'The Voice' Versus 'American Idol': Can the Crazy New Singing Show Compete with the Classic?
Meghan Carlson
Meghan Carlson
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
Carla writes about American Idol, the granddaddy of singing shows. Meghan writes about The Voice, the new addition to the reality family. Both watched last night's first live episode of The Voice, after which Meghan posed the most important question of all time to Carla: "What'd you think?" Here is the heated chat debate that transpired.

Meghan: As the Idol recapper, I am genuinely interested to hear what you thought of last night's live episode of The Voice.

Carla: Call me a traditionalist, but I think The Voice is weird.

Meghan: It is definitely weird. At least in the rules department. It's like the Calvin Ball of singing competitions. They seem to be making it up as they go along!

Carla: The rules are confusing, or at least the process? I was trying to explain it to my husband last night. Like, "Four people are going home, two from each team." "So one person is safe?" "Well, there's a viewer choice and a coach's choice." "So two people move on?" "Yes, from each team..."

Meghan: Yeah, I was having a hard time understanding the elimination process. Maybe because the word "save" is sort of misleading, because as we've come to understand the word in Idol-speak, that's when you get eliminated but then the judges pick you back up and "SAVE" you. On The Voice, "save" just means you made it through. And I guess this means that even if everyone on Blake's team gets a million more votes than everyone on Xtina's team, two from each team still need to go.

Carla: I will say that I'm glad they're not just eliminating one person every week. I like that it is quick. Cut-throat.

Meghan: I guess my question is: WHY make the rules so complicated? What is the possible upside, besides just making it seem wackier and non-Idol-esque?

Carla: Well, it takes less time than Idol. I appreciate that. Idol is a months-long process. Do you think people actually care which coach wins?

Meghan: I'm not sure, but I think people do care. At least, people have a preference for one or two of the celebrities, and after last night I doubt if anyone will want to watch Xtina gloat if she wins.

Carla: Oh man, the other coaches totally hate Xtina! Do you think it's because she's a child star?

Meghan: I don't think there's real hate. But she constantly interrupts and doesn't seem to understand the fine line between ribbing somebody and actually insulting them. But I love it. She's keeping things spicy!

Carla: Xtina is also kind of whiny. But I LOVE HER.

Meghan: Of course. We both do. She's Xtina.


Carla: Going back to the time issue, I think American Idol's lengthy process works for the show. We feel much more connected to the contestants, and I think there's a feeling that we really found the best vocal talent out there by the end of it.

Meghan: Yeah, I think that makes sense. It's hard for me to care who gets eliminated next week on The Voice because it still feels like we just met them. And we've heard all of them only three times, including their auditions.

Carla: Yeah, I don't care about many of these contestants, except Dia and Beverly from this week. But maybe that works for The Voice, because we don't feel so bad about making such dramatic cuts to the group every week.

Meghan: We'll see who gets eliminated, but I predict that's where the show gets weird on a meta level. Because it's called The Voice, but really the only people who have a hope of winning are the people who present themselves in a neat little package that we can all understand, since we have so little time to get to know them. So it's more like The Instantly Marketable Voice. Like Dia is the cute folksy artist, Patrick is the country boy, Beverly is the rocker, etc. I think the people who are doomed are the people like Lily and Xenia who don't quite know their niche yet.

Carla: Yeah. And another difference: Idol doesn't have dancers.

Meghan: Last night felt way over-produced. Which again rubbed me the wrong way because isn't this show supposed to be about raw talent, not light shows and dance numbers?


Carla: Exactly! Also, can we talk about the battle rounds? Even the people competing said it felt unnatural.

Meghan: Yeah, the battle rounds started out interesting to me, because the idea of a vocal fight to the death appeals to me. But it just became an excuse for the coaches to pick the people they wanted to pick anyway. After listening to them at their worst.

Carla: I wonder if the coaches stacked their teams at all.

Meghan: I'm sure they were choosing based on who they thought could get votes later on, not who sang best in the weird clashing duets.

Carla: Or who they wanted to deal with.

Meghan: That too.

Carla: Just saying, that Sarabee character was difficult.

Her and her jaunty hats! I guess what I want to know is, after a whole season of covering American Idol, does The Voice bring anything new or special to the table for you?

Carla: Well, I think it's different enough from American Idol, which has gotten a little stale. But, short answer: The Voice kind of sucks.

Meghan: I think it's unfortunate that The Voice has these fresh and new aspects in its live episodes, but most of them are annoying, unnecessary, or in direct conflict with what we were told the show is about. Those differences being: Pushing social media down our throats, the over-production, the super-short season, the confusing rules...

Carla: Yeah, The Voice is more about sets and production value (sometimes lack thereof) and competition, not necessarily "the voice." It does seem very thrown-together. It has always irked me that they never even bothered to make it look like they didn't film all the battle rounds over the course of two or three days.

Meghan: It irks me that the show is relying so heavily on the assumption that everyone loves to tweet "at" their TV. Sometimes we just want to watch and not participate! They may be alienating a lot more people than they realize.

Carla: It seems like they're trying really hard to prove that people care, when we haven't had enough time to care much.

Meghan: In France they actually just banned the words "Twitter" and "Facebook" from TV unless it's a news story directly about the topic. Basically the opposite objective of what The Voice is doing, which is this super-saturated social media advertising ABOUT the show WHILE the show is on.

Carla: I like the way those French think.

Meghan: You don't have to convince us that we love the show. We're ALREADY watching it! Stop trying so hard, The Voice. Stop self-congratulating about trending worldwide on Twitter. And stop hiring so many dancers!


Carla: Hahaha, good point. I guess my biggest complaint is that I don't think I care as much as the show wants me to. And when I do start caring, they just go and eliminate Tyler Robinson. #neverforget

Meghan: Oh my god, Tyler! That still hurts me, too. I'm going to stick with The Voice for the rest of the season. Not just because I have to cover it. I just want to see if they can pull off an "ends justify the means" situation with whoever wins. There are still plenty of very talented people left, and if they can crown one of them and get us to care by the end, then they did their job. Mostly.

So you're seeing it as an experiment?

Meghan: Yeah, I guess. It's like a Rube Goldberg Machine. Can they get the egg to the other side through this wacky, unnecessarily complex labyrinth?!

I guess I will mostly continue watching to see what weird things happen. That whole "Lady Marmalade" thing was a pleasant surprise last night. I will also watch to see what Christina will wear.

Meghan: I wonder how many male contestants she will hit on next week!

Or how many different textiles she'll combine into an "outfit"! As for the other judges, I like Blake Shelton. And I knew I'd like Cee Lo.

Meghan: Yeah, the coaches are making the show at this point. Their personalities and banter are what it's really all about. And I like Blake a lot. I'd want him as my mentor if I could pick. The way he was cheering on Xenia and then ran up there to give her a hug was so sweet. You can tell he genuinely cares.

Carla: I think The Voice is sort of burning the candle on both ends. I don't see it having the staying power of American Idol. It's also a timing thing. There are so many singing competition shows coming out right now. Idol is the blueprint, a dinosaur from the days of Survivor, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

Meghan: Yeah, American Idol is a relic. But can The Voice survive to replace it? To its credit, the contestants on The Voice are much more diverse, and I like that. So in that sense they do live up to their promise of being about talent, not youth. I mean: They eliminated so many hot girls!

Carla: I could see The Voice sticking around if they get new coaches every season.

Meghan: Really? I like the coaches!

Carla: I do too, especially Blake and Cee-Lo. But think how exciting it would be with new coaches every season. Or maybe they eliminate one coach every season, either the winner or the loser. Keep it fresh. Since this is all about competition, maybe the coach who comes in fourth is eliminated from the show, and they bring in a new coach. Then whichever coach wins is like, "the undefeated champ." It just seems like the stakes could be higher for the coaches, since this is all competitive. Call me, NBC!

Meghan: Haha. Great idea. Because what this show needs is MORE RULES!

Carla: ... Ha. Right. Fair.

Verdict: Inconclusive. On the one hand, The Voice is confusing. On the other, American Idol is ancient. What do you think? Is one better than the other, or are they just different shows that can co-exist in harmony?

(Images courtesy of NBC/FOX)