By LAUREN ZIMA
NBC’s “The Voice” is bringing itself to the singing competition show space not as an 18-year-old from Nowhere, Ark., but with the confidence of a seasoned pro.
“The level of talent that has been found for this show is above and beyond — leaps and bounds — a level I’ve ever seen on any other competition show,” said host Carson Daly. “And that includes winners of any other show.”
At a Tuesday press conference at Los Angeles Center Studios, exec producer John De Mol said “The Voice,” which premieres April 26, is an “exact copy” of his “The Voice of Holland,” except that “The Voice” will air more episodes. He and fellow EP Mark Burnett seem confident that they can re-create that show’s success, though Burnett says “only an idiot producer” would try to formulate a show based on ratings.
“I can’t control that,” he said. “I can just assemble talent and try to make magic.”
“Voice” coach Christina Aguilera spoke up the most, above her fellow coaches Blake Shelton, Cee Lo Green and Adam Levine. The four will each choose contestants to coach – not judge – for “The Voice,’ and all four noted that that’s what drew them to the show.
“This isn’t about tearing people down and making fun of them,” Aguilera said. “I’m about bringing people up.” Levine seconded: “‘Judge’ is kind of a dirty word here,’ he said.
But without snarky Simon Cowell comments, will America watch? Burnett explained that the show’s format is what makes it exciting: Coaches will choose the talent they will help mold based on vocals alone: Their chairs will be turned backwards when they hear contestants sing, so they can’t factor in looks or personality to their choices.
“We’re getting the opportunity to go back to the roots of music – before MTV and videos and the Internet,” Aguilera said. “I want to be moved by raw talent.”
Added Shelton: “It’s the same way you listen to the radio – you spin the dial and stop on something you like – you just know there’s something special about it. We’re going to try to figure out who those people are in this group, then wean them down and let America decide. Our job is just to bring out the most unique thing about that person.”
Contestants will sing both covers and original material, and will be coached not only by the four stars, but potentially by their publicists, stylists, etc. “I can’t do what I do without my team,” Aguilera said. “We’ll also be bringing in other artists and writers we like to work with.”
Daly says it’s that level of expertise that makes “The Voice” stand out.
“This is four major artists who are in their prime,” he said. “ ‘Credibility’ has been the big word for all of us.” That “in their prime” status also makes the show different; while reality and competitions shows have largely been used as comeback vehicles for the formerly famous, Shelton, Aguilera, Green and Levine are all in the middle of their careers.
“None of us were looking for jobs,” Daly says. “But Mark Burnett came to the table and NBC, and we all thought this was going to be credible top to bottom. And, they’re not just sitting back and judging – that’s a huge part of it.”
Levine, who said he would “absolutely” come back for future seasons, agreed. “I never would have considered one of these singing competitions, until I met with Mark and discussed this show,” he said.
Aguilera, who has been tabloid fodder of late, hinted that part of her reasoning was for audiences to see a different side of her.
“We’re only seen sometimes through the microscope of the media and what people have gossip about,” she said. “They’ll be getting a firsthand look at us as human beings and who we really are, aside from who we appear to be in sometimes in the media.”