Move over, American Idol. Watch out, DWTS. (What’s X-Factor, again?)
The Voice, last year’s “dark horse” amid the flurry of television talent shows, is seeing a real surge in popularity these days, dominating not only the competition, but the ratings in general, propelling NBC to the top in recent days. The Voice is seeing lots of new viewers, many of them migrating over from Idol (now in its 11th season). Apparently, people are looking for something fresh and new.
Now, it might seem like I’m vacillating on my opinions of reality talent shows in general (which I shared in my piece “Have the Reality Talent Shows Had Their Day?”), but given that these shows are still around, I have to admit that The Voice has grabbed my attention. In short, there are several things I really like about it, things that (in my opinion) are more complementary of the music industry itself than many of the other shows out there. Here’s what I like about the show:
- The blind auditions. I reaaallllly like the fact that the judges have to judge first on voice alone, not appearance. Sometimes they don’t like this so much, when they turn their chairs around and see a beautiful face they passed up on because they didn’t hear the talent in the voice. But it’s a system that works. It also gives people a chance who aren’t in the conventional “marketable demographic” (i.e., looks, or age) to have a shot based on their voice alone.
- The audition process itself. People aren’t invited to the blind auditions unless they have already proven some sort of vocal ability. (American Idol, by contrast, deliberately lets a few crazies and no-talents through the screening process to add to the drama of “reality television.” You don’t see that kind of crap on The Voice, so it makes you take it more seriously.
- Less about the judges, more about the contestants. I don’t know about you, but I get so tired of celebrity judges getting into shouting matches while the contestants just stand there helplessly on the platform. This happened constantly on The X-Factor last year, which is why I won’t watch it again. There’s entertaining judge banter on The Voice, too, but it’s more friendly and respectful overall. You get the feeling Adam, Christina, Blake and Cee Lo genuinely like each other. Meanwhile, you really get to know the contestants for who they are.
- More mentoring. Other shows (like The X-Factor) separate the contestants into teams under the judges, who then act as mentors to the contestants. With The Voice, however, you actually get to see the mentoring at work, not just the finished product. It is actually very educational for any viewer who wants a music career. (What’s more, the people doing the mentoring are all musicians with proven chart success, not former successes needing a career jump-start, or greedy media moguls looking for someone new to exploit. Nuff said.)
Bottom line: while other talent shows seem to be losing their focus, resorting to tricks and manufactured drama to get ratings, The Voice seems to be a show that is genuinely serious about identifying and developing new talent. And while their contestants might not currently be receiving the kind of media attention that Idol contestants do, for example, I think The Voice has much more potential to prepare its contestants for actual, lasting, successful music careers in the long run (which was my primary concern when I wrote the earlier piece about talent shows). Whether television talent shows will continue to provide the music industry with genuine, lasting talent remains to be seen, but in my view, The Voice is truly a new contender.