‘The Voice’ finale: What Maelyn Jarmon’s victory over 3 country singers says about the show
From Maelyn Jarmon’s very first audition on NBC’s “The Voice” in February, when she stunned the coaches with a haunting rendition of Sting’s “Fields of Gold,” it seemed likely that she would go far this season. This week, after she delivered her final performance – a captivating spin on Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” – it appeared 100 percent certain she would win.
“That was insane. … I don’t know how it would be possible for you not to win this show,” Adam Levine told her on Monday’s episode, after the four finalists sang for the last time. “Honest to God, you’re an angel from heaven. It’s unbelievable to hear you sing.”
Sure enough, on Tuesday’s finale, Jarmon – a 26-year-old pop singer and waitress from New York – was crowned the winner of “The Voice” Season 16, earning a record deal and $100,000 prize. As of Wednesday morning, she had three songs in the Top 10 on iTunes, including her cover of “Hallelujah.”
One factor made her victory even more impressive: Jarmon won over three country singers, all of whom were on Blake Shelton’s team. Gyth Rigdon, 25, from Louisiana, was the runner-up; Dexter Roberts, 27, from Alabama, landed in third place; and Andrew Sevener, 22, from Texas, came in fourth.
As viewers know, country artists typically do very well on the show. Out of 16 seasons, 13 finales have had at least one aspiring Nashville star (and sometimes more) vying for the grand prize. The producers love to create story lines out of coaches battling for country singers. Some viewers argue that these artists have an unfair advantage because of the strong country music fan voting bloc – often aided by the popularity of Shelton, who has the most wins of any coach.
However, Jarmon proved that even if you’re the only finalist who’s not country, and not from the mighty Team Blake, it’s still possible to conquer the competition. Sure, being up against three similar contestants could have split the vote in her favor; but in this situation, Jarmon also won because she was simply the best singer.
Even though it seems obvious, it’s easy to forget that’s the point of the whole series. (Really.) After all, in many episodes, the results truly just feel like a popularity contest. So Jarmon’s win was a refreshing reminder: Despite producers pushing certain narratives, or viewers getting wrapped up in the show’s various controversies, the goal is ultimately to find the most talented vocalist.
If you don’t believe it from the viewer votes, just listen to the star-struck coaches, who agreed early on her voice stood out. Jarmon, a Texas native who moved to New York to pursue a theater career when she was a teenager, explained before her first audition that she was deaf in one ear, the result of serious ear infections when she was a child.
“It’s definitely been a struggle, but I’ve worked through it. When I sing, what I hear is kind of like when you plug one finger in your ear,” Jarmon said in a pretaped interview. “You see a lot of singers do that when they have to do harmonies and they need to hear themselves. So it’s kind of like a little superpower. It helped me find music in my own way – you know, the way that music moves through the air, the vibrations.”
Her coach, John Legend, agreed with the “superpower” assessment. “She’s been more pitch precise than every singer on the show,” he said.
After Jarmon’s audition, Legend called her “magic”; Levine went with “astounding”; Shelton raved about her “precision and power”; and Kelly Clarkson called her voice “a God-given gift.” These superlatives became understatements as the season went on, and they struggled to find different ways to praise her vocals.
“Maelyn, it’s getting harder and harder to find new great things to say about you,” Shelton said at one point. “You’re just spot on every time you get on stage.”
“I think she’s the best singer in the competition. That skill level is not normal,” Legend said after Jarmon wowed them with Coldplay’s “The Scientist.”
Last week, after Jarmon slayed Rihanna’s ballad “Stay,” even host Carson Daly felt compelled to weigh in: “Nowhere to hide your vocal on a song like that,” he said, visibly impressed. “You did a great job.”
Levine, the longest-tenured coach along with Shelton, summed it up this week: “I believe you should win ‘The Voice’ and the reason why is very simple: Look at the name of the show,” he said. “You embody what the show is all about, what it has been about for all these seasons. … It just seems like you’re the absolute front-runner and the best thing we’ve got right now.”