Johnny Manuel, American member of Bulgarian band Equinox (Eurovision 2018), has missed out on the Voice Australia title, narrowly beaten by Team Kelly Rowland’s Chris Sebastian. It was a surprise result with many bookmakers having Johnny and Team Boy George’s Siala Robson as the favourites. After the show it was announced on The Voice Australia website that there was less than 0.5% separating first and second place.
In a first for the show, this year's Grand Finale was pre-recorded due to COVID-19 restrictions. Public votes still determined the result but four different endings had been filmed. No minor place-getters were announced leaving Johnny and fellow finalists Siala and Team Delta Goodrem’s Stellar Perry as equal runner-ups.
Johnny, who is originally from the United States of America, now lives in Australia. He met his partner Chris whilst performing here as part of the California Crooners Club, an act put together by Australian actor Hugh Sheridan whilst living in Los Angeles.
During tonight’s Grand Finale, each artist sang one song on their own and also a duet with their coach. The Veronicas and Daryl Braithwaite stepped in for coaches Boy George and Kelly Rowland who appeared via satellite due to current travel restrictions.
Johnny’s coach Guy Sebastian invited him to his home studio to prepare for their duet, Sam Sparro’s 2008 hit ‘Black and Gold’. The two put a big band jazz spin on the track, giving it a very different sound to the original. Guy said it was incredible to sing with someone like Johnny as they got to riff together. Johnny found it a really special process to learn from Guy and have him open up his life like that.
For Johnny’s solo, Guy chose the iconic Titanic theme, ‘My Heart Will Go On’ by 1988 Eurovision winner for Switzerland Celine Dion. Johnny said he was very scared and felt a huge amount of pressure, wondering what would happen if Celine ever saw his performance! In rehearsals, Guy surprised Johnny with a Facetime call to his parents back in the U.S.A. even though it was 2.30 a.m. there! Johnny said seeing their faces fired him up to go out and take the crown.
Johnny received a standing ovation after his performance from Guy and fellow coach Delta Goodrem with Delta noting it was remarkable to see a male vocalist take on Celine Dion. Boy George thought it wasn’t fair that Johnny had such a big voice and Kelly agreed, saying his voice didn’t make any sense and he was beyond talented. Guy added that Johnny had an insane voice and the best heart and got how to move people.
Whilst Johnny didn’t win the title, for the first time ever all four finalists have released an original single. Johnny’s single ‘Say It’ is available to download or stream on all major music platforms now.
Title winner Chris Sebastian, is the younger brother of coach Guy Sebastian (Australia's 2015 Eurovision representative), and won $100,000 and a recording contract with EMI Music Australia. He entered the show as an ‘All-Star’ having previously appeared on the show in Series 1 2012 where as a member of Team Seal he was eliminated after the third of the live shows.