“The level of talent … is leaps and bounds beyond the winners of any other competition show,” The Voice host Carson Daly declared at the top of a press conference introducing NBC’s new Mark Burnett-produced program, which is based on the wildly successful The Voice of Holland. He was responding to a question about American Idol and how The Voice (on which Daly will fill the Ryan Seacrest role) may fare compared to the ratings giant. “Ours is the best,” Daly proclaimed.
It was a bold statement for an underdog series to make. After all, with Idol
still drawing 22 million viewers per episode and Simon Cowell
’s The X-Factor
about to launch its U.S. auditions (not to mention America’s Got Talent
still going strong and Nigel Lythgoe’s new country show CMT's Next Superstar
kicking off April 8), The Voice
, which premieres April 26, is entering an already crowded field of talent shows.
Then again, The Voice is not Idol, as the show’s creator, John de Mol, along with celebrity coaches Christina Aguilera, Cee-Lo Green, Blake Shelton and Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine made sure to remind the media repeatedly. “It's less about being judgmental and more about approaching people, helping them along and mentoring them,” said Levine. “Judging is kind of a dirty word around here.”
Indeed, there are substantial differences between all three shows, while the basic premise is essentially the same: a natural talent gets a chance to be heard and discovered, and a $100,000 recording contract (with Universal Republic) awaits the last person standing.
But unlike Idol, coaches don’t get to see the contestants initially. The so-called “blind audition” forces the foursome to focus solely on the person’s singing voice; hence, the title of the show. Next is the battle phase, where the coaches prep their finalists, give them advice and help develop their singing style. Finally, the live stage shows determine the winner as four hopefuls, each mentored by a coach, has a final shot at victory.
Where does the home audience fit in? During the battle rounds, which will climax with a “vocal face-off,” they’ll be able to save one contestant from each team, leaving the final decision as to who will move on to the coaches – a judgment they will hand down live, naturally.
“The way that Mark sold me on doing the show is not only the concept, but the fact that this isn't about tearing people down, making fun of them or picking them apart in a negative way,” said Aguilera. Added Cee-Lo: “There's a great humility about mentoring, coaching, and teaching. You'll get to see a softer, sensitive, more real side of things because they are the stars. And you get an opportunity to see us being fans as well.”
When viewers tune in to The Voice, they’ll also see Star Trek-like seats with desks attached and a giant red panic button in the middle. No, it won’t open the floor to reveal “a pit full of lions,” as Levine joked. By pressing it, the seat will spin revealing the contestant who’s just wowed -- or perhaps disappointed -- the coaches. “I love that I get to sit with my back turned away and use one sense alone: to hear these voices,” said Aguilera. “I'm looking forward to being moved. I'm not looking for vocal acrobatics or who has the biggest range from high to low. You have to sing with your heart, not your head. That's what I want to tell these contestants. At the end of the day, that's what The Voice is really about -- emotion and touching people.”