America named Jermaine Paul "The Voice" on last night's finale of the reality singing competition. The former Alicia Keys backup singer bested runner-up Juliet Simms by a mere 4 percentage points to take the title, earning a recording contract with Universal Republic Records.
While we're excited for Paul, a longtime music-industry veteran and father of four who brought nothing but dedication and professionalism to each of his performances, and had a feeling he would ultimately prevail in the competition, it's Simms' future as a recording artist that we're more interested in. By the end of the competition, her unique, raspy voice and ethereal Florence Welch-like style had us waiting out many of the other performances just to get another listen to Simms.
Like Paul, Simms has been in the game for years, but things never quite panned out. Her band Automatic Love released a record on RCA in 2010, and she signed deals with Epic and Umbrella Records as a solo act, though none yielded sales strong enough to merit the labels' continued investment, and Simms was ultimately dropped.
Her search for a bigger platform to re-launch herself brought her to "The Voice," where she quickly became a judges' favorite. She was initially chosen by Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine and Cee Lo Green, and chose to be part of Team Cee Lo.
Throughout the competition, she earned nothing but praise for her killer vocals, but her performance of James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" in the semifinals marked a turning point for the singer. She nailed it so hard that Levine declared her "the one to beat," while Aguilera — who herself tore the song apart at the 2007 Grammy tribute to Brown — said, "I sing from my heart, love me, hate me, but I sing for me, and that's where you sing from."
Her own coach Cee Lo seemed at a loss for words, saying only, "You killed it! You murdered that record!"
Indeed, she delivered so fantastically that she reshaped the entire competition. Her take on "Man's World" was so well-received that it captured the vast majority of the public vote, knocking Jamar Rogers, who had been, up to that point, one of Cee Lo's favorites and a presumed lock to go all the way to the end, out of the competition and carrying her to the finals. It was proof that when she is in her element with the right song, she is a force to be reckoned with and a voice that people want to hear more from.
None of this is to take away from Paul or his talent. The ease with which he performs is impressive, but it's not particularly exciting. His will be an album heavy on R. Kelly-like ballads (like his fantastic take on "I Believe I Can Fly," which won him the competition) and R&B slow jams, and that's perfectly fine.
But consider the delicate touch Simms brought to her group performance of "With a Little Help From My Friends." Arranged in the style of Joe Cocker's cover of the Beatles classic, it was simple and elegant and markedly different from her showstopping "It's a Man's Man's Man's World." It exemplified her astounding range as a performer; she's as effective singing a spare ballad as she is tearing into a soul classic.
We haven't had a flesh-and-blood female rock star in the vein of Fiona Apple or Alanis Morissette emerge since the '90s. We are sadly low on strong, truly unique and versatile female voices that can cross genres without sounding out of place. Simms can rock, she's got soul and, with Cee Lo's pushing, she even showcased a funky side.
Simms could go in just about any direction with her next record, and that's something to be excited about. Hopefully, despite coming in second place, "The Voice" will prove to be exactly the launching pad she needs to go on to bigger and better things.
Who was your favorite of the "Voice" final four? Let us know in the comments!