I’m really not a big TV fan, although I go through jags every once in a while — Friends, Seinfeld, Lost, Modern Family (which is losing its edge, I have to say. Hard to know where to go once you’ve hit your peak with Fizbo the Clown).
Reality shows I really dislike, based as they are on sniping and conflict. So I’m surprised to have fallen in love with NBC’s The Voice.
Why? It’s just so democratic. Four professional singers — Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton — try to build teams of talented folks which then compete against each other throughout the whole season, sort of March Madness style. The coaches are a nice sampling of different music styles and types of commercial success. (Wow, that Christina. I had tossed her off as a pop floozy, but turns out she is rad.)
The heavies sit in their enormous, pimped-out executive chairs, turned away from the performers, who come out on stage and sing for about 90 seconds. If the coaches like what they hear, they press the big red button on their chair, which then whisks around; if more than one coach likes the participant’s voice, then the performer has to choose. Sometimes none of the four judges turns around, and then the aspiring singer gets some constructive feedback and a little pep talk.
That’s what I like about The Voice. It’s more about affirming the performers’ bravery in taking the risk to participate in the show at all, rather than shaming them (for that, see American Idol.)
I’m riveted not only by the judges’ reactions — which often surprise me — but also by the range of people who end up on the show. Most of them still look real, not yet slickified by stardom. Among many others, this season there’s JR Aquino, the YouTube wonder; Avery Wilson, a 17-year old prodigy who has never taken a music lesson; Hobbit look-alike Nicholas David who sang “Stand By Me”; and Joselyn Rivera, who didn’t speak at all until she was three. My current favorite is Melanie Martinez, a quirky teenager who sang Brittney Spears’ “Toxic.” She’d arranged the song in this really sinister, cool way and she accompanied herself on guitar and tambourine (which she played with her feet. Check out her track here.)
It’s a feel-good setup and I fall for it every time. Why not? In a culture that so often hits that one jagged note of scorn — for the beginner, the amateur, the newbie — The Voice is a welcome new tune.