BWW ASKS: VOICE vs. IDOL: Who Wins This Battle Round?
Now that we've had a week of live show competition between NBC's THE VOICE and Fox's AMERICAN IDOL, I am reminded what it is about each show that I like, and what it is that I don't. Since day one of the Blind Auditions, it has been clear that the talent on THE VOICE dwarfs that of IDOL, as it has for a number of years. As I make very clear in my AMERICAN IDOL recaps each week, I am not delusional in thinking that the vocal abilities of the IDOL finalists in any way rival those of their VOICE counterparts. In fact, early in the season, I ventured to guess that only three or four of IDOL's Top-12 would even get a chair turn, let alone four. That fact notwithstanding, for me, IDOL is still a much more satisfying and entertaining television experience.
Don't get me wrong, THE VOICE's Blind Auditions are great theatre; far better than IDOL's auditions. Obviously though, the two aren't the same thing; IDOL's once appointment-television auditions have devolved into a veritable freakshow for anyone in desperate need of their 90 seconds of fame, no matter how idiotic they have to look to get it. THE VOICE's Blinds are more comparable to IDOL's final solos in Hollywood Week, so you would expect the talent to be better there. Then when you add in the suspense of will they turn around and which coach will the contestant pick, it becomes the highlight of the season. Unfortunately, THE VOICE only goes downhill from there.
After the Blind Auditions on THE VOICE, and after Hollywood Week on IDOL, the enjoyment factor slowly, but surely shifts. THE VOICE's wonky Battle Rounds are designed to do one thing, highlight the coaches, for they, not the contestants, are the real stars of THE VOICE. If the point was truly to discover the best singers, you wouldn't subject half of your potential winners to one-off performances, where, by definition, they have to spend half of their song watching someone else shine.
The idea of a duet is to work together to make the best product. Inherent in the process for each singer is to give up individual moments for collective success. That could mean being silent during the biggest point in the song, or it could mean singing the boring harmony while your opponent wails. It makes for a generally unsatisfying and uncomfortable performance, but it gives the coaches the chance to show how sympathetic and passionate they are about their teams and their artists. That being said, VOICE creator and EP Mark Burnett made a good move when he added the Save a few seasons back. That at least gives a handful of contestants a reprieve from the horrendous format, even if it does put even more focus on the coaches.
To further illustrate the point that THE VOICE is all about the coaches, think about how many times former VOICE winners have been mentioned all season. Now, think about how often the coaches have talked about how many times they have won, or why it is their turn to win this season. The focus isn't on Cassadee Pope's rise to stardom, or Danielle Bradbury's emergence as a country star. No, it is on the coaches, as it always is.