Look, Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Blake Shelton, Adam Levine and host Carson Daly know exactly what you're thinking when you see ads for their new NBC series "The Voice."
Yes, there are aspiring singing stars, and sure, there is an evaluating panel, but this is not "American Idol."
For starters, "The Voice's" panel is comprised of music superstars who’ve charted huge hits after, say, 2001 – sorry, Steven, Randy and J-Lo. But in all seriousness, producer Mark Burnett’s entry into the TV talent game is taking a decidedly different tack than its obvious rival. The four musicians are not judges, they are "coaches," and they are actually competing against each other to assemble their own talent rosters. What's more, these roster picks are truly based entirely on vocal talent and not looks - the coaches are allowed to hear but not see the aspiring singers in the early rounds. Once they make their picks, the pop stars take an active hand in professionally mentoring the show’s ultimate champion.
“There is a pretty big double standard between the music industry and what are considered exactly what the right tools you need to land a record deal nowadays,” says Aguilera. “Technology has advanced itself that we can definitely play with a vocalist style, or interpret their style. We can – through marketing, through the Internet – build a face, a body, whatever we can to sell a record. But what's great about this show is that we take it back to real music and a time before there was any such thing as an MTV or any way to show an artist through video or through Internet or through packaging. It's definitely about going back to old music, where you wanted to buy it or you wanted to listen to it on the radio purely from just what sounds good on your ears.”
After the “blind rounds” where the coaches select singers on hearing their voice alone, the coaches then put their team members up in “battle rounds,” eventually narrowing their teams down to four members each, who are then voted on by the show’s viewers during the “live rounds.” The last Voice singing wins the opportunity for their coach to take them under their professional wing and launch their music career.
“You're judging them based on purely being moved by something in their vocal ability,” says Aguilera. “It's not necessarily range or how many notes they can hit or how many technical ad-libs they’re executing. It's basically boiled down to that’s something that truly moves you and that you truly connect with. And that's what I think is so unique and so special about the show. Especially that it's also coming from people that have been there and done that: we know what it takes to get on a stage and have great shows, have bad shows, and tour stories for days. We were sort of feeling that and seeing that through these young people's eyes, who are just dying to have the opportunity to do what we do.”
“I believe that this show does curate, as opposed to critique and cancel out,” says Cee Lo, putting the emphasis on encouragement over elimination. “There's validity in all expression, and we have been very fortunate enough and it's been a very pleasant experience to have so much talent, all together, so there were hardly any losers – there were no losers.”
“This show is meant to be shown as a beacon of what's possible,” he continues. “There's very, very little impossibility on this show. It may not be easy, but it's not impossible.”
“It's all based on positivity,” agrees Aguilera. “We’re not trying to tear anybody down for a TV moment – this is all about bringing up amazing talent, because each and every person that gets up on that stage can sing and has a voice. It's been really, really difficult to really fine tune and pinpoint exactly what it is that you want to push your button for and turn your chair around to see. And it's so nerve-wracking at the same, time because you have no idea what's going to be on the other side of your chair."
“I don't know how I would have done because, man, those kids are under a lot of pressure,” admits Shelton. “They step up there in front of probably a bigger live audience than they have ever seen in their lives – much less millions of people watching at home – and for the most part they handle it so well. That's been the coolest thing for me so far. I've just been blown away at not just the level of talent but the confidence that these people have. They just haven't had this chance yet, and you can tell that they are giving it everything that they have.”
“Television is still the most powerful medium especially in music,” says Daly. “You see that even with ‘Idol’s’ numbers. What is telling about that to me is people's passion for music, and ‘The Voice’ is a brand new fresh take on that, and it's good to see.”
“I wish there was a show like this for me or a mentor that I could've had starting out in the business that would have told me these stories, because we get very close to these people,” adds Aguilera. “We share a very intimate time together.”
“I've taken on sort of the ‘mama’ role at times, because these are boys that speak their mind and sometimes get off track of what we’re there to do," she jokes.
"I think that I have to bring a prop to set or something to keep these boys in line, because they need a few slaps on the hands."