ABC's interactive singing competition, Rising Star , concluded Sunday night with the four remaining contestants learning that Jesse Kinch was crowned the season-one champ, beating Austin French in the final round.
Dana Williams and Audrey Kate Geiger were eliminated earlier in the night.
The top four acts were seeded based on their combined East and West Coast scores throughout the season. The contestants were then paired off in two separate head-to-head duels; the first artist sang with the wall up, the second with the wall down. The winners of the two battles competed against each other to determine the winner.
The final head-to-head duel marked a first for the show. This time, both artists sang with the wall up and neither they nor the experts or audience saw the voting results until both artists finished performing.
The order of performances in each duel was decided by coin toss. Viewers who downloaded the Rising Star app were asked to vote “yes” or “no,” just as they did in the audition round.
Host Josh Groban and the Rising Star experts -- Kesha , Ludacris and Brad Paisley -- presided over the performances. The "experts" were allowed to vote.
Here are the highlights from Sunday night:
Dana Williams vs. Jesse Kinch
Williams led off with Etta James ’ “At Last.” Earlier, Kesha, noting the importance of branding in making or breaking an artist, introduced Dana to her creative team. Together, they tried to come up with outfits to wear for her duels. The 24-year-old Los Angeles native earned just 30 percent of the vote.
Prior to the finale, Kinch was a guest at Paisley’s New Jersey concert. Brad told the 20-year-old, “In spite of all these trucks and buses and the big show we put on, it really does come down to the music." Jesse also joined Brad onstage for a song. Jesse, singing with the wall down, raised it with Creedence Clearwater Revival ’s “Fortunate Son,” earning 87 percent of the vote. Kinch moved on to the finals.
After the performances, Kesha commented that Dana “sounded beautiful,” but Jesse “slaughtered” her face. Brad, referring to their time together at his concert, joked, “You learn quick.” Ludacris thought Kinch “killed it.”
Austin French vs. Audrey Kate Geiger
Austin was up first, singing Gavin DeGraw ’s “In Love with a Girl.” Before the performance, Groban spent some time with the 20-year-old Tifton, Georgia, native and urged him to create a connection with his fan base. French collected 70 percent of the vote and eventually moved on to the final round.
It was Audrey Kate’s turn to try and raise the wall. Earlier, Ludacris invited Audrey Kate to his house to help get her “mind, body and soul right.” He warned her that unless she knew she could win the competition, she was already defeated. Unfortunately, her version of Bonnie Raitt 's “Love Me Like a Man” collected just 49 percent of the vote, not good enough to beat French.
The experts, however, had nothing but praise for Geiger. Ludacris loved both performances, but singled out Audrey Kate because she “fought for every percentage point.” Kesha thought it was her favorite performance from Geiger. Paisley praised the 24-year-old New Jersey native, saying, “I want to hear the album you make, I want to hear the songs you pick to sing.”
Jesse Kinch vs. Austin French
Kinch kicked off this head-to-head duel with The Who ’s “Love Reign O’er Me.”
French followed with Rascal Flatts ’ “Bless the Broken Road.”
Kinch won the duel by a margin of 76 percent to 61 percent to win the competition.
The evening also included Paisley performing his new song “Moonshine in the Trunk,” backed by the four Rising Star finalists.
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