A few months ago, I wrote that “American Idol” is the reality series where washed-up musicians go to die. I can’t say the same for “The Voice,” NBC’s hot summer singing show, which has soared with ratings ever since its April 26 premiere.
While pop stars Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine and country singer Blake Shelton are far from washed-up (all have released records within the last year), there is one glaringly “over it” host in the mix. I’m sure you’ve seen the ad — if you’ve watched anything on NBC in the past three months, it was impossible to miss.
So if all these big name superstars are doing their thang, putting out the records and making cash money, what on earth are they doing on a reality TV talent competition? The answer is simple: they want to be the ones that can claim they discovered “The Voice.”
The relationship between the discoverer and discoveree can vary in nature. Take Usher and Justin Bieber. There’s no doubt that when Biebs’ career starting taking off, tacking Usher’s name on the end of every Bieber-related press release only helped the kid get on his feet, not bring him down. In a matter of months, Bieber Fever became a legit excuse to get out of class and Usher assumed full-on “big brother” responsibility.
Not all careers take off that fast. Justin Timberlake signed YouTube singer Esmee Denters to his Tennman Records label back in 2007, but does anyone even remember the name? Her videos have tens of million of views and her album charted at No. 5 in her home country of the Netherlands, and yet we barely heard a peep over here.
On a different, hard-to-reach note, has anyone noticed that a good handful of singers on “The Voice” have generated a bit of 15 minute fame elsewhere? Big belter Tarralyn Ramsey, who won VH1’s “Born to Diva,” hosted by Queen Latifah in 2004, has put out records, and has toured with Mary J. Blige and Beyonce. Too-cute-for-words married duo Elenowen has a record on iTunes and received some serious blog hype in 2010. Frenchie Davis was kicked off “American Idol” for some semi-scandalous topless photos. Smooth singer Javier Colon put out a record with Capitol (!) and has performed with Joss Stone and Darius Rucker. Sisters Taylor and Tori Thompson were contestants on 2003’s “American Juniors” and made it to the finish line with the help of millions of voters. Dia Frampton is one-half of the sibling duo Meg & Dia, which released albums with Warner Brothers and Sire Records, and even has a review on Pitchfork. We get that these people are talented, for sure. But who exactly is doing the “discovering” here?
Allison Berger is a Philadelphia-based writer and a Pop music columnist for Reverb. Check out more of her writing here.