If “American Idol” never existed, I’d be captivated by “The Voice.”
But you can only fall in love the first time once. The innocence is gone.
Still, you have to give NBC credit for pulling out all the stops for this show. And it should get some sampling, even against “Glee” and “Dancing With the Stars.” There’s talk show host Carson Daly, Ryan Seacrest minus the schtick. Big stars on the coaches’ panel. Great singers. If you missed it, NBC will repeat the show Wednesday night.
[UPDATE: All the promotion paid off. I expected the show would open with 10 million viewers against "Dancing With the Stars" and "Glee," among others. But it actually pulled in 11.8 million and an impressive 5.1 rating with 18-49 year olds, based on early Nielsen numbers. It beat "Glee" during the 9 p.m.-9:30 p.m. hour 18-49 4.6 to 3.4 and "Dancing With the Stars" during the 9 p.m. hour 4.9 vs. 3.5. ]
The concept is a lot like “X Factor” with a small twist upfront. The coaches cannot see the singer. They can only hear them. If they want the person on their team, they press a botton and the chair twists around so they can watch them. If more than one coach presses the button before the end of the song, the contestant gets to pick who to be the mentor.
Eventually, each celebrity will gather eight team members. On night one, each one picked up three. Next Tuesday, they’ll select the rest. They then have to pare their teams down to four each by having two sing the same song. The one who sings it better survives. With the final 16, the show goes live and the public gets to vote.
On day one, there was no Susan Boyle with such a major visual/vocal dissonance. But there were a few who were unconventional or not terribly visually attractive. One 41-year-old woman was bald with multiple tattoos but sang with verve and aplomb. One guy was really really overweight but his voice drew support from all four coaches. On the other hand, one woman felt her visual appeal was a distraction and made it difficult for people to take her vocals seriously.
The four coaches – Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, Cee Lo Green and Adam Levine - had good camaraderie, teasing each other and getting competitive by poking light jabs at each other to try to attract a singer to their team.
NBC didn’t introduce us to any train wreck singers. There were a few okay singers who didn’t get a vote.
Here’s a sampling of a few who did:
- Xenia, a shy 16 year old, had a cool raspy voice. Blake and Cee Lo both picked her. Blake said he wanted her to go country. “I consider myself country, too,” Cee Lo said. “I’m from Atlanta, Georgia.” She went with Blake.
- The country guy with the cowboy hat Patrick Thomas was the real deal. Young, attractive, smooth as a baby’s bottom. He sang Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You’re Dying” with passion and sensitivity. Not surprisingly, Blake became his coach. Christina showed her sassy side when she first asked him to take off his hat, then joked, “Can you take off your pants?”
- Kelsey Rey got one million page views from a YouTube video. She looks a bit like a sultrier Katie Holmes. “Idol” would have loved her. But she isn’t just a pretty face. She possesses a good pop voice. Cee Lo, Adam and Christina pushed their buttons. “They might end up hitting on you all day,” Aguilera said, trying to get her not to pick the boys. But she picks Cee Lo.
- I really liked Vicci Martinez and her heartfelt take on Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” I found the whole thing about hiding her face a bit annoying because she isn’t ugly. Butch, yes. Ugly? Not in the least. There’s an honesty to her singing that made hers so much better to me than Haley Reinhart’s version last week.
- Homeless singer Rebecca Loebe did a searing pop version of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are.” She has an absolutely stunning voice. I am a fan! Adam nabs her over Christina.
- I was not taken by Tje Austin, the man with the afro. Powerful voice but not that distinctive. But he had a fanin Cee Lo, who picked him. “I heard myself in you,” Cee Lo said.
- Jeff Jenkins was the first person who was clearly not attractive enough to get in the door on “Idol” or anywhere else with his physical appearance alone. His problem was his weight. His voice? Really interesting. It had depth and texture while he sings Rascal Flatt’s “Bless the Broken Road.” Everyone wanted him! Oddly, Shelton was the last one to push his button. Hilariously, Adam had never heard that song before. “Is that a country song?” he asked. Blake chuckled. Adam at this point hadn’t gotten a team member and worked hard to try to get him – and he did.
- And here’s our “Idol” reject! Frenchie Davis notes she was disqualified from “Idol” seasontwo, but only alludes to a mistake she made when she was 19 (specifically, nude photos on the Web.). After years of success on Broadway with “Rent,” she still wanted a recording career. The judges held off from pushing the button on her as she sang Katy Perry’s “I Kissed the Girl.” Christina finally did toward the end. Frenchie probably would have gotten more support if she had gone pure R&B instead of pop. Cee Lo recognized her once he saw her. “Great choice of song,” Cee Lo said. “I can relate to it totally.” At first, she felt it was a little shaky but she was sold later on. “I thought the ship had sailed,” she said. “Don’t ever give up on your dreams.”