Before The Voice’s first season premiered, it was marketed as the reality singing competition that would get rid of all the gimmicks. It was about nothing but pure talent. There weren’t judges, but instead, there were friendly coaches, who would find good vocalists and help them become great. The auditions were blind, which ensured that only the very best singers would get the chance to compete on the show, regardless of their appearance. It was all about the notes, the runs, the falsettos, and the voices that sent chills down viewers’ spines. This was The Voice.
Five seasons later, I’ve finally given up on the show. To me, season 1 was the only one that got things 100 percent right. From the moment Javier Colon started singing “Time After Time” in his blind audition, it was clear that we had just met The Voice of the season. I’m not saying he had the biggest voice, because I don’t think that’s what this show is about. It’s about having that talent, plus a little something extra that makes your voice different but is impossible to put into words. And Colon defined that.
After joining Team Adam, Colon continued his climb to the top. Each week, he was the clear leader until he was eventually crowned the winner. It wasn’t a surprising ending, but it was the right one. And viewers tuned in every week to hear Colon’s smooth-as-silk performance.
Cut to now, four seasons later, and The Voice finds itself in an unhealthy dilemma that seems to make it impossible for us to get through a season without an “upset.” Full disclosure: I can’t speak much about season 2 winner Jermaine Paul, because I didn’t watch that entire season. But I can speak to the pattern that was formed in seasons 3 and 4, and more importantly, what it is about season 5 that has made this fan walk away from her television for good.
Last season, I wrote that the potential downfall of the show was the combination of a Blake Shelton-loving America, a country music-loving America, and a young contestant-loving America. I don’t think that all of that holds true for season 5, which is one of the reasons I was such a fan of this season in the beginning. But all that certainly held true for both seasons 3 and 4.
In season 3, I didn’t feel that there was necessarily a Javier Colon, a.k.a. an obvious front-runner, but there was one vocalist that absolutely blew America away only to be voted off weeks later in a shocking elimination. Remember Amanda Brown? The Adele backup singer was an early favorite after she competed in one of the show’s most memorable battle rounds with Trevin Hunte. And then, when Amanda made it to the live shows, her performance of “Dream On” solidified her as a frontrunner in the competition.
However, after suffering from peaking too early, Amanda was kicked out of the competition, which the less exciting vocalist Cassadee Pope would go on to win. As soon as Amanda left, I promised myself I would stop watching the rest of the season. But thanks to my love of Terry McDermott and my obsessive personality, I kept tuning in every week.
Cue season 4, where I instantly fell in love with Sarah Simmons’ blind audition when she sang “One of Us.” Just to be clear, I understood that she wasn’t necessarily the Colon of the season, in that she wasn’t the obvious winner. There was also Michael Jackson backup singer and powerhouse Judith Hill to consider. But I personally loved the many different sides to Sarah’s voice. I was hooked. Skip ahead a few weeks, and both Judith and Sarah were knocked out of the competition in what was possibly the most shocking results show in Voice history. From there, season 4 went to Team Blake’s youngest country singer, Danielle Bradbury. She was a good vocalist, but certainly not The Voice of the season, in my opinion. Once again, I promised to stop watching and then ended up sticking it out through the finale.
And that brings us to season 5, which had my full attention. Not only were Christina and CeeLo back, but I had finally found the next Javier Colon. I found the artist I would follow all the way to the finale. I would watch his duet with his coach. I would download all of his songs to my iPod. I would finally get to enjoy a season of this show all the way to the end. Meet Matthew Schuler. The preacher’s kid was responsible for the fastest four-chair turn in Voice history when he started his blind audition a cappella. Enjoy:
Then, in the knock-outs, Matthew won me over yet again with his amazing vocals on “Cosmic Love,” after which CeeLo crowned him “the Mike Tyson of The Voice.” Needless to say, he sailed right through to the live shows, where he had the performance of the season when he sang “Hallelujah.” However, after a week of not-so-great song choices (but still solid performances), Matthew was voted off the show last week, well before his time. And now, I. Am. Done.
Although I will admit that Matthew wasn’t having a perfect run on the show, he was still the obvious winner. And this brings me to another problem I have with The Voice: If this show started as the no-gimmicks, pure-talent reality singing competition, why are there backup dancers and singers to every other live performance? I honestly believe that if this show had stripped down every performance this season, Matthew would still be around. In fact, I wouldn’t even mind if this entire show were a cappella, because I think the winner of The Voice should be able to hold an audience’s attention with just their voice, and perhaps that would’ve corrected America’s many mistakes over the years.
A perfect example of The Voice’s over-production is Matthew singing One Direction. Here is his Voice performance, where you can hardly hear his vocals, and here he is after he was eliminated, singing the same song with just a piano on “Access Hollywood.” It makes a difference.
However, I’m not here just to complain that Matthew should’ve won. Although I do believe that his elimination will go down as the show’s/America’s biggest mistake, I’m more intrigued by why America continues to deliver “shocking” eliminations year after year. Thinking about it some more, season 1 of American Idol was one of the few drama-free seasons for that show as well. America got it right with Kelly Clarkson. So is it something about later seasons? Perhaps more viewers simply meaning more opinions and therefore the likelihood of a shocking elimination is greater? Sadly, I don’t have an answer.
But I will say that The Voice missed out yet again this year, and for the first time, I’m not just talking the talk; I’m walking the walk too. I have stopped watching The Voice. And it’s sad, because I actually really like a number of the vocalists left this year, but I just can’t go through this again. Maybe this is just my problem, and I need to stop watching reality television if I can’t handle it. But personally, I want The Voice to strip down the performances, and to include a coaches’ save instead of a Twitter save. After all, this show doesn’t crown “America’s Favorite Singer,” and it’s not called The Performer. It crowns “The Voice,” and considering those who vote aren’t always voting based purely on vocals, I’d say the professionals should be able to save someone if a truly talented individual is about to walk away from the show before his or her time. The politics and margins of error behind voting and Twitter saves, quite frankly, suck, so if there’s a chance the show can cut them down a bit, it would certainly make my life less stressful.
If not, then specify that the winner isn’t “The Voice,” but “America’s Favorite Singer.” Hey, if So You Think You Can Dance can do it, so can you.