On Monday night, The Voice welcomed its latest coach and one among the foremost high-profile artists the singing competition has managed to accumulate in its 10-year run, Ariana Grande. Over the course of the two-hour premiere, the “Positions” singer was greeted with the maximum amount fanfare and hypocrisy from the contestants and her fellow coaches together would expect, first stealing the spotlight during a group performance of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and remaining the middle of her colleagues’ stale comedic banter throughout the show. The pop superstar even received a “thank u, next” button on her rotating chair.
Since its inception, the NBC reality-competition program has always put its celebrities front and center, taking cues from American Idol in its later seasons and promoting its star power and coach dynamics above the amateur talent. But the announcement of Grande on The Voice felt slightly more urgent and tactical, particularly since the recent departure of 1 of the show’s inaugural coaches, Adam Levine, who had more mainstream hits and relevancy amongst a younger, more female crowd as compared to artists like Blake Shelton, Jennifer Hudson, John Legend or maybe Gwen Stefani within the on-and-off years she’s coached.
like the addition of Miley Cyrus in 2016 and Nick Jonas last year, The Voice seems to be making another desperate bid for younger millennials and Gen Z’s attention, because the show’s viewership has increasingly skewed older like most network television within the streaming era. But while Grande and her legion of Arianators will presumably make some quiet impact during this department, the charismatic, astute coach still can’t save the show from itself. It becomes clear thirty minutes into Season 21’s premiere that The Voice will always be a protracted celebrity meet-and-greet, first and foremost.
While judges for more cutthroat competitions like American Idol and therefore the X Factor have historically been less approachable and more daunting—they purposely hold the position of judges, not coaches after all—The Voice has always presented its stars because the most caring and good-natured people within the industry, suggesting that you simply actually should meet your heroes and even feel safe enough in their presence to be the foremost vulnerable version of yourself. During a time when cruelty on reality-competition shows is phasing out, this #positivevibes ethos has worked within the show’s favor and even inspired American Idol to eliminate “bad” auditions.
More insidiously though, The Voice has successfully cashed in on viewers’—including the fame-hungry musicians that audition for the show—naive presumptions about celebrities, their supposed magic, and therefore the overestimated power of our proximity to them in favor of tangible outcomes for these immensely gifted competitors who deserve better than hyperbolic compliments from Kelly Clarkson and promised Instagram exposure from Grande. within the years that The Voice has become a broadcast television mainstay, much has been said of the competition’s glaring dilemma:
its inability to supply successful or, at the very least, recognizable artists. Every once during a while on Twitter, usually around the time, the show is gearing up for a replacement season, you’ll see a viral tweet pointing this out, challenging social media to call only one winner or comparing the show’s lack of care and attentiveness for its contestants to its Fox predecessor. That being said, measuring the achievements of those two shows and the way they did or didn’t live up to their conceits solely on the idea that they’re both televised singing contests may be a bit reductive and ignores how crucial social media and streaming became in how stars are discovered and made, where the public’s attention is drawn, and the way fans mobilize (not to say how oversaturated the music industry is compared to when American Idol premiered in 2002).
But consistent with The Voice contestants and even a number of the judges, NBC has dropped the ball on its winners even before they need a true opportunity to ascertain how they could fare against the Shawn Mendes and Billie Eilishes of the planet. In 2018, HuffPost reported on the post-competition careers of series winners. While Cassadee Pope, formerly of the already well-known pop-punk band Hey Monday, stands out as someone who’s noticeably thrived after her experience and garnered several country hits, past winners like Alisan Porter, Tessanne Chin, Craig Wayne Boyd, Javier Colon, and Sawyer Fredericks were either dropped by the Universal Music Group (The Voice’s prizes are $100,000 and a record affect Universal Music Group or its subsidiary Big Machine Records, which are both a part of NBCUniversal) or left on their own due to neglect. Winners Jordan Smith and Danielle Bradbery have found niche fame within the genres of Christian and country, but their marginal popularity still pales as compared to what we’ve seen reality TV alumni achieve, from Clarkson and Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson to the lads of 1 Direction.