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'Rising Star' winner Jesse Kinch: His best performance wasn't during the finale

Jesse Kinch won "Rising Star," ABC's latest attempt to get in on the reality singing competition gravy train, on Sunday night, garnering a 76 percent rating for his rendition of The Who's "Love Reign O'er Me" to secure victory. It was a powerful performance, but, as was seen by all of America at the end of the live finale, his cover of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put A Spell On You" was even better. In fact, although Jesse Kinch rode high ratings in the interactive competition throughout the season, he never really topped his first two performances.

Billboard's Jodi Walker noted in the finale recap Aug. 25 that Jesse Kinch's win on "Rising Star" seemed almost preordained from the start. Every time he hit the stage, he scored well. In fact, his cover of "Reign O'er Me" garnered him his worst rating of his run on the show, a 76 percent. His previous low had been an 83 percent with his cover of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean. He even scored an 87 percent with Credence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son" in the battle prior (against Dana Williams) to his finale sing-off with Austin French.

But his first two performances made him almost a lock for the finale. After getting into the competition with his audition song, "I Put A Spell On You," Jesse solidified his position in the competition in the second round with The Allman Brothers' "Whipping Post," a modern southern rock classic.

If you were one of the lucky ones that saw the show (unfortunately, "Rising Star" never garnered more than 5.2 million viewers, which it polled on the night it premiered), you knew as soon as the music started and Jesse's first vocal notes flew into the microphone that the wall would go up (artists needed a 70 percent from voters to get the wall to rise). And it did, and quickly. With the help of the professional experts -- rapper Ludacris, country singer Brad Paisley, and pop singer Kesha -- and their cumulative 21 votes (which were cast within the first few seconds), the wall virtually jumped off the stage.

Jesse would go on to score a 90 percent rating for "Whipping Post." On the West Coast, which got to add their vote to the artists' totals, sometimes saving the contestants that didn't quite make it on the East Coast, he scored an 89 percent.

To be sure, Jesse Kinch's choice of songs seemed to also give viewers an idea of the kind of music he would record -- if he went on to win the Capitol Records contract. Rock with a blues edge. John Fogerty-ish. Allman Brothers-esque. Something along the lines of Joe Cocker, The Animals, or even Van Morrison. Although retro, Jesse could easily fall in with modern blues rockers like Joe Bonamassa and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

And now that he is the official winner of "Rising Star," we are going to find out.

Although it is as yet unclear when we should expect an album from the young singer, it is hoped that Jesse Kinch's debut offering is met with as much enthusiasm as his performances were on "Rising Star." But if he delivers on originals as well as he did on covers, and there is no reason to believe otherwise, he won't have a thing to worry about.

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