But does it all result in a show that can compete with the attention already paid to Idol, watched by an average of 25 million viewers? Is there room for both? We watched Tuesday's two-hour premiere of The Voice to figure out what the big differences between the two are (and, OK, weigh in on which we think is better. For now.)
1. The contestants know a little something about song choice! So long we've been subjected to Idol hopefuls, even the great ones, making dumb decisions, from an acoustic version of "Genie in a Bottle" to a carbon copy take on Vanessa Williams' cover of "Colors of the Wind." It might be overstating things based on just one episode, but the folks who cast The Voice seem to really have zeroed in on singers who, for the most part, understand what they should be singing. Kelsey Ray's thinner voice was well-suited to Estelle's attitude-forward "American Boy," and shy teen Xenia Martinez improved The Script's "Breakeven" — yeah, we said it! — with her raspy vocals. They also know how to use their voices. See: Rebecca Loebe's ethereal and not-overwrought take on Nirvana's "Come As You Are" or Javier's stripped down "Time After Time."
2. The coaches are relevant, contemporary... oh whatever, they're just plain fun to watch. Who didn't chuckle while watching Blake Shelton give aspiring artists the hard sell, while out-talking his rivals. We liked watching Cee Lo Green admit that, yes, there might come a time when he'll show up to a mentoring session decked out in a Batman costume. Christina Aguilera, the panel's lone female, more than held her own against the boys' smack talk, and it was most surprising, in a good way, to see Adam Levine, whose Maroon 5 persona is nothing if not "too cool," throw down to woo someone like Jeff Jenkins, (who sang the decidedly un-cool "Bless the Broken Road.") We don't even need to talk up how they're all still hitmakers ...
3. Carson Daly > Ryan Seacrest. Save the "haters gonna hate" speeches because Daly's hosting superiority is a fact. How? The former MTV veejay-turned-late-night host knows something about music to begin with, but let's not get bogged down by that. Daly doesn't engage in dumb banter with the coaches. He doesn't make it all about him. He doesn't needlessly make the contestants feel bad. And we feel confident in saying he would never allow an atrocity like Bikini Girl to happen.
4. Auditions take place on a stage. With a band. In front of an audience. It may not seem like a big deal, but consider how many times we've been fooled. Countless would-be Idols belting a cappella versions of some Celine Dion ballad or Edwin McCain's "I'll Be" — don't they seem capable in spite of their obvious bad taste? Talented, even? Before we know it, they're sent to Hollywood, make it through the group rounds, hit the live show, and bam! Suddenly, they've lost it. (Sorry Naima, but we're looking at you. You too, Thia. And Karen.) Some are dwarfed by the stage, or incapable of jamming with a band. Others get stiff in front of a crowd. For whatever reason, it's awkward and, and worse, disappointing for invested viewers. On The Voice, it's nice to see the contestants — even those that didn't make a team, like Jared Blake — fueled by the concert-like setting. It proves — from the get-go — that they can handle it. (Of course it helps that they're all, at least technically, more than decent singers.)
5. No need for a Simon Cowell type. Oh, we're missing him on Idol, no doubt. But The Voice is unabashedly feel-good TV. You won't see a William Hung or a Mr. "Pants on the Ground" here. Sanjaya would never have made it in front of these coaches. We'll go so far as to say, Stefano probably wouldn't have earned a swivel. There's no use for a Cowell on The Voice because there's no one to swat down. The celebrity coaches aren't judges — and the contestants invited to the blind auditions were made up only of people who they could conceivably train to win.
What did you think of The Voice premiere? Will you continue to watch if you're already invested Idol? Which is the better singing competition?