In more than a dozen seasons, NBC’s “The Voice” defied the odds and lasted longer than most talent shows that premiered in a post-”American Idol” world. But season after season and a rotating roster of high-profile celebrity coaches, the winners haven’t gone on to have memorable careers.
Based on the original Dutch version, "The Voice of Holland," the American premise was simple — blind auditions with four celebrity judges that pick contestants based solely on their talent and vocal ability. The judges then build their team to compete for a chance of $100,000 and a record deal with Universal Music Group. The show focused heavily on its contestant's potential to be the next big pop star, which most of the time forced their appearance, age, personality and likability to be taken into consideration.
By jump-starting the show with Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine, Cee-Lo Green and Blake Shelton as the celebrity judges, "The Voice" had all the potential to become a sensation and produce the next big names in the industry. However, the show has yet to produce a huge pop star.
Some have speculated that Universal Music Group has not done enough to promote the winners after their time on the show. After contestant Todd Tilgman won season 18 of the show in 2020, mentor Blake Shelton openly criticized the label for its treatment of winners to ET Canada.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow when somebody works as hard as Todd has and they get this chance, and there’s just no follow-through with the record deal, so I still feel like that’s something that's got to be improved on,” said Blake.
UMG is home to today's biggest stars, and with acts such as One Direction, Kelly Clarkson, Leona Lewis, Carrie Underwood and Little Mix finding massive success after winning their respective shows, it’s surprising that "The Voice" winners seem to not have garnered the same success.
A factor for the show’s winners not reaching the expected heights could be the presence of the celebrity judges. In the show’s first season, it was the coaches that ended up getting the most publicity and having their careers boosted, which set a precedent for the following seasons. Instead of people tuning in to see contestants sing, they started to tune in to see the coaches playfully bicker and argue with each other, with Adam Levine and Blake Shelton’s “rivalry” becoming an audience’s favorite.
It also doesn’t help that it’s not the contestants competing individually, but it's the coaches competing with each other to win, with the contestants acting as active pieces in the game. For example, in later seasons the show has introduced a “block” feature, where a coach can block another coach from choosing a singer for their team, completely taking away the contestant's choice of picking their mentor.
Unless "The Voice" decides to revamp itself to appeal to a younger demographic, give the limelight to their contestants instead of the judges and show the same selectively to produce stars like other talent shows, its winners will likely continue to fade into obscurity once their seasons end.