The numbers for The Voice have been big over the past couple of days, even without the boost from the Super Bowl: 17.7 million viewers tuned in last night, and a 6.6 rating among the coveted adults between the ages of 18 to 49. It makes sense that the show is doing well. Two episodes into its second season, The Voice is improving on its strengths, providing a real debate about American popular music.
Because the judges actually have to compete against each other, the candidates are doing something smart: in cases where more than one judge turns their chair around, they’re actually asking questions. They want to know why the judges were compelled by their singing. They’re curious as to whether the judges think they should stick within a genre and build a strong identity there or try to transcend it. Blake Shelton’s been winning candidates over by appealing to the ones who truly want to be country stars, while Adam Levine and Cee Lo Green have been pitching themselves as coaches who don’t want to see their artists get limited. The judges’ answers aren’t as good as the candidates’ questions yet, but I hope that’s something that they’ll improve on over time. And the fact that those conversations are happening at all are an encouraging thing for people like yours truly who have everything from OutKast to Toby Keith in their playlists and who want to see these genres in conversation. Because they already are, whether American Idol acknowledges it or not.
Do we still need more of that stylistic diversity represented on the stage? Of course. But I like that there’s a singer with opera training on Christina’s team, and I’m holding out hope, as Cee Lo promised me at TCA press tour, that we’re going to get an MC, too. If The Voice can walk the line between increasing the stylistic diversity of its singers without tipping over into novelty act territory, it’ll just become a more interesting show. And now that we’re over the initial novelty of seeing superstars woo contestants, the show will only get better as those competitions get more fierce and specific.