The Fox series introduces viewers to a new format they haven't seen before. It features four pre-selected master singers who are challenged by contestants for their seats. The newcomers perform for the panel, which includes DJ Khaled, Diddy, Meghan Trainor and record executive Charlie Walk. If all four panelists vote yes, the singer has the opportunity to battle a member of the four of their choosing and the audience votes who gets the seat.
The musical chairs aspect of the show ups the stakes in a way that viewers aren't accustomed to seeing, while the price for winning the show is unprecedented. Not only does the winner get to work with the entire panel to build their career as an artist, but they'll also get an iHeart Radio "Artist on the Verge" contract, which will immediately put their debut song on hundreds of radio stations across the country.
That means the winner will have a greater chance of kickstarting a successful career once the show is wrapped, which is no small achievement. No winner of The Voice has managed to achieve mainstream success after the show, and American Idol, which will return on ABC this spring, hasn't put forth a notable star since Phillip Phillips in 2012.
Still, even if The Voice has yet to crown its own Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood, it's still the highest rated music competition show on television. That's because The Voice has tapped into a unique formula that breaks down the barrier between its all-star roster of coaches and their contestants. Viewers tune in every week not just to hear talented people sing, but to be able to watch the relationship between the coaches and their teams develop.
The Four has also nabbed top tier talent for its panel, but it has maintained a boundary between that talent that's going to make it difficult for The Four to become a weekly obsession for fans like The Voice. There's no Team Diddy, Meghan or Khaled. Their interaction with the contestants is limited to 30-second sound bites between performances, and there's no chance for artists on the brink to get the coaching they need to reach the next level.
In that regard, The Four feels like a more complicated version of American Idol rather than a reinvention of the genre the way that The Voice did when it first premiered. If the show can lead to a legitimate start to a career for an aspiring young audience, it could rise above both the other competitors in terms of authenticity, but it needs to find a way to imbue the actual show with that warmth if it wants to compete with The Voice on a viewer scale.
The Four: Battle for Stardom continues Thursdays at 8/7c on Fox.