You should be watching The Voice: It’s like television candy, with glitter

April 4, 2012 § 4 Comments

I recently started watching The Voice on NBC. Or rather, on Hulu, but they tell me it’s made by NBC. This is the televised singing competition judged by Christina Aguilera, the guy from Maroon 5, some handsome country singer, and That Guy Wearing a Cape.

To elaborate, from left to right, we have:

1) Adam Levine, lead singer of Maroon 5, known for his sex-heavy lyrics, his tattoos, and those Adult ADD commercials he’s doing now

2) Christiana “I was totes on the Mickey Mouse Club with Britney and JT and Baby Goose before I became a superstar” Aguilera

3) Cee-Lo Green, half of Gnarls Barkley and the slick pipes and sharp wit behind the best breakup song of all time, “Fuck You” (on the coaches’ voice-over intros on The Voice, Carson Daly refers to this song as “Forget You” — the title of the radio-friendly censored/neutered version that basically destroys the song. When Gwyneth Paltrow sang “Forget You” on Glee, I wanted to punch her in the mouth even more than I normally want to punch her in the mouth.)

4) Blake Shelton, apparently a super famous country singer who is married to another super famous country singer

“But isn’t The Voice just a rip-off of American Idol?” you ask, from which the follow-up question for people who know me is “Why are you watching it?!” Often people say this because they know I hate American Idol. Sometimes they say this because they think television other than Mad Men is a waste of time (I watch Mad Men, too!) or they think anything that needs electricity to run is inherently abhorrent (I have a poet friend who is a fairly hard-core luddite, and super pretentious about it, too, which is obviously the best part…there are downsides to having super arty friends.)

And yes, I hate American Idol. Why are they still searching for the next American Idol when they already found him? (I heart you Adam Lambert.) But yeah, watching American Idol makes me feel physically ill (true story). It’s basically a televised celebration of mediocrity, judged by the astonishingly dull (and Steven Tyler). Seriously, Randy Jackson is so predictable that they could put a giant brown teddy bear in his seat and play a recording of him saying, “I dunno, I wasn’t really feelin’ it dawg,” and no one would notice the difference.

Unlike that Neilsen juggernaut, however, The Voice doesn’t actually have “judges,” it has “coaches.” This is actually a significant difference because each of the four coaches personally chooses singers for her/his team and then works with them each week, setting up each contestant to battle the singers from the other coaches’ teams. Or that’s what eventually happens. First, there is a series of “Battle Rounds” in which two members from a given team sing a duet, then their coach chooses the singer he/she prefers and sends the other one home.

That’s one of the great things about this show: they’re always getting rid of people left and right. Sweet; I’m not interested in the average performers. During each of the four weeks of “battles,” half the singers go home, and then during the initial “live shows,” viewers vote (like on Idol) to keep half the singers, while each judge can save one remaining person from being kicked off the show (so to tally, that ultimately means that a third of the people go home from each of these live shows).

I know. That was confusing. That’s one thing about The Voice: it’s not dull because nearly every week they change how people get kicked off/kept, so you’re too busy trying to keep up with the gorram rules to get too bored. After the initial audition weeks in which the coaches pick their teams, the show progresses as follows:

Battles (4 weeks): 6 out of 12 singers kept each week

Initial live shows (2 weeks): 8 out of 12 kept each week

More live shows: unspecified number go home each week

Thus, over the course of six weeks, they go from 48 performers to 16. Mitt Romney would be excited by that rate of dismissals. After they’ve whittled the pool down to 16, I’m not sure how many people they’ll let go each week because I just started watching this shit and I’m just happy to have understood the rules up to this point, but eventually someone wins, and that person’s coach gets bragging rights through the next season, while all the other coaches get the right to whine about the winning coach’s bragging rights.

Each of these coaches brings his or her own flair to the show — and I’m talking flair, not the personas American Idol judges have, like “The Mean One,” “The Female One, i.e. The Nice One,” or “Steven Tyler.” I mean, Steven’s fun, what with his outfits that look like he found them in a dumpster in 1978, but The Voice has more than one sartorially entertaining celeb.

Christina dresses like Wet Seal and Bebe threw up,

And this is the best thing she's worn all season. Honestly.

wears rhinestoned cocktail coasters on her head,

treats her breasts like flotation devices that won’t work if they aren’t exposed to air,

and appears to live in Barbie’s Dream House,

complete with a Diva Throne.

But while Xtina has some crack-tacular outfits, Cee-Lo isn’t satisfied with her brand of trashy glamour. He goes for full-on Spectacle.

He wears pink satin pajama suits during the day for his important meetings and rehearsals, the same way other people wear, you know, suits.

Cee-Lo also has a throne, only his came from Ethan Allen rather than Kim Kardashian's imagination.

He wears what seems to be the red sequined version of the above ensemble for performing with the other coaches…

…and in celebration of the first live show, he wore a wig and whatever else this is:

Look at the sleeves!

That is some intense fringe. I adore this man.

The biggest star on The Voice, however — other than Christina’s breasts — is a furry companion of Cee-Lo’s.

This is Purrfect the cat (no, I am not shitting you; that is the cat’s actual name). Cee-Lo brings him/her out for all of his chats with the camera, stroking the cat Dr. Evil-style. Or to be more historically correct, Blowfeld-style. (I deeply impressed a professor of mine a few weeks ago when I immediately and easily answered his question about what character Dr. Evil is parodying. I was raised on James Bond; my dad is so proud right now.)

While Cee-Lo and Christina are metaphorical disco balls, Blake Shelton spends his time wearing vaguely Western-looking shirts, saying “y’all,” making wisecracks, and being sweet to the contestants, while Adam Levine waits for the female portion of the audience to stop screaming every time he talks and then similarly makes wisecracks and says sweet things to the contestants, only while wearing more rocker-ish ensembles and without saying “y’all.” Adam and Christina also bicker like children. Children that want to do each other. Anyway…

I failed to mention earlier that the coaches choose their team members through the Blind Auditions, so called because singers preform onstage while the coaches’ backs are turned, and if a coach likes what she/he hears and wants that person on his/her team, the coach pushes a button and the chair turns around to face the performer. If only one coach turns around, the singer automatically joins that coach’s team, but if more than one chair turns, the contestant gets to choose which coach they want to work with.

The Blind Auditions’ force the coaches to judge based on voice rather than looks whether they like it or not (this doesn’t last, though; image comes into play later when the contestants are competing against each other, though that seems fair to me since music is a business, and the audience at a concert doesn’t watch with their eyes closed). Partly due to this limiting of first impressions to voice alone rather than voice plus appearance, along with each of the coaches’ having a distinct individual style, The Voice is populated by singers much more varied, unique, and even strange than the regular cast of Idol characters. Opera singer Chris Mann is learning to adapt his killer chops to other genres, while contestants like Charlotte Sometimes, Erin Martin, and Lindsey Pavao have weird and wonderful voices that actual sound unusual.

So despite the fact that it’s hosted by life-size plastic doll Carson Daly — who would give white bread a run for its money in a Contest for the Exceedingly Dull — I’ve found The Voice to be an entertaining, quirky show that features singers with actually interesting talent and coaches with idiosyncrasies galore.

The Voice: like American Idol, only interesting.

Sometimes it's just amusing how extremely different the coaches are from each other. I mean, look at that picture. These four would not have been friends in high school.

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