Every season, "The Voice" reaches for an emotional apex by filming the contestants during a trip home and public celebration in various home towns. Monday, the final four collided with the Christmas celebration episode, complete with Michael Buble interpreting Phil Sector and Darlene Love while Blake Shelton brought all 16 of this season's team down Bing Crosby Lane.
Celebrating the homecomings -- consistently heart-tugging tales of spouses, parents and children encouraging singers to follow their dreams -- at Christmas time brought an extra level of gravitas to the show that did not exist in spring editions. When America sees the taped packages on the visits home, so, too, are the singers. It's easy to get caught up in the emotion.
"I never got the opportunity to see the package and here was my mother and father saying all those nice things about me," Trevin Hunte told Billboard after his performance of "Wind Beneath My Wings." "This wasn't my best (performance). The emotion held me back."
Still, this is the one week where it's more than a performance that saves a singer. Viewers are reminded of each individual's back story, family and geography, all elements that come into play. Add to that the fact that the final four were leaning toward the inspirational in this week's show. Here's a breakdown, in order of preference, of the singers' stories and songs.
Terry McDermott: "Let it Be" by The Beatles
Inspirational song follows an inspirational video: a perfect pairing. McDermott nailed the Beatles classic after being seen at home in New Orleans and in a local pub where his uncle and aunt have flown in from Scotland to surprise him.
"When the TV screen comes down it's a strange distraction," McDermott says. "Seeing my wife and son was such a perfect reminder -- this is what it's about. I went from playing around the world to playing on Bourbon Street and I loved it. It's about getting back to basics, performing for the love of it."
Bonus back story points: 40. Like the previous winners of "The Voice," the former Driveblind singer has come so-very-close to the next step of fame and just missed. The story -- and covers of Foreigner and the Beatles -- elevate his status on the show.
If he could pick any inspirational song... "One song I was kind of looking at was 'Helter Skelter,' the U2 version. Doing the Foreigner track changed my mind, I don't need the hammer blow. I'm looking at music a little different now -- that's the nature of the show."
Cassadee Pope: "Stupid Boy" by Keith Urban
Wonderfully performed song, but the fact that it is infinitely less known than the other contestants' choices may hurt her slightly. The song helps continue to build her credibility with country music fans. "The four of us - we need to feel the songs," she says, "and 'Stupid Boy' is a song I can relate to."
Bonus back-story points: 0. Pope went home to West Palm Beach, Fla., and went through the motions with seemingly no emotional connection to anyplace or anyone.
If she could pick any inspirational song... "A Foo Fighters song. I'm not saying which one because I hope I still get a chance to sing one."
Nicholas David: "You Are So Beautiful" by Billy Preston
Yes, you're thinking 'that's a Joe Cocker song.' But Preston wrote it so he gets credit here. His performance was smooth and measured, a perfect complement to his story about his new house in Minnesota and his second child on the way. Not that he saw it. David was the one contestant who says he was so distracted by his pre-performance ritual of mouth sprays and a prayer that he did not pay attention to the film.
"I've been listening to fans and they have have been suggesting 'you should do Joe Cocker'," he says, referring to the fact that Cocker had the hit with Preston's ballad. "I thought it was synergistic, the message (of the song) is consistent with what I've conveyed on the show, in my life and with the fans."
Bonus back story points: 25. New baby on the way with new house and mortgage payments makes him America's cuddliest neo-hipster.
If he could pick any inspirational song.... Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic." "That song rings true to people and people have been suggesting it. So again, it's synergistic."
Trevin Hunte: "Wind Beneath My Wings"
by Jeff Silbar and Larry Henley
For the second week in a row, the 18-year-old from Georgia has tackled a song associated with a female voice and given it a male identity. His performance went every which way -- sincere for the entire performance and when he hit the right notes, it cemented a bond between listener and singer. Elsewhere he tried too hard to be Bette Midler and that took him into a no man's land of tonal trouble. He recovered well enough to hit some solid held notes toward the end.
Bonus back story points: 10. Loved that he has a huge family around him in Georgia, where mom and dad's Caribbean accents must really be out of place. Going back to his junior high to speak was a nice touch, even if the "anyone can make it" comments feel too cliched at this point.
If he could pick any inspirational song... "I Will Always Love You," the Dolly Parton song Whitney Houston had a hit with. "That's a huge challenge," he says. "If you want to be yourself you have to take risks. That would be a good risk."
- Reality Check