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Monday night was the last night for the final three talents on "The Voice" to win over audiences' hearts and votes, and their last stabs at stardom ran the gamut from belabored to effortless, understated to electric.
The night kicked off with the coaches all performing "Pour Some Sugar on Me" alongside members of Def Leppard, and while it was rousing, it didn't give a hint of the urgency to come -- courtesy not of the superstar coaches but of the blistering numbers Team Adam and Team Christina had yet to deliver.
Monday night, after all, was a night for Tessanne Chin and her Team Adam cohort Will Champlin, as well as Team Christina's own Jacquie Lee, to showcase not just their pipes but also their musical bonds with their coaches. It was their final chance to remind audiences why the coaches had turned their chairs for them at the season's start -- and to demonstrate how far they'd come since.
To that end, Tessanne kicked off the night singing the song with which she'd turned all four chairs in the blind auditions, Pink's "Try." Even as she struggled to overcome some hoarseness, looking pained as she belted some of the big notes, Tessanne managed to add her own personal touches. Her performance was living proof that she had taken the song's message of perseverance to heart.
"You're so good you make me want to be better," her coach Adam told her. CeeLo, channeling his inner Tallulah Bankhead, added, "You deserve it all, darling."
Next, her teammate Will performed the song he had first used to make it onto Adam's team, before he bounced over to Christina's and then, by a stroke of luck, back again to Adam's. That song was Gavin Degraw's "Not Over You," which he sang with ease and imbued with his own bluesy playful spirit, alternating a husky belt with a falsetto croon.
Afterward, his coach paid tribute to his hard work and his unwavering commitment. "All you ever did was continue to be passionate about music," Adam said, "and I have profound respect for that."
Jacquie took the stage next, performing the Amy Winehouse song, "Back to Black," that won her a spot on Team Christina with a last-minute chair turn back when the season began. The teen powerhouse's performance Monday night was a world away from the one she'd delivered at her blind audition, showcasing her new, more refined control over her powerful voice and her mastery of dynamics. Her coach was clearly proud.
"I love this girl so much," Christina told her. "You make me enjoy everything about what I do here in this chair, and you make me look forward to coming back here again and watching you kill it every single time."
Christina's rapport with her young protege was clear, and it was to become clearer with the night's next trio of performances, as each of the final three contestants sang a duet with their coach.
First, Adam and Tessanne tackled "Let It Be," replete with an unexpected reggae arrangement that showed the ease with which Tessanne can shift from classic pop to the music of her Jamaican roots.
Next, Christina brought Jacquie in for a duet on her own "Hunger Games" hit "We Remain," both of them joyously belting like proper divas, decked out in dramatic red gowns.
And finally, Adam came back onstage, this time with Will, to perform a low-key version of the Elton John classic "Tiny Dancer," stripping out much of its nostalgic jangle.
The three finalists then joined on a candle-lined set to give an easy, warm performance of the Jackson 5's "I'll Be There." But the real showstoppers -- the finalists' last big chances to prove their readiness to be crowned "The Voice" -- were yet to come.
Tessanne's came first, with her confident coach assigning her a monumental challenge: Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing."
"My first instinct was to go, 'Nuh-uh, I''m not doing Whitney!'" Tessanne admitted, laughing. "I can't sing Whitney like Whitney," she acknowledged, so instead she planned to perform the song as "a kind of tribute."
If her all-out, emotionally committed performance were a tribute, it was a powerful one that the late pop star herself would have appreciated.
And when Carson Daly asked Tessanne's coach for his thoughts, he admitted he didn't have much to offer. "I don't have thoughts right now, I just have emotions," he said.
Her teammate Will took the stage next, with Bryan Adams' "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You," adhering faithfully to the original's tone and arrangement while letting his own warm, gravelly voice shine.
"You didn't have to glitter it up. You didn't have to do anything too fancy," Blake Shelton -- who for the first time in "Voice" history has no team members in the finals -- told him, calling his "solid performance."
But fancy might be what "The Voice" finals were calling for, if any of the three finalists were to pull ahead and stake their claim to the title.
Jacquie, the finals' youngest contestant by more than a decade, delivered that in spades with her no-holds-barred take on Jennifer Hudson's version of the "Dreamgirls" torch song "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." At the end of her tormented take on the tune, Christina's mouth was hanging open nearly as far as Jacquie's had been on one of the song's biggest notes.
Blake tipped his hat to Jacquie's bond with Christina, which had become as sisterly as it had artistically fruitful. "This is one of the best coach-artist pairings I've ever seen," he said, and he told Jacquie, "Your evolution on this show, sister -- that was amazing."
"There are few people that I see and that I know are gonna be gems and gonna be superstars one day," Christina said. "I'm scared of you!"
Her fearsome performance, along with the eight others by herself and her rivals Monday night, could help deliver any one of them the title of "The Voice" come Tuesday.
It's then that the season five winner will be announced, following a finale featuring performances from Lady Gaga, Celine Dion and more.
"The Voice" finale airs Tuesday at 9/8c on NBC.