NBC's Singing Competition Series Is a Whole New Game
Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera, Cee-Lo Green and Adam Levine talk 'The Voice'
By Deanna Barnert
Special to MSN TV
"The Voice" brings the search for America's best singer to NBC, and this time, it's a whole new game. The three-part competition starts April 26 with a blind selection process in which contenders use only their voices to woo coaches Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera, Cee-Lo Green and Adam Levine. Once the superstar coaches assemble their eight-person teams, the game is on! The teams will be whittled down until the final four weeks, when the competition will go live and America will get in on the voting. "The Voice" premieres Tuesday, April 26, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
Here are highlights from a press conference with "The Voice" coaches, host Carson Daly and exec producers Mark Burnett ("Survivor") and John de Mol, peppered with exclusive dishing MSN TV got while on the set.
What makes "The Voice" different from shows like "American Idol" and "The X Factor"?
Carson Daly: The level of talent is leaps and bounds beyond the level I've seen on any other competition shows.
Mark Burnett: We've looked everywhere. Every record label, every club -- some of these people have gotten close to making it 10 times.
Carson Daly: Also, the format is much different. There's the blind auditions in the beginning, the mentoring battle round and then the live [round].
What do the red buttons on the coaches' chairs do?
Adam Levine: It opens the floors up and [contestants] drop into a pit with lions. No!
Mark Burnett: If they hear a voice which moves them, they'll push the button and turn around. If only one [coach] turns around, that coach grabs that artist for their team. If more than one coach turns around, the power shifts and the contestants choose who would be best to coach them to a win. In many cases, three or four [coaches] are going to turn around and try to convince the contestants to stay with them. They've been messing with each other the whole time about stealing each other's contestants.
How competitive is this getting?
Carson Daly: Blake's a sleeper. He's funny. He'll be the first one to get up and hit someone's button for them. Christina's all business. She's very competitive. They're going to be playful, but there's also a sense of pride.
Cee-Lo Green: This is the first time for any of us to be coaching and mentoring. We're getting a chance to reverse the roles and live vicariously through someone we're encouraging. There's a spirit of camaraderie, as well as friendly competition.
Adam Levine: It's a new experience for all of us, so we're still learning what to expect.
We joke around and act a little weird, because we've never been in this position before, but that's what's going to make it electric.
What will "coaching" involve?
Christina Aguilera: It can be anything and everything to help your team win or your contestant to do the best. We'll bring in writers, producers, engineers and other artists I love to co-write and work with. We'll bring our A team.
Cee-Lo Green: It's a form of management, A&R'ing and executive producing, if you will, your own personal artist.
Do any of you have reservations about judging other artists?
Adam Levine: It's less about being judgmental and more about mentoring. [Judge] is a dirty word here on "The Voice."
Christina Aguilera: This isn't about tearing people down, making fun of them or picking them apart in a negative way. I want to empower them and give them all the tools I have and, hopefully, find the next biggest voice in America. When I first started out, there was a huge pop explosion going on. I was feeling boxed in. I'm looking forward to helping [these contestants] find out what makes them unique and working with that, rather than trying to mold them. I might be hearing someone who is a complete pop person and then turn my chair around and find they're wearing a cowboy hat.
Blake Shelton: That would be a disaster.
Christina Aguilera: I can take you!
Carson Daly: Everybody's got to have eight contestants, and they want to have a good mix, so Blake's not going to pick somebody just because they have a country voice. Go to his celebrity iTunes playlist and see what he's into. He's a closet Donna Summer fan!
What else about the coaches might surprise viewers?
Christina Aguilera: The four of us are only able to be seen sometimes through the microscope of the media and hearsay and gossip. What's great about this show is you get a behind-the-scenes look at all the steps that make up the blood, sweat and tears before you hit that stage [and then] what happens when we get off the stage.
Cee-Lo Green: You do get an opportunity to know the person, as opposed to the personality, which is an extension of the person, but can be the polar opposite. There's a great humility about mentoring, so you'll see a softer, sensitive, more realistic side, because they are the stars. You get an opportunity to see us be fans, as well.
After the teams are picked blindly, will appearance come into play?
Christina Aguilera: We will bring in our teams, which does include possible glam squads, hair and makeup, stylists -- Mark is like, "Cha-ching, cha-ching!" [laughs]
What techniques from your vocal style might you apply? Maybe that country twang, Blake?
Blake Shelton: I'll try to get them to not do that. Each person has something unique about their sound. I want to bring that out.
Christina Aguilera: Uniqueness is a factor, but my grandma instilled something I keep to this day when I hit the stage: If you need to get lost in the moment, get lost in the moment. You have to sing with your heart and not your head. At the end of the day, that's what "The Voice" is all emotion and touching people.
"The Voice" premieres Tuesday, April 26, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.