Jordan Smith’s run on season nine of The Voice has been a series of surprises.
First, and maybe foremost, was the blind audition — recorded in July and broadcast in September — that had the judges and audience astonished to see a young man from Harlan County in glasses and cardigan singing Sia’s smash Chandelier.
Then there was the Nov. 16 live competition in which Smith, who had since racked up a series of victories with songs by pop divas and divos, turned in an almost a cappella version of the hymn Great Is Thy Faithfulness to rapturous acclaim.
Last week, in a bid to make the singing competition’s Final Four, he did another pivot, channeling arguably the greatest singer in rock ’n’ roll, Queen’s Freddie Mercury, for an electrifying rendition of Somebody to Love.
Monday night, Smith’s fans in Kentucky and across the country will tune in to see if the Coldiron resident has one more surprise in store to win the whole thing.
On Monday night’s live broadcast, Smith will compete against Emily Ann Roberts of Knoxville, Jeffery Austin of Chicago and Barrett Baber of Fayettville, Ark., in the first part of the show’s finale.
Tuesday night, the winner will be announced during a two-hour season finale, and it is not a stretch to call Smith the front-runner.
The show’s coaches have run out of accolades for the Lee University singer, their praises rising to Pharrell’s declaration, “God has signed your voice.” Smith’s coach, Adam Levine, has clearly been in Smith’s corner from the beginning, last week dropping Smith’s microphone after his Queen performance.
And viewers are responding. The show makes a point of saying the people who are “saved” by viewer votes each week are not announced in any particular order, but Smith was routinely announced first or near the beginning, as if there is no point in building suspense over his fate.
On iTunes, where sales of tracks from the show translate into votes — and finishes in the iTunes Top 10 multiply votes — Smith has routinely topped the list. In last week’s competition episode, Smith and Levine joked that the only thing keeping him out of No. 1 on iTunes was Adele’s monster hit Hello. Then, his Somebody to Love recording bested Adele. According to iTunes, purchases of The Voice artists’ singles through noon Tuesday will count toward the cumulative votes for each singer in the finale. So Smith would appear to be carrying an advantage into the endgame.
At the Billboard magazine Hot Christian Songs chart, Smith became the first artist to ever replace himself at No. 1, when his rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah replaced Great Is Thy Faithfulness in the top slot.
That’s kind of appropriate for Smith, who got his start singing in church, attends the Church of God-affiliated Lee University and has spoken freely of his faith throughout his Voice run. In the rehearsal clip preceding Great Is Thy Faithfulness, Smith got choked up, saying God is “like, ‘I’m going to do everything for you, and all you have to do is wake up every morning and do what you love.’ This performance, ‘It’s a chance for me to show who I really am.’”
Smith, who also has talked freely about dealing with issues of weight and appearance, has said he wants his presence on The Voice to send a message about overcoming preconceptions of what people in the arts should look like. On the blind audition, Levine called Smith the most important person to appear on the show.
Will it all translate to a win for Smith?
People who follow competition shows such as this certainly have seen strange things happen before, where seeming front-runners get voted out earlier than expected. And there are many instances in which runners-up have done better than eventual winners on shows such as American Idol. And though The Voice has eclipsed its predecessor in ratings popularity, there is the rap that it has yet to produce a bona fide superstar winner in the same league with Idol winners Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson.
Really, regardless of what happens, it is safe to say that Smith’s star already has risen, and winning it all would be no surprise.
8 p.m. Mon., 9 p.m. Tue. NBC