ABC is entering the crowded singing competition arena, but with four hefty names: Kelly Clarkson, Lionel Richie, Robin Thicke and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles. The four superstars will serve as mentors and singing partners on Duets, which will premiere this summer.
The show will feature Clarkson, Nettles, Richie and Thicke as they scout for talent across the country. The four will ultimately choose two singers as their duet partners, and together each week, the star and his/her protégé will perform on stage. One duet will eventually win, with the amateur receiving a recording contract from Disney's Hollywood Records label.
"The simple fact that I get to go out and find two people that I believe in, sing with them every week, and help them accomplish their dream is an amazing thing that I can't wait to be a part of," Clarkson says.
Adds Richie: "My goal will be to focus on developing true artistry and giving them the tools necessary to be creative artists instead of created artists... I am eager to pass along a few of the nuggets of wisdom that I have received throughout my 40-year career."
But Duets enters a landscape already saturated with shows like American Idol, The Voice, The X Factor and America's Got Talent, not to mention several cable shows. The announcement for Duets comes just days after The CW confirmed that it had picked up The Star Next Door, a summer singing competition from Queen Latifah. That show also features Gloria Estefan and John Rich.
Both Duets and The Star Next Door are the latest singing competitions to employ big-name music artists as judges and mentors, following in the footsteps of Fox's American Idol 2.0 (Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler) and NBC's The Voice (Christina Aguilera, Cee-Lo Green, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine). Fox's The X Factor is also expected to hire two superstar singers to replace exiting judges Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger.
ABC has tried to get into the music competition space in the past with shows like last year's Karaoke Battle USA, but has so far come up short. The network actually had some success with Making the Band in 2000 (two years before American Idol) but passed on a renewal and let that franchise move to MTV. ABC attempted another singing competition in 2006, The One: Making a Music Star (featuring a pre-Idol Kara DioGuardi), but it was pulled after two weeks.
In 2007, Simon Cowell, A. Smith & Co. and Fox TV Studios produced the Fox summer show Celebrity Duets, which paired singing stars with non-singing stars for charity. That format is not related to ABC's Duets.
"The concept of Duets is so fresh because its mentoring is active and participatory," Nettles says. Adds Thicke, "The format is unlike anything that's out there right now and the opportunity to work with such talent, both the other artists and contestants, is definitely going to make for an exciting competition."
Duets comes from executive producer Robert Deaton, who also produces the Country Music Association awards for ABC through his Keep Calm and Carry On Productions.