Country music and Blake Shelton steal the show on 'The Voice' -- again

Image: Blake Shelton and Danielle Bradbery.

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By Craig Berman
"Voice" coach Blake Shelton and season four winner Danielle Bradbery.Today

Country is once again king. If there’s one takeaway from “The Voice” this season, that is it. When in doubt, the secret to winning is to stick as close to Nashville radio as possible.

Blake Shelton was the winning coach -- again. Danielle Bradbery was the winning singer, the youngest “Voice” champion ever and someone her coach swears is the next big thing in country music. Another Blake act, The Swon Brothers, made the finale and finished third.

That’s not all. Adam Levine’s top-finishing singer, Amber Carrington, was a country artist who he tried and failed to make more of a rocker. As if to emphasize that coaching error, both Danielle and the Swon Brothers brought her back as part of their teams for their group finale numbers.

“Secretly, we think she belongs on Team Blake,” the Swon Brothers said. Secretly, she probably agreed.

No fan of the show could be surprised by the result. After all, Danielle’s victory gave Blake his third “Voice” title in a row. A year ago, Cassadee Pope won by emphasizing country music in the semifinals and the finale. Jermaine Paul was more musically well-rounded in season two, but sang an actual Blake song in the finale to bring it home.

The recipe seems clear. “The Voice” audience is filled with country music fans, so singing country music is the way to please the crowd?

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But is it the music? Or is it all about the coach?

Country artists do well on “The Voice,” true. But really, it’s Blake who does well. Blake lets the country artists stay in their comfort zone, entertains the crowd with jokes about his “special lattes,” and laughs all the way to the winner’s circle. We might forget who actually won seasons two or three -– but we remember their coach, and he knows the game enough to put his singers in position to win.

No other coach can say that, even though they know the audience preferences as well. When Adam won Amber for his team at the blind auditions, he chortled that he really wanted to beat Blake at his own game with a country artist. But as he showed, that’s not something he really knows how to do. He’s a rocker. He knows rock.

None of Shakira’s country acts made it out of the knockout rounds, and perhaps not coincidently she had no one singing in the finale.

Usher tried to catch the country wave with Josiah Hawley, but lost him early. Though Michelle Chamuel was as far from a country act as you can get, Usher did his part to ride that wave as well by having her sing “Trouble” and bringing Taylor Swift by to cheer her on. It was her biggest-selling iTunes download heading into the finals, and he had her reprise it for the finale. She came in second.

But of course, country music isn’t the strength of any of those coaches -- it’s all Blake. Though he turned his chair around for a few singers from other genres and even managed to convince some to join his squad this season, he took only country acts into the live shows. As he said during one of the early rounds, when in doubt, he sticks with what he knows -- and he knows country.

He also knows how the show works. In a lot of ways, it’s all about the coaches. “The Voice” is the most supportive reality TV contest ever, where everyone isn’t just touting their own singers, but everyone else’s as well. So you don’t get ahead by being snarky -- at least not towards a struggling contestant -- or by getting into arguments with others on the panel. You get ahead because you get the viewers on your side.

While Danielle was the winner, there’s no better proof of that than the Swon Brothers. It’s doubtful that any other judge could have taken them into the battle rounds, let alone the live shows. A country duet? When no duet has ever made it far on the show? Where’s the upside in that?

Adam Levine had his own duet that looked more promising in their audition in Midas Whale, and he paired them against Amber in the knockout round to bounce them out.

Blake, however, saw something in his fellow Okies. Like their coach, they came across as extremely likable. They’re comfortable on camera.

They sing pretty well. And somehow, they outlasted bigger voices to make the finale.

It’s not just about the voice. It’s about knowing the audience and giving them what they want. Blake knows all about that.

The audience loves him. The show loves him. He’s now won three seasons in a row. If you dream of being a country star and all four judges turn around, you have to pick him as your coach. He’s the best at it.

After all, on “The Voice,” country is king, and Blake’s the show’s king of country. He proved that again in season four.