The Voice Premiere Recap: I'm Already Addicted. Does That Make Me Crazy?

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?

Cee-Lo’s Roster
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!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. tnsmoke says:

    I usually run in the opposite direction of ANY talent shows, bore me to death. I only tuned in to The Voice because of Blake Shelton. I am a Nashvillian and Blake has been around for years and has an impressive catalog of songs. He painted legendary songwriter Mae Axteton’s house and became friends with her and her son, the late Hoyt Axeton. Check him out on Twitter and his appearances with Hode and Kathie Lee on the Today Show. He is a hoot and has talent to boot! Adam was new to me, and I really like him and might buy a Maroon 5 cd, any suggestions. Oh, the lady who sang “I Say a Little Prayer” had a nice voice but it wasn’t distinctive enough to stand out on the radio like the others did and the song choice was so old it might have tipped the coaches off to her age.

  2. asherlev1 says:

    I trust your opinion so I am so glad your positive review for this show forced me to watch it. SO ADDICTED. AND I’M JUST GOING TO SAY IT: MILES BETTER THAN AMERICAN IDOL. MILES. AI gave us Kris and Adam and the Davids and Kelly and Carrie and Crystal and many other great singers, but it’s just not what it once was.

    Adam’s team overall is my favorite.

  3. GSOgymrat says:

    I didn’t want to like The Voice because, like Michael, I didn’t want to watch another reality show. However I really enjoyed it. I can’t judge after one episode but I can see this replacing AI on my TiVo. I have been very frustrated with AI that vocals are not the priority. At least The Voice attempts to put vocals above age, appearance, race and sexual orientation. I also like that I don’t have to sit through weeks of people who are showcased for their inability to sing. Because the judges are competing they have incentive to not just sit on their asses, say “you’re magical” and collect their paychecks. I am really excited about this show.

  4. Mars says:

    I watched this first episode just now on hulu (Tuesday is Glee night!) and really really loved it!

    1. No bad singers, like Michael said! No costumes! No schtick!

    2. We get to hear all the singers from their first audition, so it’s like we’re starting this journey together!

    3. Articulate judges, i mean, coaches! Seriously, no rambling nonsense from this group.

    4. Love the fact it’s coaches. Looking forward to how the singers tap into their potential.

  5. Diana says:

    I loved the show!! I wish the opening number would be on itunes, that was kicking! I liked everything about the show. Very entertaining to see how the judges began to sell themselves to the contestants they wanted on their team. I think Adam has the best team also. I kinda felt Adam may not be Xtrina’s biggest fan lol. I got the impression at first he felt a little intimidated by the others but soon got over that. I mostly listen to country music so I knew Blake, but liked the voices of the other judges as well. Even hunted up some of their music on youtube.

    • Gia says:

      I think it was the other way around, Christina isn’t a fan of Adams by the way she taunted him throughout the show …I thought it didn’t show her in a very good light either. He may have felt a little overwhelmed by that, maybe it was unexpected; knowing he’s getting sucked into a rivalry with a Diva. Personally, I like Adam Levine’s voice and his music though haven’t always liked his over sexed themes in his vid’s – especially hated that one where he and Rhianna performed together. But then I’m an anti-exploitation kind of girl so performers with overly sexed images between male/female get on my nerves, music notwithstanding. :-)

  6. pattieann says:

    I’m with you, Michael. I am hooked on The Voice. I’m not seeing any of the games that Idol plays that insults the intelligence of the viewers. My opinion may change as we get deeper into the show, but I’m liking what I’m seeing so far. I love the enthusiasm of the coaches. It will be interesting to see how they coach their teams.

  7. Sophie says:

    It’s about the singing. That is what I like best. The celebrity guest stars will have to do more than look ” pretty and witty and….”? Face it…would Adele be as popular as she is in this country if we saw her before we heard that amazing voice. As a fellow curvaceous gal, I understand that challenge. Go Frenchie! So good to see her back.

  8. GIA says:

    I don’t know…Christina Ag got on my nerves. A little bit of comp between the judges makes for a fun interesting show but she was more like foaming at the mouth taking aim at Adam L. Every chance she got she called Adam out over how he was playing the game – she’s clearly a diva and needs someone to be the punk. Further, she lacked class when she took one look at that massive dude with the muscles and inferred he should drop his pants. Not funny, just gross. I wonder had it been one of the male judges who had said that to a female contestant how appropriate that would have been. Not at all. Her dyed hair, her black makeup and implants have made her a characateur of herself. She can sing like nothing else though…about it.

  9. heelarryous says:

    Idol is dead to me after this season. 10 seasons and will b buried deep down in the ground never to rise again like a bad vampire hopefully! Really enjoyed The Voice. I’m rooting for all the Austin TX musicians (Tje, Nakia, that female, that country guy), we support our local musicians here in Austin, music capitol of the world! And who doesn’t love Adam Levine, WOOFAGE! Xtina may b doing this to improve her image since I hear she’s a Total Biotch behind the scenes. I’ve also heard Adam can b difficult behind the scenes, but he’s forgiven!

  10. Cy says:

    I was FLOORED by this first ep! (finally got around to watching it on NBC’s website cuz my pathetically limited DVR couldn’t handle DWTS, Glee AND The Voice, apparently) THIS is what I’ve been missing in Idol—I’d forgotten what it was like to walk away from an audition episode with 2 or 3 budding favorites to keep an eye on already! I loved so many of the performances (did you notice how AWESOME the musical arrangements & instrumentation were? Waaaay better than Idol’s obnoxious Bandzilla, taking the most contemporary of hits and throwing them back about fifty years to the big band era =__=). Like, I would actually buy some of these right now (are they out on iTunes?? I’m so there!)—Javier’s unspeakably perfect cover of “Time After Time,” Vicci’s butt-kicking, amped up “Rolling In the Deep” (sorry, but her voice is so much nicer to listen to than Adele’s), and Rebecca’s gorgeously controlled “Come As You Are.” Those three are at the top of my To Watch list and, frankly, have trumped every contestant on Idol season 10 in my book—both vocally and in how much I want to root for them. Loved the interaction/chemistry between the judges too. Never heard of Blake Shelton, but after one 1, I’m already a fan (of all the judges, really, even though Adam Levine shows himself to be as insecure as his song lyrics have generally led me to believe. Guys who target girls with “broken smiles” always set off warning bells in my head. @_@) Loved Ceelo Green (he’d probably be the coach I picked if I were a contestant)—what a world of difference from Randy, huh? In fact, all the judges—they were actually competent, invested, *interested*! It’s just as you said—it’s like someone LISTENED to all the Idol fans’ complaints and made a smart, superior show that did everything *right.* So happy with The Voice!

  11. debi says:

    Hope the final four of Adam’s team will be Jeff, Javier, Casey, and Rebecca

    On Blake’s team I like Xenia.

    Favorites in order
    1. Jeff
    2. Xenia
    3. Casey
    4. Javier
    5. Rebecca