I’m not big on reality television. Yes, I get sucked in like everyone on occasion, one can only avoid Bravo’s Real Housewives marathons so many times, but for the most part I am a scripted series gal.
I have few acceptions to that rule, NBC’s The Voice, being one of them.
When The Voice, which is based off of the Dutch The Voice of Holland, first came into its American existence in the spring of 2011, American Idol was at its gluttonous peak. It was about to name Scotty McCreery, the teenage deep voiced, and very cheesy, country singer their champion. The runner up? Another teenager who’d grown up watching, and wanting to be on, American Idol.
Yuck, way to make me want to barf and feel old at the same time.
That finale, which for God know what reason I watched, was so forcibly triumphant even I was choking on confetti, but it isn’t this moment most people watch for.
Half the reason why anyone watches reality television, especially reality talent competitions, is to see others fall flat on their face, just to feel better about ourselves.
The Real Housewives makes it ok if we aren’t rich, because then we would be crazy like those women, the couples that always fights on The Amazing Race are definitely nothing like our relationships, and those people who can’t sing, yeah, we may be talentless, but at least we know it and aren’t delusional enough to go on TV thinking we’re special.
These shows are “guilty pleasures,” because of this way of thinking. Looking down on and laughing at other’s missteps makes us feel better about ourselves, but also like terrible human beings.
We each have different shows that trigger the point where we turn away in disgust, unable to live with ourselves for viewing such vile. For me that is American Idol. I don’t need to hear a bad singer demolish a song (that is what my drunk friends are for) only to see them laughed at by judges who I thought were supposed to be professionals.
It is here where The Voice came into my life. The singing competition doesn’t have judges, but coaches who create teams, meaning they have something invested in the participants. They aren’t feeding them canned advice, because they also have a stake in their improvement.
With The Voice, the days of the ear shattering auditions are over. Each audition-er is invited to come, and they range in age, culture, genre, and experience. The coaches choose the competitions participants with their backs turned to the singer.
Back in 2011 it wasn’t only this new concept that separated The Voice from the pack, but while American Idol fumbled with their judges lineup, The Voice booked four legitimate stars for their panel. Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, and Adam Levine. It was this combination, who had true chemistry, that kept audiences coming back for more.
On March 25th, The Voice debuted its fourth season, this time without Green and Aguilera, who are busy at work on their own music careers. Replacing them on the panel are Shakira and Usher, two international stars in their own rights.
Despite the change of the guards, ratings for the debut were still at their best, (though nothing could be higher than the second season premiere after the Super Bowl, the biggest nonsporting event ratings ever.)
With four episodes of “blind” auditions under their belt, it is clear that Shakira and Usher fit the job description. They have displayed passion for the performers and personality and chemistry with the other coaches that is distinct from that of the original four.
The new season is also bringing a new mix of performers. Where Green and Aguilera lurred many pop singers, this year’s crop is chock full of heart wrenching country and latina crooners. No longer are they token elements of a singing competition, but just as legitimate as a rocker.
Early favorites in the competition include Warren Stone, a country singer Maroon 5 frontman Levine “stole” from country’s Shelton, Michelle Chamuel, a funky rocker who for reasons she didn’t even understand, chose Usher’s team, and folk duo Midas Whale, who’s bluegrass sound is virtually unseen before on shows like this. And who can forget Judith Hill, who gave Aguilera’s “What a Girl Wants” more soul than bubblegum pop knows what to do with.
It appears that this season The Voice is taking bigger chances with its artists, bringing in a more diverse array of talent, both in genre and appearance than any other show. While also having more talent than any other show.
It is this that makes specifically this season of The Voice a better bet than any other reality show. It does not have to be a guilty pleasure. There is nothing shameful about watching true, unprocessed talent bloom.
The Voice airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 pm on NBC.