Season 4 of NBC’s “The Voice” just may be the most popular one with viewers so far because the rapport between the show’s coaches is better than ever. On March 18, 2013, NBC invited a select number of journalists (including me) in New York City to watch a sneak preview of the first episode of “The Voice’s” fourth season. Although we had to sign confidentially agreements to not report anything about the contestants in the episode before the episode airs on March 25, 2013, we were told we could report and review how the coaches were in the episode.
As fans of “The Voice” already know, coaches Adam Levine and Black Shelton (who have been with the show since its 2011 debut) have returned, but there are two new coaches for Season 4: Shakira and Usher, who have temporarily replaced, respectively, Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green. Aguilera and Green, who are on a leave of absence from “The Voice” to focus on touring and other work commitments, are expected to return to "The Voice" for the show's fifth season that will premiere in September 2013.
The episode began with a stellar performance of "The Voice" Season 4 coaches doing the Beatles’ “Come Together” with Levine on drums, Shelton on guitar, Usher on bass and Shakira on harmonica. The rest of the episode showed auditions. (“The Voice” is open to solo singers and duos. The grand prize is a record deal with Universal Music.) The friendly bickering between Levine and Shelton is still there, but now Usher has given Levine some serious competition in the “charming heartthrob” role that Levine has monopolized for the past three seasons. And Usher is just as flirtatious as Green, but his demeanor is more like a mischievous boy, rather than a borderline creep. At one point, Usher made a kiss pucker with his face when trying to convince a female duo to choose him as a mentor.
In the first episode, Shakira comes across more likable than Aguilera. Whereas Aguilera often has a diva demeanor of “I’m the biggest star on the panel,” Shakira is more humble and less self-assured. At times, she relied too much on looking at the other coaches’ reactions during an audition to decide whether or not she wanted to choose a contestant to mentor. Shakira also seems to have more of a sense of humor about herself than Aguilera does. That doesn’t diminish Shakira’s competitive spirit though, and she might end up exceeding some people’s expectations. And speaking of having a self-deprecating sense of humor, Usher mistakenly called Nashville a state instead of a city, and he was able to laugh at himself about it amid plenty of teasing from Shelton and Levine.
On March 18, 2013, NBC released a sneak-preview clip online of one of the contestant’s auditions shown in this episode: Judith Hill sang a unique version of Aguilera’s “What a Girl Wants.” Hill has an interesting back story: She was chosen to be a backup singer on Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” tour but never got a chance to tour with him due to his untimely passing in 2009. Hill is also prominently featured in a documentary film about backup singers called “Twenty Feet From Stardom,” which will be released in June 2013. It’s easy to see that she has the makings of being one of the most memorable contestants on “The Voice” in Season 4. We’ll have to see if she will end up being a star.
Guest advisers in Season 4 will be Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum (paired with Levine), Sheryl Crow (paired with Shelton), Pharrell Williams (paired with Usher) and Joel Madden of Good Charlotte (paired with Shakira). Meanwhile, NBC has been posting videos online of interviews and select footage from Season 4. Here is a transcript of a video interview that “The Voice” social-media correspondent Christina Milian did with Levine, Shelton, Usher and Shakira. It gives people an idea about the friendly banter between these four coaches.
How’s it been so far?
Shelton: [He says jokingly] Miserable! I think the two new coaches are putting a serious kink in things. And here’s why: I think Adam and I kind of assumed that it was going to be easy with these two.
Levine: They’re new. They don’t know what they’re doing.
Shelton: They’re going to screw the pooch over and over. And they come right in, and Shakira’s got her claws out, Usher’s got his leg up on his chair, being cool.
Usher: I’ve been able to motivate the room in a way that gets everybody to understand the value of these artists. [Adam Levine and Blake Shelton] have an old philosophy of the past. They may be winners, but we need fresh ... trendsetting here.
Usher and Shakira, you’ve worked together before, but have you ever met Blake and Adam before being on “The Voice”?
Shelton: [He says jokingly] She comes to Oklahoma. We go fishing together. She loves to go catfishing.
Shakira: I love fishing, by the way. I love the country.
Have you been nervous? What’s been the hardest part of the blind auditions?
Usher: They made us feel right at home. I’ve definitely come here and have had a great time. I didn’t really have any expectations other than to offer what I had. I definitely feel right at home. I feel like there’s a family here. I really am enjoying it.
Shakira: Yeah, all jokes aside, these guys have been great hosts. The made us feel really at ease and really warm. They’ve been gentlemen to me.
Shelton: She’s so sweet. How are we going to be mean to her?
Levine: She’s so sweet. I’d never be mean to her.
For more info: "The Voice" website
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