The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Television Collision: Did The Voice Find Its Voice?

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

It’s been almost a week since the finale of The Voice aired and Javier Colon was crowned the winner, so I assume the dust has settled and now we can take a step back and examine what went right and what went wrong in this first season of “America’s most exciting singing competition”.

Before we get started, I have to get one thing out of the way: I was Team Dia Frampton all the way, mostly because from the beginning I was on Team Blake Shelton. But I won’t deny that Javier is a great singer, if he can keep his runs and ad-libs under control and he deserved to get a shot at a successful music career, after the many times his record deals fell through (I wonder why that happened? Maybe his lack of a marketable persona? Humble and graceful only takes you so far in this Lady GaGa world, you know.)

So now that we have established I might be a little bit biased when it comes to judging the judges (oh, yeah, I will!) in favor of Blake, let’s take a general look at the ups and downs of the American version of The Voice.


The Auditions

While I appreciated the fact that very few unsuccessful auditions were shown and none of the embarrassing ones even made it onto the air at all, the audition process for The Voice felt all kinds of staged and fake, there was no immediacy to it. It was painfully obvious there had been pre-auditions, so that the four celebrity judges wouldn’t have to get cancer of the ears. I understand the need for these pre-auditions and by no means would I want to see anything of American Idol proportions in terms of non-musical people screeching and belting a song, but I think The Voice would benefit from a little more diversity in the audition round. Yes, it’s hard to watch people sing and have no judge turn around (at least it is for me, I am a sympathetic gal), but it would enable us to judge the talent of the singers who do make it against their competition, hence we could decide whether we really agree these few people were truly the best of the bunch, or just the best that were shown to us.

What would furthermore make the audition episodes of The Voice feel more authentic and hence worthy to invest emotionally in, would be the sense that the celebrity judges actually put in some time and effort to find these voices they choose to be on their teams. This time around it was painfully obvious all the auditions took place in one day (no one changed outfits, didn’t you notice?). I can’t really give the judges a lot of credit for just sitting there for one day and choosing four singers each out of seemingly only 20 presented to them. I want these judges to be involved in more rounds of auditions to streamline the talent they really feel is worthy of promoting, because I have a feeling someone like Cee Lo Green might let other artists through than some NBC casting director.  

Also, next time around, I would love to see more duos or groups audition, because we already have enough solo singers that won a competition show, we need some diversity in that area as well. Plus, having duos or groups around opens up the song palette by a whole lot, because there are songs you simply can’t sing as a solo artist.


Narrowing Down the Teams

After all the (staged) hoopla that went into forming each coach’s team of four (and all that beautiful grade school math Carson Daly did for us in the process), these teams were cut right back down to size awfully quickly. So quickly in fact, that I was still trying to sort the singers in my head and figuring out who was on which team, when half of them were already gone again. I didn’t think that was fair to those who got cut at all. They barely had a chance to show what they could do and then they had to battle it out amongst their own teammates? That didn’t make much sense to me, because it totally kills all team spirit that could arise in this first round of competition. I don’t know how flexible the rules are, given that The Voice is a Dutch concept NBC bought the American broadcasting rights to, but I would like to either see these first rounds extended – as in only one person per team has to go home each week – or I would like a system more like the one on X Factor, where the teams are competing against each other, hence one judge might end up with two acts in the final, while another team might lose in the semifinals already.


The Judges

The selection of judges was good, because they were all very distinct and different from each other. All four judges will also be back for Season 2, no need to change a winning team. However, let’s take a closer look at each of the judges’ performances.

Adam Levine: I admire Adam for having the cojones to not split his judge’s points evenly between his two final artists. Finally, some judging was going on. Regardless of the fact that America would have voted Javier through to the finals anyway, it was good to see that Adam chose a clear side instead of pretending like everything is peaches. The music industry is cutthroat, and the sooner the contestants get a taste of that (although not in a mean, Simon Cowell-y way, please!), the better. Other than that, I really didn’t care for the way Adam had to start all his critiques with “Hi, Contestant X! How are you?” Just answer the question Carson Daly asked you, Adam, no matter how inane it might be.

Cee Lo Green: Cee Lo writes bad poetry (if that thing he read out can even be considered poetry at all) and I didn’t feel his commitment to “difference” came through enough. At the end of the day, he had good singers on his team, but no one that screamed “I am an artist” to me, which was supposedly what Cee Lo was looking for. Vicci Martinez may have had a better shot at winning if her emotional back story of her father putting his own musical pursuits on hold to support his family would have been mentioned earlier than the semifinals. Other than that, Cee Lo talked almost as much nonsense as Christina Aguilera and to this day I can’t understand what those bubblegum twins were doing on his team in the first place.

Christina Aguilera: she’s a bit loopy in the head, but she actually came across more personable than I had expected. I liked that she put the boys in their place every now and then, even though her boobs always distracted me from anything else going on at any particular moment. I don’t particularly care for Christina’s singing (too many runs and ad-libs here too, maybe Adam Levine should coach her too, he did a good job reigning Javier in), but she put together a strong team. Although I have the sneaking suspicion that while she may want to promote female talent, she really isn’t all that good at being friends with girls. There wasn’t much personal warmth coming from Christina, only a lot of professional love.

Blake Shelton: I had no idea who that dude even was when I first saw him (country music isn’t so big over here in Europe), but he quickly won me over with his jokes and the genuine Poppa Bear love he had for the girls on his team. Yes, Xenia was awkward, but she was talented and if it wasn’t for people like Blake, seeing past the insecurities and believing in the artistic ability of young people nonetheless, then the music business would be a barren place for sure. Blake was the only judge I truly believed when he talked about how much he cared about the members on his team. And also, the dude just makes me laugh on his Twitter feed.

Guest Singers, Duets With Coaches and All That Hoopla

The longer The Voice went on, the more I forgot that it was supposed to be a singing competition show, showcasing people who could actually sing. It turned more into a platform for the judges to show off, not only their personal talents (in duets with their contestants, group performances with each other or simply by performing their latest single), but also the talents of all their friends and family. Cee Lo’s incessant name-dropping was bad enough, but why did the finale of The Voice have to turn into “Let’s see which of our judges can drag in the biggest name to duet with their contestants”?

This was totally unnecessary and shifted the focus away from the actual contestants way too much. Instead, they should have had all the contestants sing two solo songs in the final, because they are the ones still trying to build a fan base, while the judges should feel secure enough in their position not have to hog the spotlight. If you’re really as established in the biz as you want the audience to believe you are, then you don’t need to hijack “America’s most exciting singing competition” for your own promotional purposes. That was just whack. One group performance by the judges would have been fine, but that should have been the end of it. Or do you see the judges of So You Think You Can Dance get up on stage and dance every week?


The Host

Ugh. Just ugh. Carson Daly may just be the least likable host of a competition show ever. Yes, worse than Ryan Seacrest. He had no chemistry with the contestants at all, expressed no joy or sorrow at their situation (take hints from Cat Deeley on how to do that!) and asked the most insipid questions I have ever heard. And to top it all off, he introduced himself by name after every single commercial break. He was just as desperate for attention as the judges and it just read “douche bag” to me. He either needs to grow a more likable personality or NBC needs to find another host for Season 2. Daly damn near ruined the whole thing for me, while Cat Deeley can single-handedly make even the dullest SYTYCD results show entertaining.


The Social Networking

I gotta hand it to The Voice, they had the social networking down. The show was everywhere and my Twitter feed was continuously bogged down with tweets about the show, from the show, from the teams, from the judges… At times (especially Wednesday mornings, a few hours after the show had aired) it got completely out of hand and the only cure would have been to unfollow @NBCTheVoice, but I stuck with it, as is my duty as TV Editor.
The Facebook page also seemed very active and each week the contestants ranked at the top of the iTunes charts, so NBC was doing something right. (Great move, btw, to make downloads from iTunes count as votes. Very up to date!)

The only thing that went wrong regarding the social media was Alison Haislip and those moments in “The Social Media Room” on the actual broadcast show. Excruciatingly vacuous tweets were read aloud and the contestants were asked brain-fart questions of the highest order. If you want to highlight how great the interaction between your show and your Twitter followers is, then pick some of the more intelligent tweets to brag about, otherwise everyone looks stupid.
Still, points for effort.

So there you have it, my review of Season 1 of The Voice broken down point by point. I think the novelty will have worn off quite a bit when Season 2 rolls around and while I think the show is entertaining to watch (mostly for the banter among the judges, not even the singing), I don’t think it provides a great platform to launch a big career from. I think once the winner is announced, most people stop caring and just wait for the next season and new drama, because the audience treats the competition shows as mere entertainment for the moment. One day at the top of the iTunes charts with a cover of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” does not a pop star make. Even American Idol has trouble launching big careers for its winners these days. So do I think a huge career (a la Kelly Clarkson) lies ahead for Javier Colon? No, but I still wish him all the best.

Final note: I have now unfollowed all The Voice-related Twitter accounts, except for Blake Shelton. Dude just cracks me up.




Need more TV coverage? Listen to a new “Television Collision: Podcast Extra”, Episode 11 below.

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