For a while earlier this year, it looked like The Voice might challenge American Idol for singing show supremacy.
Then interest faded and the ratings trailed off.
And The Voice has no one but itself to blame.
The show took a major step backward in Season 2, continuing and expanding a flawed format designed to do anything but draw viewers in and keep them hooked.
There are lots of minor tweaks the show needs, like putting a stopwatch on Christina’s critiques and lowering the volume on the backup band so you can actually hear the singers who don’t possess booming voices.
But the real problem is the format. And here are some suggestions for fixing it.
1. Trim the number of contestants back to eight per team
The Voice expanded to 12 per team this year. As a result, there were simply too many contestants to track, and too many weeks between when the show premiered and the live rounds began. And, with flashy dressers like Cee Lo and Christina around, it was pretty obvious it was taking us a month to watch what The Voice filmed in one day. That was just amateurish.
Just the highlights, please. Because few of the battle rounds lived up to their hype. And they lasted so long that truly hype-worthy contestants disappeared for weeks at a time. Did I really need to watch rapper Moses Stone and country duo The Line try to take on the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction?” Not really. And that facsimile boxing ring is beyond hokey.
3. Let contestants sing what they sing best
Once the live rounds started, some of the mentors and contestants decided they needed to show their versatility. Never mind that we hadn’t seen said contestants often enough to know what they could and couldn’t do. So a reggae artist named Nia Kete avoided reggae. And a country singer named Karla Davis tried a rap song. And those were just a couple of the worst examples.
4. Keep the focus on the contestants
Are we looking for “the voice” or more interested in advancing the careers of Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton and Cee Lo Green? Sometimes it was difficult to tell. Look, I have no problem with Blake or Maroon 5 or any of the mentors taking the stage to debut a new single — on results night. On performance night, focus on the contestants. The perfect illustration of this: It’s the final performance night. Of the 12 songs performed, four were duets featuring the mentors and four were tributes to the mentors, leaving just four solo songs on which we were supposed to base our votes.
Love or hate the show, American Idol does one thing very well. It makes its contestants household names. You root for some. You might root against some. But you know who they are. By the time the winner is crowned, they’ve performed live 20 times!
The Voice? We heard Chris Mann, Jermaine Parker and Tony Lucca perform live three times before the finals. We heard Juliet Simms sing four times, only because she needed a mentor’s save one week. That’s hardly the way to draw viewers in. Hardly the way to get them invested in your cast.
The Voice should cut the field to eight — two per team — then go to Idol- and X Factor-style eliminations with one contestant leaving each week. A free-for-all approach would also eliminate a problem this year, when two of the best contestants (Jamar Rogers and Juliet) were on the same team and only one could make the finals.