MaHB Television: Reality Gold

Esquire Malaysia + Esquire Singapore, August 2013

Reality gold
Will the real breakout stars of The Voice please stand up?

By Sophia Goh

The VoiceReality talent shows produce stars. Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson, Adam Lambert… We’ve seen it happen time and time again with American Idol, that grand-daddy of reality singing competitions, the predecessor that has paved the way for a half-dozen programmes of similar ilk. Then along came The Voice, and like the others, it immediately set about making superstars – but of its coaches. Huh?

Case in point: Adam Levine. When he first sat down on that red swivel chair, he was a good-looking, Grammy-winning, womanising rocker, one of many in Hollywood. Then his chair turned around and suddenly, he was the world’s newest megastar. Seemingly overnight, Levine became a global sensation and a lucrative brand, with clothing lines for Kmart, a new fragrance and a television development deal swiftly following suit. His band Maroon 5 has also benefitted from their frontman’s newfound popularity, gaining a new legion of fans and enjoying a surge in record sales. In comparison, the contestants on the show – as talented as they are – haven’t quite been able to replicate the success of American Idol’s winners. Remember season 1 winner Javier Colon? Or Season 2 winner… wait, what’s his name again?

Levine isn’t an exception. Blake Shelton has gone from country singer to household name, thanks to his refreshing lack of self-censorship, constant drinking and tweeting, and very big, very soft heart. One wonders if even Shelton himself realises just how effectively he’s spreading the gospel of country music to the world. Then there’s Usher, who stepped in for original coach Cee Lo Green this season. Already one of the world’s most successful entertainers, The Voice has allowed him to showcase a side of his personality rarely seen in his live performances, surely sending him on his way to becoming even bigger than ever before.

What is it about The Voice that makes its mentors go from star to superstar? Well, if we might be so bold…

They get to be naughty and nice. Any celebrity worth their bling can play the PR game, smile for the cameras and say the right things. But put something they want in front of them and make them fight for it, and that’s when you get to see more of what they’re like. So far, we like what we’ve seen.

Don’t knock the bromance. Levine has said he hates that word, but the fact is, he wouldn’t be anywhere near as successful without his partner-in-crime Shelton. For the most part, the chemistry between all four coaches has been wonderful to watch, perhaps even the main reason for the show’s success; but Levine and Shelton, in particular, have been television gold.

Caring is everything. It’s one thing to tear up during a performance or get emotional when someone is voted off, it’s another thing to coach and mentor the contestants, invest in them, root for them and – celebrity gods forbid – actually care for them. These guys really seem to care, and in return, we the viewers have cared right back.

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