By Todd Tilghman
Blake Shelton is back on top.
Todd Tilghman – who was the first person to audition on this season of "The Voice" – outlasted everyone and was crowned the Season 18 winner during the first-ever remote finale.
Tilghman was surrounded by his wife of 21-years and their eight children in Mississippi as host Carson Daly named him the winner. He said Shelton's support has "meant the world to me in all of this."
Streamers fell on Shelton, who tuned in safely from Oklahoma with his family. The country crooner got something sweeter than a trophy – a congratulatory kiss from girlfriend Gwen Stefani.
Despite technical difficulties with Shelton’s microphone, "The Voice" effortlessly combined 21 livestreams from around the nation into one seamless finale after the coronavirus pandemic forced the NBC singing competition to go remote over safety concerns.
Tilghman's win makes Shelton, the last original coach on the NBC singing competition, the undisputed champ. Already the winningest coach in the show's history, Shelton now has seven wins under his cowboy belt.
Tilghman, a Mississippi pastor, earned four chair-turns during the Blind Auditions with his emotional rendition of Bob Seger's "We've Got Tonight."
Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas and John Legend all appealed to Tilghman's roots with their church backgrounds, but he ultimately went with Shelton as his coach.
"I love your voice. I love the passion. I love the range. … I love the hop," Shelton said before labeling his praise dance the "Holy Hop." "I think Todd is special and I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the finals. He’s got a great voice and a lot of drive."
Turns out, Shelton knows what he's talking about.When the votes were tallied, Toneisha Harris (Shelton) and Thunderstorm Artis (Nick Jonas) rounded out the Top 3; CammWess (John Legend) came in fourth place and Micah Iverson (Kelly Clarkson) in fifth place.
The two-hour season finale was more like a concert, with virtual guest performances and post-competition duets with the Top 5 and their coaches.
Tilghman looked right at home alongside Shelton while performing John Mellencamp's "Authority Song," while Artis and Jonas dedicated a cover of Phil Collins' "You'll Be In My Heart" to all health-care workers battling COVID-19.
Harris and Shelton jammed out to "Don't Stop" by Fleetwood Mac, symbolizing her journey on "The Voice" after returning nearly a decade after she was originally supposed to audition for Season 2.
Shelton performed his No. 1 single "Nobody But You" with Stefani for Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma; Legend sang "All of Me" for the nursing staff at Los Angeles' St. Francis Medical Center; and Clarkson performed her new multilingual single "I Dare You," which includes lyrics in six languages.
Jon Bon Jovi looked cooler than a cucumber while sipping from a red solo cup before Bon Jovi performed "Limitless." Other guest performances included Lady Antebellum's "Champagne Night."