What Idol Could Learn from The Voice

So, now that the inaugural season of The Voice is over, and their first winner – Javier Colon – has been crowned, what will other talent shows, namely American Idol, learn from it?

Probably nothing since they will arrogantly think it has no bearings on their own show, as Randy Jackson already tried to call it “gimmicky,” even though its domination on itunes these past few weeks is nothing to sneeze at.  Indeed, I actually think the whole concept of judges/coaches serving as “mentors” is designed to spill over into Simon Cowell’s new X-Factor show for next fall season.  Although from what I understand, that show will be much more mean-spirited, so may Idol won’t learn a thing.

I do think they should be paying attention for if they were to go head to head with The Voice, Idol just might lose (and I say might because there is one thing Idol has over The Voice that might give it the edge in ratings, which I’ll explain later).

1.  Put the emphasis on vocal talent!  

I’m not surprised that Javier eventually won because, at the end of the day, he clearly had the best “Voice.” I don’t think he had the best performances (that would be Beverly), the best emotional delivery (that would be Vicci), or the best vocal phrasing and nuances (that would be Dia), but if we’re just going on vocal strength and power, Javier had this over the others.  And, because of that, it’s great to see him triumph.

Now, compare a Javier to a Scott McCreery. *crickets*

2. Maintain diversity!

It’s great to see the show put on display such a diverse group of contestants – both in terms of music, race, gender, and ethnicity.  There was a time Idol used to look like this, so what the heck happened these past few seasons?

Psst, I’ll tell you what happened. Over time, they stopped looking for the best vocal talent and started looking for a potential record seller, as if anyone could tell right off the bat who’s going to “sell big” or become a “superstar.”  How about you pick the most impressive singers, and from there, let America decide?  What happened is, once they looked for “marketable” contestants, they stopped focusing on vocal talent. Once this happened, America had no choice but to choose the “least offensive” in terms of the pool of mediocre talent, and as a result, most voters chose those contestants who they could relate to (which is why “diversity” started to fade away).  There’s a reason why the Melinda Doolittles, Fantasia Barrinos, and Ruben Studdards advanced as far as they did back in the day.  They had the vocal power and performances to back them up.  They also had the ability to “connect” to the regular American voters.  We need more vocal powerhouses to shake up Idol, period.  Idol needs to get back to its roots and stop looking for “marketability.”

American voters don’t get behind folks who look like Top 40 material.  There’s a reason why Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Bruno Mars, Pitbull, and Nicki Minaj would never win on Idol.  Beyond the vocal “talent,” they’re not “regular folks.”

Find the regular vocal powerhouses for the show and let America vote, and then let the labels who sign them decide how to market them later.

3.  Pick Mentors who could really coach amateur talents toward more professional performances

This was a key component in the way The Voice contestants delivered so strongly.  Much attention was given to create engaging live performances, something sorely missing on Idol, or something terribly disparate in which some contestants get lights and back-up choirs while others getting nothing, or worse, a soundcheck technical glitch! Geez, after all these years, what does Idol’s money go into? Certainly not into their sound system, and definitely not into song royalties, which leads me to:

4. Pick current songs, or pick new old songs!

How many new seasons must I be treated to “Alone” or “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” or the same old tired Motown songs on Idol?  When can we hear a current song, or if not a current song, maybe a song not yet performed on Idol? That was one thing I did like about Casey Abrams this past season. Anyone who could bring in “I Put a Spell on You” or Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (no matter how screechy it eventually sounded) gets a pass from me.  But The Voice was mostly fresh in the way we heard current songs from the past 10 or 15 years or new twists on old songs.  In a singing competition, the onus on contestants is to make a song sound like I hadn’t heard it before.  Which finally brings me to:

4. Pick great original songs!

What a concept! Having your finalists sing original songs written by songwriting hit-makers!  I honestly enjoyed all the new singles from The Voice’s finalists: Javier’s “Stitch by Stitch,” Vicci’s “Afraid to Sleep,” Dia’s “Inventing Shadows,” and Beverly’s “Lovesick,” all sounded radio-friendly and worthy of a singer’s strengths.  Don’t even get me started on Idol’s “I Love You This Big,” the winner’s “coronation song.”  I mean, it’s like Idol goes out of its way to be cheesy.  In The Voice, we finally get a singing competition that actually treats singing as a legitimate talent and worthy of competition and airtime.

5. Do a Battle Round!

In this singing competition, I do like that concept of pitting singers against each other on The Voice, but I will admit it got a bit repetitive.  I do think, on Idol, it should be something done for Top 4 and definitely for Top 2 shows.  Have the contestants engaged in a sing-off duet.  I can tell you now, had David gone up against Cook in a real “boxing match” of vocals, puh-lease! He so would have delivered a genuine “knockout.”  At least, it would force voters to take seriously the judges’ charge that it is a “singing competition.”

Having said all this, I do think Idol soars in one area where The Voice still lacks:

Personality, personality, personality.  I mean, don’t get me wrong: I think the contestants on The Voice came off rather well, and it is interesting to see how they all bonded with their coaches/mentors, but I do like that Idol gives you a whole season to really get to know and follow a “favorite.”  David had me at “Hello, Gorgeous!” even before he opened up his mouth to sing “Heaven.” There’s a reason I love “Hollywood” rounds on Idol – the most “organic” part of the show.

Despite their many talents, I still don’t think I know Javier, Vicci, Beverly, or Dia all that well.  Perhaps this would have skewed the votes even more, perhaps not.  But, I would like The Voice to develop this aspect in their show much more, rather than make it all about the coaches, which – to be honest – they already skewed the vote because, IMO, after the initial phase of their selecting contestants just based on “the voice,” in the subsequent shows, they let other factors distract them from that concept. If they didn’t, do you really think Adam would have chosen a Casey over a Jeff?  Just saying.

I’d rather “America” choose contestants for “other factors” rather than have coaches do this.  Heck, I’d rather “America” had gotten to choose who won the “battle rounds.”  I do think The Voice’s coaches got too much say in the final analysis.

But then again, it is nice for a show to be upfront about that – rather than manipulate an entire season to get what they want – because had the “professionals” not weighed in, contestants like Beverly and Vicci might not have made it as far.  I mean, we do see what “America” chooses when they don’t get enough “professional guidance,” as they most certainly didn’t this season on Idol: we got a Scotty McCreery, who was not even the best of the guys, much less the best of the Top 12 finalists all around.

Give or take, The Voice must be commended for showcasing vocal talents in edgier and far more interesting ways.  Now, if Idol could actually get back to showcasing strong talents like it used to, we won’t be “plagued” with these “lame” winners that we’ve been receiving of late.


Posted on June 30, 2011, in American Idol. Bookmark the permalink. 35 Comments.

  1. Wow! Love your thorough analysis HG. I enjoyed the Voice once contestants got narrowed down. Didn’t particularly like the boxing rounds. Like you would like to hear more about them. Many did have a soft spot for Javier and his family story. He does have a beautiful voice. Dia was my favorite with Javier as my second pick.
    Love the mentoring that went on and except for Christina’s sarcasm during judging. Could do without the twitter gal or someone easier to listen too. Wasn’t to happy that Justin Bieber got recruited to ask his fans to vote for Javier and that Adam thanked him on twiitter. Think the fact that Javier sold well toward the end,speakes that many voted for the voice. Some are predicted that bieber will have a duet with Javier in the not too distant future. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

  2. oops speaks predicting

  3. I think you hit the nail on the head!!! Great points.

    I didn’t watch all of the voice and didn’t get “invested” in the people all that much because I thought the personalities of the judges overshadowed the personalities of the contestants. That being said, I agree somewhat that the “mentoring” on The Voice did help develop the contestants, but sometimes I think that got in the way of “seeing/hearing” their actual voices. What I do think the mentoring did was expose the younger contestants as not being ready for prime time versus the older contestants who already had much more experience. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, because I think the current trend towards trying to make stars out of younger people is terrible. It takes a “very rare” young person to handle the rigors of the music business without falling victim to all the pitfalls that await.

    I do think Idol tried for the “mentoring” aspect, too. However, Jimmy Iovine (and some of their other mentors) actually hurt the contestants on AI because their “vocals” were lost in the attempt to make it a ” entertaining performance”. You cannot make a contestant into a seasoned performer in a few weeks. You can tell the difference in those who have had more experience before coming on the show. That goes for The Voice or American Idol. Idol wants that “young” contestant that will become the next Justin Bieber and make them lots of money. They did not get it in Jordin or David because they would not/could not change their beliefs to sell records at their young ages. This year, instead of finding the “pop teen”, Idol “emphasized” the “country teen” because they don’t have to be “bad” … sell sex or be gangsta … in order to sell records. Country music fans are generally the kind of people who don’t “steal” music; they actually buy it. If you want to make money and have a compliant/malleable client, get yourself a young, country singer whose parents may not be savvy in the workings of the music business. Haley Reinhardt did not fit that billing.

    Your comment about the song options available to Idol is right on the money. If I hear “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” one more time, I’ll gag. I feel the same way when they give a Bollywood dance to a contestant on So You Think You Can Dance. It’s like saying “Don’t vote for this person; we don’t want them to win”. As much money as Idol spends on judges and “special guest singers”, you’d think they could take a small portion of that and spend it on royalties for more songs to sing and not the same old ones year after year after year. They got a bit better this year. When they chided David and/or his father for adding the line to “Stand By Me” I couldn’t believe that the paltry amount it might cost them versus the same old songs they were making people sing and the exorbitant salaries the judges were making, made any sense at all. They combine songs now with no problem and they certainly had no problem paying for David to sing it that way during the AI tour. Not to mention, they could have stopped it before he actually sang it, rather than acting like they didn’t know he was going to do it?!?! And, you’re correct, surely there are better original songs than AI has continually come up with. Sheesh.

    I have no doubt there were extremely talented people trying out for American Idol through the years and for The Voice this year who were as talented if not more so than anyone who actually made it on the show. Maybe they were too polished or not polished enough to make it. Maybe they didn’t have “the look” (hence the voice takes that out of the equation — supposedly; still someone saw them in the first place) to make it to the judges round. Maybe they were too old to “market” to the teens who actually bought music when Idol first started. Maybe they didn’t have a “story”. You indicated you wanted to get to know the people that were on The Voice, but on American Idol, I wanted to know “less”. They shoved those sob stories down my throat over and over; once was enough. I have empathy, but I’m not voting for Queen For A Day, I’m voting for the person I want to hear sing. For sure, The Voice had more diversity.

    Sorry I got so verbose. I could go on, but I’ll stop. No one will read this lengthy reply anyway. LOL

    • bluebird- “No one will read this lengthy reply anyway. LOL” au contraire. Enjoyed reading your thoughts. : )

    • Bluebird, I read the whole thing. Thanks for your input. Know how you feel though. I write on these blogs and sometimes wonder the same thing. I appreciated a comment from HG recently.

    • Lots of good points here. I also want to know “less” about the American Idol contestants. I think The Voice contestants are better positioned to succeed with the general public knowing less personal information about them.

  4. Thanks HG for your analysis and you made some great points.

    I do like to know the contestants more but only as far as what music they like and what kind of music they hope to make and sing. Idol burned me out with their juicing some of the hardship stories and I don’t care for that at all.

    Agree with Heidi about losing the twitter lady. Do we really need the itunes info? I think that might sway the voting.

    • Ha! comolaflor “losing the twitter lady” for the win.

    • I agree that you made some great points about the voice hg. I don’t like the itunes counting in the vote or knowing the results of them. Carson Daly is also just so stiff as the host. I did like the show. Also no twitter girl. I agree.

  5. Some things never change.

    “American Idol Season 7 has spawned some of pop music’s biggest acts including David Cook and baby-faced balladeer David Archuleta, and as Idolator points out you can listen to a radio rip of the young singer’s newest cut Everything and More.”

    Naturally, it’s David Cook — just David Cook, simply David Cook — and “baby-faced balladeer” David Archuleta.

    “Featuring Archuleta’s super-sweet vocals and a ‘Glee’-esque piano line we can see this playing at every prom in town. Co-written by Grammy-winning songwriter Victoria Horn, Archie’s latest is his most mature music to date.”

    Of course, they haven’t actually listened to any of his songs and are just vomiting nonsense.

    Also, I’m pretty sure that the first-week result for David Cook’s second album will be regarded as excellent, even though the numbers will only be a little higher than those for TOSOD.


    • Read the article and I wouldn’t say that Cook’s album came out to “high acclaim.” His sales were low and I’ve read very mixed reviews about the album.

    • with glee situation, i wonder if david’s supposed girlfriend charice has something to do with it. my answer is YES!. leaving tomm morning for my family vacation, peace out souldavid.

    • I wish that David could get on Glee. lol That would be a great boost for his career. I saw this comment on one of the blogs where they are discussing Cook’s sales: “the thing that struck me about these estimates is that Cook and David A. are on course to see very similar percentage drops for their opening week numbers (80% ish) but David A. had a fraction of the promotion.” I thought that was a good point. I am sure Cook’s fans will try and spin the low numbers but the sales and reviews aren’t good for the album.

  6. Next to David, my favorite Idol contestant is Chris Daughtry. I purchased both his albums, although I can’t say I have ever visited a fansite of his. My point is…Chris waited almost 3 years to release his 2nd album. His sales were fantastic for both albums.
    Nov. 21, 2006 Daughtry 1st week sales: 304,000
    July 14, 2009 Leave This Town 1st week sales: 269,000
    I believe Chris “left” American Idol in the past real quick. He was and still is never referred to as an AI alumni.
    I thought the comparisons between the two rockers sales and length between releases was something to ponder.

  7. This article is a great analysis of “The Voice” as has been said already. The show itself is something that I looked at rather lightly. I am probably in the minority on that statement. But after saying that I will say that from a bystanders view point it seemed that the mentors showcased themselves more than I enjoyed or expected. I believe that more time could have been placed on the contestants than on Blake, Adam and Christina, especially during the finale shows.

    I was taken back a bit when super country star Brad Paisley had his song joined/interrupted by Blake. So this was another duet or was it another golden opportunity for Blake? I thought that the guest’s performance was diminished by Blake.

    So as someone who only watched the show without any devotion to it as a fan, that is some of what I saw. Oh nearly forgot, I would give them full marks for the diversity of contestants. But, far less marks for the game plan that told us that Dia had more sales on itunes than Javier so most likely she would be the winner. That’s an old Idol tactic.


  8. I didn’t follow “The Voice” that closely but from what I saw, it seemed more current than Idol.

    I used to be a fan of Carson Daly’s back when he hosted TRL on MTV. I had imagined he would be where Seacrest is now. As someone else mentioned, he seems stiff on this show yet he’s doing what used to seem so natural for him a decade ago.

  9. NPR article, “How Much Does It Cost to Make a Hit Song”

    Rihanna is def treated like a superstah, lol.

    • raelovingangels

      Great article….very interesting- the part about 1 million for “treating the radio guy’s nice” hmm…

  10. So, “I Was Here” has surpassed my love for “Best Thing I Never Had” from Beyonce’s new album.

    Just goes to show a nice ballad can deliver the goods.

    Man, I would love for David to get a stellar ballad. I like “Everything and More,” but it doesn’t deliver “money notes” like David could bang out.

    When oh when will he get that make or break song, I wonder…

  11. The ninja David strikes again !
    New from TDC !


    Watch out for the The Other Side Of Down: Asian Tour Edition, out July 2011. It includes the new hit single
    1. Everything and More
    2. Zero Gravity (from Spiderman)
    3. Love, Don’t Hate
    4. How To Breathe and
    5. Wait
    * Karaoke of the original MVs of Crush, ALTNOY, TMH, and SBL
    * Lyrics Booklet of the mentioned tracks

    OFFICIAL Press Release from Sony Music/Ivory Music will be forthcoming! We just asked permission that we share this with the ArchuWorld!


    New music ?! Interesting….

  12. Thanks Junnie!!
    Researched and found this about Ivory Records if it is the same company:


  13. Hold up, wait a minute! Zero Gravity from Spider Man?!!

    Is ZG going to be featured in a soundtrack? I’ve always felt this song never got the chance to receive appreciation.

    *Keeping fingers crossed.*

    • That would be great. ZG deserves to be heard by a wide audience.

      • Perhaps this is a misunderstanding based on the fan-made Spider-Man video with ZG as the background song.

    • Is Spider Man a producer or are they talking about the new movie?!

      • hell0g0rge0us

        I never heard of a producer by that name, especially relating to ZG.

      • maybe Spider Man is another name for MIC. *just kidding* LOL

        Sounds like the song may be used in a movie sound track. That’s great! It’s a great song and I’d love to see it released as a single with a high-quality production.

      • LOL at the Spiderman = MIC theory. If the information is correct, my guess is that it’s a producer.

  14. David at Fox 13 in Utah – he’s lookin’ older.

  15. Looking great:)

    Bumped into David archuleta @fox13now snapped this shot. He said he’s excited for the holiday gig in #Provo http://lockerz.com/s/115926536

  16. Nice Interview. I thought David looked and sounded great. I love the hair short.

  17. Its a shame he doesn’t have anyone to help with his wardrobe.

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