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Jamaican back-up singer Tessanne Chin will be singing lead from now on: She beat out 16-year-old Colts Neck powerhouse Jacquie Lee and Los Angeles musician Will Champlin, 30, in the fifth season of "The Voice" Tuesday night.
In her audition, Tessanne, a 28-year-old vocalist who has toured with reggae legend Jimmy Cliff, had impressed the show's four coaches with her powerful pipes and pinpoint precision. All four clamored to be her mentor, but she chose Adam Levine, who played to her Jamaican roots with some reggae song choices. But her performance of Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" last week cemented her frontrunner status.
Tessanne hit all her marks on Monday night's performance finale, with a reprise of her audition song, Pink's anthem "Try"; a duet with Adam on the Beatles' "Let It Be," complete with a reggae breakdown; and her showstopper "I Have Nothing," one of Whitney Housto's signatures.
Of the three finalists, Tessanne was the most seasoned, and it showed on stage, whether she was mixing it up with the band or throwing off major diva attitude in numbers like "I Have Nothing."
Jacquie, the second-place finisher, enjoyed a stellar run, earning raves for her mature, impassioned takes on soul and rock classics, including Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You," and Janis Joplin's "Cry Baby."
Jacquie, a junior at the Ranney School in Tinton Falls, a field hockey ace and a songwriter, was once so shy, her father Rich Lee told The Star-Ledger, she would only sing for her family from inside her closet.
Before she became a contender, Rich Lee says he made her promise that no matter what happened on "The Voice," she would finish college. Now he's not so sure about high school: "I'll be the first to admit this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance, the momentum and exposure they receive," he told The Star-Ledger. "We'll take a look when this thing ends. It all happens too fast."
This is Adam's second win as mentor; country star Blake Shelton had shepherded the winner for the last three seasons.
The two-hour finale was packed with performances both stellar and, well, sloppy. I enjoyed a surprisingly funky "Love Can Move Mountains," a duet between Tessanne and Celine Dion; the charming "Wagon Wheel," which reunited Will with Jonny Gray, Caroline Pennell, Austin Jenckes and Cole Vosbury; and a hot "Treasure" with Will, Nic Hawk, Josh Logan, Matthew Schuler and Preston Pohl.
Preston returned for another memorable performance -- the soul classic "Hold On" with Chin, Olivia Hencken and Grey -- and got me angry all over again that Adam decided to move Champlin forward instead of Preston.
However, the opening number, "Tonight is the Night," featuring the top 20, reminded me of closing night at theater camp, and not in a good way.
"The Voice" returns in February with Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green again taking a breather; Shakira and Usher will fill their seats.