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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Move Over American Idol, NBC'S The Voice Is MUST SEE TV

Time for American Idol to move over.
For ten years, American Idol has been the premiere vocal competition in the land. America's Got Talent is more of a variety show competition and has produced some very talented singers. But the title of the show says it all - "The Voice." Executive Producer, Mark Burnett has delivered another hit and it gets better every week. It may be time to say, "Move over American Idol. NBC's "The Voice" is a MUST SEE TV.

We've all seen talent competitions and the modern formula goes like this: There are performers and there are judges. Fan voting via text, phone or website clicks plays a big part or is the sole determining factor as to who stays and who goes. Champions are crowned and they go on to professional careers.

NBC's "The Voice" has a completely different twist and has shaken up the talent show genre.

If you've been watching since the show debuted on April 26, 2011, then you know what's been going on. But if you have yet to tune in or just started watching, let me give you a quick overview of what makes "The Voice" stand alone in the search for stars.

You probably saw the previews before the show premiered. This show looked completely different than anything you've ever seen before. Four music superstars, Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Maroon 5 front man, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton were all seated in futuristic high-backed chairs that looked like they were stolen from Austin Powers' command center. All of the spacey chairs were facing away from the stage. Contestants performed as the music superstars focused on only their voices. If they liked what they heard, the stars pressed a button and the chair did a 180 and they were face-to-face with the performer. 

Since we had never seen anything quite like this before, there were many questions floating in our heads. Were they going to be spinning around all season? How did this all work? It looked different, but was it really different? Enough curiosity and anticipation had been created through the promos to draw the largest audience in the key 18-49 demographic for any show premiere of this season. Over 18 million people tuned in and "The Voice" spanked rival network powerhouses "Glee" and "Dancing With The Stars." And the audience has held and is much broader than American Idol. People over 50 are watching this and advertisers will consider that a bonus. "The Voice" won't be silenced any time soon. Season 2 is already auditioning cast members. 

For "The Voice" newbies, the show has three phases. The superstars in the chairs are not judges, they are coaches. Their goal is to select the best unseen talent that they can to form teams. If two or more of the coaches pressed their buttons and turned to see the singer, then they had to sell the talent on the benefits of being on their team. 

Initially, each coach had to select eight team members through the blind auditions. And this is where "The Voice" separates itself from any of the other talent search shows past or present. The coaches work with their team members and give them advice and coaching from the perspective of a superstar and genuinely teach the contestants how to improve their chops and give them the courage and skills to stretch for the brass ring. 

Once the eight member teams were set, phase two began - the battle rounds. Each coach paired up members of their respective teams and they sang a duet in a boxing ring. At the end of the performance, the coach had to choose who would go forward in the competition. This cut the teams down to four competitors each. 

On June 7th, phase three commenced, the live audience shows, and this is where "The Voice" really shined. Now, the fans became part of the competition for $100,000 and a recording contract. 

Last night, Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton's team members performed in front of a live audience and fan voting would determine which two members from each team would stay in the competition. Voting can be done by phone or on the NBC website through Monday, June 13th at 10 am Eastern Time. I think I read somewhere that iTunes sales of the songs will also be part of the voting process. 

Next Tuesday, Adam Levine and Cee Lo Green's team members are going to perform. 

What I saw last night was something I've never seen on American Idol - truly moving performances. Idol contestants all tend to perform like they're wearing lead boots and they never take over the stage. Any one of last night's performers could have walked off that stage and floored a room in Las Vegas

And the exciting part is that there is such a broad range of talent. You have pop singers, rugged rockers, moving soloists and even a country superstar in waiting. 

Carson Daly hosts the show. He's been around music for years since his radio days his tour at MTV. He's an ideal host for this competition. 

First to perform last night was Raquel Castro from Team Aguilera. Being one of the youngest performers in the competition, Castro did not let age get in her way. The diminutive, gorgeous, brunette lit up the stage with a powerful cover of Kesha's Blow. Accompanied by half a dozen dancers and the best Hollywood can offer in lighting, she did not look like a kid hoping for a chance. She took control and blew everyone away. In any show, you want a great opening act and Raquel Castro kicked up the competition and set a high mark to beat. 

Blake Shelton's first competitor was Jared Blake. Blake, a father of six, was originally eliminated early on, but was given a second chance and has not wasted the opportunity. He's been a bit conflicted as an artist. He can't seem to figure out if he is a rocker or a country singer. When he took the stage with an electric guitar, wearing a bandanna around his shaven head and killed the Kings of Leon Use Somebody, Blake Shelton said, "There is no doubt. With the guitar and all the metal you're wearing, you'd never make it through a metal detector at the airport, you're a rocker." 

Team Aguilera responded with the most visually interesting performer in the competition, Beverly McClellan. With her shaven head, earrings, pierced lower lip, neck and body tattoos, wearing a formal military style blazer, patten leather Doc Martin boots and a flaming red kilt, this completely untrained natural singer tore up the live audience and the coaches with her cover of Melissa Etheridge's The Only One. Talk about stage presence. McClellan owned the stage and made full use of every inch of it. 

Adam Levine could only shake his head because he really wanted Beverly on his team, but she chose Aguilera to be her coach. I think he wishes that he had pitched a little harder to coax McClellan to his crew, she's one powerful singer. 

Next up was Blake Shelton's singer, songwriter and novelist Dia Frampton. The willowy girl with the big eyes and short brown hair sat at a piano drifting on a cloud of smoke. After taking Kanye West's Heartless and completely making it her own, Adam Levine said, "That is the most unique and refreshing thing I've seen on this show."

With each team having two performances under their belt with two to go, Christina Aguilera brought her troupe of four powerful women on stage and blew the roof off the theater with an amp'd up rendition of Lady Marmalade

Following the group performance was the youngest and shyest competitor on "The Voice", Xenia, from Blake Shelton's team. A high school student with talent and an unbelievable voice that will earn her a recording deal at some point in the future, Voice or no Voice, Xenia owned Jesse J's hit, Price Tag. Xenia is not a dynamic performer, however, her voice contains the purest tonality out of any female vocalist I've heard since country music legend Patsy Cline took over Nashville in the 1950's. Timidity that was evident in previous performances was gone. She was there and brought her "A" game. 

Aguilera's team came back strong with Lily Elise, whose emotional rendition of Fergie's Big Girls Don't Cry stirred your soul. A tall brunette, Elise has been taking her coaching to heart and has improved every time she's hit the stage. 

Now it was time for Blake Shelton to bring his team out for their group song and in a move that was full of in-your-face bravado, they sang Adam Levine's Maroon 5 smash hit This Love. Levine could only offer kudos and had to be thinking how was he going to get his team pumped up for their turn on  the stage next week. 

One of the most moving performances of the night was by the only country singer in the competition, Patrick Thomas. He dedicated Leann Womack's I Hope You Dance to his younger sister, who has been his biggest fan throughout his life. Thomas is a country star in waiting and is one of the strongest competitors on "The Voice." 

Aguilera's final team member to sing, Frenchie Davis, closed out the first live performance show. Davis is a large African American woman with an even larger voice. She sang David Guetta's When Love Takes Over, which should have been titled, When Frenchie Takes Over. When she was finished singing, you had to ask, "Why isn't she under contract already?" 

Now it's time to vote. You can vote and see all of the performances on the NBC "The Voice" website. Voting ends next Monday at 10 am Eastern Time. So, even if you missed the show, you can get caught up on "The Voice" website and get yourself in the thick of the fun. 

This is a great show. Talent, talent, talent. In a fair world, none of them should be eliminated. But two from each team will end their journey next week. Then, Team Cee Lo and Team Levine will bring their hopefuls to the stage. I'll be there with my popcorn because this is a show you won't want to miss.

It's time to say, "Move over American Idol. NBC's "The Voice" is a MUST SEE TV. Great voices. Great stage presences. This is tough. But it's so good. BTW, casting auditions for Season 2 just started. Maybe you're the one with "The Voice" that will change our lives and yours as well.

Related link:
NBC "The Voice" website

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