‘The Voice’ caters to judges, not contestants


One of my favorite parts of the weekend is when my friends and I get together, sit down and have a makeshift Socratic seminar about the world’s most important issues. This week, we discussed our new lord and savior Saint West, how terrible the new Superman movie looks, and how we feel about Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani’s over-publicized relationship.

The latter topic quickly turned into a conversation about “The Voice,” NBC’s hit singing competition/reality show. Being the loud, overdramatic gay that I am, I quickly started yelling at my friends about how terrible that show is.

The reality series exists to find the next great voice, but none of the discovered voices go on to do anything significant in the industry. The show instead focuses on the four judges – Shelton; Adam Levine; an interchangeable blonde woman like Christina Aguilera, Shakira or Stefani, and an interchangeable black man, like CeeLo Green, Pharrell Williams or Usher.

Levine has been a judge on all nine seasons of the show and he even admitted that the show had problems. In an interview last year with Rolling Stone, Levine said his show didn’t “have as profound an impact as ’Idol’” and “millions of people watch the show every week and fall in love with a singer, then you don’t hear much from them.”

Three-time judge Pharrell Williams defended the show earlier this year, saying it was “not about someone signing a record deal and getting signed,” even though the ultimate goal of the show is to win a $100,000 recording contract.

During the Socratic seminar, I asked my friends to name a “Voice” contestant, and they couldn’t name a single one. But when I asked for them to list “American Idol” contestants, even my friends who have never seen the show were able to name a dozen artists. After a couple of minutes listing singers off the top of our heads, we had a list of over 30 names that ranged from Kelly Clarkson to Sanjaya Malakar. We still couldn’t name a single Voice contestant.

“Idol,” the main competitor of “The Voice,” may not be relevant as it enters its 15th and final season, but it at least didn’t pretend it wasn’t a singing competition with the ultimate goal of becoming a superstar.

“Idol” has been able to push out Grammy- and Academy-Award-winning artists because their successful seasons were actually about the contestants and not the judges. “Idol” is able to make television promos and boast about its winners while “The Voice” has to focus on its judges and makes no real mention of their past contestants’ now-failing careers.

Yes, in the early years, “Idol” played up the banter between Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell at times, but they were still able to push out superstars. It wasn’t until “Idol’s” ratings started falling and they imitated “The Voice” with stunt casting and famous judges that the quality of winners really died down.

“The Voice’s” stunt casting isn’t an issue though. The show thrives off of it. The judges go into the show well-known and come out with even more recognition and fame. Judges like Shakira and Aguilera have used the show to launch new albums. Levine and his band Maroon 5 went into the show “slumping” in 2011 but came out quadrupling their previous album sales, with a clothing line and two fragrances for Levine, according to Billboard.

“The Voice” may have won the an Emmy, but that just means it’s entertainment. It isn’t a viable option for people who want to project their careers and become a Carrie-Underwood-level superstar. The judges use the platform for their own personal gain and have no interest in actually helping these people further their careers. Hopefully, when they announce the winner of season nine in a couple weeks, they are able to gain relevance, unlike every other contestant that has sung in front of those giant red chairs.TheVoice