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[Spoiler] wins the first season of 'Rising Star'

Season 1 | Episode 10 | “The Finals“ | Aired Aug 24, 2014

Last week:  Josh took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (aided by Brad Paisley and Ludacris). Dana Williams was the little underdog that could, and Jesse Kinch proved that he can make any song work. Now let’s talk about this season’s final episode of Rising Star.

With absolutely no introduction, we open to Brad performing a song with the final four. It’s great, but I’m a little confused as to why he’s performing again for the second time when Kesha and Ludacris haven’t performed once. Don’t Kesha and Ludacris have songs they want to promote? Are they just not in the mood? Inquiring minds want to know.

brad_performance

In typical Rising Star fashion, we’re reintroduced to tonight’s finalists via a frenetic, creative opening segment. I’d like to call this one “Me and My Shadow.” It involves the contestants swinging around, showing us their full range of emotions and then interacting with their own shadow much like Peter Pan (shout-out to Jason Ikeler of After Buzz TV for making that reference!).

Austin_-_shadowAudrey_-_shadow2

The experts seem a little more low-key than usual (which is saying something). On the other hand, Josh is quite excited. His eyes are sparkling, his skin is glowing, and he looks dapper in a black suit and tie. (Oops, does it sound like I’m about to write some dirty fan-fiction about Josh Groban? Wait, does that already exist? If not, is there a market for that, Grobanites?).

Josh

Kesha gives us the rainbow hair color she promised, and it barely gets a mention. Not cool, show. Not cool.

Kesha-2

Josh attempts to explain how tonight will work. He talks about how they “seeded” the remaining artists (I don’t know what “seeding” is, but it sounds painful and possibly illegal). The gist of it seems to be that they sorted them into pairs based on their cumulative West and East Coast scores throughout the season. Each pair will compete against each other in a duel, and the winner of each duel will go on to compete for the No. 1 spot.

UPDATE: What they didn’t announce or clarify tonight is that the West Coast had no impact on the voting process. West Coast viewers weren’t thrilled to discover they couldn’t swipe and could only watch the pre-recorded show (all while being encouraged to “vote” by Rising Star’s Twitter handle). Yikes. Huge misstep.

Our first duel of the night is underdog Dana Williams versus frontrunner Jesse Kinch.

Dana_Williams_v_Jesse_Kinch

We start with Dana, who is being advised by Kesha (channeling a sexy librarian in glasses and a suit). They collaborate on Dana’s look and decide on a red dress that I’m already coveting (give it to me in a plus size, thanks!). Dana’s “At Last” is pretty, but it’s not the ideal choice. Once again, I feel like the show is trying to make her into something she’s not. “At Last” is a big, robust song, and Dana is NOT a big singer. She doesn’t need to be because her voice is unaffected and lovely as is. They should be playing to her strengths, not forcing her into a shoe that doesn’t fit. Dana sings beautifully and really gives it her all, but the ill-fitting song choice shows in her 30 percent total vote.

 

We move on to Jesse and his advisor (Brad). Brad has Jesse join him onstage to perform for one of his massive audiences, and it seems like a more productive confidence builder than dress shopping. Then THE WALL comes down, and Jesse launches into “Fortunate Son.” He sounds great as always, but I find the song selection to be a little cliché. Brad seems to love it (weird since only two weeks ago he was saying Jesse should avoid cliché choices). Despite this, Jesse still slays it, earning 87 percent and winning this round (sadly sending Dana home).

 

In an awkward moment, the experts give both contestants their feedback together. No matter how much they try to make Dana feel better, it has to be brutal to lose and then be forced to stand there and listen to enthusiastic feedback for your competitor.

Moving on, our next duel is music pastor Austin French versus torch singer Audrey Kate Geiger.

Austin_v_Audrey

We start with Austin, who is being advised by Josh. Josh brings Austin onstage to sing with him, and it’s pretty sweet. Also, Josh is wearing a hoodie, you guys. I repeat: he’s wearing a hoodie. Austin’s “In Love With A Girl” is good. His vocal is strong, and I like the wardrobe choices (polka dot jacket for the win!). However, I think the song is a little bland for this stage of the competition. The biggest critique people have had of Austin is that he’s not necessarily distinct, and doing a song like this (which is already a little vanilla) is probably not the best way to silence those critics. Austin earns a 70 percent total vote.

 

Next up is Audrey. Her adviser Ludacris invites Audrey to his home, so he can share childhood pictures and show off his cool stuff. Bonus: They fish, and it’s kinda adorable. Then THE WALL comes down, and Audrey performs “Love Me Like a Man.” It’s fun. It’s upbeat. She sounds fantastic, but this song isn’t ideal for a final push. It doesn’t have the sense of urgency or gravitas needed to recreate her stunning “New York State of Mind” moment and really inspire voters. Her 49 percent isn’t enough to raise the wall, and Austin wins this round. This means Austin will go on to compete against Jesse for the final spot.

 

The experts give their feedback to both the losing and winning contestants again, and I won’t say anymore about it, because it’s as awkward as it was the first time around.

We now move on to the final duel of the night: Austin French versus Jesse Kinch. Austin wins the coin toss and chooses to go second, which means he has to watch Jesse’s entire performance from the audience. Here’s the real twist: America won’t see the votes until after both performers finish. Oh boy.

Jesse performs first. His “Love, Rein O’er Me” shows that he’s clearly saved his best for last. It’s fiery (literally, the stage is on fire) and ballsy. Accompanied by a cavalcade of string players, Jesse fills up the stage like he was born to do. It’s very effective, and they keep cutting to Austin who looks incredibly psyched out. (Aw, Austin, don’t worry about it! You do you).

 

Austin performs the final song of the night, “Bless the Broken Road.” It’s pretty, but it doesn’t pack the same punch as Jesse’s song. It’s a ballad that doesn’t move slowly enough for Austin to really dig in and leave his heart on the stage, and the end result seems rushed. This song might have been great for one of the first rounds, but tonight it feels underwhelming.

 

After commercial, we return to the two final contestants. Josh asks the experts who they think won, and they refuse to choose a No. 1 (classy move, experts!). Josh finally reveals the winner to be Jesse with 76 percent of the vote (versus Austin’s respectable 61 percent). The stage explodes with people as family members and contestants swarm Jesse. It’s chaos. As Jesse sings, Josh probably retreats to a quiet corner underneath the stage and breathes a sigh of relief.

end_-_chaos

Things I learned tonight/this season:

  • Josh is witty and funny and did a great job under awkward circumstances.
  • Brad, Kesha and Ludacris seem like good people, but it would have been nice to see more naturally occurring chemistry between them. If Rising Star gets renewed, I recommend sending the experts to a boot camp for two weeks so they can get to know each other. Don’t let them leave until they write at last 10 funny jokes about their cohorts (to use throughout the season).
  • Whoever is putting together the melodramatic opening segments clearly loves what they do. Hats off to them and their fetish for bare lightbulbs!
  • If this show comes back for a second season, they’ll have to find a better way to integrate the West Coast into the voting process.

How do you feel about the winner? Would you tune in for a second season of Rising Star? Oh, and thank you for reading and chatting this season. I like you.

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