The changes to The Voice are a mixed bag

The Voice - Season 3

‘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.

I’ve never been a fan of a way [the Battle Rounds] have been structured.

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.

The Steal changes everything.

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.

Keeping certain contestants off the air – especially for more than one round – is just a bit unfair.

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.

Photo Credit: Tyler Golden/NBC

5 Comments on “The changes to The Voice are a mixed bag

  1. . . . . .

    The Battle Rounds blow. Period.

    I haven’t watched enough of the season to intelligently comment on “The Steal” … but I will make merry on The Battle Rounds: What’s the point of two of the same team members going head to head and having their own mentor pick who stays and who leaves? Madness! Here’s how The Battle Rounds should be conducted:

    Randomly drawn, two contestants from differing teams are go head to head. The judging of the best of the two after the round goes to the two mentors who do not have either of the two contestants on their teams. Tie? No problem. Monkey Boy Carson gets that honor. It gives him something to do than glad-hand the families and friends rooting for contestants.

    Problem solved.

    Your mention above of how they short-change the audience of contestant performances is one of the problems I have with The Voice. The format needs tweaking there and on several other levels not the least of which is reining in some of the mentors’ banter … along with Christina’s ever-present boobs.

  2. I understand the concept of the battles. It’s a duet world out there in the music industry and finding out which singers have the chops for that, plays a part in developing what the show hopes will be the next (wave of) star singers. Add to the clunkiness of the feature, however, is the inability for some of the singers to bring their instruments if they used them in the auditions. Again, it’s part of the ‘training’ part of the show. (The French auditions last year included one singer playing a harp … maybe the ‘no instruments’ edict makes sense). You COULD argue that the battles offer the chance of the second-best talent being sidelined immediately, rather than in the semi-final. That alone, argues in favour of a change. I personally like the non-mentor judges deciding the winners 3-0 or 2-1 with the mentor getting two saves a year, as an alternative.

    Not showing all the singers, with some of the incredibly long back story padding? Indefensible. Battle round montages, WITH the long opening montages at the beginning of the night and the ‘recap’ for the memory-deficient at the end? Inexcusable. Just cut out the overly-long, puffed up ‘dramas’ in the mentor selections and you’d free up two more hours each cycle. Do an Academy Awards-like playing of their own song lead-in and then a buzzer.

    The Voice is the best of a bad lot of competition shows basically because it keeps, mostly, the idiot audience at arm’s length. By the time the viewers finally get sole say, the field has been reduced to an acceptible set of potential winners. The Voice also has two winning characters in Levine and Shelton, a harmless teddy bear in Green and … Aguilera, who’s making some efforts to not be a sourpuss this year. The American version could improve a lot by checking in on the availability of British mentor Jessie J (or Delta Goodrem of Australia’s version, for that matter). If only to save those shots of the former Genie in a Bottle waving her talons over the button and smirking.

    All complaints aside, The Voice remains better than the alternatives.

    • The challenge with letting the other judges vote on who wins is that the incentives would be incredibly out of wack.

      If the competing judges were voting on who would win a Battle Round, it is the best interests of their individual teams to vote OUT the best performer.

  3. Ah strategy vs reputation if the one they pick to lose turns out to be Kelly Clarkson. The game is afoot.

    • I’d hope their goal isn’t to discover the next Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood on the other team; their goal is to win :)

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