America's with you, Cassadee! Tonight, the presumed frontrunner became season 3's big winner, beating out the more idiosyncratic likes of Terry McDermott and Nicholas David (who were awarded second and third place, respectively).
Cassadee Pope's victory will surely lead to grumbling that the fan base for her old band, Hey Monday, gave her an unfair advantage over the competition -- but anyone who's been paying attention to the show for the last month or so could have seen this one coming. Ever since Cassadee's first misty-eyed performance of Blake Shelton's "Over You," she's been the act to beat -- and when strong contenders like Amanda Brown and Trevin Hunte fell by the wayside, her ultimate triumph seemed even more inevitable.
But despite its outcome and a lot of its content -- video packages asserting that Adam is talented, Blake is a flirt, Cee Lo is a weirdo, and Christina Aguilera was born [throat clearing noise] years ago -- the finale still had a few surprises in store. For example, I could not have predicted that Cee Lo would storm the stage in a Jesus costume in order to give each member of the final three a brand-new Kia™ (tough luck, Trevin), or that Christina Milian would freak out Kelly Clarkson by calling her "the biggest artist on the planet." (Xtina heard you, Other Christina, and she's fuming.) And then there were the finale's bushel of musical performances, each of which deserves its own superlative:
Most Surprisingly Intense: Rihanna, "Diamonds"
Ri-ri can look pretty wooden onstage, so I appreciated all the dramatic cheek-stroking and eye-closing she did during this performance. It wasn't as nutty as the psychedelic nightmare version of "Diamonds" she presented on SNL last month, but maybe that's a good thing. Also, props to Carson Daly for actually pronouncing the singer's name correctly: It rhymes with "banana," not "banana" the way a British person would say it. The more you know!
Most Community Theater: Terry McDermott, Rudy Parris, Amanda Brown, Bryan Keith, and Michaela Paige, "Rock and Roll All Nite"
Apologies to all involved, but this song is so cheesy that it's tough to sing it with a straight face -- which may be why everyone save Terry performed like he or she was auditioning for the touring production of a different Broadway musical. Michaela was clearly trying for Sherrie in Rock of Ages. Amanda wanted the part of Mimi in Rent. Bryan was going for something, anything Jersey Boys, which is why he and this song were such a weird match. And Rudy's destiny, obviously, is to star in I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That): The Meat Loaf Story, a bio-musical that exists only in my dreams. For now.
Best Throwback: Nicholas David and Smokey Robinson, "Cruisin'"
Get it? His name is Smokey, and when he came out, the stage filled with smoke. But visual punnery aside, these two really clicked during their big duet -- just ask Cee Lo, whose chair-dancing and lyric-mouthing was approaching proud stage mom levels. And when you're wearing Bowser's football pads, that sort of enthusiasm can be dangerous.
NEXT: What hath "Stacy's Mom" wrought?