"The X Factor" and "The Voice" both crowned winners this week, but were they truly the best of their class?
On "The X Factor," country singer Tate Stevens won Season 2, edging out teenager Carly Rose Sonenclar and the girl group Fifth Harmony on Thursday night. On "The Voice" two days earlier, pop-rock singer Cassadee Pope emerged as the Season 3 winner over Scottish rocker Terry McDermott and Minnesota soul singer Nicholas David.
So how did that stack up with our "X Factor" vs. "Voice" rankings, which took the singers from both shows and put them head to head each week? In our nonscientific survey, readers picked Carly Rose Sonenclar as their favorite.
Below are my picks for the week. Click through to the interactive to see what my co-judges, Times music writers Todd Martens and Chris Barton, had to say and to view the performances. And watch the Google+ Hangout above to see a discussion of the week's developments by Times staff writers Gerrick Kennedy and Todd Martens.
1. Nicholas David
As the first "Voice" finalist to compete after the show's heart-rending tribute to the Sandy Hook, Conn., victims, David had to do something to change the temperature of the room — so he set it on fire (metaphorically and literally) with a Jerry Lee Lewis/Jimi Hendrix medley of "Great Balls of Fire" and "Fire." His high-energy, high-kicking performance (Blake Shelton said he should expect a call from the Rockettes) was a total kick, bringing the house down, the coaches to their feet and all of us much-needed joy in the midst of very sad times.
2. Cassadee Pope
Earlier this season, when Pope first sang the poignant song "Over You," co-written by mentor Blake Shelton about his brother's death, she tapped into the hurt she felt over the father who had dropped out of her life. Her dad has now reappeared. This time, in light of the Sandy Hook tragedy, the song seemed to have a greater, more painful emotional resonance. The lyrics reminded us that we never really recover from life's deepest losses – our own or those we share as a society. They leave us forever changed.
3. Carly Rose Sonenclar
Sonenclar looked and sounded like an angel singing the Leonard Cohen anthem "Hallelujah." Cohen's song has long been one of my all-time favorites, and it's dispiriting to see it become a singing-competition show cliché, but in this celestial rendition, Sonenclar did it justice, giving it gorgeous new life. This 13-year-old can do things with her voice – gently caressing some notes, sending others soaring – that can leave a listener breathless. That's something she herself never seems to be. Hallelujah.
4. Terry McDermott
McDermott really rocked out on Aerosmith's "Dude Looks Like a Lady" in a duet with mentor Blake Shelton (with a shirtless, wig-wearing, tongue-waggling Adam Levine on guitar), yet, with his strong, clear, crisp vocals on full display, he made every note seem effortless. Shelton, meanwhile, seemed to be struggling to keep up, underscoring that, though McDermott makes what he does look easy, that's only because he is, as Shelton himself might say, so dang good.
5. Tate Stevens
Stevens seems to carry the weight of his family on his shoulders when he performs, imbuing his heartfelt country ballads with a paterfamilias gravity that can get a little heavy. So when he kicks back and allows himself a little boot-scooting fun onstage, as he did on "Pontoon" in a duet with musical guest Little Big Town, it's a joy to watch. Yes, it's a little embarrassing — like seeing your parents get down on the dance floor at a wedding — but still, it warms your heart to see the big lug smile, and it was sweet to see him blush when the women in the band got too close. His wife of 15 years was watching, after all.