Can anyone name a person who has benefited from a spot as a reality TV singing competition judge more than Blake Shelton has? The answer is no. Nobody can.
For four seasons, now, I've taken to this very blog to poke fun at Mr. Lambert, and for at least three of those seasons, the guy has gotten the last laugh, even somehow turning the lead singer of failed punk-poppers Hey Monday into a karaoke competition star. Dude has carved out quite the following, bro-ing it up with the bro-tastic bro from Maroon 5, occasionally showcasing his thinly veiled comedic chops and offering up so many winks and nods that you have to wonder if his contact lenses are on the fritz.
But alas, this is the world in which we live, a place catering to the underdog, a place happy to celebrate obscurity. Say what you want about him or his perfectly arranged hair (and, of course, we will), but you can't deny his staying power, no matter how obnoxious his whole "I'm just a little country artist who is humble and down-to-earth" schtick can feel every now and then. Seventy-five percent of the time, the guy's a champion. I can't quite figure out if that's an indictment on the people who devote their lives to celebrating popular culture, or if that's an indictment on the state in which popular culture now finds itself: Hungry for charm and obsessed with an America constantly reminding the world how red, white and blue it is.
Danielle Bradbery, a 16-year-old future Annie who might enjoy a pistol or two, was crowned the fourth season's winner about, oh, say, 62 years ago (or, so it seems). Our Hero, Blake, with the help of an immaculate looking 67-year-old Cher (my God, I need the number of her plastic surgeon by 5 p.m. today), led her to the Promised Land.
OK. Well, maybe the Cher thing is a stretch, but at least she was there. Boy, oh boy, she was there. And with no Lisa De Moraes to rip off, we'll instead turn to the Los Angeles Times' Amy Reiter ...
"Old enough to be Danielle Bradbery's grandma but looking, if not quite like her sister, at least like her youthful aunt," Reiter wrote, "the iconic performer appeared in one of her trademark out-there getups (blingified leather; fishnet; wacky, chickenish hair), flanked by gyrating dancers, to debut her new single 'Woman's World,' in what was billed as her first live TV performance in more than a decade. Was she singing live? Who knows? Maybe, I guess, over a backing track. But honestly, it hardly mattered. Watching her out there doing her thing, albeit slowly, at age 67 ... was riveting regardless."
As for the other performers, the list went a little bit like this:
Pitbull, fresh off his abnormally stagnant Preakness set (and on the heels of what has to be the summer's most infuriating package tour with Keisha), brought out ... you guessed it ... a decidedly less Xtina-ish Christina Aguilera for a duet that made Adam Levine blush. Speaking of Preakness fun, Florida Georgia Line stumbled out there to team with Nelly for their ... oh forget it. The only thing worse than that trio is nothing. Bob Seger held court with the Swon Brothers during "Night Moves," giving whole new meaning to the word "Why." Bruno Mars Bruno Mars-ed the place up. One Repbulic ... blah. And Hunter Hayes sang himself into a supporting role in an eventual updated, country-fied reboot of "From Justin To Kelly."
Got that? Good. Now to the ratings. Attracting 15.3 million viewers, "The Voice" climax bested the finale of its most popular competitor, the oh-my-god-what-is-happening-to-us "American Idol," by about a million eyeballs (or, I guess, assuming everyone watching has more than one eyeball, the accurate number would be, say, two million eyeballs). For those trying to find perspective, game six of the NBA finals this year — one of the best NBA finals in a long, long time, by the way — brought in roughly 16.2 million people, making it the most-watched piece of television in the U.S. this year, to date. "The Voice" crowning, then, finished No. 2.
Bradbery, meanwhile, was part of Shelton's "dream team" (his words, not mine). She's the first country artist to win the show and she was also the first "Voice" personality to post a top 10 song on iTunes this season. Her debut single will be unleashed next Tuesday and yes, unless she decides to devote her entire life to music — tisk, tisk — she will graduate high school in 2015.
Yeah, and what have you done with your life?
The best part? Sir Elton John, he of little remorse, decided to sound off on the whole exercise when he appeared on BBC Radio 4's "Front Row," noting how the audience cares only about the judges and not the show's competitors. Oh, this is good ...
"Nobody on 'The Voice' in America has had a hit record," he said, according to the website Digital Spy. "Nobody on 'The Voice' in England has had a hit record. They're nonentities. Television and video have done a lot of damage to music. They've propelled people into stardom that aren't ready for it, you know, and can't sustain it. And they're only as good as the next song."
He's not wrong.
(Side: Adding fuel to the fire are rumors that Adele might replace Jesse J as a judge for the next season of the UK's "Voice." Silly me, I watched a few episodes of the thing while in Paris earlier this year, and if you think Adam Levine is obnoxious, get a load of the dude from Good Charlotte).
Anyway, the Big Lineup Experiment will cease next season when Ms. A and Cee-Lo head back to their oversized chairs, leading us to note two things. 1) Jeez, that hiatus really did wonders for their careers, because clearly they accomplished so much while being away from the show. And 2) Usher and Shakira are supposed to be coming back for season six, which is odd, because in season seven, the latest hot-stove item is that the lineup of judges will look like this: Blake, Shakira, Cee-Lo and Xtina.
Oh, so Maroon 5 has to tour ... in a year-and-a-half?
The revolving door of judges seems like a weird gimmick, no? Why sub out only two people per season, and why go back to the people you initially picked to steer the ship when others left the boat for land? And silly me, here I thought the suits at NBC finally read this blog when they decided to bring in new blood this season!
Call me crazy, but reusing fresh meat sort of defeats the purpose of the word fresh, doesn't it? Tell all four judges to pack their stuff up and bring in a rotating cast of stars (ha!) every other season. Shoot, turn some eyeballs, express your outlandish gull and bring in ... ready for this? ... a former "Idol" judge. Oh, just imagine! It would be like Hulk Hogan going all NWO on us. How great would that be?
And so it goes. For those still tuning in, the next season will kick off Sept. 23.