NBC finally pulled it off. They got Colleen and me hooked on a reality music contest show. We first saw the ads for The Voice about a month and a half before the premiere, and usually when a show is overhyped I immediately write it off. A reality music contest judged/coached by Christina Aguilera, the girl-voiced Maroon 5 guy and a country singer, hosted by Carson Daly? Thankfully Carson managed to pull in the artist who released one of the Top Three Best Albums last year and who has the soul to match his wardrobe, Cee Lo Green. I’d seen Cee Lo do some featured spots on some rap albums prior to the Gnarls Barkley album “St. Elsewhere”, but his name actually solidified in my brain after he and Danger Mouse released the single “Crazy” in 2006. I definitely wouldn’t ever have expected him to do a reality music contest show so I figured this one was worth tuning in for.
Oh so right. The first two weeks were blind auditions, where the four coaches get to pick 8 singers for their team based only on their vocal performance. After the blind auditions, the coaches then have pairs of singers off their teams perform duets and then they decide which singer they keep on the team and which one gets booted off the show. After each team is whittled down to four people, then show will go live for I guess audience voting rounds? I’m not sure past that but for now, the show is riveting reality TV.
What is the draw here? I’m confused as to why I like the show but I think it has to do with a combination of good singers and good coaches. With American Idol, you have to sit through the first few shows of crappy auditions to finally get to the actual contestants. With The Voice, I’m not sure where they got the contestants, but most have had some kind of experience with singing, whether it’s on broadway, releasing actual studio albums, back-up singers for famous singers, etc.
And the coaches! Cee Lo is obviously awesome, and it’s so great to see him talk about music and singers and goof off with the other coaches. His outfits are outrageous. With Adam, I used to be a huge Maroon 5 fan (they’ve got pretty redundant to me the last few years but whatever), and he’s got some pop music credibility so I’m fine with him. Christina has singer cred all over the music industry, so while I’m not a huge fan of her, I appreciate her being a coach as she’s got some pretty impressive, albeit often gaudy, pipes. Then there is Blake Shelton. Started off not liking this guy because he’s country, what is he going to have to offer? He won us over on the first episode. Not only is he a pretty funny dude, he might be the one coach who has the most legitimate pieces of advice for the contestants. So while I will never listen to his music, I definitely think he adds a lot to the show. And that’s why, you don’t judge*.
After the blind audition weeks, the coaches pick two singers off their individual teams and have them practice up (with the help of a celebrity coach aid) on the same song which they then perform as a duet, then the coach picks one to stay and one to go. I wasn’t sure this change in the show’s format was going to work but holy cow it definitely does. It immediately draws out some fierce competition having two singers singing the same song at the same time. I will say though, in terms of the coaches actually coaching their singers before going out into the battle round seems a little pointless. The coaches don’t actually seem to offer much technical advice and their celebrity friends offer even less. The aids were Reba McEntire, Adam Blackstone, Sia, and Monica. I don’t care much about any of them other than Adam Blackstone (producer on many great records, he’s playing the sickest bass with ?uest and James Poyser right here), and he just wasn’t featured much. They could be done with the celebrity cameos and it wouldn’t hurt the show at all.
So the battle round went off like crazy, super fun to watch and listen and root for a certain team and singers within teams. The only thing I’m torn about is the finality of the coaches decisions. This was demonstrated better by Blake than anyone during the first battle round. He had two guys singing against each other, the country guy (Patrick) and the soulful guy (Tyler). Blake ended up going with (SPOILER ALERT) country boy Patrick, which was severely disappointing. As good of a voice as Patrick had, Tyler had pipes that blew his competitor out of the water. He was so much more entertaining to listen to, he had real range and emotion in his voice versus the one-note stylings of Patrick. The better singer was robbed. And there’s no second chance, no comeback or anything. We’re just left with a singer who is less entertaining than another one. Disappointing.
So the show rocks, and if you haven’t seen it, it’s still early enough on to catch up with it and keep watching. Good reality competition TV, which I think is hard to find.
*-J. Walter Weatherman