- - Sunday, October 26, 2014

You’re to be forgiven for thinking the “Knockout” rounds tonight and tomorrow on NBC’s “The Voice” could result in fisticuffs.

Those who think of singing competitions in terms of Fox’s “American Idol” — whose verbal jabs between judges Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey last year seemed to presage real bloodshed — should know “The Voice” is a kinder, gentler contest.

Sure, it has literal bells and whistles, but there’s less show and more business — with plenty of fun.

“None of us was overly excited when we were first approached about this show. And, candidly, the chances of a show like this making it are slim to none,” host Carson Daly said of his and others’ reactions when they were approached for the American version of “The Voice of Holland.” “None of us cared about another one of these singing shows. But then when I went into the first meeting and saw the format I knew it was different.”

It’s made a major difference for NBC, helping boost the network’s ratings to No. 1 among the Big Four networks in adults ages 18-49 and every other key demographic. Last week “The Voice” ranked No. 5 overall, and last Tuesday’s show ranked No. 7, according to an NBC statement.

Although she doesn’t mention “American Idol,” Audrey Morrissey, executive producer of “The Voice,” said coaches for the show had to have the right spirit.

“I think one core value is that we always wanted our coaches to be vibrant, active artists,” she said. “We always have the understanding that people, if they are going to be in that realm on the show, take time off and commit to the show.”

Sounds basic, but that and the “blind audition” — when coaches only hear the contestant — are what set it apart. The producers built the show around coaches working with mentees who compete for the grand prize of a recording contract.

In a press conference before the show’s April 2011 debut, Maroon 5 singer and coach Adam Levine stressed the mentoring aspect: “Judging is kind of a dirty word around here.”

First season contestant Jared Blake, who last month released the six-song EP “‘Til Morning Light,” said those words are true.

“You don’t realize how much you get or how different it is [from similar shows] until it’s over,” said Mr. Blake, whose coach was country star Blake Shelton. “I was a little scared to go on any reality show, especially knowing how they have worked.

“What I found was it was completely different from what I expected. [The show’s producers] weren’t trying to start fights or make fun of people. There was some drama behind the scenes, but it was never shown. They really worked hard to keep it professional.”

Although Mr. Blake writes, performs and records the same type of country music as his coach, Mr. Shelton didn’t try to mold him in his professional image.

“Blake gave me a lot of response right off the bat,” Mr. Blake said. “He said, ‘I’m not going to teach you about writing or about performing. I’m going to teach you how to develop your career once you leave the show.’”

Mr. Blake took Mr. Shelton’s advice and works hard to develop a fan base. He shares his personal addiction stories as a supporter of “Live to be Sober” and organized “The Movement,” a series of concerts at campgrounds designed to bring families together.

Such advocacy is just another positive from the coaching choices made for “The Voice,” said Ms. Morrissey.


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