If you’re anything like me, your DVR is filled with at least three episodes of American Idol and a two-hour episode of NBC’s The Voice on a weekly basis.
I’m hooked. The Blind Auditions, the infamous Idol opening rounds, the sappy stories meant to make your eyes fill up with a tear or two. All of it makes for good TV and I’ve been sucked in.
But I’ve noticed more this season that The Voice and American Idol, while strongly similar, are actually distinctively different. And to be honest, I’m leaning toward the fresh and innovative NBC singing competition more and more.
The Voice, in its second season, averages a 6.3 Nielsen rating and has been outdoing its Fox competitor in the 18-49 demographic – the first time Idol has been beat out since Carrie Underwood took on Bo Bice (do you even remember a time when Carrie Underwood wasn’t a bona fide star?).
The Voice, with its contemporary judging panel and oversized chairs that light up and swivel, took the cake with its Blind Auditions to start off the season. But Idol had 16-year-old girls falling off the stage, contestants being hauled off to the hospital and, wait for it, people who actually sang.
The Voice’s 2-hour shows are much easier to swallow than Idol’s three-night extravaganzas and the foursome of Blake Shelton, Cee-Lo Green, Christina Aguiler and Adam Levine, add a topical and contemporary spin to the judging panel. They actually seem to enjoy each other’s company, take the music seriously but keep things playful enough that it isn’t just about them. The three spots filled on Idol with Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson, don’t play much to the current music scene – with JLO being an exception. And the loss of original judge Simon Cowell seemed to have put a bit of a dent in the viewership.
The Voice is fresh. While Idol can play the veteran card, its format has become quite stale – evident by the premiere of its NBC competitor drew 15 million more viewers (37.6 million to 21.6 million). The Voice’s decisions based on vocal talent alone and the season-long competition between the judges seems to draw a larger crowd.
The difference, and where Idol gets a point in its corner, is the fact that most of the people auditioning for AI were a part of open casting calls and seem to be complete underdogs; people who would have never had a chance otherwise. The Voice, on the other hand, is based mostly on invitations, with some open casting calls sprinkled around the country. With 10 seasons under its belt, Idol has produced some big-time stars: Carrie Underwood (Season 4), Chris Daughtry (Season 5), Jennifer Hudson (Season 3) and of course the original American Idol, Kelly Clarkson, to name a few. The Voice is still building that repertoire after Season 1 winner Javier Colon has yet to make an impact on the music scene.
Starting this week, American Idol and The Voice are both entering a new stage of the competition. Idol has been boiled down to the top 13 and The Voice enters the battle rounds, where all 48 picked to the judges’ teams after the Blind Auditions will battle it out and half of the contestants will be sent home.
Besides a new stage for live performances and the twist of each judge adding a wild card to the Top 10, Idol has stayed pretty much the same. Tyler adds a few more interesting comments, Jackson has added a few more “Yo, Dog’s” to his commentary and JLo brought on more water works.
For Idol, the Top 13 is pretty forgettable, except a few standouts -- and it’s not who you think. Seems as though American Idol is aging and so is its audience. Don’t know how Heejun Han and last-minute addition Jermaine Jones made it into the Top 13, let alone the Top 10. But as confused as I was to see those two continue on, I was thrilled that Deandre Brackensick (and his wonderful head of hair), Phillip Phillips and Shannon Magrane made it through.
On the flip side, I’m equally excited for some battle round action on The Voice. Starting tonight, the four teams and their respective judges undergo training and subsequently get pit against each other for a sing-to-the-death-type elimination. Besides that being a refreshing spin (no pun intended) on a singing show, the celebrity judges add a bit more substance with Lionel Richie, Alanis Morissette, Kelly Clarkson (wait, is she on the wrong show?), Ne-Yo and a few others come to the aide of the singers.
Despite it all, both shows will still have a place on my DVR.