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Thursday, April 21, 2011

"The Voice" tries to steal some of Idol's thunder

It's an understatement to say that American Idol is a juggernaut. The show is as strong as ever in its tenth season, even after losing Simon Cowell to his X-Factor launch this fall, and even after adding two judges who have little but sunshine and lollipops to offer each week.

There has been little competition to Idol in the past decade. Nashville Star made an effort with the country music scene, but it had mixed results and was not renewed after its sixth season in 2008. This year will see the introduction of four more hopefuls that will put their own spin on the reality talent show.
  • Platinum Hit debuts May 30 on Bravo. It will focus on singer-songwriters who will undergo different challenges in an effort to win $100,000 and a contract with Sony and BMI. Jewel and former Idol judge Kara DioGuardi will head the judging slate.
  • Majors and Minors will debut this fall on The Hub. This show will highlight 16 young artists age 8-16, and will not have any eliminations. The kids will be mentored by stars like Jordin Sparks and Leona Lewis, and the winner will get a contract with Sony RCA/ Jive.
  • X-Factor is the most anticipated of the reality talent shows and will begin in September on FOX. It's open to soloists and groups, has no upper age limit, and the judges will serve as mentors. The voting is one of the big differences, as the viewing audience will decide the bottom two each week, while the judges will make the elimination between those two after a sing-off. It's expected that the audience will get the final say starting with the final four or five finalists.
This week, however, a very interesting competitor will go head-to-head with Idol. And while it may not win the ratings battle, it might win the format war by being a better show.

The Voice premiers this Tuesday, April 26, on NBC, and features the judging (coaching) talent of Cee Lo Green, Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine from Maroon 5. Last night we were treated to sneak preview of the show, starting with group performances by the judges singing Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy." OK, can we just say screw it to any more of the American Idol group numbers after hearing this crazy collaboration that had nary a stray note. And let's just say that Cee Lo is the poster child of a show centered around "the voice." There's no way that he ever would have found success on a show like American Idol, even though he's one of the most insanely talented vocalists in the world.

The way The Voice will work is that a performer will begin singing a song to the backs of four seats occupied by the coaches. If a coach likes the voice they hear, they can hit a red button that will turn their seat toward the singer. If they're the only one to turn, that singer is on their "team." If more than one coach turns, the singer gets to choose which coach they want to work with. If no judge turns, the singer is eliminated from the show. Each coach will get a team of eight artists, and they will have the hard task of narrowing that down to four for the finals. The winner gets $100,000 and a contract with Universal Republic.

After tonight's preview, I'm already a fan. The first singer highlighted by the show was Patrick Thomas, who delivered a solid version of Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dying." After hearing weeks of Scotty McCreery playing it safe while making ultra-cheesy facial expressions, it was refreshing to finally hear a country singer who can do justice to a good tune. (And it was nice to see that this crew of judges/coaches might rival Steven Tyler for colorful quotes, as when Christina Aguilera joked with Patrick about taking his pants off, or when Adam Levine kidded Blake Shelton that, "If you weren't 6'5", I'd kick your ass.")

Patrick got Cee Lo, Adam and Blake to turn, and because of Blake's country roots, he won Patrick to his team. On Tuesday, The Voice will get the chance to win American viewers to its team. As for this reality talent fan, I'm definitely on board.

Let us know what you think about The Voice. Do you think it has a chance to be successful? Will you give The Voice a chance? Remember to follow this blog on Twitter at Also be sure to follow our Facebook group, American Idol Update.

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