For the first time ever, The Voice surpassed American Idol in the ever-desirable 18-49 ratings demographic two weeks ago. And critics aren't surprised. Especially after watching Monday's Battle Rounds episode of The Voice, which featured a thrilling vocal duel between two remarkably gifted contestants, they're making the argument that The Voice is simply better than Idol. From a stronger talent pool to the charmingly combative dynamic between the celebrity mentors, here are four reasons why The Voice is gaining momentum:
1. The coaches are more valuable — and entertaining
On The Voice, the celebrity panel — Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, Cee Lo Green, and Adam Levine — are coaches, not judges, says Alex Strachan at the Montreal Gazette. Because they have a "vested interest in the success of their 12 chosen team members," they offer truly valuable insights and constructive criticism. That differs starkly from the blanket "that was good/that was bad" responses typically doled out by the judges on rival programs. The Voice's competitive banter is far more entertaining than the faux-arguing on The X Factor or the unanimous agreement on Idol, says Michele Amabile Angermiller at The Hollywood Reporter. "Who didn't snicker when Aguilera called Levine a Justin Timberlake wannabe?"
2. The contestants are better
The Voice makes no effort to conceal that many of its contestants have previous professional musical experience. And why should they, asks Strachan. That means they're good. Idol, meanwhile, which is dealing with its weakest crop of singers ever, "likes to pretend its contestants fell off the back of a turnip truck," though some of them aren't exactly industry newcomers. If Idol followed The Voice's lead, perhaps we'd be spared the "systematic mauling of Adele songs" each week. Plus, because of The Voice's blind audition process, says Angermiller, its contestants are chosen "purely on their vocals and not their 'package.'"
3. And can be themselves
On American Idol, contestants are maddeningly forced "into a box" week after week by tired themes — disco, Motown, or, as was the case Wednesday night, the song catalogs of Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder, says Strachan. The Voice, on the other hand, encourages its singers to perform in the genres in which they shine, without such constraints. That freedom has allowed for some of the most unique performances in the reality singing niche, says Alyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress. And The Voice has the edge when it comes to delivering singers with "stylistic diversity... without tipping over into novelty act territory." Aguilera's team, for instance, includes both an opera singer and an MC.
4. There's more excitement
Anyone looking for proof that The Voice is the "best singing competition on television" need only tune-in for one of its Battle Round episodes, which pits two singers from the same coach's team against each other in a duet-duel that results in the elimination of the weaker singer, says Ryan Durling at Bostinno. The episodes are "entertaining and efficient, in ways that American Idol… probably will never be." Idol is still capable of producing powerhouse performances, like Jessica Sanchez's "jaw-dropping," note-perfect cover of the Whitney Houston ballad "I Will Always Love You" Wednesday night, says Erin Carlson at The Hollywood Reporter. But The Voice proves to be more consistently captivating TV, thanks to the "tense moments" of the Battle Rounds, says Andrew Unterberger at Pop Dust.