Man. You take one little week off, and “The Voice” ups and crowns its season three champion. It’s as though Xtina just had to get out and promote “Lotus,” (or, as some of you may know it, “Not Genie In A Bottle”) as soon as those eight-inch heels would allow.
Hey Monday. You know what that is, right? Oh, you don’t? Well, let me explain: When the pop-punk boom from about 2003 to about 2009 ran amok in the popular music universe, any faction of people with silly haircuts, tight jeans and way too many rings in way too many body parts landed a record deal. It was like allowing Oprah to go wild at a Hershey factory — everything in sight was picked up, consumed and spit out without a shred of repercussion ever being even slightly considered.
Among the lottery winners were Hey Monday, a third-rate Paramore from somewhere in Florida led by Ms. Cassadee Pope. The formula was simple: Cute girl. Angry words presented in an adorable fashion. More sugar than a candy store. Collaborate with a band that screams. Dye your hair. Pretend to hate hygiene. Wash. Repeat. I know this because I shared stages with other cities’ versions of Paramore every now and then in another life. Pittsburgh’s version of the formula? Not so great.
In any case, Hey Monday got when the gettin’ was good, at precisely the right time. Just as the fad was dwindling, they wound up opening for Fall Out Boy on one of their last big, blow-out arena tours. The group’s lead singer even started dating All Time Low’s drummer (there’s your local connection), and before Sugar ever even began to realize anything was going down, the bubble burst, Pete Wentz and Jessica Simpson’s sister divorced and something called Forever The Sickest Kids was deemed irrelevant.
Why does this matter to you, the fantastically observant blog-reader who comes to TV Without A TV for all things “The Voice?” Well, as it turns out, that band’s former lead singer is now your most recent chair-weilding singing contest winner. Interesting, isn’t it? I mean, we’ve all wondered if this day would come — part of the show’s hook was that it was willing to take anyone, from any walk of life, as long as they pretended to know who Blake Shelton was, and turn them into a star (darling, a star!). And now, as it goes, the show has done just that: A former real, live, professional record-selling musician beat out the typical slew of waitresses, bartenders and “actors” that flock to these kinds of things to walk away victorious.
What does it mean? Oh, let’s look at you, James Hibberd of Entertainment Weekly …
“The two-hour live closer delivered 14 million viewers and a 4.9 rating among adults 18-49, making it the most-watched and highest-rated ‘Voice’ finale yet,” he wrote last week. “And that includes last spring’s edition, which received a significant initial boost premiering out of the Super Bowl. ‘The Voice’ was up 11 percent to a season high Tuesday evening.”
Yes. Christmas came early for Carson Daly.
All right, then. So, how did we get here?
“Despite the disappointing predictability of the final rounds — due largely to the rule where new iTunes sales = infinity points — I have to say, I liked the new approach for the purity of competition that it allowed,” TV.com’s MaryAnn Sleasman said during her best-impression-of-Lisa-De-Moraes-review of the show, “you know, outside of the iTunes problem which I hope will be refined when ‘The Voice’ returns in March (though I doubt it will be). Bland, pretty Cassadee Pope is being hailed as ‘The Voice’s’ Kelly Clarkson, and given her already present fanbase from the Hey Monday days combined with new recruits from ‘The Voice,’ Pope stands poised to be the first winner of ‘The Voice’ who we don’t forget about in two weeks.”
OK, two weeks is tough. I give her 10 days. Plus wait a second — on behalf of all the Kelly Clarkson fans in the world, let me be the first to say the following: There is only one Kelly Clarkson, in this universe, sweetheart! Only one!
Anyway, this season also marks the final go-around before the suits at NBC finally decide to take my advice seriously (what took so long!?). As I’ve been preaching after the conclusion of each set, the idea of switching up the panel of judges is one that, at this point, is coming exactly two years too late. This spring, Shakira and Usher will step in for Xtina and Cee-Lo, the latter because of a residency he’s been putting off for months now, the former, because she’s still convinced her relevancy is something to consider in the pop music world. Only one of those stars is doing the right thing, friends.
You can decide which one is which.
So, as we like to ask at the end of each season … what does it all mean? Well, as many have pointed out in recent weeks/months, it seems that the already-dumbed-down American conscience is beginning to resist the karaoke competition flood. “The X Factor” is a joke when you consider the expectations it had along with what actually happened. “American Idol” had a surprising resurgence two years ago, but since then, its future now looks even worse than Mr. Cowell’s. It’s called singing show fatigue, friends, and it’s clear the populace is experiencing it to the umpteenth degree.
That said, next year’s “Voice” run will arguably be its most important. As The New York Times argued last week, the show single-handedly brought NBC back to prominence. Without it, who really thinks the network would be enjoying its recent string of ratings success? Nobody, I tell you. Nobody. That’s why the carrousel of judges coming and going in March seems like it will be a make-or-break moment for not only the longevity of this particular program, but also the singing-competition trend.
None of this should be surprising. As I noted the last time we sat down with this show, “The Voice” has always had an expiration date. Adam Levine essentially released a solo album this year with Maroon 5’s “Overexposed,” yet he has been unable to fully capitalize on the resurgence in popularity of his band because of “The Voice” schedule. That will admittedly change at the end of winter as the group will finally be able to give that record a proper tour, but — and this is a fairly significant but — if the delay in getting on the road proves to have an adverse effect on both Maroon 5 and Levine’s star wattage, you can bet the farm and all its fruitcake that the singer will do what he can to make sure this misstep doesn’t happen again.
The other end of this equation, of course, is what may happen to Xtina and Cee-Lo. Let’s say she gets lucky and one of those dreadful new songs takes off, extending the shelf life of “Lotus” and subsequently allowing her the ability to actually sell tickets at concerts (something that she hasn’t been able to do in recent years, by the way). Do you really think she’ll head back to a swiveling chair to judge Mary from Nebraska’s take on “Somebody That I Used To Know?” Not a chance. Cee-Lo, on the other hand, may never be in the position to see television again, considering his recent battle with abuse allegations. By the time his stay at the Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas comes to an end, who knows how tarnished his image may be?
It’s going to be a very interesting and very important off-season for the little show that could. In May, I said that “The Voice” needs to get better. That point is moot now. The implication of moving forward in a constructive way currently takes a back seat to the waning popularity of the genre of television with which this show is most acutely associated: Reality.
Things will look different in March, that’s true. But those updates and advances will mean nothing if season four of “The Voice” ends up being its last.