“The Voice” (2011 – present) is back and better than ever! Actually, it’s mostly the same. But even with two seasons a year and enough chair spinning that it’s a miracle coaches have never vomited right onto the “I want you” button, the new talent keeps it fresh.
This season’s coaches — yes, they’re coaches, not judges, because this is “The Voice” where everyone is a teacher and supportive and allergic to giving criticism — are probably the best combination possible (although Usher was a good one as well) with Adam Levine, Pharrell Williams, Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton in the line-up. Levine and Shelton have been around for all 10 seasons and are therefore staples, but the two do seem a little tired (AKA they’re kind of phoning it in). Shelton is probably too busy spending time with his girlfriend, seasons seven and nine coach Gwen Stefani, and Levine has been preoccupied himself, getting a massive tattoo of a mermaid holding a skull on his back. On their best days, however, Shelton and Levine continue to entertain, and their bromance is still going strong (sorry for saying bromance). They also continue to crank out winners — between the two of them they’ve won seven out of the nine completed seasons.
Of the rotating coaches, Aguilera is certainly the best of the women. She’s a diva, but her talent is undeniable, and she has a knack for bringing the best out of younger female powerhouses. She can be on the annoying side, but so could Shakira and Stefani. At least Aguilera is a semi-competent coach.
As easy as it is to forget, this show is technically about the competing artists. The show’s premiere week saw a number of talented singers who had the potential to make it through the battle and knockout rounds and onto the live shows. On night one, Mike Schiavo put an interesting twist on Tove Lo’s “Talking Body” and scored a three-chair turn, ultimately choosing to be on Team Adam. Mary Sarah, an 18 year-old from Texas who already boasts a singing history that involves duets with Dollie Parton and Willie Nelson, unsurprisingly went for Team Blake after singing Connie Francis’ “Where the Boys Are” and landing a four-chair turn. On night two, Adam Wakefield, another country singer with a touch of rock and a funky hat, also impressed with his bluesy rendition of George Jones’ “Tennessee Whiskey” and ended up on Team Blake after a fierce fight from Levine.
The biggest talent of premiere week was Alisan Porter, who as a child played the title role in “Curly Sue” (1991). After dealing with a drug problem and stepping out of the spotlight to start her family, Porter has decided to pursue her true passion, singing. And sing she did. Her technique was nearly flawless as she maneuvered through the song, switched effortlessly between an ethereal town and powerful belts. She turned four chairs, and as we see happening on occasion, the coaches’ extreme hype was well deserved. After Porter ended up on Team Christina, Levine congratulated Aguilera on already securing the win for this season. And he may not be wrong.
As with any episode of “The Voice,” this first week had plenty of fun moments. Levine joined Maroon 5 superfan Schiavo on stage to sing “She Will Be Loved,” Shelton taunted Levine when an artist named Adam performed, saying there was “finally a manly Adam” on “The Voice” and Aguilera planted a kiss on artist Kata Hay in order to woo her onto her team. Thankfully for Aguilera and her kissing skills, Hay did end up choosing her.
The show is certainly a good time and the performances can be life-altering (season three’s Amanda Brown performing “Dream On” for instance), but it is important to note the core problem of “The Voice”: it has never produced a star. It’s never had its Clarkson or Underwood or One Direction. Sure, a few artists have landed a song or two on the radio, but it’s nothing compared to the stars “American Idol” (2002-present) or even “The X Factor” (UK: 2004 – present, U.S.: 2011 – 2013) have had. But with “American Idol” in its final season and “The X Factor” no longer on the air, “The Voice” will be the only true singing competition left, so there isn’t another place for these aspiring artists to go. As long as new talent continues to audition, the ratings stay high and the coaches’ banter remains entertaining, chairs will continue to spin and buttons will continue to be pushed into season 11 and beyond.