“The Voice” has become a major player in the TV talent-show stakes, as the show has become NBC’s biggest entertainment prime-time series of 2012. In addition to being a hit in the ratings, “The Voice” is also a hit with critics and Emmy voters: The second season of the show (which aired from February to May 2012) has earned the 2012 Critics’ Choice Award for Best Realty-Series Competition and an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program. All the original coaches are back for the third season in a row: Christina Aguilera, Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton. The show’s other on-air talent returning for Season 3 are host/producer Carson Daly and social media correspondent Christina Milian, who has been with the show since Season 2. The grand prize for the winner is also the same: a record deal with Universal Republic Records.
The third season of “The Voice” (which premieres September 10, 2012, at 8 p.m. Eastern/Pacific Time) features two big new changes: “steals” (in which the coaches can steal contestants who have been rejected from another coach’s team) and “knockout rounds.” In the “battle rounds,” two contestants face off in a duet of a song chosen by their coach. When a contestant is rejected from a team after a battle round, another coach has the option to “steal” the contestant for his or her team. If more than one coach wants the same contestant, then the contestant gets to choose the coach. In the “knockout rounds,” two contestants face off by each doing a different song of the contestant’s choice, and coaches can no longer “steal” a contestant who is rejected. Season 3 will also have a new group of four advisers, who are each paired with a coach: Green Day lead singer with Aguilera; Mary J. Blige with Levine; Michael Bublé with Shelton; and Matchbox Twenty lead singer Rob Thomas with Green. At an August 2012 press event held at “The Voice” executive producer Mark Burnett’s home in Malibu, California, members of the media gathered for a press conference with Burnett, Aguilera, Green, Shelton, Levine, Daly and Milian to discuss changes in the show and what the future holds for “The Voice.”
How do you feel about “The Voice” in Season 3, compared to Season 1?
Levine: Speaking from a coach perspective, what’s really interesting is that having three seasons almost under our belt … the first season was really magical. I think we were all kind of stunned by how well it was working, even before it came out. We just had this special feeling that it was going to be great and successful and all that. And then it was. And the second season, it was a great season. It was really successful and really great and we had a good time. It was wonderful.
But this season, aside from the changes that have been made, and the chemistry being better between all of us, I have the same feeling had when we were shooting Season1, which is this really confident kind of knowledge that regardless of what happens with the numbers and the technicalities that we obsess over, that it’s a great show. As long as the nucleus of all this is that it’s a great show with great talent, and us entertaining people, and people singing and entertaining everybody, as long as those things are intact, we can’t lose, because it’s really a great show.
Are you worried about the scheduling conflicts that “The Voice” has when the coaches want to tour or do a new album?
Shelton: None of us four moved to Hollywood to be on television. This isn’t our day job. We’re doing this for the right reasons. [“The Voice”] actually takes us away from what we ultimately wanted to do with our lives, which is tour and make records. And so in order to do this, we’ve got to be doing it for the right reasons and something that we all believe in. Otherwise, we’re sitting here going, “Oh my God, I could have been playing in Chicago tonight.”
Levine: But it’s not about the money, Blake, is it? It’s about the fans. At least for me, it is. You’re free to say what you want.
Shelton: None of us came to L.A. in our lives to be on TV. And when this is over, we’ll go right back to doing what it is we really do.
Burnett: The benefit of having four super-busy current touring artists is this is Young America’s show. I have three teenagers, and all their friends from high school and college, they know this is Young America’s show. What comes with that is, as they said, their real job is performing.
There is the fact that we decided when you’ve been on the show, that’s their chair for life. So if the have to tour and someone comes in for a season and goes back out and comes in for a season, there will never be anyone getting replaced, ever. It will be, “I need to tour.” “Let’s help you find who comes in.”
Daly: It’s like “Iron Chef.” Once you’re awarded the Iron Chef [title], you can battle in Kitchen Royale.
Burnett: These are their chairs for life. We’ve all talked about it. That’s how we’re approaching it. And they are current touring artists. So the producers’ nightmare is these tour dates. But that’s what you get when you get people who are really touring and making records all of the time, which makes the show better, because they’re current for the audience.
None of the contestants on “The Voice” has become a breakout star yet. What do you have to say about that?
Shelton: Selfishly, I would like to see a star come out of Team Blake or out of the show, but I don’t think it’s imperative to the entertainment?
Levine: I actually thought a lot about this, and this is something we tended to harp on in the past a little bit about a star coming out of the show, or extending beyond “The Voice.” I thought about it a lot, and I kind of realized that we all know how extraordinarily hard it is to have that type of success that reaches further than your wildest dreams. There are a lot of elements that need to magically fall into place in order for that to happen. And we can provide a certain amount of insurance that this person will get some kind of shot at success.
We’ve all been knocked down a million times and gotten back up and tried again. So there’s no way to guarantee or ensure that that will happen, but to be able to enjoy the time these people do have while they’re on the show, and to give them the best shot that they can possibly get, is all we can really provide for them anyway, because we’re not their manager, we’re not their record label. We can’t micromanage everything that happens after their run on the show.
We would love to see a star born out of this show. However, we do believe and we’re positive that it will happen, but we’re not hinging the validity or relevance of the show on that, because that’s just ridiculous. That’s just not a reasonable expectation, but we are really positive about that inevitably happening. And I do think it will eventually.
Mark, you’re married to actress Roma Downey. How do you balance your work and home life? And why did you decide to have this press event at your home?
Burnett: You all should know that Roma and I do not do business at home. Our home is our sanctuary, and for us to choose to do a press thing here is huge for us, personally, as a family. But truly, we’ve gotten so close to all of these guys, that it really has become like a family on “The Voice.” Everyone gets along so well. It’s great fun. That’s what made us open our home up, and we want to welcome you to our home.
Aguilera: Thank you, Mark!
Burnett: As you know, we’re in the middle of shooting Season 3 of “The Voice.” You may have heard rumors that there are some changes in the format which we’ll deal with today …The show is more fun than ever. I think there’s better talent than ever. And these guys [he points to the others on the panel] have been on their A game. It’s been really great fun, which is making these long shoot days easier when the coaches are having a great time together — even when they’re competitive.
Daly: Yeah, I want to thank Mark and Roma for having us out here. When I first met Mark, he actually referred to his home as a “sanctuary,” and I didn’t know what he was talking about. I interviewed him for my late-night show, and he invited us to come out here and do it, so we appreciate you guys having us here.
Has the success of “The Voice” exceeded your original expectations, or did you think all along that it would be such a big hit in America?
Daly: In Season 1, people thought we were crazy for going to NBC with an idea for another singing competition show. And we had great success in Season 1, and even better success in Season 2, coming off of the Super Bowl. And here we are in the middle of Season 3. We shot 13 hours of TV the last seven days, which is a lot for our coaches: four of the biggest names in music. They have very busy schedules. And we shot a lot ….
Shelton: [He says jokingly] We’re actually not used to having to work. That’s what it is actually.
Aguilera: [She laughs.] Speak for yourself, Blake!
Daly: It’s 13 hours of network television which, by an standard, is a full season for some people. You’re catching us on an uptick. There are a few changes in Season 3. We’ve been blessed to be the only singing competition this year that’s been nominated for an Emmy.
Burnett: That’s very important.
Daly: And I’m humbled by that. Obviously, we don’t want to mess with the DNA of the show, because it’s working. But I think, post-mortem, in looking back on Season 1 and Season 2, with the new format that we felt was a fresh new take on what was already working. We implemented a couple of new things, with the twists and turns along the way and the interplay among our coaches (which we love) when they’re keeping an eye on each other’s teams.
Levine: This is, I think, the most fun we’ve ever had doing the show. I think our chemistry between all four of us, all five of us, six, seven, nine — out there in the chairs, our chemistry has been better than it’s ever been. And because of that, the show is as good as it’s ever been.
Milian: I’ve gotten a lot of that with you guys, especially when we’ve done interviews together. You get to see how much fun everyone has. I asked them to do impressions of each other. They’re pretty on point! It’s a lot of fun, especially with all the digital media we’ve done this year.
Daly: I think in any show, whether it’s scripted or unscripted … it’s principles. At the Critics’ Choice Awards, I was the only one there [from “The Voice”] in the audience. And “The Voice” was nominated — and we won … And I really wasn’t prepared to give a speech. And I went up in front of our peers and took the award from the critics, which is an incredible honor to get for the show … But this is a special group. And it’s a great point.
Christina Milian does a great job. Social network was a really important component of this format that we noticed when we first saw it in Holland [where “The Voice” originated]. And what they did really well there, when Twitter and Facebook were really blowing up, was that they offered a space for that in prime time with users. And we think we embrace that. And Christina [Milian] has done a great job in offering our viewers a deeper experience with “The Voice,” whether it’s the artists or their families or our coaches … And to mirror Adam’s point, you’re just catching us on a good Season 3. It feels good.
What are the changes to “The Voice” in Season 3?
Burnett: Season 3 is an evolution. So that we stop all the rumors, here’s the official evolution of the format: We know that we go from blind auditions — tons of fun — to the battles, which is where these coaches will narrow down their teams. This year, there’s much more at stake. When they have their battles, and they want one person to stay with them and the other person to leave, another coach can buzz in and steal that person that a coach has sent home. It became incredible.
There are people, as you know, you’ve seen in the past, you question from the press and the public was, “Wow, you’ve seen this battle between these two great people. Someone went home who probably could’ve won another music show.” In this case, the other coaches can buzz in.
Daly: There’s something about what happened last year. It’s like a football game for us producers. We really care. We watch the tape, we look back, we see where we can improve without making major tweaks.
One of the things was that the minute we put someone’s life on the line, the minute we said to them as a show, “Hey, this could be it. Go get ‘em,” we got a performance from them that maybe even their coaches didn’t think was coming.
As producers, when we said, “Hey, this is on the line. It’s now or never. Go get it,” we got great TV. We wanted to make more great TV. The knockout rounds represent the second part of the battle umbrella that gives us great, great TV.
Aguilera: I think we’re all pumped up by this particular new addition, because by the time we get to the knockout rounds, we’ve already been through the blind audition process. We’ve stepped in, getting to know our team (or getting acquainted). We go into the battle rounds. They experience our coaching through that process. By that time, we actually have a chance to steal.
And then there’s so much advice coming around. You have one coach’s advice, and the it transfers to another coach. It just keeps the momentum so much fun. And it’s interesting because it makes the artists, the vocalists grow that much more, so you can continue this, so when you pair them up in that scenario, it actually makes the two of them step up their game, and it brings out the best in them. And that’s why I love it. It actually pumps them up.
Burnett: At the end of the knockouts, we’re down to five artists per coach. And the next thing we’ll be doing is the live stuff. And the way we’re structuring it this year — with multiple people leaving every week and not seeing people perform every week, we’ve heard from all you journalists and the things you said to us — so now, live, everyone performs every week, so you really get to know people. And I have to tell you: They’re so good!
Daly: A few things happened along the way with this show. The first one was Season 1. We did the battle rounds, as we received this format at NBC, and Vicci Martinez and Nikki Dawson were two artists who battled in Season 1. And we looked at each other and went, “One of these girls is going to go home.”
After growing up in a culture with singing competition shows on network television, usually you weren’t too bent out of shape when someone went home. And here comes “The Voice” with two people who clearly deserved to move on [to the next round]. That planted the seed for us producers, like, “OK, maybe we’re on to something here.” But that was Season 1, and it was early.
It happened again in Season 2. We’re on after the Super Bowl, a lot more eyes are on us. People are starting to notice us. And it happened and Jesse [Campbell] and Anthony [Evans] in a battle round. And we looked at each other as and said, “OK, now it’s almost problem for us producers, because the show, the format is working. America is connecting with the stories of our artists. [We have] four of the greatest people in music. We’re really firing on all cylinders, but the problem is that we’re losing talent that is so hard to get on these shows.”
And now, in Season 3, we huddle up and said, “The DNA of the show is the same, but for the battle rounds — for the torso of this format — we need to make a couple of tweaks. We love the interplay of our coaches. It’s like Fantasy Football. You become incentivized to watch the league, as opposed to your own team.”
And that’s what we wanted to bring to out own coaches, where you don’t just look at your own team, but you have to pay attention to the league. And the league is the other three coaches. So between those two issues of having attracted some of the best talent in America, I think they look at our show like they’re being picked by these guys [the coaches] who don’t even get to look at them. It’s not like, “Oh, you’re sexy, you’re hot, you’re cool. You could make it today. You look like Justin Bieber, you look like Carly Rae [Jepsen].” These [coaches] don’t’ even see them [during the blind auditions], and they give them a great ounce of faith.
For more info: “The Voice” website
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