Last night, the world watched as yet another singer was crowned king of a live television music competition via NBC’s The Voice. Javier Colon, the smooth-headed-and-voiced vocalist who was an early favorite from day one, ended up with the honors on one of the summer’s most-viewed shows. While I watched every episode and enjoyed the show, there were certainly some formatting flaws and moments of identity crisis that could be improved for season 2.
The show’s episodes were split into three distinct types: Blind Auditions, the Battle Rounds, and the Live Performances.
At heart, the premise was perfect and simple: select a winner based solely on their vocal performance. As impossible the task of separating image and vocal performance is, the Blind Audition episodes accomplished that fairly successfully. Certainly none of the celebrity coaches or viewers at home expected to see the fro-sporting Tje after meeting his cowboy parents or hearing his rendition of Bruno Mars’ “Just The Way You Are,” seen below.
As each hopeful sang and prayed either Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine, Cee Lo or Blake Shelton would turn around to choose them, we became emotionally attached to competitors in less than 60 seconds; we were just as happy as they were when they ended up being chosen. The process of coaches making their cases for the singers to join their team was an equally intriguing process, where the competitors took the wheel and were able to affect their own fate. Despite a poorly-constructed melody, every coach wanted Javier for their team after his rendition of “Time After Time.”
The Battle Rounds that followed were the most electrifying saga of the show. Rather than the traditional “go-sing-your song-and-we’ll-vote” style of American Idol or America’s Got Talent, the contestants sang duets with/against each other, making for some goosebump-inducing performances. Between the perfect harmonies and soaring vocals, I could have easily watched an entire season of just these one-on-one match-ups. Watch finalist Vicci Martinez and Niki Dawson sing Pink‘s “Perfect” in one of the closest battles of the season:
Sadly, the greatest battle performances always resulted in a hard casualty, as Dawson felt above and Tje lost against Nakia on Ne-Yo’s “Closer.” Still though, this NCAA-tournament elimination style worked well for The Voice, separating it from every other singing competition and creating some mesmerizing (and bizarre) moments.
With the Live Performances came the weakest part of the show, bringing in your basic Idol format. Sure, the coaches had a say in who stayed, and the voting was a bit different, but we’ve seen everything that was done here before. To make matter worse, the field was being halved every episode, meaning at least one favorite was being inexplicably cut short and grouped with someone of a lesser talent level.
This is where the biggest formatting issue is. On American Idol, 10 weeks are spent weeding through 13 singers at an average of 1-2 per show. On The Voice, 8 weeks are spent cutting down 32 performers, with an average of four gone per show. The size of the playing field is far too large; contestants drop off so rapidly that viewers cannot maintain any type of relationship with their favorites. Having so many competitors limits the exposure of the small percentage who have a legitimate shot at winning. Including the Blind Auditions, Battle Round and Live Shows, we only watched each finalist perform on five separate occasions, while recent American Idol winner Scotty McCreery sang a whopping 13 times before being crowned champion.
The size of each team needs to be cut down. Instead of letting each coach pick eight members, par it down to six or four, all of which are true contenders. This way, we’ll get much more familiar with each individual and get the chance to see legitimate growth (as opposed to Blake Shelton and the producers claiming Dia overcame some ridiculous stage fright she never had). Someone like Lily Elise (who hit the most impressive single note of the show) could be a finalist with more personal attention and coaching.
I would love to see less live shows and more duet battles as well. This season had two episodes of blind auditions, four episodes of duet battling, and four episodes of competitive individual singing. Cut out two episodes of live shows, add in two more battles, and use my smaller competition size, and you’d have a show that would be better than Idol.
All in all, I enjoyed the show, and look forward to next season and the tweaks that (hopefully) will be made. The show has open auditions in select cities over the next few months, and I already have a favorite for season 2.
Oh, and lose Shelton. Dude picked Xenia, who shouldn’t have even made the show. UPDATE: too late.