Reasons why The Voice > American Idol

After randomly watching a rerun of The Voice, I became hooked. Initially, I wasn’t too interested in watching because so many singing-related talent shows have been infiltrating the airwaves. You’ve seen the shows: The Sing-Off, X-Factor, America’s Got Talent, and, of course, American Idol — in fact, I watched American Idol religiously in its first few seasons but eventually grew bored with it.

But I’ve become engrossed in The Voice. My boyfriend and I watch it every week, vote for the contestants, download the songs, tweet about it constantly, and spend way too much time critiquing the performances afterward (yes, we devoted 90 percent of our dinner conversation Monday night to The Voice). So what makes The Voice so much better than American Idol, the premier singing competition reality show?

1. The contestant pool 

American Idol‘s restrictions on its contestants are aimed to attract young, raw talent. The rules stipulate that you can’t have an agent, manager, recording contract, acting contract, or any other contract that the producers think would stop you from participating in the show; if you’ve been on the show before, you can’t re-audition if you made it past certain levels previously; and you have to be between 15 and 28 years old. Their restrictive contract also turns off applicants — Vicci Martinez made it to the regionals of American Idol but didn’t want to sign the restrictive contract and dropped out.

The Voice has more lax eligibility restrictions. Like Idol you can’t be related to anyone who works for the show or the production company, but the only age restriction is that you must be at least 16 years old. You can’t be holding or running for public office, either. In fact, Voice winner Javier Colon (34) and top four contender Beverly McClellan (41) wouldn’t be eligible to audition for American Idol.

The contestants on American Idol are typically less refined, lacking in professional experience, and are young — and sometimes it’s neat to see someone young like Diana DeGarmo make it to the final two, but it also makes for a lot of mediocre talent as you watch the numbers dwindle from 24 to, say, the top four. The Voice allows for more honed talent, with people like Dia Frampton — whose band Meg and Dia has been to Warped Tour several times and releases a few albums; Javier has released two albums; Vicci boasts eight albums; and Beverly boasts five.

Whereas American Idol wants raw, untapped talent, The Voice allows contestants who have had record contracts and albums but haven’t achieved mainstream success. I like that all the competitors are at the top of their game, have training, and are equally, highly talented with experience in the industry. It makes the competition more fierce and exciting to watch.

2. The time lapse 

I lose interest in American Idol because it drags on for months. Week by week, one by one, the dead weight gets voted off. I’m not interested or sad to see mediocre talent get voted off — wake me up when the best singers are left. But even then, the performers still sometimes aren’t that dynamic (likely because of inexperience). I like the fast pace of The Voice — two episodes (maybe three?) of auditions, then battle rounds, then quick cuts on each team from eight to four to two to one.

It’s hard to see talented people so quickly get kicked off the show, but it makes you want to watch when the cuts will be so dramatic. And the show doesn’t lose your attention because there’s only four episodes of voting. I can’t handle American Idol‘s six episodes of auditions, plus a few weeks of Hollywood auditions, plus 12 weeks or so of live voting.

3. The audition/competition structure 

I know everyone loves to see people humiliated on American Idol, but I like the idea of blind auditions only for people who are actually talented. No exploiting people for ratings because you know the ridiculous contestants get ratings, no wasting the judges’ time, and an element of mystery for the judges who have nothing to judge contestants on but their voice. I find this refreshing and interesting.

I also like how the judges have a personal, invested interest in specific people in the competition. I loved the battle rounds most of all — hearing two people sing a song and deciding who I thought sang it better. It really gets to the point — there’s no room to float by in the middle for a while, you need to be on your A-game because there’s no floating by. If you are mediocre, you won’t make it past the blind auditions (if you manage to get picked for a team).

The thing I lament about the structure is that most of the judges this season didn’t want to choose when it came time to allocate votes between their final two contestants. They evenly delegated 50 votes of 100 votes to each person, not wanting to make a decision. This hurt their finalists more than anything, because it gave the audience complete control to choose who stayed and went.

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Overall, The Voice is just more fast-paced, fun to watch, and is seeping with talent than American Idol. The Voice focuses on the well of experienced musicians who had small successes (I actually had a song from Dia’s band on my iPod, courtesy of seeing their music video on MTVu in college), but are stuck in a musical limbo where they’ve put out albums or signed record deals but aren’t seeing mainstream success (artists shouldn’t be “past their prime” just because they aren’t in their 20s anymore). I prefer the fast-paced, highly competitive, talent overflow of The Voice to the dragged out, hit or miss American Idol. 

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