Archive for the ‘The Voice’ category

Yet ANOTHER One Bites the Dust

January 18, 2017

Sorry, Sawyer Fredericks fans. Your The Voice aka The Game Show with Singing Season Eight (2015) champion has just seen his career go the way of too many of that show’s winners. Last week he told his fans that he and the show’s record label – you know, the one that promises a recording contract to its winners – had “mutually” parted ways.

Let me explain what the frequently used phrase “mutually parted ways”[1] means in the business and by the business, I mean the industry. The label unilaterally decides to no longer support an artist. The artist then mutually agrees it would be wise to leave a label that is no longer going to support them. Both parties play nice in public. Artist starts career from scratch as an independent, i.e. no record deal and highly unlikely to ever get one. In Sawyer’s case, that means also losing the manager you had by virtue of winning the show and having your mother become your new manager.

By now, you should know this is a bad habit for The Voice. Sawyer is the fourth winner who has not released an album in spite of “winning” a recording contract. He did at least put out a 4-song EP, which was better than Jermaine Paul, Josh Kaufman and Craig Wayne Boyd were able to get from winning. And we have yet to hear from Season Ten winner Alisan Porter.

I have been writing about this sham for years[2]. So if you watch The Voice even though the show consistently makes false promises to the viewers and the artists, don’t get attached to your favorite (watch your back ex-Idolist Sundance Head). The Game Show With Singing continues to be hazardous to the career health of its winners.


[1] Sometimes “amicably” is included along with gushing by the artist about how happy they are to see their career moving forward. The words: “Of course, I’m delusional.” are never used.

[2] Among others:


Singin’ Loud and Sellin’ Nothing

September 29, 2016

You know that thing where hopeful artists go on reality shows and sing and we vote for them and when enough of us vote for them they win and become big stars? People like Kelly Clarkson and Fantasia and Carrie Underwood? Some of them even lost and became big stars like Adam Lambert, Fifth Harmony and Melanie Martinez. So how’s that thing working out lately? Well, not so well, actually. Actually, it’s not working out at all.

Thanks to My Crack Research Staff (in this case, me) here’s the real reality of reality singing show recording contracts as represented by the first week sales of recent winners. As you can see, in Idol’s case, “winning” became increasingly worth less; and in the case of The Voice aka The Game Show with Singing, that contract was literally worthless with many winners never recording anything with that recording contract.[1]

Idol Winner The Voice Winner
2011 Scotty McCreery 197,000 2011 Javier Colon 10,000
2012 Phillip Phillips 169,000  


2012 Jermaine Paul 0
2012 Cassadee Pope 43,000
2013 Candice Glover 19,000  


2013 Danielle Bradbery 41,000
2013 Tessanne Chin 7,000
2014 Caleb Johnson 11,000  


2014 Josh Kaufman 0
2014 Craig Wayne Boyd 0
2015 Nick Fradiani 5,000  


2015 Sawyer Fredericks 0
2015 Jordan Smith 54,000
2016 Trent Harmon not yet released 2016 Alisan Porter not yet released

Conclusion: Since the latter half of 2013, six of the last seven winners of two TV shows each drawing over 10 million viewers per week have generated negligible sales. So much for the benefit of all of that TV exposure not to mention that for three consecutive winners, The Voice didn’t even bother to make a record.[2]

By comparison, here are the first week sales results from Idol’s glory days as well as the desultory years of 2008 and 2009.

2002 Kelly Clarkson 297,000
2003 Ruben Studdard 417,000
2004 Fantasia Barino 240,000
2005 Carrie Underwood 315,000
2006 Taylor Hicks 298,000
2007 Jordin Sparks 119,000
2008 David Cook 280,000
2009 Kris Allen 80,000[3]
2010 Lee Dewyze 39,000

I could write a book on the myriad reasons for the precipitous decline in sales across the reality singing show platform. The short version is that Idol for its part recognized that the music business has changed so dramatically that its formula for creating stars simply doesn’t work any longer. So they decided to end the show with vague hints that it might return with a rebooted version more attuned to the ways of the current music business, and by the business I mean the industry.

The Voice has been far more interested in whatever cut they’ve negotiated of the massive weekly iTunes revenue their show generates – none of which goes to the contestants. It remains to be seen if the modest success of Jordan Smith represents a change in attitude for the show or is an anomaly. I believe it’s an anomaly but we’ll know the answer when we see what the results are when/if Alisan Porter releases her album.

In addition, both shows have had an increasingly HUGE disconnect between the older demographic of the viewers and the younger demographic of music fans that create pop stars. The success of young artists like Fifth Harmony (from the defunct The X-Factor) and Melanie Martinez (6th place on The Voice in 2012) is instructive.

What we can say is this – American Idol and The Voice were created for the hopes and dreams of talented unknown singers and for the entertainment of a nationwide viewing audience. But over the last three years (and counting?) only the audience has managed to get what they signed up for.

Editor’s note: This blog’s title Singin’ Loud and Sellin’ Nothing is a play on the James Brown song Talkin’ Loud and Sayin Nothing.


[1] Or in Sawyer Fredericks’ case, all that got recorded was a 4-song EP. Hence, his zero for album sales.

[2] Which is WHY THE CONTESTANTS WERE THERE! And I’m shocked that this didn’t outrage more people.

[3] However, runner-up Adam Lambert’s debut album sold 198,000 in its first week. And it’s worth reminding you for the 1,842,025th time that he’s an international superstar now. And that in 2015 he earned more money than ANY other ex-reality singing show artist. 🙂

Will The Voice Winner Be a Winner?

May 25, 2016

Congratulations to Alisan Porter for winning The Voice aka The Game Show With Singing – a show I find utterly detestable for reasons I have articulated at length over the years[1] – and to her coach Adam Lambert. Oh, you thought her coach was Xtina? Well, of course she was on the actual show. But Alisan got more than a little help from Adam, too.

They have a professional relationship that goes back to Alisan co-writing the anthemic, self-empowerment song Aftermath for Adam’s debut album For Your Entertainment­ – an interesting connection of reality singing show artists. As to The Voice, Alisan gave a shout-out to Adam in a post-show interview (while sitting next to Xtina) who she said called every day with advice on song selection and wardrobe, and post-performance critiques that also included comments about her make-up! And just as important as the coaching was the constant urging on Twitter to his sizable Glambert fanbase to support Alisan, which is how I followed (but not watched) her progress on the show.

Hopefully, The Voice­ will do for her what it did for its previous champion Jordan Smith, which is to FINALLY support their winners after seasons of absolute neglect. The history of the show has been so bad that before Jordan was crowned, well-known music writer Lyndsey Parker of Yahoo Music and even Voice­ coach Pharell said that Jordan – his season’s presumptive nominee favorite  – might be better off not winning because of the show’s failure to promote its stars[2].

Ultimately, the hue and cry reached a tipping point when Adam Levine reversed his prior stance of, “It’s not our fault if they’re not successful” by publicly calling out Universal Records to get behind Jordan and keep their stated promise to the artist and the public by making and supporting an album.

Given that initial support, Jordan’s album Something Beautiful opened strongly at #2 on Billboard when it was released two months ago. However, the album has since dropped out of the charts although his single Stand In the Light stands at #26 on the Adult Contemporary chart[3].

Perhaps Jordan will get a boost when NBC runs his cover of OneRepublic’s I Lived during the Summer Olympics. I’m sure they learned from having Idol’s Phillip Phillip’s Home on auto-repeat during the 2012 Summer Olympics – it only went on to sell 5 million copies in the U.S. – and would very much like to see their own show reap the benefits.

[As an aside, I had to laugh at the over-the-top P.R. for the album which said that Something Beautiful “earned the highest ranking on the chart by any winner of a television singing competition in almost 5 years” – “almost” apparently means picking an arbitrary time period that missed including by a few months a #1 album by Scotty McCreery who won on that other show.]

So what Alisan has to look forward to is an uncertain future in terms of support from the show for her post-Voice career. Lyndsey Parker is rightly cautious when she says, “It remains to be seen if Alisan’s Voice victory will change the course of her career, considering that most of the show’s winners have not become household names.”

It’s really difficult to succeed in today’s music business and by the business, I mean the industry. It’s almost impossible if the people contracted to help you succeed don’t care to do their job. Given her connection to Adam Lambert, I’m hoping The Voice and Universal Records do what’s right for her career.


[1] All too briefly: winners not actually winning what was promised; misrepresented backstories of contestants; byzantine voting calculations and a contestant contract that allows The Voice to manipulate voting results; blind auditions that aren’t always blind; insufficient criticism of contestants that over-represents their abilities and career prospects. And I could go on.


[3] Although only 124 radio stations are playing it. It says something about the state of contemporary radio that you can have a hit song with so few stations playing it. No wonder becoming a successful recording artist is so hard these days.

Will Yet Another Voice Winner Bite the Dust?

December 15, 2015

I believe I had this. Again. And a while ago, actually.

In her blog[1] immediately after the penultimate show for Season 9 of The Voice aka The Game Show with Singing, Rolling Stone/Yahoo Music writer Lyndsey Parker was already speculating that presumptive front-runner Jordan Smith would be better off not winning – “Republic Records has famously failed to promote the Voice stars it signs.”

Her opinion was echoed by Voice coach Pharrell Williams who subtly indicated on the air that Republic might not know how to promote Jordan effectively should he triumph.

And back in an October interview with Howard Stern[2], Voice coach Adam Levine was not so subtle about the show’s mismanagement of its winners and inability to produce a single star artist:

“The show ends, and they’re like, ‘OK, they don’t matter to me anymore.’”

None of this is new news to me. Exactly one year ago I posed the question, “Why would I want anybody to win?” In that blog, I cited specific details of how badly Voice winners have fared:

  • Three “winners” in seven seasons that didn’t actually get to make a record with the recording contract that was purportedly their prize.
  • A fourth, Season 5’s Tessanne Chin, released an album that sold so few copies (7,000) that it virtually was a non-release.
  • The first winner Javier Colon has said that he got so little support from the show and his “record deal” that he would have been better off losing and having the freedom to promote himself.
  • And where is last season’s winner, Sawyer Fredericks?

However, I would add one thing to Adam Levine’s rant – his failure to bite the hand that’s feeding him by casting all the blame on the record label and none on the show itself. Certainly they are complicit in this duping of the millions of weekly viewers that the show in some way matters for the contestants.

Each week for two seasons per year, NBC and the show’s producers (and to some degree the coaches) ignore the fact that The Voice’s primary partner – the record label that provides the prize – has repeatedly and utterly failed to live up to its promise for eight seasons. That promise is the reason the show exists!

Their look-the-other-way stance was never more evident than in May when I wrote on Season 7 winner Craig Wayne Boyd making his “triumphant return” to The Voice and being congratulated on all his post-show “success” by host and executive producer Carson Daly on the same day Craig had been dropped by the label just 5 months after his, uh, “victory”!

In the interest of full disclosure, the brazen dishonesty of this show drove me away some time ago, so I don’t know anything about Jordan Smith or any of the other contestants. Except this. After all the money and Emmy Awards The Voice has earned, the show needs to hold up its part of the bargain to the contestants and all of their fans, and the casual viewers that actually think the show does what it tells them it’s doing. Or is it too much to ask that a reality show be real when it really matters?


[1] The Voice Season 9 Final Showdown: Would Jordan Smith Be Better Off Not Winning?

[2] Adam Levine slams record labels for mismanaging The Voice winners

Why Would I Want Anybody to Win?

December 15, 2014

Recently, a good friend asked me who I was rooting for on The Voice. As I usually do when this question comes up, I answered somewhat diplomatically that I haven’t been watching the show. But here’s what my brain was screaming inside my head: “Why would I want anybody to win The Voice? The winners don’t get anything!”

Why does my brain scream that? Glad you asked. Let’s check the record.

The Voice has had six prior winners that received $100,000 and a “record deal[1]” with Universal Music Group. Two of those winners, Jermaine Paul and Josh Kaufmann (Seasons 2 and 6, respectively) never released an album. So much for the winner’s record deal. (“Sorry, Mr. Phelps, you don’t actually get to keep the gold medals. We just use them to make people think they’re competing for something.”)

The album released this summer by Season 5’s Tessanne Chin was widely criticized for the lack of promotion, as in no promotion, from the show and the record label. As a result, it sold a paltry 7,000 copies.

The first winner Javier Colon had a similar story, saying he got so little support from the show and his “record deal” that he would have been better off losing and having the freedom to promote himself.

Do you see a pattern here? That’s four out of six winners with bad stories in case you missed it. And I haven’t even mentioned the contract the contestants sign that is so one-sided against them, the New York Daily News called it “dehumanizing.” The show gets your voice for TV ratings, gives nothing in return and there is nothing you can do about it[2].

So let me turn my critical gaze to the other two winners, punk singer turned “country” singer Cassadee Pope (Season 3) and an actual country singer Danielle Bradbery (Season 4). Cassadee and Danielle’s albums have sold 182,000 and 136,000, respectively. Decent numbers to be fair and far better than poor Tessanne’s trifling 7,000. However, these figures don’t even compare to Idol’s recent country winners Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina. Scotty’s three post-Idol albums have sold nearly two million copies. Lauren was the runner-up to Scotty and her debut album has sold 303,000, nearly the equal of the two biggest Voice winners combined.

It is true the going from reality show to instant stardom is far from guaranteed. The last two Idol winners Candice Glover and Caleb Johnson were also wonderful singers who released albums that stiffed. But when a show has given a third of its winners a record deal that turned out to be no deal at all; and another third of its winners “deals” without any promotional support, which is unconscionable in a market as competitive as the music business[3]; then what the history of The Voice has shown is that winning is far more likely to be a career-killer than a career-creator.

It reminds me of a conversation on House of Cards:

Congressman’s aide: “So you lied to his face?”

Congressman: “No. I just revised the parameters of my promise.”

Which is why I don’t root for anybody to win The Voice.[4]


[1] Even Wikipedia puts that in quotes implying that the deal isn’t real.

[2] Idol’s contract is pretty restrictive, too, but The Voice has raised the bar.

[3] And by the business I mean the industry.

[4] Gee, and I never mentioned the contract language that says the show can ignore the voting results and eliminate contestants at their sole discretion. I’ll save that for another time.

The Voice Season 7 – First Musings

September 24, 2014

“Let the seventh season premiere of “The Voice” be the day we stopped pretending that the contestants are the stars of reality singing competitions,” is what Washington Post TV critic Emily Yahr wrote about The Voice Season 7 premiere. Sorry, Emily, in the case of The Voice aka The Game Show With Singing, I had stopped pretending several seasons ago.

If The Voice was about the singers, surely after six seasons some of them – uh, actually how about even one of them! – would have been successful by now. The most recent release by a Voice winner, Season 5’s Tessanne Chin, absolutely flopped having sold a mere 7,000 copies. Season 2 winner Jermaine Paul never even released an album. All the other “winners” have had mixed to awful results. And unlike Idol, where many non-winners have become stars, non-winners on The Voice have stayed non-existent[1].

Although it’s surpassed Idol in popularity, the latter’s contestants have had over 400 #1 records, while The Voice’s total of #1 records, is, well zero. This is despite the judges’ weekly insistence that with their expert guidance, they will be the ones to mentor them to commercial success and stardom.

After previously saying that it wasn’t their problem that none of their singers had achieved success[2], Adam Levine finally came around to my view that the show has a problem:

“The Voice is very successful, but it’s got a ways to go if it wants to have as profound an impact as Idol. I’m not going to lie to you: I think there are problems… Millions of people watch the show every week and fall in love with a singer, then you don’t hear much from them.”[3]

So, at the start of this 7th Season of The Voice, let me repeat the musings I’ve had for several years:

  • The singers are good. They should be, as they are handpicked by the show’s producers as contestants. Furthermore, almost all of them have had prior professional experience and some of them have had extensive experience, e.g. Judith Hill (Season 4) who was personally selected by – hello! – Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder to tour with them and won a Grammy for the movie Twenty Feet from Stardom. Others have sung behind Adele or had prior major label record deals.
  • I still have a bitter taste in my mouth at their deceiving the viewers for the first two seasons by claiming how superior their talent was compared to Idol while passing off recording artists with prior record deals as undiscovered hopefuls. One week MDD[4] went up to her room and pulled out two CDs she had by one of the “undiscovered” Voice contestants! Eventually the music press caught on and called them out and The Voice started including prior experience in their backstories. But I haven’t gotten past their early duplicity.
  • However, despite having such talent, all of these people haven’t made it big for one reason or another. And the music business almost always prefers “new” to “trying again.”
  • The Voice’s Executive Producer Mark Burnett is an expert at creating compelling content season after season. The business he’s most interested in is the TV business rather than the music business. The genius of Idol in it’s heyday was that it was about both TV and music. Success in TV meant success selling the artists and success selling the artists meant people would watch the TV to find the next new star artist. Lather, rinse, repeat. But after a few years of bad winners, viewers lost interest in Idol. Burnett created a show that has been successful without needing successful artists to come out of the show to refuel interest in the next season.
  • The Voice organizes itself around the competition between the judges rather than the competition between the singers. The singers are not the emphasis. They are there to show us how entertaining the judges can be.
  • Ultimately the contestants are irrelevant and I have a problem with that. The truth is that hundreds of them (and millions of viewers each week) have been lied to as to how The Voice is going to advance their careers. And that’s why I call it The Game Show with Singing. Competing and even winning mean nothing. You get your time on TV, you collect your parting gifts, and then go back to doing what you were doing before the show.

If the first week rating decline was any indication, perhaps viewers are tiring of it, too. And with the growing criticism of the show’s failure to create a single star, I will be watching this year to see how they respond to an issue that even their star judge Adam Levine says is a real problem.

In the meantime, it’s fun seeing Adam and Blake take a back seat to the Wonder of Pharrell who stands up and says cool phrases like, “You’re so melodically articulate.” And, boy, Gwen Stefani sure is pretty.


[1] Melanie Martinez from Season 3 is getting a lot of buzz and may prove to be an exception. I certainly hope so because she’s fabulous.

[2] “It would be really nice if we were to launch a new star . . . I don’t know if that’s the overall mission statement of the show.”


[4] My Daughter Diandra

It’s a Game Show With Singing

September 25, 2013

Yes, I know that The Voice has surpassed Idol in the ratings. I also know that it won an Emmy, which is something that Idol has inexplicably never done, in spite of the fact that it practically created reality TV. I know that the coaches are entertaining and make for good television. I even have a crush on Adam Levine. But I will not be watching The Voice for one simple reason.

The coaches are liars.

They lie in each and every episode of the show.

The lie they tell to each and every contestant is that they should join their team because of all the things they can do for the singer’s career. You hear these lies every week during the blind auditions.

So after all the help the coaches say they can offer, how have their coachees done?

In its 12 seasons, Idol’s singers have produced almost 400 Billboard #1 songs. And four seasons of The Voice have produced, uh, well, none, actually.

The best they’ve done after a season is get an artist (Season 3 winner Cassadee Pope) to #37. They haven’t even released an album for Season 2 winner Jermaine Paul. And last year’s winner Danielle Bradbury has failed so far to make a connection with music buyers.

Even the last winner of the cancelled show The Sing-Off, Pentatonix, has sold more records than any Voice winner.

When the issue of their lack of success in creating success was raised in a press conference with the Television Critics Association, here’s what Adam Levine had to say:

“It would be really nice if we were to launch a new star . . . I don’t know if that’s the overall mission statement of the show.”

“The goal of the show is to do what we can do with these amazing singers while they’re on the show to get somebody into the front to win the show. We all know that the lightning in a bottle that you have to capture in order to be successful in the business is extremely difficult.”

While affirming Adam’s statements, host/producer Carson Daly also added:

“When did the endgame become success?”


I could bore – or impress – you with all kinds of stats comparing the success of recent Idolists to their Emmy-winning competitor’s track record. But apparently that’s irrelevant since the success of the contestants isn’t The Voice’s goal. What the show’s principals are saying is that they can’t help their performers make hit records – something Idol has done hundreds of times – even while telling them that’s what they’re going to do.

In addition, they say that’s not even the point. The point is just to get someone to win and collect their $100,000 prize – which, by the way is a pittance of what the winners on the other shows get.

So basically, The Voice isn’t a reality singing show. It’s America’s most entertaining game show with a nice parting gift for the winner. Which, by the way, is fine, IF they would be honest and say that’s what it is. The show is very entertaining and very well done.

So, yes, I love Adam’s looks, and want his clothes and personal trainer. The banter between the judges is funny. Christina puts the D in Diva.[1] And Cee-Lo is, well, Cee-Lo. The performances are, at times, riveting – and yes, often better than Idol’s because The Voice seeks out a large number of professional singers.[2]

But for me to be invested, I need to believe that the singers are more than just weekly fodder for the coaches’ careers and that the coaches aren’t leading them on. How can the coaches say success for the contestants isn’t the mission/endgame when the contestants are giving their all each week to become stars and the coaches tell them every week that they are?

I don’t find pretense very entertaining. So count me out.


[1] And I have actual stories from someone who’s worked with her.

[2] I wrote about how they did this in their first season without telling the viewers. And in that blog, I was also right – two years ahead of time – as to one reason why the show’s contestants don’t succeed.

She’s a Pretty, Poised and Pitch-perfect Voice

June 20, 2013

So pretty, poised and pitch-perfect Danielle Bradbery wins The Voice. At least we think she won. The latest IBM supercomputer is still working its way through The Voice’s byzantine 3,000 word voting rules to confirm her victory while the suits at NBC are hopeful they got it right.

I’d like to say that I saw that coming but since I was actually watching the epic instant classic that was Game Six of the NBA Finals, I guess I didn’t really see it. But her victory validates my Bland Versus Edgy Theory of Reality Singing Shows[1], which I wrote about on May 29[2]. This is not to cast aspersions at Danielle who is a pretty, poised and pitch-perfect singer. It’s just that I generally like to sit on the edgy side of the musical aisle.

Her victory was probably pre-ordained for reasons pertaining to the voting rules that allow for cumulative voting and bonus votes for having performances hit the iTunes Top Ten. In the story arc of the season, Danielle quickly established herself as an early frontrunner while utterly unique Michelle Chamuelle was working her way through the pack with consistently strong performances that were consistently overshadowed by whatever amazing things Judith Hill was doing with her clothes, hair and songs each week. That frontrunner status which was accumulating cumulative votes[3] meant that Danielle was building a lead that was likely impossible to overcome.

Sorry – I need to digress. Does that bother anybody else besides me? Doesn’t it seem unfair that someone who improves substantially over the course of the show can’t win against someone who gets a lot of votes at the beginning?

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

So now we – and by “we” I mean me – turn our attention to the one big criticism that has been dogging The Voice. After four seasons is it capable of producing a real star beyond elevating the careers of its mentors or is it just an entertaining music game show? Will Danielle be able to translate her iTunes Top Tens during the season into hit records in her post-Voice career?

(Oh, I guess you’re waiting for me to answer that question.)

I’m not sure.[4]

Yes, she’s pretty, poised and pitch-perfect. But does a pretty, poised and pitch-perfect performance once a week translate into a good record? Does pretty, poised and pitch-perfect on TV translate into a good live concert? And she’s only 16. Will she find a meaningful market for her music?

More importantly, how will she do against the country-girl American Idolists who will be entering the market at the same time – Kree Harrison and Janelle Arthur?[5] And will she have the same impact as Idol’s Season Ten 16 year-old runner-up Lauren Alaina?

Lauren’s post-Idol career will be a reasonable test for Danielle, Universal Records and The Voice. Lauren’s first CD Wildflower, peaked at #5 on Billboard Top 200 and #2 on Billboard Country Albums. To date (since October 2011), it has sold just over 300,000 copies – not great but respectable for a first release by a 16 year-old who didn’t win Idol. With that data in hand, I await Ms. Bradbery’s numbers.[6]

And by the way, last year’s Voice winner, Cassadee Pope’s first single peaked at #37 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #7 on the Country chart, while Lauren’s first single peaked at #20 and #2, respectively. Again, Lauren wasn’t even the Idol winner.

OK. I think I’m sure now. My verdict on Danielle is pretty, poised and pitch-perfect – plus rather bland – doesn’t equal star.


[1] I see a Nobel Prize in my future for this brilliant theory.

[2] I see a Pulitzer Prize in my future for this brilliant piece of writing.

[3] Yes, I meant to say that.

[4] Way to go out on a limb, Ray.

[5] And she’s not even as good as pretty, poised, and far more dynamic teenage country-girl Brandy Neelly, who inexplicably didn’t make the Idol voting rounds. No – I will not stop railing against this abominable injustice.

[6] Pretty, poised and pitch-perfect wilt in the face of objective data.

Finally a Voice Finale

June 11, 2013

As I expected, the utterly unique Michelle Chamuelle and the pretty, poised and pitch-perfect Danielle Bradbery made the Voice Finale next week[1] along with The Swon Brothers. Coming to this expectation was quite challenging, as it required spending hours with Department of Justice legal consultants to understand The Voice’s byzantine 3,000 word voting rules.

I’m still quite confused by them but two rules are a big deal in determining the outcome of this so-called game show[2]:

  • Downloads of songs in the Top Ten on iTunes at the close of voting get multiplied ten times and count in the vote totals – that is very clear.
  • However, under “certain” conditions – and the number and complexity of those conditions are dizzying – past and continued downloads of songs carry forward each week in a “Cumulative Vote”, including any Top Ten bonuses earned[3]!

I think what this means is that whoever has been doing the best on iTunes has been advancing each week because of the combination of bonuses and Cumulative Votes. That performer will also win The Voice. Actually, because of the Cumulative Votes, that winner was probably determined weeks ago.

Tonight’s results show brought the return of Voicers from the past. At the risk of being annoying by repeating a common theme, when Idol brings out ex-Idolists, they’re people with #1 records and Grammy awards; when The Voice brings out its alumni, they’re people still looking for record deals.

Having said that, the careers of Voice alumni Nicholas David, Tony Lucca, and Terry McDermott are worth commenting on.[4]

Nicholas does not have a record deal and is independently releasing an EP[5] featuring his self-styled “Mumford and Sons meets Maxwell” sound. It’s an interesting way to chase the current craze for Mumford-style music while staying close to his 60s soul sound.

Tony is one of three artists on Adam Levine’s 222 Records, an independent label. Interestingly, one of those artists is Glee’s Matthew Morrison. Tony is also releasing an EP and will go on tour this summer with Kelly Clarkson and Maroon 5. These are the kinds of incredible opportunities that unknown artists won’t even allow themselves to dream about.

Terry McDermott’s story is the most unique and represents how things happen for small artists in today’s music business. He was unsigned by a label after his stint on The Voice. A rough draft of the song he performed tonight, Pictures, got 26,000 hits on Soundcloud without promotion on the first day it was posted. Pictures was then rushed out to iTunes where it went to #1 on the Rock Singles chart. He, too, is independently releasing a five-song EP.

Seriously, people, where else can you get such music-geeky stuff?

And if you want to join my Crack Research Staff and explain The Voice voting rules to me, you can find them here – have your magnifying glass ready:


[1] It’s not enough that you know I’m right. My joy isn’t complete until I tell you I was right, too.

[2] That’s not me throwing shade. Voice Coach Adam Levine has referred to it in print as that.

[3] Again under certain conditions that I still cannot comprehend. Misspelling “eligible” as “eligable” doesn’t help.

[4] If only because I spent time Googling them while Christina Milian was on mute and during Cheesy Voice Sing-A-Longs.

[5] An EP or Extended Play is a mini-album (LP or Long Play) of typically 3-5 songs.

A Comparatively Competent Voice

June 10, 2013

While tonight’s theme on The Voice was Dedications, for me the inescapable theme was Comparisons. After logging so many hours watching Idol, X Factor and The Voice, it’s difficult for me to separate any show’s singers from similar versions on other shows. That is with the exception of the utterly unique Michelle Chamuelle who defies comparison; and perhaps The Swon Brothers since there haven’t been that many duet acts on any of the shows.

The other theme for me tonight was Competent – one definition of which means: acceptable and satisfactory, though not outstanding. That pretty much sums up what I felt about tonight’s performances. I was waiting for a wow and never got one. Even from Michelle.

As always, the judges felt each and every performance was incredible or amaze-balls or superstar. In almost all cases, such pronouncements are Crazy.

With that brief summary, let’s turn to the grades.

Round 1

Swon Brothers (Bob Seger Turn the Page) Solid, nicely done but nothing noteworthy. It was, uh, competent. B

Sasha Allen (Whitney Houston I Will Always Love You) When done right, this song moves you. If it doesn’t, it wasn’t sung right. I wasn’t moved. When Jessica Sanchez sang this on Idol last year, I was moved. And a lot of people were moved, too. C+

Michelle Chamuel (Zedd Clarity) Wouldn’t you know it? A tornado warning came on during her song. This is a great song and I really would have loved to hear her do it. Guess I will be YouTube-ing that tomorrow.

Danielle Bradbery ([some country singer, probably] Please Remember Me) I do like this little girl. She’s pretty and poised. But tonight I thought the song was a bit big for her and she got a little shouty. And while she’s doing great on The Voice, to me she doesn’t stack up against Idol’s recent country girls like Lauren Alaina, Kree Harrison or Janelle Arthur. C+

Amber Carrington (Katy Perry Firework) This performance needed fireworks to distract us from how bad it was. By saying, “you did it better than anyone on the show”, the judges made their own comparison and damned her with faint praise since everybody who has sung this before likewise did terrible. F

Round 2

Swon Brothers (Loggins & Messina Danny’s Song) Again, they were, you know, competent. B

Sasha Allen (Donna Summer Bad Girls) This was awful. Choppy, soul-less karaoke. I don’t care how good her voice is, the songs Sasha picked tonight were out of her league. C-

Danielle Bradbery (Jessica Andrews Who I Am) Have I mentioned I do like this little girl? She’s pretty and poised. But she’s still no Lauren Alaina, Kree Harrison or Janelle Arthur. B

Amber Carrington (Maroon 5 Sad) This was nice and, uh, competent. OK, maybe just a bit more than that because unlike everybody but Michelle, she actually conjured up some real emotion. And sorry, Adam, she didn’t sing this better than you. That’s crazy. B+

Michelle Chamuel (Cyndi Lauper Time After Time) Once again, Michelle got the glory spot as the producers shifted the order to put her last. This time she didn’t deliver. Since Cyndi is quirky, unique and talented, I really expected Michelle to be better than she was on this song. She seemed nervous or overly emotional and the quality of her voice and her phrasing – usually her best features – never showed up. Season 1 winner Javier Colon did a masterful version on this song, and I can’t help but wonder if The Voice producers were intentional about setting up this comparison with the possible winner of this season.

Should Be Saved: Michelle, Danielle and I don’t care after that.

iTunes trends: As of this writing, there are no songs in iTunes Top Ten that will qualify for the 10x voting bonus. Danielle (#16 and #20) and The Swon Brothers (#17 and #24) have the highest rated songs so far.