11:17am PT by Ashley Lee
Cee Lo Green Leaves 'The Voice': 12 Realistic Replacements (Poll)
Cee Lo Green's decision not to return to The Voice leaves one spinning chair empty for season 7.
"I'm not coming back, guys," he told Ellen DeGeneres in an interview that aired Wednesday. "I don’t want to wear out my welcome there … I have so many other things that I want to do. I haven't released an album in four years."
Though Green also never mentored a champion while on the NBC singing show for four seasons, he did launch a production company, sign a first-look deal with NBC, film an unscripted show for TBS, appear in the films Sparkle and Hotel Transylvania, headline a Las Vegas residency, release an autobiography, and record a few tracks with fellow judge Christina Aguilera as well as his Goodie Mob members, among other things. And as Aguilera, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Usher and Shakira have repeatedly proven, The Voice is a show that a currently chart-topping musician can be part of while releasing an album (Shakira's next one drops Mar. 25), recording Grammy-winning hits (Levine and Aguilera debuted "Moves Like Jagger" on the Voice stage) and touring (Shelton repeatedly headlines between seasons and invites former mentees onstage when he's in their cities).
Nevertheless, The Voice says goodbye to Green.
So who could fill the vacant seat? More importantly, who should -- and actually would?
While it's tempting to throw in the names of today's biggest musicians — of course it'd be nice to listen to Beyonce and Bruno Mars wax poetic about singing to 16-year-old hopefuls twice a week, but it's not going to happen — The Voice must recruit a musician relevant enough to coach tomorrow's stars, entertaining enough to share a performance stage with the current judges, and likable enough to keep the show's audience glued and rooting for them to win. The show has remained a solid bet for NBC because of its rotating quartet — their diversity, dynamic and dependable ability to win over viewers as they divide themselves into their own teams.
With all that in mind -- plus reports of Aguilera's pregnancy, which might affect her own season 7 status — The Hollywood Reporter rounded up 12 talented candidates who would fit well in The Voice's seventh season while shaking things up before the singing show grows stale — that is, if they don't offer a year-round gig to either Usher or Shakira:
Pharrell Williams. The Grammy-winning, Oscar-nominated songwriter-producer-performer is on a hot streak and about to drop his next album, G I R L, on March 3. Since blind auditions are filmed in bulk beforehand, he would still have plenty of time to tour and promote the record, and would be ready to release a third or fourth single by the time season 7's live shows begin taping in L.A., where he also doubles as Academy Awards music consultant. He can even bring his Vivienne Westwood hat with him, which is nothing compared to Green's glitter robes, shoulder pads or head tattoo.
Gwen Stefani. The No Doubt singer and fashion mogul has been busy since she last made music a priority. Most recently, the charming songwriter launched her L.A.-based line of basics called DWP, or Design With Purpose, plus a Harajuku Lovers fragrance and 52-episode cartoon, collaborations with OPI and Burton, and an e-commerce launch for L.A.M.B. — all while pregnant with her third child. Shakira has already proven that The Voice will work with a mommy-minded judge, and viewers love when she mentors with her maternal instinct. She'd fill the hybrid-genre gap that Green left vacant, and Stefani did tease a potential new music project.
will.i.am. For those who thought Green's performance critiques were fantastical and colorful, will.i.am's feedback on The Voice U.K. has been even more entertaining. Rather than coming on to the contestant, the Black Eyed Peas lead has charmed audiences with metaphorical explanations that mirror the sprawling logic inside his own head. Though the British show is currently in its third season, pulling him stateside wouldn't be out of the question — Keith Urban was recruited to American Idol from The Voice Australia, and Kelly Rowland was imported from the U.K.'s X Factor for the recently canceled American version.
Fergie. Another Black Eyed Peas member who is an attractive candidate, Fergie has been quiet on the music front for too many years now. Her appeal is similar to that of Stefani's — the L.A.-based vocalist turned fashion mogul has cross-genre appeal (her concerts included a long electric-guitar-heavy set sandwiched between Peas hits and solo ballads) and, like Levine, would help mentor contestants about becoming a likable and stellar singer with a marketable brand.
Alicia Keys. Besides a unique voice, show fans love instrumentality. Pianos, guitars, drums, banjos, ukuleles and even a human flugelhorn have pushed singers further in the competition, while coaches take their place onstage with their respective instruments for impressive performances. Adding the pop and R&B expert to the even-numbered seasons (Usher's the go-to for the odd-numbered ones) could also help shape the next big anthem vocalist, who will sing an original written by OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder, as the latest champ Tessanne Chin has.
Kelly Clarkson. The original reality singing show breakout has more than a decade of industry knowledge to share, and her opportunity to do so on a weekly basis shouldn't be squandered because of her stint as a judge, coach and performer on ABC's short-lived 2012 summer competition, Duets. Before she signed on for that series, the pop/rock and country singer was a Voice guest mentor to Shelton's team in 2012, which was won by his contestant, Jermaine Paul. And because of that, host Carson Daly touted her as part of the Voice family when she returned to perform her Christmas album track last season.
Robin Thicke. Whether you love it or hate it, "Blurred Lines" was one of the top songs of 2013. Maybe it was the earworm hooks or the controversial music video(s), but it's also because Thicke switches between octaves so effortlessly when singing into his signature gold microphone. A noteworthy singer and pianist himself, he could use a further introduction to America and show viewers the man behind the aviator sunglasses. (Once again, his stint on Duets wasn't nearly enough.)
John Legend. Yes, we're listing a third judge from ABC's Duets on our list, because the problems of that show were not because of the stellar panel of singing partners. Legend began his career as a hit songwriter and producer before topping charts with his own tracks, many of which solely spotlight him on a piano. Why not showcase his signature raspy vocals as he tickles the ivory alongside Shelton on guitar and Levine on drums?
Mary J. Blige. Not many musicians can pull off the release of a David Foster-produced holiday album and a single with rising electronic U.K. duo Disclosure within the span of a few months, but Blige's career has always been versatile yet consistent. Again, the odd-numbered seasons have yet to lean on an R&B heavyweight, and she would be able to offer a female perspective unique to her place at the top of the genre altogether.
Michael Buble. Buble already has a strong relationship with NBC (his Christmas special aired on the network this past year), and after stopping in as Voice guest mentor to Shelton's team in 2012 (which was then won by Shelton's singer, Cassadee Pope), he also appeared on The X Factor to coach contestants last season. While Buble's easy listening/big band/adult pop genre has never been represented on The Voice before, it might be time for a change, since a handful of alumni go on to pursue that space (i.e. Aguilera's Chris Mann reaches the same audience).
Jennifer Hudson. The Voice has no problem picking up singers Idol lets go too early (disqualified Idol contestant Frenchie Davis came in fifth in The Voice's debut season), and like Clarkson, has both reality show and industry experience to share — plus film, as well. Hudson has radically transformed her image through her Weight Watchers partnership, and with the premise of the show being about leveling the playing field for singers, regardless of what they look like, her words on the topic would land particularly well.
David Guetta. So many of today's biggest hit-makers aren't actually singing themselves, but electronic dance producers like Guetta know what vocals will work best with a killer beat. Coming from another genre that's never been represented on the show before, Guetta would bring his experience churning out hits with Voice singers Usher and Sia, as well as Fergie, Rowland, Nicki Minaj and LMFAO, among others — all while still being able to travel the world and play festivals, and occasionally jet to Las Vegas for his residency at Wynn and Encore nightclubs.
Who would you like to see in a spinning chair on The Voice? Cast your vote in the poll below, and sound off in the comments section.