Before The Voice whittled down Season 22’s Top 13 to its Top 10 this week, I was all set to write an article suggesting that Team John Legend’s Parijita Bastola was as unbeatable as, say, Season 21’s Girl Named Tom or Season 16’s Maelyn Jarmon. Because the series’ first Nepali-American contestant is just. That. Flawless. (To date, the teenage Adele has never even earned a grade from me that wasn’t in the A range — and you know how grumpypants I can be!)
But after Monday’s ear-popping performances — seriously, I was giving out A’s like they were party favors — I had to chuck that theory. Parijita did beautifully, as she always does. However, Team Camila Cabello’s Morgan Myles and Team Gwen Stefani’s Justin Aaron didn’t just bring it, they brought extra “it” as if they were afraid that they might run out. Team Legend powerhouse Omar Jose Cardona reminded us of just how flippin’ incredible he is when he’s picked the right song. (In other words, when he isn’t hopping around the stage to Imagine Dragons.) And Team Legend’s Kim Cruse delivered a rendition of “Always On My Mind” that was so stirring, it’s still on my mind.
Then, of course, there was early frontrunner bodie from Team Blake Shelton. Dude reinvented “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” in a way that made The Proclaimers’ classic as heart-tugging and powerful as the original was peppy, in so doing making me regret describing him as an early frontrunner — he’s a frontrunner, period.
So it’s a real tossup as to who will win Season 22, right? I’d be happy with any of the above being named “the voice.” But my hunch at this point is that the victory is going to go to… Team Blake’s Bryce Leatherwood. I know, I know — he lacks the firepower of a Justin or an Omar. He lacks the finesse of a Parijita. He lacks the inventiveness of a bodie. But Bryce is a country guy on a country star’s team in a singing contest that has a country-leaning audience. And he’s not bad at all. He’s just not the revelation that a Parijita or a bodie is.