LOS ANGELES – Last year, I attempted to set a Guinness World record to attend and cover every major reality show finale live. Before you ask, there were twelve in total and I will have a diary-style article available soon.
One of the biggest absences from my 2011 tally was The Voice. NBC’s singing show changed the landscape of reality television talent shows forever simply because it changed all the rules. The judging panel was comprised completely of current performers instead of judgmental industry insiders. These same judges chose competitors to join their teams with their backs turned during the audition phase of the program meaning the show was exactly what it was advertised as… finding America’s next great singing talent. With that being said, the show did add the standard Mark Burnett bells and whistles that have become synonymous with his brand of reality. Battle rounds, instant eliminations, the only thing missing is collaborations between the contestants (there’s always next season right?)
At NBC’s Summer Press Day last week, host Carson Daly, CeeLo Green, Blake Shelton and the aforementioned executive producer Mark Burnett answered questions about the show’s success.
I asked Burnett about where The Voice ranks alongside all of his reality successes.
MURTZ JAFFER: Mark, speaking over here in the purple hat waving at you.
MARK BURNETT: Hold on, my eyes are going.
MJ: Speaking of The Voice being so exciting, you’ve had so many great reality successes. Where does the The Voice rank among them?
MARK BURNETT I love music. My kids love music. And also they sang really great. Who would have thought two years ago saying we’d all be working on the number one show on Mondays and the number one show on Tuesdays on NBC? You’d think we were high. Also it’s kind of a good laugh as well as great work and joyful, you know, and great to be number one.
The fact of the matter is that The Voice is the freshest and most unique reality show on television.
While my 2012 mission/murtzssion was to attend The Voice’s season finale this year, thereby eradicating the only blemish on my perfect reality record from last year, it is unfortunately scheduled to air on the same night as The Amazing Race finale in New York. It would be impossible to physically be at both and as a result, I decided to check out one of the earlier shows this season.
The show, which is staged at the Warner Brothers lot is just as impressive as it looks on television. It is bold, bright and big. It adds a lot of validity to the notion that the show is meant simply as a platform to showcase artists that we haven’t heard from before instead of as a launching pad to launch burgeoning careers.
On this week’s show, it would be Team Blake taking on Team Christina and when Carson Daly opened the show and said that the judges would be instantly eliminating one singer apiece at the end of the performances, I was shocked. My initial thought was that Blake would probably nix Erin and that Christina would cut Ashley De La Rosa but that was prior to their performances.
Murtz Post-Show Red Carpet Interview With RaeLynn
- Brilliant song choice from Blake and RaeLynn
- The song almost seemed like RaeLynn had written it especially with the way that she commanded the stage
- RaeLynn’s personality was also starting to kick in as she revealed that she didn’t have a boyfriend but was a “heartbreaker”
- While critics have torn into the young starlet for not being as polished as others in the competition, seeing her perform live validated my theory that she connects not only with the material she picks but also with the audience whereas other singers have struggled with this
- Christina said that she might be a minor but that she is a bad ass and that RaeLynn made her want to sing country
- CeeLo said that it was the best performance she has done so far (I agreed) and that it was like AC/DC did a country song (not sure about this one)
- Adam said that Blake finally did something right
- Blake said that it was the proudest moment he has had on the season thus far and that RaeLynn proved to America that country can kick ass
Murtz Post-Show Red Carpet Interview With Jesse Campbell
- Staging was well done with Jesse singing in a picture frame while surrounded by photos of his daughter
- I have never been a big fan of this boring tune but Jesse sang it incredibly well and almost didn’t even need the accompanying music
- Would have been nice to see him sing it a cappella
- Thought that viewers would struggle to remember the song especially after such a barnburning performance from RaeLynn with six other singers left to perform
- CeeLo said that it was “wonderful”
- Adam said that he wasn’t feeling the song choice until it kicked in
- Blake said that it was a crazy great performance
- Christina said that it Jesse brought it from an emotional level
”A Little Bit Stronger”
Murtz Post-Show Red Carpet Interview With Jordis Unga
- Along with Lindsey Pavao and Mathai, Jordis was one of my favorites in the competition as I have been following her career since Rockstar INXS
- Didn’t like the choice of a country song (hmm, do you think Blake might have had something to do with that)
- While Jordis looked angelic in a draping white gown and sang the song to the best of her ability, I was unfortunately bored by the performance specifically because of the song choice
- Before the performance, the singer discussed how she had lost a record deal and was about to move out of LA when her friends convinced her to stay and then The Voice happened
- I thought that Jordis deserved to move on but that she would likely have to hope for Blake to save her
- Christina said that the performance drew her in
- CeeLo said that it was a great choice of song (huh?)
- Adam said that that she was so emotional up there that she was close to crying by the end of the song
- Blake talked about how Jordis is actually a song writer
Team Christina – “Fighter”
- An entertaining performance which saw Christina wearing a ridiculously revealing outfit and mock Blake but that delivered brilliantly in terms of entertaining the audience
- Performance was one of the better staging and singing efforts that I have seen on at a live reality show
- I am a big fan of the mentors singing with the competitors as it almost instantly legitimizes them
- Ashley De La Rosa was the standout in the group performance, probably because “Fighter” is the type of song that I could see on her record but it was hilariously awkward seeing Lindsey, Chris and Jesse sing to a song that is so out of their wheelhouse
- I had actually seen the Crenshaw High School Choir entering the stage so I knew that they would probably be involved in some type of group performance tonight
- Immediately after the song was over, Christina kicked off her heels and ran backstage (obviously wanting to change before the end of the commurtztial)
ASHLEY DE LA ROSA
Murtz Post-Show Red Carpet Interview With Ashley De La Rosa
- While I was quite excited to hear Ashley’s take on Jewel’s classic song, I didn’t really like the cover arrangement
- “Foolish Games” is an iconic song and changing it so drastically was a mistake
- With that being said, Ashley sang it well and I would have especially liked to have her seen her just tackle the original
- The rock edge that Ashley has in her voice and her rock leanings make her someone to follow long after the show has wrapped up its run
- Great singer this week but a bad song choice especially given that someone from Team Christina would be leaving the show immediately after it was over
- The special effects added to the performance’s allure
- The smoke that you saw majestically appear at Ashley’s feet was actually quite intoxicating in the audience
- CeeLo said that it was “good”
- Adam said that she was the biggest surprise to him (me too)
- Blake said that the smartest decision made on The Voice this year was when Christina chose to save Ashley
Maroon 5 Performance
- This was pre-taped before the show began and Adam asked to do it twice
”Set Fire To The Rain”
Murtz Post-Show Red Carpet Interview With Erin Willett
- Very solid performance
- Recognizable song was a good choice even if it was risky
- Erin has steadily improved during the competition
- Initially thought she didn’t get the same staging treatment as everyone else but that was until fireworks went off
- Great performance from a great singer
- In her opening video, Erin said that the show gave her an opportunity to shine in her darkest time (the death of her father)
- Christina said that she made the song something great
- CeeLo said that she did the song a great justice
- Adam said that Adele’s phrasing in the song is amazing and that while Erin’s pitch was great, she should work a little bit on the phrasing
- Blake said that he would never have thought of doing an Adele song but that Erin has the ability to
”Part Of Me”
Murtz Post-Show Red Carpet Interview With Lindsey Pavao
- Finally, I was getting the chance to see my favorite singer in the competition sing live
- During her opening video package, Lindsey said that she was going to try a mash-up of Rihanna’s “S&M” and “We Found Love” a cappella with a guitar which got me excited, so I was thoroughly disappointed when she decided to change songs and do “Part Of Me” which I thought was a generic selection from the show’s most talented artist
- I didn’t think it would be as brilliant as her cover of “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye ft. Kimbra.
- The performance itself was solid because Lindsey can sing anything but it didn’t have her usual flair for the dramatic
- I still loved it
- CeeLo said that he hadn’t heard the song before so he had nothing to compare it to
- Adam said that there were a couple of powerful notes where the pitch got away from her
- Blake said that he noticed the pitch things too but that she gets a pass
- Christina said that she adored her and while she wasn’t familiar with the song (rough night for Katy Perry I guess), she trusted Lindsey because she believed in her as an artist
Team Blake – “Heartache Tonight”
- Given the elaborate staging of Team Christina’s performance, this one was much more basic with Blake’s team simply singing the song
- Good performance which highlighted the competitors rather than their coach
- Would have been nice to see Erin involved a little more but I was a fan of RaeLynn
- Sometimes on reality television singing programs, a strong stage presence is just as important as The Voice, and while this show emphasizes the latter, it is still important and this is an area where RaeLynn excels
”Against All Odds”
Murtz Post-Show Red Carpet Interview With Jermaine Paul
- Another safe song choice
- I preferred Paul’s audition choice of “Complicated” by Avril Lavigne
- Because of the song choice, I thought that Jermaine might be in jeopardy
- Acoustics in the venue really provided the perfect backdrop to his melodic tone
- I thought that the song was too old for him
- Would have liked to see him try an Usher, Jason Mraz or Seal song
- Christina told Blake that Jermaine was her favorite member of his team
- CeeLo said that he might not have heard the Katy Perry song but that he definitely had heard the Phil Collins tune and that Jermaine was one of the strong contenders in the competition
- Adam said that he had to make a song like that into his own thing
- Blake said that tonight America would say “oh my gosh, someone is a superstar”
”Viva La Vida”
Murtz Post-Show Red Carpet Interview With Chris Mann
- Great song choice!
- Made Chris seem a lot younger and highlight his vocal superiority without shoving his operatic background down our throats
- One of the better performances of the night with great staging
- Christina’s touring experience clearly helping her team as their performances almost always look like major events
- With that being said, I thought Chris would be the most in danger, not because he did a bad job but just because the competition in Christina’s group is the fiercest and I could not see her eliminating Lindsey or Jesse
- Adam said that he thought it was a little odd but that odd was good
- Also said that he wanted to see him sing opera
- Christina said that he already sang opera and that he stepped out of his comfort zone
Time for the results.
Christina eliminates… JESSE CAMPBELL? Huh?! Did I miss something?
Before I could even react…
Blake eliminates…. JORDIS UNGA
Wow. And this is why I love reality television shows. I have no problem admitting that I didn’t see either elimination coming a mile away. Christina claimed that she wanted to keep the most versatile team while Blake was obviously affected by Jordis barely making it through during her last performance. Still, Jesse was the clear-cut favorite so even a week removed from the live show, I am still dumbfounded.
As we know, the next night America saved Chris Mann in another shocker with Christina saving Lindsey and sending Ashley home.
For Team Blake, America saved Jermaine Paul with Shelton protecting Erin, meaning that RaeLynn was sent packing.
The Voice live was everything I expected it to be and more. It was an amazing experience to witness live. The shocking results also magnified how it is changing the rules of reality.
In the end, I think that executive producer, Mark Burnett said it best at NBC’s Summer Press Day when he addressed a reporter’s question about the state of reality programming.
“Well, first of all, I hate the word reality show. It’s a journalistic term from journalists. What is reality? Reality is sitting here with you right now. It doesn’t matter whether it’s unscripted or it’s an unscripted drama or it’s a music show, or weight loss show. In the end to build network television, primetime is major gift and a major responsibility. All that matters is can you tell a story? And does it connect? Does it feel like it’s worth giving your time of an hour or two hours, after being at work? You have to treat it the same as the scripted drama or comedy and great lineup on a network is sports, news, unscripted, comedies, dramas, and they all seamlessly flow. All that matters is is it good or not? You know good shows make it; bad shows don’t. And the arbiter of good or bad shows isn’t anybody in this room. You guys have made your opinions, but you’re wrong a lot, I’ve noticed. I’m wrong a lot on shows. I mean, people talk about my success. So many shows haven’t made it. In the end, the arbiter of that are the American viewing public. That’s what makes it great.” – Mark Burnett
Here are my post-show red carpet interviews with the performers in case you missed them from earlier in the week.
The Voice airs Mondays at 8 p.m. and Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC and CTV.