TV Fanatic Face-Off: The Voice vs. American Idol

at . Comments

Ratings for American Idol are dropping. Ratings for The Voice season two premiere were the highest for a non-sporting event in six years. In other words:

Even if they don't go head-to-head, it's totally on between these two singing competitions, both in the ratings game and on TV Fanatic. In the following face-off, staff writer Steve Marsi takes on editor-in-chief Matt Richenthal, with each critic choosing a side.

Face Off Logo

Steve Marsi: A Vote for The Voice

The major criticisms of NBC's The Voice are that it's a gimmicky knockoff of similar programs, and caters to also-rans instead of singers with bona fide star potential.My response is twofold:

  1. The gimmick works.
  2. So what?

Comparing The Voice to American Idol is only natural, as the singing competitions air new seasons simultaneously and battle one another for viewers. Yet the two are polar opposites, and The Voice clearly exists to fill a void left by Idol on several fronts. It's succeeded brilliantly in that respect so far, establishing itself as a far more entertaining show.

Let's start with the coaches. Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera are all contemporary and very likable stars. They play off each other well and seem to enjoy every second they're together. Taking things seriously enough to keep viewers invested, but keeping it light enough that it doesn't become ALL about the judges' squabbles (see Factor, X), the Fab Four form a genuinely engaging panel.

The coaching aspect makes for an entertaining format, with the stars competing for the talent and then grooming the talent to compete against the other talent. While a bit confusing at times, with its wild cards, sudden death battles and point system, it's definitely original and keeps the show from growing stale.

American Idol can't say the same. For a show that boasts to create stars, it's becoming a misnomer. None of Idol's top-five recording artists by album sales are from the past five seasons. This is because it's formulaic, predictable and mostly filler.

From its blind auditions on, The Voice lives up to its title by being all about the artists, embracing the fact that many aspirants are so different when it comes to their genre, age, appearance or sexual orientation. Idol is cookie cutter drivel; The Voice is ambitious, different and the singing competition version of The Island of Misfit Toys. That's not a negative, but part of what makes it so cool.

Many have tried and failed to gain traction in the industry before, but why is that a bad thing in a business where people need that second, third and fourth chance. Idol wins for glitz and glamour, but you can give me The Voice's unique crop of vocalists and Cee Lo's swiveling spaceship chair any day.

Matt Richenthal: An Idol Argument

I'll give The Voice its blind auditions. Those are far more entertaining than the dreaded opening rounds of American Idol, which feature forced sentimentality; an influx of awful singers; and this year, in an all-time low, a cliffhanger of an episode based on a 16-year old girl falling off the stage.

But fast forward to when the competitions truly take off and it's no contest. The Voice focuses on a panel of contemporary artists all trying to sell records and make headlines. It makes the same mistake as The X Factor, placing this quartet front and center in contrived fights and on contrived teams. It just does so with far better actors than Simon Cowell's mess of a program.

There are wild cards, battle rounds, weird-looking chairs, some kind of points system. Come on. Why make something so basic into something so convoluted?

Give me a show that simply places aspiring singers on stage and asks them to - gasp! - sing. The judges shouldn't have a stake in the proceedings, they should simply watch from their unbiased (regularly-sized) chairs and give an honest opinion.

I also just prefer Idol's judges to those on The Voice. Steven Tyler is delightfully wacky, Randy Jackson is the straight-shooting veteran and Jennifer Lopez is downright gorgeous.

Has Idol suffered from a lack of major stars over the last few years? Maybe. But, quick, can you even name the season one winner of The Voice?!? Idol is responsible for an Oscar winner, multiple Grammy winners and more platinum records than viewers who watch Carson Daly's late night talk show.

When I watch the top 12 perform on Idol, I'm confident the next big music star is among them. When I turn on The Voice, meanwhile, I'm merely confident that I'll be blinded by Cee Lo Green's outfit.



la voz es mucho mejor hay no importa la apariencia o la sexualidad no discriminan por eso mi voto para the voice


The Voice hands down. I was a big time Idol fan for years but stopped watching about 3 years ago. It was the same think year after year. I got tired of it being a popularity contest. If you're a cute young guy, the little girls at home vote and you stay while more talented people get the boot. Jennifer Hudson is the perfect example of that. Daughtry too. Sure AI and The Voice re not the same but they are both singing oontests. American Idol had its time and I think people are tired of all the theatrics from the judges and the production. All fluff, little substance. The Voice is giving it to you straight, no chaser and I think that's what makes it so appealing.


Having watched the two shows for the past two seasons, there is no doubt the VOICE presents better and more talented singers. The duel between pairs is highly entertaining and the voice of the artist is subliminal to the talents on offer whereas American Idol has had its time. It has produced some great artists over the years but has dried up to the point where votes are cast as a popularity contest as opposed to true talent . When I close my eyes and listen to the artists, American Idol simply cannot produce the level that the VOICE has and that is not only more entertaining but provides a glimpse of the artists who truly deserve to be on the stage.

Miranda wicker

Psst, @Dan--for me it's job security! Watch Idol, people!! :) But really, I feel like The Voice is a rip-off of the British X Factor only done better. I think their formats are also more similar which makes comparing and contrasting them to decide which is better a little easier. coughTheVoicecoughAdamLevinecough


@Miranda- Battle Royale between Voice and X Factor? More like a slam dunk. There is definitely a conversation to be had in deciding between Voice and Idol, but X Factor doesn't belong in the same conversation. It was just a very mediocre attempt in its first season.


I'm definitely voting for the Voice - as a singer, it definitely caters more to the talent than to the "package". The judges are much fairer - they understand how hard it is to stand in front of people who are going to judge you. They don't insult the contestants for no bloody reason. Quote: Idol is responsible for an Oscar winner, multiple Grammy winners and more platinum records than viewers who watch Carson Daly's late night talk show. Jennifer Hudson was on Idol, yes, and there's no doubt at all that helped her career, but let's remember that she got kicked off way too soon. I wouldn't call Idol responsible for her Oscar - Idol's about singing, the Oscar was for acting. Also, comparing the Idol's award track record to the Voice is unfair - Idol has a 10 year head start.


The Voice for the win.
I absolutely love the Voice. I never got hooked on American Idol. I like the Voice because they choose the contestants from voice only and not first impressions. So obviously, I go with THE VOICE.


I love The Voice. I started watching it last season and I totally loved it. . .I watched it because of Adam Levine at first, but then it becomes a lot more entertaining than just Adam. .

Miranda wicker

I feel like this is kind of an "apples to oranges" debate. What makes apples and oranges the same is that they're both fruit and they grow on trees. What makes Idol and The Voice the same are that they're both singing competitions. Sure, they're similar, but I feel like they appeal to somewhat different audiences (even if the target demographic is supposed to be the same) and their formats are different enough to make comparing them difficult. If we were comparing The Voice to X Factor, we'd have a battle royale on our hands, but as it is Idol and The Voice are more different than similar. There's room in our reality tv-loving hearts for both!


Answer to Matt Richenthal: Javier Colon. Who now has a hit single with Natasha Bedingfield. The overall answer: The Voice. Idol is all about what you look like; i.e. the 'Total Package'. To be honest, I think it's insulting that music execs and producers assume that we buy music based on looks. Marketing 'good looking people' as opposed to 'average/ugly' people is ridiculous. I like music for music, not by how ripped/gorgeous the singer is.

Tags: , ,