Let me repeat that last one: I like this show. A lot.
It's to the point that I look forward to chatting with Our Dear Editor on Facebook every Monday and Tuesday night as soon as he finishes watching the West Coast feed of that evening's episode. I used to disavow my predilection for the four red spinning chairs and the outlandish personalities that reside within, but I'm not so ashamed of myself any more. It's a silly program that features sob stories about the hard times people have experienced on their way to getting the chance to showcase their talents. And like most shows of this nature, the producers know exactly how to best cut and splice the tape to have each singer's stories hit you right in the feels.
You think we'd be immune to such emotional shenanigans at this point in television history, but you'd be wrong.
All of that setup and exposition to say this: This season might actually be the weakest of the 4, even though the collection of talent might be the best. And here's my theory on why this might be.
This show continues to crush in the ratings and dominate iTunes when it's time to "vote" for the singer that people think should move forward into the next round. And while the discussion of whether or not the validity of ratings can determine a show's actual popularity is one for another time, there seems to be enough people across all the desirable demographic groups to warrant this show getting a 5th Season later in 2013.
However, for all of the marketing and advertising pull that The Voice has as a show, it has not turned into an artistic tastemaker of any note. Take American Idol (seriously - take it as far away as possible, please) for example. Say what you will about the Machiavellian machinations of Simon Cowell and the bland ubiquity of Ryan Seacrest, the show has launched some serious musical careers.
Look at the names of the winners and tell me how many you've forgotten were actual Idol contestants: Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Merino, Carrie Underwood, and Jordin Sparks. For an even better reference, check out the names of contestants who didn't win that still developed careers because of the show: Clay Aiken, Jennifer Hudson (!), Chris Daughtry, Katherine McPhee, Mandisa, and Adam Lambert.
(Hell, Blake Shelton brought Kelly Clarkson onto The Voice as a guest adviser on Season 2, solely because she won a singing competition and became a superstar.)
The crux of my theory is this: until The Voice launches any sort of career of any sort of worth, it will always be a show dominated by the gimmick that is the red turning chair and the personalities of the four judges. Thus, the show and the coaches are doing everything in their power to create a winner that everyone will like, whose records everyone will buy, and whose concerts everyone will attend.
Think of it this way. If you've ever read the magazines at the checkout stand when buying your groceries, you've seen more ink spilled about the bromance between Adam Levine and Blake Shelton, much less whatever kooky outfit was donned by Cee-Lo Green or Christina Aguilera (never refer to her as Xtina) then you ever have about the actual contestants. Granted, you're not hearing as much about Idol (much less The X-Factor) contestants as you have in past years, but the show still possesses a cultural cache that The Voice does not.
I can hear the naysayers now: "The Voice voting system in the 'Live Shows' depends upon fan voting from iTunes, text messages, phone calls, Facebook voting, and other sundry social media outposts! The judges don't have any say in who gets voted on and off!"
Hence, Blake is going for the most likely country star possible, while Adam is going for the most over-the-top pop icon he can imagine. Shakira has been a pleasant surprise as a fun judge, but she's still rather vanilla compared to Cee-Lo, and Usher is just awkward and annoying, thinking that his style and "I made Justin Beiber" swagger will help him win. Nevertheless, those two have always been placeholders, and it's been announced that Christina and Cee-Lo are slated to return Fall 2013 for Season 5.
The point of my theory is this: The Voice is the only real ratings draw that NBC has at this point, but it still needs that one BIG STAR to be birthed from its loins. So, the next time you wonder about what happened to your favorite singer and why he/she isn't competing with the tepid likes of Kris Thomas, The Swon Brothers, or Caroline Glaser, just blame NBC and its drive to have The Voice be important.