Dominating the ratings during this summer’s Tuesday night primetime and taking over Twitter trends every week, you’d think The Voice is just another American Idol hack job.
But au contraire.
Last night’s episode of NBC’s new reality talent search was the first episode to feature a spin on the elimination process followed by American Idol and most other talent-search shows.
Allow me to set the stage for those unfamiliar to the schematics of this vocal quest: The judges, termed “coaches,” consist of pop princess Christina Aguilera, singer/rapper/producer Cee Lo Green, Maroon 5’s Adam Levine and, representing the country folk, Blake Shelton.
During the preliminary episodes, the “coaches” faced away from the candidates during their tryout until they heard someone they liked, in which case they pressed a button, and their chair would spin around to reveal the person’s appearance.
The idea was to focus on the person’s vocal ability rather than their outer shell. Novel idea, but once the coaches had a look, they often commented on the person’s appearance.
But unlike American Idol, all the people who tried out had some semblance of vocal ability. There wasn’t a round of “Let’s watch and see who makes a fool of themselves on TV.” Another interesting aspect of the show: if more than one judge turned around during the tryouts, the candidate then had the opportunity to choose which judge’s team they’d like to be a part of.
After all was said and done, each judge had four people on their team to take to the live shows.
The show has an equal balance of entertainment aimed at the contestants and the judges. There are two competitions going on here — the judges’ bragging rights and the contestants’ battle for a recording contract.
And a lot of the contestants are actually seasoned artists. Fun fact: eliminated this week, Raquel Castro was the little girl in Ben Affleck‘s Jersey Girl.
During the live shows, two teams perform and America votes, American Idol-style. But the team’s coach is the deciding factor in the elimination. The person with the most votes is safe, and then the celebrity coach is left to determine which person stays and which two leave.
People can call in or buy the tracks on iTunes to vote for their favorite contestant. Last week, Dia Frampton performed a melodic rendition of Kanye West’s “Heartless” on the piano. The neat spin on the hip-hop song garnered a lot of iTunes action and gave her America’s vote last night, proving that the shy folk singer is a force to be reckoned with.
Shelton would seem like an unlikely candidate amongst the famed crew, but he’s actually the most charming to watch. Meanwhile, I can’t figure out what’s tackier: Aguilera’s busty outfits, her longwinded commentary or her sexual come-ons toward the male contestants.
Her team is by far the weakest, as she chose only soulful female vocalists instead of mixing up range and vocal ability. During her team’s elimination round, America saved Beverly McClellan and Aguilera saved ex-American Idol contestant Frenchie Davis, who was disqualified when topless photos surfaced.
Perhaps the most entertaining part of the night was when Cee Lo sported a huge Afro while he and his team rocked a funky rendition of Sly and The Family Stone’s “Everyday People.”
Green’s team performances always have fun stage production. He had sisters Tori and Taylor Thompson sing “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” Their performance was forgettable, but their rockabilly hairstyles were awesome, and the back-up dancers were on top of their game.
Adam Levine and his team performed The Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends,” Joe Cocker-style. The version was a nice attempt but nothing earth-shattering. The real star of the performance was the clear frontrunner on Adam’s team, Javier Colon, who soared with his version of Sarah McLachlan’s “Arms Of An Angel.” Or as Blake Shelton said, “You don’t talk about Javier, you go buy his concert tickets and his T-shirts.”
The real mystery here though is how Levine is tending to his coaching duties when Maroon 5 is currently on a world tour?
I’m not sure if Carson Daily has aged a day since TRL, but he came out of the late night woodwork to host the show. Next week he will reveal whose performance saved them and who Adam and Cee Lo will send home.
There’s definitely an aspect of novelty entertainment here, but the show is engaging nonetheless. The banter between the judges and the quirky personalities of the vocal hopefuls gives the series a little more sincerity than the grand scale of American Idol.
It’s hard to say whether or not the show will keep its rockin’ ratings. As long as the judges and contestants keep braving difficult covers and the stage production stays up to par, I think The Voice will continue to take over Tuesday nights.