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Usher, Carson Daly, Mark Burnett reveal how they help keep 'The Voice' fresh

Mark Burnett, Usher and Carson Daly at "The Voice" press conference in New York City, on Feb. 24, 2014
Mark Burnett, Usher and Carson Daly at "The Voice" press conference in New York City, on Feb. 24, 2014

On Feb. 24, 2014, the Emmy-winning singing competition show "The Voice" premiered its sixth season on NBC. On the day of the premiere, Grammy-winning singer Usher (who is a coach on "The Voice"), "The Voice" host/producer Carson Daly and "The Voice" executive producer Mark Burnett gathered for a press conference in New York City, where I was among the journalists attending. Before the press conference, a sneak preview of the "The Voice's" Season 6 premiere was shown to the assembled journalists. Here is what Usher, Daly and Burnett said at the press conference.

Usher, Mark Burnett and Carson Daly at "The Voice" press conference in New York City, on Feb. 24, 2014
Carla Hay

In Season 6 of "The Voice," coaches Usher, Shakira and Blake Shelton seem to have formed alliances against Adam Levine. If Adam is competing for a contestant to be on his team, another coach who's not competing for the contestant will recommend one of the other coaches who's not Adam. Can you comment on this "alliance" strategy?

Usher: Everything happens in the moment. We do team up. Sometimes it's me and Adam. Sometimes it's me and Blake. Sometimes it's Shakira and Adam. Sometimes it's Shakira and so on and so forth and whoever's left.

Daly: What's that like? I'm supposed to get you guys to shut up and keep moving!

Usher: We have a good time and support each other. You know when they [the contestants] are not going with you. You have an idea, like, "OK, this will be a great match for Shakira, so let's get [this contestant] on her side."

Daly: You'll notice in the four-chair turns, Adam has the best track record of getting four-chair turn [contestants] to come on his team.

Usher: Because he begs.

Daly: He begs. He's just good like that. But it creates to be a bit of a problem when we get into the torso of the format, when we pit people against each other, that's why the "steal" was such a great thing for us to bring in, because now, if anybody had any weaker team at all, there's an opportunity to not let these singers walk out of our building, which keeps good singing on TV. So yeah, once there are four-chair turns, it's funny to watch the three gang up to make sure that they [the contestants] don't go with Adam.

Burnett: That's what makes the show part-sitcom as well. It's a really fun show to watch.

Usher: It's real though.

Burnett: Think about it though. Everybody here has been at the holidays playing Monopoly with family. And you love your family, but it gets heated! Everybody wants to win. It's like a board game in real life, but with music. They all want to win. It's like Usher said: Yeah, he wants to be a great coach and mentor people, but he also wants to win. And so, that's what happens with strategy.

Cee Lo Green, one of this show's original coaches, has announced that he's left "The Voice." Christina Aguilera, who is also part of the show's original cast, has announced that she's pregnant. Has she said if she is going to continue with "The Voice" in Season 7? Can you put any rumors to rest about any changes being made to the judging panel?

Burnett: We knew from the beginning: If you want to have a show with the biggest superstars in music in those red chairs, they have day jobs. They're musical stars, and "The Voice" isn't their day job. The hardest part is the jigsaw puzzle of schedules.

This is not like we got four people in chairs who used to be in the music business. They're at the top of their games, so you can only imagine what it's like to put their schedules together and work out for four different people. It's amazingly mind-boggling.

We just take it one stage at a time, and we've been really blessed with Usher and Shakira to join "The Voice" who are also really good friends. That's what's really great about it ... There's no politics on the show behind the scenes. We all actually hang out and have a good time ... I think that comes through on camera.

It's not avoiding the question, it's just that it's not like a matter of re-upping deals, because it doesn't work that way. There are massive opportunities, and they're global stars. That's the truth. We're always really, especially me, I'm always direct on these questions about anything on my shows. This is very complicated. Cee Lo has things he wants to do. It's all about trying to respect that.

So there haven't been any decisions made yet about changes to the coaches' lineup for Season 7?

Burnett: There hasn't even been a discussion about that at all.

Usher, do you have any advice for the person who will replace Cee Lo Green on "The Voice"?

Usher: It's an incredible environment to work in, and bring whatever your experience is to the show. A lot of why I really wanted to do this show was an opportunity in some way, to reintroduce myself. For many years, being viewed in one specific way.

I've been doing it for a long time, even though I'm still the new kid on the block [on "The Voice"]. It's that intimate look, my point of view, my perspective that I would never be able to give my audience that I think is great. I would encourage them to do the same

Usher, you have been a mentor to Justin Bieber. Can you talk about how that experience helped you mentor contestants on "The Voice"?

Usher: I guess I'm little confused at Justin and the association with "The Voice," but any person that I've been a mentor to, I mentor them specifically. My approach, every year, is significant with that person, and everybody, I guess, needs something specific.

While I'm mentoring, I would actually like to win the show. I think Blake, he created an idea. There's a focus, he stays country, no matter what. It's his one go-to if he feels like he's out of sorts in some way. I'm working out that one piece. The rest, you gotta to tune in and see.

Previous seasons of "The Voice" have introduced new twists to the show, such as coaches being able to "steal" contestants, the addition of the Knockout Rounds and the Instant Save of contestants by live Twitter voting. Will there be any surprising twists that will be introduced this season?

Daly: Every season, we do reserve the right to look back and say, how do we tweak this show to keep what's important: authentic music and the highest level on talent on screen, with four of the biggest people in music? And with that do come some tweaks. There might be some surprises this year.

How do you respond to criticism that the Instant Save voting excludes people who watch the tape-delayed show in the Pacific and Mountain time zones?

Daly: That's not true, necessarily. It's actually pretty easy. If you follow the show on Twitter, you get the alerts. You watch on Monday night, so when you get the alert that so-and-so is up for elimination, and it's 5 o'clock, you can cast your save right there. Everybody can participate.

It's just where television's heading. When we first did it, it was a little bit scary, we understood there were people kind of freaking out about their participation, but to be on air and to get the name in real time. And for us to not even be able to control those five minutes was really fun.

For more info: "The Voice" website


"The Voice" interviews

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