Let’s be real for a second: We needed NBC’s The Voice in our lives about as much as Christina Aguilera’s hair (wig?) needed another peroxide treatment. I mean, Tuesdays are supposed to be reserved for Dancing With the Stars results, Glee, The Good Wife, and (when possible) catching up on back episodes of 90210 or The Killing.
But the DVR is a harsh mistress. And the series premiere of The Voice was pretty terrific. Which means we’ll all just have to dig down deep in our couch cushions and find two more hours to sacrifice on the altar of appointment television. (Who needs sleep, anyway?) As the pool-racing scene of Mommie Dearest taught us, “Nobody ever said life was fair.”
Of course, we can’t talk about The Voice without at least drawing a few comparisons to American Idol, the ratings behemoth that has sat atop the competitive reality food chain for the last 10 years. It would be a little ridiculous to declare either show superior based on a mere two-hour airing of The Voice, but at the very least, NBC’s neophyte series makes good on the desire expressed by so many long-time Idol viewers to see audition rounds limited to people with actual talent — no deluded train-wrecks, “jokesters,” or emotionally damaged punching bags allowed. I can say without hesitation that I didn’t miss the sight of costume-sporting imbeciles seeking their 15 seconds of fame or (even worse) sobbing kids who’d had their dreams pumped up by a few rounds of producer auditions only to be gutted by barely concealed snickering from Randy Jackson.
The challenge I found with The Voice‘s opening installment, though, was wading through 15 auditions and trying to force my ears to pick up on the nuances between truly magical performances and ones that were merely solid — without a single nails-in-a-blender disaster to use as a point of comparison. If the playful, already invested judging panel — Cee-Lo Green, Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera, and especially Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine — winds up with a total of 12 really good vocalists, that’s going to lead to one painful cut after the next as the series continues, without the kinds of “well, she was only cannon fodder” eliminations Idol fans have grown to expect via contestants like Ashthon Jones and Karen Rodriguez.
The Voice‘s central conceit — that its judges must turn their backs to auditioners, and decide based on singing ability alone whether to press a button and throw their hat in the ring as a potential mentor to said singer — may be the truest way to find the next great radio sensation. (It was clear most of the judges would’ve buzzed in for gorgeous Sonia Rao if they’d had a visual to match her decent but not particularly distinctive vocals.)
In the interest of not getting too attached too soon to any one singer — mentors will have to narrow their personal pool of eight students down to four in the not-too-distant future — let’s rank each of the judges’ three picks from last night in a Twitter-esque 140 characters or less:
Adam Levine’s Roster
1) Jeff Jenkins: Story of late mom moved this mama’s boy, but not as much as his astounding cover of usually blah “Bless the Broken Road.” #ICriedALittle
2) Rebecca Loebe: Best thing to happen to Toyota Camry in vehicle’s history. Her “Come As You Are” was ethereal & pitch-perfect. Heading to iTunes to buy now.
3) Javier Colon: With any other coach, he’d be #1. His
“True Colors” “Time After Time” ranged from tender to intense, though he might want to dial back on vocal acrobatics?
Christina Aguilera’s Roster
1) Frenchie Davis: Nervous start to “I Kissed a Girl,” but shades of roaring LaBelle bubbled up as former Idol hit a groove. Plus, she’s Rated G…for Gawgeous!
2) Tarralyn Ramsey: Snappy dresser’s ‘Breathe’ was a little wobbly to start — and not quite a match for Mandisa’s Faith Hill cover on Idol‘s fifth season.
3) Beverly McClellan: Second of Xtina’s bald divas offered a raw Janis Joplin cover, but her sort-of operatic choices threw me a little. Personality > vocals?
1)Tje Austin: Easy to imagine his “Just the Way You Are” on radio, but at certain moments he pushed voice to the edge of unpleasant. Very likable persona.
2) Kelsey Rey: “I have always been judged because of my looks” sounds absurd from a pretty girl’s mouth. Nice conversational flow on “American Boy” though.
3) Vicci Martinez: Added rock edge to “Rolling in the Deep,” but seemed to have trouble supporting her notes. Or maybe that’s my Haley Reinhart fandom showing?
Blake Shelton’s Roster
1) Xenia: Whoa. A talented TV teen who’s not obnoxiously precocious? “Break Even” was hauntingly pretty, but she’ll need coaching to amp up the drama.
2) Patrick Thomas: Nice phrasing in his Tim McGraw cover, but “I could never work a day job” comment played poorly. Xtina wanted him to remove hat, then pants!
3) Elenowen: Gorgeous married duo may have been slightly more pleasing to the eye than the ear, but “Falling Slowly” shows they have good musical taste.
What did you think of The Voice’s premiere? Which contestants were your favorites? Did you enjoy the judges as much as me? How cool is Adam Levine, and how good is his taste in singers? Was Xtina’s “may the best woman win” comment a subtle nod to RuPaul’s Drag Race and her gay fans? And do you have room in your heart for both The Voice and Idol? Sound off below, and for all my reality TV recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!