The changes to The Voice are a mixed bag
‘The Voice’ has made some changes to the format of the Battle Round this season. While the Steal is a great improvement, another change hurts the show in a much greater way.
I don’t like reality television; that’s not a secret around these parts. I’m quite famous for it around the halls of CliqueClack HQ. Generally I lump musical competition shows – heck, any competition show that’s not named Jeopardy! – into that mix. But The Voice has oddly become an exception to that rule. I’m a big fan of the Blind Auditions, of the chairs and of the judge’s interplay. I have not, however, been a big fan of the second round of competition.
Through the first two seasons, The Voice’s weak spot has always been the Battle Rounds. I’ve never been a fan of a way that portion of the competition has been structured. After their teams are fully constituted, the judges pair two competitors, pick the song they will sing and then are finally the arbiter of who advances. Call me a cynic – everyone does – but it has always felt to me like the judges have too much power to use the performance to justify a decision they’d likely made in advance. Not saying it happens every time – or often – but that particular round has had some of the oddest eliminations in both seasons.
The Battle Rounds also marginalize one of the show’s greatest assets: the competition and interplay between the judges. I love when Adam and Blake are giving each other grief over strategy, their music or whatever else that might have come up on any given day. But when the judges are only truly focusing on their own teams, there is literally no weight to anything they say about the other contestants. Combined with the power imbalance mentioned above, the Battle Rounds are a drag on the rest of the competition.
But the Steal changes everything. It’s a simple change, to be sure. So simple that it’s hard to believe it took them three seasons to come up with it. The Steal forces judges to make better strategic decisions with their matchups and who advances. It also makes things not so incredibly … what’s the word … oh, yeah: BORING. But just because we’re now living in post-The Steal world doesn’t mean things are so rosy on The Voice.
I’ve never been a fan of the show’s practice of “montaging” some of the results in the Blind Auditions. At the end of the competition, the audience decides who wins The Voice. Surely, we’re easily influenced by outside forces, like Justin Timberlake stumping on the Twitter for Tony Lucca last season — though I am still bitter about neither he nor Lindsey Pavao winning. But if the audience only sees the performances of some of the contestants in the first round, and the remainder in the Battle Rounds, then the others have a decided advantage in developing fans. But in Tuesday’s episode, The Voice montaged two Battle Round competitions, including contestants from Team Christina whose performance was also cut short in the Blind Auditions.
Frankly, this blows. As the show expands, from the number of contestants to the number of cycles in a calendar year, it doesn’t make a great deal of sense to gloss over these performances early on. Fans want an opportunity to see everyone in the competition. In the last two seasons, I connected with the contestants that I followed though the final rounds during their first performances. For those contestants whom we haven’t seen perform, they aren’t provided that same opportunity. The producers of The Voice have always had a great deal of influence on the competition; that’s not necessarily a criticism, it’s just a fact of life considering how these shows are put together. But keeping certain contestants off the air – especially for more than one round – is just a bit unfair.