‘The Voice’ Top 5 finale: First time ever for five artists on the final episode! [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

It’s been an unusual Season 18 of “The Voice,” but kudos to the producers for figuring out a way to complete the episodes and allow the final artists to perform at home the past few weeks. And now it’s time for the blazing finale on Monday night, featuring for the first time ever a Top 5 instead of a Top 4. It’s also the debut of guaranteeing that each coach has one finalist (Team Blake even has two of them).

Which coach is out front to win Season 18 of “The Voice”? Kelly Clarkson has prevailed three of the past four seasons. John Legend has one championship. Blake Shelton is the all-time leader with six. It’s a rookie season for youngster Nick Jonas.

The Top 5 will sing remotely on Monday evening’s show, with the home audience voting to determine the next champion. Here are the remaining contenders for this spring cycle:

Team Kelly — Micah Iverson

Team Nick — Thunderstorm Artis

Team Legend — CammWesss

Team Blake — Toneisha Harris, Todd Tilghman

And here are our Top 5 power rankings in the article published today. Do you agree or disagree with the order of these singers?

Follow along with our live updating blog below as we recap this entire two-hour episode for Monday, May 18, on NBC:

8:02 p.m. – For tonight’s finale, Carson Daly let us know that each finalist would perform twice: one cover and one original single. But first we got to see the five of them join together (remotely, of course) on a group recording of “Shine.” In a group of four other guys on a song that lends itself to male voices, I gotta say that Toneisha didn’t fit that well. Of everyone I thought CammWess sounded the best, but Thunderstorm’s voice is so unique and soulful that he also stood out.

8:07 p.m. – The first individual performance came from CammWess with the Prince classic “Purple Rain.” Not only is Prince CammWess’s favorite artist of all time, but this also marks the first time the song has ever been cleared to be performed on a reality competition show. Obviously no one can ever compare to Prince, but CammWess did a great job here. What he’s been so good at all season is evoking the emotion of a song so deeply and letting his body and voice be naturally moved by that passion. I love that he found a spot at home (the porch) to have a stage to use because it really puts us in the mind of what a concert from him could be like. It was nice to hear Kelly give him props once again for his gift and say how hard it was for her to let him go from her team. John says he felt comfortable vouching for CammWess in getting that song cleared and doesn’t regret it because he’s such an artist.

8:20 p.m. – For Todd Tilghman‘s cover he and coach Blake chose MercyMe‘s “I Can Only Imagine.” The message that he and Blake were aiming for here was to show that there are singers in churches across America and, like Todd, they’ve never performed elsewhere, but should be. The song definitely fit Todd’s message and his journey, but I think it’s going to isolate a fair amount of voters. That being said, he’s singing to his audience and he’s been successful in that all season. Still, this kind of performance is a far cry from the big classic rock vocal that earned him a four chair turn in the blinds. Kelly was very moved by the performance and told Todd that he’s special which in turn made Blake almost-emotional. Blake said it was his best vocal and that his passion and precision stood out.

8:33 p.m. – The first original song we heard tonight was “Butterflies” from Micah Iverson, written by Shane McAnally. Shane told Micah that he has the “most pop perfect voice” and that he’s immediately radio-friendly. Indeed the song and Micah’s performance of it is something that fits really well into a contemporary pop scene inhabited by artists like Harry Styles and Troye Sivan. My only concern with Micah is that he lacks any kind of edge, both visually and in his voice. He spent most of the song on one very safe level and so by the time he’s ready to break out with something bigger it’s too late, we’ve already checked out. Justifiably, Nick felt like Micah did a great job here of showing what kind of artist he is trying to be. Kelly pointed out that their goal with this song was to “put his best foot forward” so that win or lose he’d be preparing the public for what music he’ll make in the next stage of his career.

8:44 p.m. – For his debut single, Thunderstorm Artis wrote his own song “Sedona” with the help of Ryan Tedder. Ryan was interested in knowing why he’s singing about Arizona if he’s from Hawaii and his story was that he saw a photo of mountains in Sedona and those stood out to him compared to the beaches of Hawaii. It doesn’t seem like Ryan had much work to do with the song and he clearly already loved and respected Thunderstorm as an artist. And my oh my was the artistry on full display here. — Thunderstorm has a way of moving you with very little fireworks, just playing his guitar, making his own music and repeating a very simple chorus over again with a new inflection in his voice. The lyrics of longing and hope are something everyone can relate to and I think there won’t be a single viewer that doesn’t fall in love with him after this. John thought the song was lovely and he loves listening to his artistry. Obviously Nick is proud and excited to have Thunderstorm performing at his peak in this moment.

8:56 p.m. – Closing out the first round was Toneisha Harris with her cover of Journey‘s “Faithfully.” She’s returning to the 80s, like when she slayed “I Want to Know What Love Is” in the blinds. These mega-sized power ballads are exactly what Toneisha should have been singing all season because her voice is like butter spreading across them. This is exactly what she needed to do after last week — prove to the audience that she is the biggest voice in the finale and that what she does is something none of the guys can. It was also really smart to cut her video with clips of her spending time with her family because it showed how she connects to the song. Kelly compared her voice to Chaka Khan and said that she’s intrigued by the fact that she can never predict where Toneisha is going to take a song vocally.

9:09 p.m. – For his original song “Long Way Home,” Todd got to work with Shane as well as co-writer Esther Dean. In their large group rehearsal it’s clear that this was a collaboration and group effort to put this song together, but they all agreed that it felt so naturally Todd’s. Once again it was an uplifting track, keeping it clear that Todd is an inspirational artist if nothing else. Here I thought his voice sounded much better than on the cover, but I can’t help but feel like the energy he exuded when at the “Voice” studios earlier in the season has been muted by the virtual shows. Blake said that Todd’s gift is taking an original song and breathing life into it.

9:19 p.m. – CammWess also wrote his own song “Save It for Tomorrow” for this portion of the finale, but got to work with Ryan as well. It’s definitely the most fun point of view we’ve heard in the originals so far tonight and John and Ryan’s enthusiasm for it made that clear. While you can hear the clear influence John has had over CammWess’s sound and the journey he takes his voice on in a song, he’s putting together the best and most consistent vocals week to week. John called the song “catchy” and reiterated that he has a great tone that the whole world should be listening to.

9:30 p.m. – Micah’s choice of cover “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol is one of Kelly’s favorite songs and is another that has never been cleared for “The Voice.” Kelly was really excited by the song choice during rehearsal and is convinced that he’ll be the winner. In his performance of it he had friends and family surround him in a small makeshift stage which was a nice touch but honestly it just made me concerned that they weren’t practicing more responsible social distancing. It was also a weird staging decision for a song that isn’t as intimate as it’d suggest. Kelly warned us that he made that song seem effortless, but reassured us that it wasn’t and that is why he’s so talented.

9:41 p.m. – Toneisha worked with Shane on her original single “My Superhero,” a personal song about her son and his battle for survival. With Blake they all understood the emotional power of the song and wanted to preserve that for the performance. Remember how earlier I said that she should only be singing huge power ballads? Well, I’m already wrong because I think she delivered her richest vocal of the season here. It was so gentle and tender even when she pushed through the bigger notes. And, my god that ending! John loved that her song fit both her personal story and the story of the world right now so well.

9:53 p.m. – Capping off the finale, Thunderstorm dropped his final cover of the season “What a Wonderful World.” There’s literally not a better song he could have chosen or that producers could have selected to be the final performance of this season. Everything about his performance was perfect and it will go down as the defining performance of the season. I love that he staged himself on the patio out back at night and applied very simple camera tricks because it let the song and his voice do all the explaining. There’s no doubt that he debuted the best original song and delivered the best cover of all the finalists tonight. Incredible. Nick applauded Thunderstorm for the song selection and finding something to speak to everyone at home, reminding them to stay connect to each other and maintain hope.

10:00 p.m. – Tomorrow night the season 18 winner will be crowned after all the votes are counted. Who do YOU want to win?

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