It’s business as usual when “The Voice” premieres its fourth season of the singing competition with the Blind Auditions on Monday, March 25, despite the addition of new coaches Shakira and Usher, who will join Adam Levine and Blake Shelton in the big, red chairs.
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There are still contestants who get all four mentors to turn around, there are still the fun interactions between the four mentors as they vie for the talent and pull out the best material from their arsenal of quips to convince someone to join their team, and there are still the heartbreaking stories when someone doesn’t make it through.
XFINITY attended a press conference for the new season of the series, and here are five things we think you need to know before tuning in to the auditions:
No. 1: The format changes from Season 3 will carry over to Season 4: In Season 3, “The Voice” added “The Steal,” where after the Battle Round between two members of the same team, and the elimination of one of them by their mentor, any of the other three mentors could “steal” the eliminated contestant and add them to their team. That element will stay and nothing new is being added.
Watch a First Look of Season 4 of “The Voice”:
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“I think we learned in the earlier seasons in the Battle Rounds that some fantastic people went home that could have easily won any other music competition,” says executive producer Mark Burnett. “To give people a chance to stay here, I think, puts more pressure on these guys. When you’re deciding on a Battle and sending someone home, there’s three other people sitting there waiting to take that person. Who knows? Maybe someone that gets stolen ends up winning the whole thing.”
No. 2: The dynamic between the coaches has changed: With Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green having had such specific personalities, rotating in new coaches Shakira and Usher gives the show a slightly different feel, but one that is equally fun for viewers.
“It’s definitely changed,” says Shelton. It’s two different personalities. You know what I mean? I would say the competitiveness is up somehow. Cee Lo was always just so laid back. He’s been the quiet killer in this thing. So we’ve replaced Cee Lo with somebody that’s just that much more aggressive. Christina was always competitive, so now you’ve got four that are just killers up here.
“Now you have a pregnant, hormonal Colombian,” Levine says, joking. “She’s ready to bust some heads. She ain’t messing around.”
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No 3: Shakira and Usher have their own mentoring style: We won’t see how they work with the contestants until the teams are finally formed, but the new coaches did give us a hint of what their mentoring style is like:
“I think I’m super serious,” says Usher, who gets teased by the other judges for having launched the career of Justin Bieber. “I think my style is just more military than anything because I’m all about the preparation and have always been. I rehearse a million times, you know, to be prepared. But my style is to make them understand the seriousness of the craft, and that they have the very best opportunity to be the greatest or the worst, depending on how you take it.
“Besides being a singer, I’m also a producer and writer,” Shakira says. “I’m very much [involved in] every aspect of my career. Once I’m in the recording studio, I am so hands on. I tend to micromanage so much that I’ve seen myself lately, while I’m coaching my team, that I tend to do the same. I focus on the details. I don’t know if it’s maybe because of the female condition — men are more focused on the general aspects, and women tend to focus on details a lot — so when I’m giving directions to my contestants, I’m particularly focused on details.”
No. 4: Blake Shelton and Adam Levine are at an advantage in the early days, having been mentors for three seasons: If there are any tricks to know, Levine, who won Season 1, and Shelton, who won Seasons 2 and 3, will be at a slight advantage, but so much depends on which singers they get on their team — and that isn’t always their decision. When multiple chairs turn around, it is up to the contestant to decide which mentor they want, so the mentors don’t always get who they want.
“There are many advantages to being the seasoned veteran, starting with we’ve seen about 4,000 more auditions,” Levine says. “We fell into the traps that the new bloods will fall into and dig themselves out of because they are strong, and they will survive, but we know from experience where we’ve been, where we’re going, and how to get through this. These guys are smart and quick studies, so they are probably going to get better quickly, and it’s going to suck for us because then they will probably win this damn thing.”
No . 5: Do the mentors base their decisions on who to eliminate in the Battle Rounds based solely on how good technically a performance is, or can emotion sway their judgment? We have all sat at home and watched in surprise as one of the mentors makes what we feel is the wrong decision, sending home a singer we absolutely loved. Here is what they have to say about that:
“It’s not technical in any way,” Levine told XFINITY. “In fact, it’s the opposite. Because if you’re going from a technical standpoint, I would probably make a totally different set of decisions. I think one of the reasons you may disagree with what I had done is because they were not attached to loving the person, thinking they are great, thinking they are really talented. It does boil down to one moment, and in that moment you can’t think to yourself, ‘Is this person marketable? Would this person be good next week? Were they good last week?’ It’s only about that one game-winning shot for them. So, that’s how I make my decision.”
“You’re making a decision in someone’s life regardless, and that’s a really cool part of the show, even for the people who don’t make it to the end,” Usher says. “They actually walk away with some advice and an opportunity to come back next season as a matter of fact, even to be on one of our teams. I think that our advice comes from the heart. I think that our investment comes from the heart. I can’t speak for anyone else but, you know, if you’re here and you’re going to take the time to give that advice, you really are hopeful and you get invested, and it probably hurts you if you have to pass someone. It hurts.”
“The Voice” premieres Season 4 on Monday, March 25 at 8/7c on NBC.