only country singer still in the competition, would easily win the Instant Save — and that would mean that John Legend would be sitting on the sidelines right next to Ariana next week.

Lana definitely had a shot — Voice viewers love Blake, and they love country music — but she was disadvantaged by singing first Tuesday. And her puzzling song choice, Lainey Wilson’s perfectly pleasant but forgettable “Things a Man Oughta Know,” wasn’t exactly the sort of fight song she needed at this crucial moment. It seemed like both Blake and Lana knew that Team Blake’s Season 21 clean sweep was about to end, but Lana graciously thanked her coach, telling him, “I grew up listening to you, dreaming of being on the show. This is my sixth audition. I have kept going. You far surpassed my hopes of what it was like to work with you. Thank you for everything.”

Of John’s two contestants, theater kid Joshua Vacanti and gospel/R&B belter Jershika Maple, I thought Joshua, who’d been voted through by America week after week, was the obvious favorite over Jershika, who’d scraped her way into the top eight after a Steal and last week’s Instant Save. Joshua’s schmaltzy song choice, Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” delivered with tons of gusto and absolutely zero subtlety, certainly played to the series’ conservative base — but so did Jershika’s passionate, glorious rendition of Tasha Cobbs’s “Break Every Chain.”

Once again, the show’s producers appeared to be pushing Jershika: after giving her some elaborate Grammy-performance production on Monday, this evening, they put her in the advantageous Instant Save “pimp spot.” But who could blame them for wanting Jershika to stick around? She has been one of this season’s most consistently magnificent vocalists, after all. Even John appeared to favor her over Joshua as he begged for America’s votes Tuesday.

But no one begged harder for America’s votes than Ariana, as she weepily told Jim & Sasha Allen, “I want to say how proud I am of you both. Aside from being incredible vocalists and brilliant musicians and having stage presence, you bring such amazing, irreplaceable, necessary energy to the show. You have so much light; it's so infectious. It would be a calamitous mistake to not have you in the finale.” However, as much as I love me some Hall & Oates, the shuffling, tongue-in-cheek “Rich Girl” was not a good save-me song, and all of Sasha’s try-hard, knee-dropping showmanship could not salvage the duo’s messy Instant Save performance. Thank u, next.

And so, against near-impossible odds, Jershika won a second consecutive Instant Save. And as a result, she kept John Legend (a relatively new coach who, unlike Ariana, actually won in his inaugural season) in the Season 21 game. As for whether Ariana will return for another try, we will have to wait till fall 2022, since The Voice is reducing its schedule from twice to once a year after this season end. But in the meantime, Wendy, Paris, Hailey, Jershika, and Girl Named Tom will face off next week. See you then.

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