This year's breakout reality TV star isn't a particular person, but rather the hit singing competition The Voice. NBC's American Idol rival has outdrawn its Fox counterpart in the ratings, and received rave reviews from critics. On Monday night, the show's four remaining contestants competed in the finals for a shot at a record contract and big cash prize, with the winner to be announced Tuesday, after Americans vote. One performer from each celebrity coach's team is left: Christina Aguilera's Chris Mann (a classically trained opera singer); Blake Shelton's Jermaine Paul (an R&B talent); Cee Lo Green's Juliet Simms (a passionate rocker); and Adam Levine's Tony Lucca (a former Mouseketeer). Who should be crowned The Voice?
Juliet Simms is the frontrunner: Simms has led the pack for weeks, and she's done "nothing to diminish her chances," says Michael Monday at New Jersey's Star-Ledger. Sure, her performance Monday of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" wasn't nearly as mesmerizing as past songs, but she more than made up for it with a rocking duet of "Born to Be Wild" with Cee Lo. And her solo performance of "Free Bird" was the most impressive vocal of the entire night. "Between her poise, her style, and the grit in her voice, it is going to be tough for anyone to beat her."
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But Chris Mann stole her thunder: Simms might have been the frontrunner before Monday's show, says Glenn Bamboa at Newsday, but Mann surged at just the right time, giving his most powerful performances to date and leaving "no doubt about who has the best voice in the competition." The opera singer's duet with Aguilera on "The Prayer" was positively glorious, while his take on Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up" proves he knows how to use his big voice to "build big, emotional connections." If the audience votes purely based on who sang the best Monday night, Mann will take the prize.
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Don't count out Tony Lucca: "As much as I'd like to see Juliet triumph," says Lyndsey Parker at Yahoo, it's going to come down to Mann and Tony Lucca, with the latter eking out a win. He has the show's most loyal fanbase, "even though he's arguably the weakest singer left." His controversial song choice — a bluegrass-tinged remix of Jay-Z's "99 Problems" — also led to the show's buzziest moment, as judges Aguilera and Levine argued over whether the lyrics were offensive. The judges' criticisms could prompt "legions of outraged Lucca-lovers and Aguilera-haters alike to vote for Tony in protest," crowning him the winner "for all the wrong reasons."
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