Confession time. I’ve been watching the TV show called “The Voice” on NBC. I don’t normally watch either reality shows or any of the current competition-style shows. The “win at any cost” attitude and the judgmental negativity reflected in them doesn’t appeal to me at all. So unless I’m channel-flipping and see a performance that catches my attention, I stay far, far away from them.
However, last year I accidentally stumbled across Beverly McClellan performing “I’m the Only One.” Not only was her singing pretty darn impressive, but she didn’t look like teenage pop star. Then after she finished, the four “coaches” (not judges!!!) said really nice things about her singing. Okay, I thought, I can watch this for a while. I ended up watching the rest of the first season of “The Voice.”
I was still leery about the show because all the competitive talent shows do tend to be more positive once they winnow out the bad acts. But it seemed worth giving this show a chance, so this year I started watching it from the beginning. And I’m happy to report that I’ve enjoyed it so far.
The entire format seems to be set up to accentuate the positive. For instance, there are no bad performances when they have the initial auditions to select the contestants. Hooray! I don’t know about you, but I have no interest in spending my time watching bad acts. (Isn’t that what YouTube is for?) And having all good performances means there are no humiliating boos from the audience or nasty, mean-spirited comments from the judges. Another great thing about “The Voice” auditions is that the four coaches have their backs to the singers, so the initial selection is based strictly on the singer’s voice and not on appearance.
The four coaches (Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green, Christina Aguilera, and Blake Shelton) are all nice to the contestants and to each other. The balance and variety in the show comes from their different music styles, not from opposite/conflicting personalities. There is some rivalry between them because they all want the best contestants on their team and they also want one of the members on their team to win, but it’s a friendly rivalry which conveys both liking and respect for the other coaches.
There are three phases to the competition. In the blind auditions, the coaches are each trying to get twelve singers on their team. If more than one coach chooses a singer, then the tables are turned and the singer gets to pick which team they want to be on. I really liked that part. The blind auditions ran for five episodes and almost all of the singers were picked by at least one coach. There were just enough singers who weren’t picked to maintain a degree of uncertainty without losing the positive focus of the show. Not only that, it was obvious that the coaches felt really bad when someone didn’t get picked, and they tried to say something useful and encouraging to that singer.
The second phase, called The Battle Rounds, was just completed this week. During these four episodes, the coaches had to cut their teams in half, going from twelve members down to six. Each coach chose two members of their team for a head-to-head competition. The two singers were given a song to perform together as a duet, but each had their own personal “celebrity advisor” (Lionel Richie, Kelly Clarkson, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Jewel, Miranda Lambert, Alanis Morissette, Ne-Yo, or Robin Thicke) assigned to them to help bring out their best performance. After the duet, their coach then had to choose which singer would move on to the third phase.
The battle rounds are my least favorite part since I’d like to see everyone win, and many of my favorites didn’t make the cut. However, it was really interesting to see who the coaches matched up for the duets. Sometimes, the paired singers would be dramatically different, and the resulting duet would be astoundingly creative. Other times, two very similar singers were paired together. At first this seemed a little counterintuitive when both singers were exceptionally good. Why wouldn’t the coach try to keep all of the strongest singers? But then I realized that it’s easier for a singer to stand out and shine if they’re different from the others. It’s ironic that “ordinary people” can band together and, by each contributing to the whole, can become extraordinary, while extraordinary people somehow become ordinary when clumped together in a group. So a coach’s team would actually be stronger if each singer had their own unique style.
Some of the duet performances were truly amazing. The coaches did an incredible job of picking songs where both singers had the opportunity to showcase their particular abilities. It was also interesting, and sometimes surprising, to see which singers were able to take advantage of all the coaching and advice they got and really step up their performances. Even those who didn’t move on to the next level benefited from the personalized coaching and advice they received, and most of them recognized this and expressed their appreciation for it.
With the battle rounds now over, next comes the “live performances,” which will combine ratings from the coaches with audience votes to determine which singers advance from the quarter-finals to the semi-finals and then to the finals. Each coach will have one singer left to compete in the finals, and I believe the audience alone determines the ultimate winner of “The Voice.” But all the singers who reach this stage are winners. The weeks of coaching they receive to improve their performance and artistry is unbelievably valuable, and the friendships and connections they make in the music world are priceless. The coaches are also winners. It is, of course, a great opportunity for them to showcase and share their obvious talent and passion for music, but what has impressed me the most is their genuine caring and commitment to helping all the singers on their teams. With so many winners on the show and so many winning performances to enjoy, “The Voice” can’t help but be a winner, and it’s well worth the time spent watching it for anyone who enjoys music.
If you haven’t been following the show and want to catch up on what has happened so far, you can watch all the previous episodes from the current season at The Voice. You can also find various interviews, bonus features, and a clearer summary of the three different stages of the show on this website.