By Sara Toth
11:48 PM EST, January 31, 2012
We'd rather not think about the Super Bowl.
But after the Vince Lombardi Trophy is presented to Sunday's winner comes a championship contest we can really get behind: the premiere of the second season of "The Voice" on NBC.
A different kind of talent takes the field as singers compete for a recording contract, a $100,000 prize and a definite article. All have impressive voices — but who has "the" voice?
The reality show had a knock-out first season last spring, raking in eight million to 14 million viewers an episode over its 10-week run. The success prompted a second season, with NBC debuting the show in the post-Super Bowl time slot. This season's shaping up to be bigger, better and longer, with more contestants and — no exaggeration here — more earth-shattering voices.
If you watched the first season last year, good on you. If not, here are a few reasons it's inexcusable to miss the show with big talent and even bigger heart.
15 Reasons You Should Watch "The Voice"
1. The Super Bowl. This is the entertainment the football championship deserves. Are we really expecting anything from Madonna's halftime show? Other than an awkward medley and a cone bra, I'm not.
2. It's gimmicky — in a good way. The concept of blind auditions is a novel one — beyond leveling the playing field, it offers an element of surprise for the judges and brings a kind of purity to the competition. And, c'mon — the chairs spin.
3. The judges. The bickering among these four is good-natured and entertaining. Mean-spirited put-downs a la Simon Cowell aren't welcome here. (Did you see he fired most of his "X-Factor" judges Monday? Heh.) These guys (and gal) are encouraging, endearing and just plain nice. Plus, they're all active performers outside the show — no producers who've never been on a stage, and no washed-up has-beens or B-list celebrities (I'm lookin' at you, Paula Abdul, Nick Cannon and Nicole Scherzinger.)
4. Cee Lo Green. The one-of-a-kind voice. The teeny-tiny man-hands. The sunglasses and rampant speculation that he is, in fact, a cyclops.
5. Adam Levine. Specifically, Adam Levine's tattoos.
6. Oh, and his biceps.
7. And the face. Can't forget his face.
8. Carson Daly. Just the fact that he has a job, really. It's nice to be reminded that relics of MTV in the early-aughts are still employable as talent-show hosts.
9. The possibility of the next "Moves Like Jagger." Love it or hate it or really really despise it, the song that Levine and Christina Aguilera debuted during the first season is darn catchy. Hopefully, the next collaboration will feature Cee-Lo and Adam Levine, and be an equally powerful earworm.
10. The guest mentors. Guest judges? Sure, other shows have 'em, but mentors? Not like these. The last go-around, the four coaches enlisted the help of their famous friends in coaching the contestants: Monica, Reba McIntire, Sia and Adam Jackson. This year, the list includes Alanis Morrissette, Ne-Yo, Miranda Lambert and Lionel Richie. The guests bring extra star power, as well as insight in guiding the contestants, some of whom have little traditional training. Like the judges, these are people with active music careers — i.e., people who actually know what they're talking about.
11. The chairs. Hands down, the best job in the world belongs to the stage tech who tests those chairs to make sure they're spinning properly. That's very important.
12. The feeling. The feeling of the hairs on the back of your neck or arms standing on end when you hear a brilliant voice, a voice that reaches down into your very core and makes your spine shiver. This is present on other shows, but with "The Voice," you get this — every. single. damn. time.
13. It's interactive. The show has its own social media correspondent — this year it's Christina Milian. Viewers can interact with the show and the hosts on Twitter, live-tweeting their reactions with the hashtag #TheVoice, and those tweets are read on-air during special segments on the live shows.
14. It's consistent. Unlike some other talent shows on television — "America's Got Talent," for example — singers compete against singers. None of this pitting gymnasts against tap-dancers, or magicians against opera singers.
15. It's better than "American Idol." No smarmy Ryan Seacrest. No sleazy Steven Tyler. No Jennifer Lopez. No early rounds spent culling out the delusional untalented. Every singer who competes in "The Voice" can, in fact, sing — and well. Heck, it's better than most TV. What else are you going to watch on Monday nights — "Two-and-a-Half Men"?
How It Works
During the blind-audition process, which lasts several episodes, contestants sing for the judges, who have their backs turned. Once the judges have selected their teams, contestants compete internally against one another and the judge decides who advances. In later battleground rounds, the television audience determines who progresses.
When one person remains in each team, the four compete against each other. The final winner is determined by equal parts judges' scores, and audience votes.
The second season of "The Voice" is longer than the first; the blind audition and battleground rounds are extended, and each team has 12 members instead of eight. The show's time slot has moved, too, from Tuesdays and Wednesday to 8-10 p.m. on Monday nights. "The Voice" has a new social media correspondent, as well, as Christina Milian replaces Alison Haislip.
Adam Levine: Front man for the rock group Maroon 5 and coach of last year's winning contestant Javier Colon — the man Adam told, quite frankly, he thought was a woman. Adam's voice is a bit in the high range, so he's good with voices as surprising as his. The dynamic between the judges seems to rest largely on Adam - whether it's teasing Cee Lo or Christina or arguing with Blake. It's all in good fun.
Cee Lo Green: One-half of Gnarls Barkley, solo artist and as adorable as a cartoon character. Like Adam, Cee Lo's good with taking and training off-beat talents — weird and strange diamonds in the rough — like him. He and Adam have the best rapport, equal parts playful and sincere.
Christina Aguilera: Pop musician, and the only female judge - which she reminds the audience of, often. While in the judge's chair, she spends a lot of time bickering with the boys and touting her team's superiority. As a coach, she's empowering and fierce. Last season, her team was almost exclusively women.
Blake Shelton: Country singer and coach of last year's runner-up, Dia Frampton (see Q&A, Page 47). Blake's homegrown, down-to-earth attitude makes him the most nurturing of the judges, but in the judge's chair, his best feature is the dynamic he has with Adam. The two butt heads and argue from opposite ends of judges' row, often talking over — and drowning out — Christina.
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