'The Voice' gets format twist, Aguilera welcomes Spears to the 'fun'

LOS ANGELES -- When "The Voice" makes its fall debut on Sept. 10, it won't be the only singing belle of the ball that week -- "The X Factor" premieres two days later, with the one-two punch additions of Britney Spears and Demi Lovato. So NBC is g...

'The Voice' judges and producer Mark Burnett
Coaches Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera, and Blake Shelton, host Carson Daly and producer Mark Burnett at a news conference for the singing competition series, "The Voice," Sunday in Malibu, Calif. (AP Photo/NBC, Chris Haston)

LOS ANGELES -- When "The Voice" makes its fall debut on Sept. 10, it won't be the only singing belle of the ball that week -- "The X Factor" premieres two days later, with the one-two punch additions of Britney Spears and Demi Lovato. So NBC is giving its well-performing songster its own double twist for the fall: a steal and a knockout.

Meeting with reporters Sunday at his swanky beachside home, executive producer Mark Burnett -- along with coaches Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton and host Carson Daly -- revealed the additions meant to prolong the drama and maintain viewers' interest after the chairs stop spinning (when viewership typically starts to lag).

"We all just wondered, what is it that we can do during the battles to keep the competitive element going," Burnett said. Pit the judges against each other some more!

The first two seasons saw two contestants facing off in front of their coach during the battle rounds, with the losing singer going home. This season, the rival coaches will be able to steal contestants that have been sent home. If more than one coach hits their red buzzer, the contestant -- similar to the bling audition rounds -- decides which coach he or she wants to switch to. Each coach can save two contestants, leaving them with 10 singers instead of 8.

Which leads into the show's next new element: the "knockout round." In this period, the coaches will shrink their teams to five. Those 20 singers will then proceed to the live shows.


"It worked better than we hoped. It's been a kind experience," Burnett said. People who deserve to stay will stay." The decision to add a "steal" and a "knockout round," Burnett said, was a joint one between himself, NBC, Warner Horizon and Talpa Media (which created the show in Holland).

But will the twist bring enough viewers to make an interesting battle with "The X Factor"? "The Voice" averaged about 14 million viewers with its second season, which wrapped in May. "The X Factor" averaged around 12 million viewers in its first season last fall. Generating buzz over on "The X Factor," though, are the additions of pop starlets Lovato and Spears.

It pits Aguilera, once more, against her former "Mickey Mouse Club" cast mate and music chart rival. But the 31-year-old songstress downplayed the tug-of-war with Spears: "I came up with Britney ... we were very close," she said. "Our paths have always crossed. They're going to continue to cross. I welcome her to this family of fun and entertainment and finding new talent. Britney's a pro."

Levine, chiming in, said he's pleased with the way music stars have embraced the roles these singing competition shows have created: "Know when we all started to do this, we were extremely apprehensive about the idea," he said. Now, "I wear it as a badge of pride, like, 'Yeah, this is cool.' We made this cool and we made this something people want to be a part of. I'm really proud of the fact that people think that they can do this now."

While "The Voice" may boast names of music celebrities, it hasn't exactly created any. Season 1 winner Javier Colon was dropped by Universal Republic Records, ending the recording contract he was awarded after winning the show. Levine said it's not a "reasonable expectation" to think superstar success will come easily just from appearing on the show.

"I actually thought a lot about this," he said. "We all know how extraordinarily hard it is to have that type of success that reaches further than your wildest dreams. There are a lot of elements that need to magically fall into place in order for that to happen. We can provide a certain amount of insurance that this person will get some kind of shot at success ... we're not their managers, we're not their record labels. We can't micro-manage everything that happens after their run of the show. We would love to see a star born out of this show, however, we're not hinging the relevance of the show on that."

But what about the relevance that comes with having big names on the roster? With the show now getting two outings a season, there's been speculation that it would open the door for a new coaching lineup, as its originals work on their own projects or have touring commitments.

"It's your seat for life," Burnett said, indicating that replacements would be only for a season. "If someone goes on tour, they can help bring in another coach."


Aguilera, who will soon debut a new single, said staying active will only add to their mentorship, saying it allows the active judges to "bring fresh advice" to the talent pool.

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