Look, you guys! A musical talent show that’s actually about finding musical talent! I finally checked out The Voice last night to see what all the hubbub's about, and judge Adam Levine summed up my initial feelings best when he said, “I was confused and a little bit scared.” Sure, he was talking about a contestant, but I understood where he was coming from on the broader scale. The four judges for The Voice: Levine, Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, and Blake Shelton have certain expectations when a contestant takes the stage for one of the blind auditions. They scan the audience’s response and they listen to whether or not the potential superstar behind their nifty swivel chairs is wearing sneakers or heels (and based on their apparent assumption that heels equals female, I desperately want them to get a faceful of man one of these days).
I have certain expectations when it comes to anything based on anything that Simon Cowell had a hand in creating, even if the relationship is largely tangential. American Idol begat The X-Factor begat The Voice. American Idol has been a joke for the past few seasons and, well, The X-Factor has always been a joke, so it’s only natural that The Voice is utterly terrible. It’s like reverse evolution, right? Devolution!
Except, apparently, we’ve ended up missing a link somewhere.
I kept waiting for Christina Aguilera to substitute sloppy sobbing for constructive criticism or Adam Levine to throw Cee Lo Green’s (adorably fluffy!) kitty across the stage or for one of the contestants to have a toddler-esque meltdown on stage that would end up being either hilarious (like X-Factor’s Astro) or awwwwwkward (a la X-Factor’s Drew). I was not expecting to watch a talent show with actual talent being judged by enormously talented artists, all well respected by their genres and the music industry as a whole, judges who give a rejected contestant actual feedback, free of a patented and Twitter-friendly Simon Cowell zinger or some vague non-answer like, “I just wasn’t feeling it.” I had a professor in a beginning photography class who loved to dish out harsh grades and justify them with, “oh kids, art is subjective.”
Art is subjective, but instruction is not. Singers who are rejected from The Voice are sent on their way with good-hearted, constructive, helpful feedback that will provide them with a steady foundation to continue their musical careers. No one who attends a blind audition for The Voice is bad. In fact, quite a few of the rejected performers are quite good... they just aren’t phenomenal.
My only real concern is the running time for each episode. I understand that the blind auditions are special and that once we enter Battle Royale mode, each episode will crunch back down to a mere sixty minutes, but in the meantime, two hours of straight-up auditions is a bit overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take endless auditions in an audition episode over the glorified infomercials that pass for entertainment on those other two Star Search surrogates, but it’s just... I think I was drooling a little bit at the end there, and not because I’m jealous of Adam Levine’s sweet ink.
– Oh hey, Carson Daly! Between Carson, Christina, and Adam, it’s like The Voice is channeling my inner late-'90s middle-schooler. I feel simultaneously like a kid again and like a decrepit crone.
– “I love Cee Lo’s cat” appears on three different occasions in my notes on this episode. So, uh... I love Cee Lo’s cat.
– The lack of over-the-top sob stories is refreshing. It keeps the focus on the music. That’s not to say that there aren’t any sob stories: Erin Willett’s father is dying of pancreatic cancer and James Massone is trying to rise above a violent past. But at no point was I under the impression that these contestants were picked for their dramatic backstories, or their ability to burst into tears on cue, or their potential clashability with other stars. I feel like I’m watching something for adults. You know, cool adults.
Have you guys been watching The Voice? How do you think it compares to The X Factor and American Idol?