what the other talent shows can learn from “the voice.”
Tonight, I successfully avoiding OD’ing on the press room hummus and finished covering the finale of NBC’s The Voice, the summer’s breakout singing competition hit. Father of two Javier Colon took home the top prize, narrowly beating out doe-eyed indie darling Dia Frampton by a mere 2% in voting. After having been on the Voice beat for the past month or so, I’ve not only become a bonafide Voice fangirl, but also made me look at other talent competition shows more critically – and consider why The Voice has come out on top. There’s no shortage of song-and-dance shows out there: from the one that started it all (American Idol) to ones being shipped from overseas (The X-Factor and, yes, The Voice), at any given time, there’s yet another “talented” jazz-hander pursuing that sliver of the American dream that plucks nobodies from obscurity and turns them into household names. The ubiquity of talent shows in recent years has definitely jaded me as a TV fan: when for every Carrie Underwood there seems to be about a dozen William Hungs, I’ve wanted to change the channel in favor of solid scripted fare rather than watching delusion on display – I can see that any given day on Hollywood Boulevard, kthxbai. Or any episode of The Real Housewives of Whosville.
So, why did I stick with The Voice and, more importantly, why did The Voice stick with me? In chats with other journos in the press room, we often talk candidly about why this show has worked in a time when many of us are immune to the genre’s charm. Yet The Voice – with its slick production value, Grammy Award-winning coaches and the idea that yet-to-blow-up talent ranging from a rocker who has six kids to a cowboy from Texas can all benefit from a little A-list mentoring – has put a fresh spin on undiscovered talent’s journeys. Moving forward, other shows might want to take a few cues from The Voice if they want to save a jaded wretch like me as a fan:
* Don’t be mean. Throughout the season, the coaches (Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green, Blake Shelton) have tended to be more constructive than outright harsh in their criticism, instead reserving the sharpest barbs for each other. This is kind of awesome because it’s not awkward for us, as an audience, to see someone see his/her dream crumble before his/her eyes because of some snarky comment. Also, it’s kind of hilarious to watch superstars get a little bitchy with each other – it makes us only wonder what happens behind the scenes, while not taking away from or destroying the competitors themselves.
* Use social media. The artists on the show were pretty aggressive in their twitter and Facebook campaigns, as was the show itself. The immediacy of social media and digital marketplaces like iTunes made the competition’s turnaround that much faster and gave fans an instant connection to their favorite artists. In the digital age, quickness is key. Unless the show is Lost and fans would actually go on temporary twitter sabbaticals when it was on air (I still heart you, Lost, even though your series finale still raises my blood pressure by 10 points when I think about it).
* Vary your faces. I blog and tweet about diversity in media/TV a lot, not only because this is an issue that’s important to me personally, but because it HAS to be talked about. What really struck me about The Voice was the diversity of the competitors. The final four were made up of a bald Caucasian lesbian, a half-Asian indie chick, a Puerto Rican/Dominican father of two, and a Latina from the Pacific Northwest. The fact that America voted to save each of them on their respective teams is evidence right there: that the richness of the American fabric is what makes a show accessible and, in part, successful.
Tags: adam levine, beverly mcclellan, blake shelton, carson daly, cee-lo green, christina aguilera, dia frampton, Facebook, gnarls barkley, javier colon, maroon 5, miranda lambert, nbc, stevie nicks, the voice, twitter, vicci martinez