“The Voice” bills itself as an equal opportunity singing competition where it doesn’t matter how people look or how old they are. The producers claim contestants are judged by their talent alone. But in a viewer voting environment, is that really possible?
After powerhouse belter Sisaundra Lewis was sent home by command of the twitterverse during the top 8 results show, I picked my jaw up off the floor and began to ponder the bizarre turn of events. As a member of the 40-something crowd, I’d had hopes that Lewis would be the first of my generation (or older) to prove her enduring worth to the youth dominated entertainment industry by claiming the “Voice” throne.
Looks Do Matter
As a fit, statuesque woman, with a fierce, closely cropped hair style, Lewis is a thumbs up in the looks department. I suspect that’s one of the reasons she got as far as she did. But let’s face it, most of us aren’t that well preserved. This puts mature contestants at a disadvantage as soon as the chairs turn around.
Adam Levine keeps making a big show of kicking himself for letting Josh Kaufman go, but I have to wonder how much of his decision had to do with Kaufman’s appearance. The soulful father of three is short, and not conventionally handsome, though he is endearing.
Oh, and he’s 38 – just a hop skip and a jump from the grave by Generation Z standards.
Tweety Birds Rule
“The Voice” offers easy access voting for just about anyone who’s likely to be near a TV after each round of competition, but only tweeters can participate in the instant save, which determines the final contestant who remains in the competition. A recent study by J. P. Morgan found that Twitter users “skew young.” Compared with Facebook and LinkedIn, Twitter has the highest percentage of users under 35.
Older viewers can call in their votes, text them, vote on Facebook or NBC.com, or buy their favorites’ singles on itunes. But if they don’t have Twitter accounts, they don’t get a say in determining who gets the instant win slot. And let’s face it; younger viewers are more likely to vote for younger contestants.
Lewis’ resume includes past employers like Celine Dion and Cirque du Soleil, both acts that appeal to an older crowd. She sang songs like: “New York State of Mind,” “River Deep, Mountain High,” and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” In fact her only performance from a current artist was Lady Gaga’s “Do What U Want,” during the Battle Rounds.
A lot of Twitter voters were probably unfamiliar with Lewis’ chosen songs. Her classic vocal style may not have appealed to them either.
That’s not to say that performers should try to be something they’re not in order to win. Would a 40-year-old man who sounded like Jason Mraz be well received? It’s hard to say, but I’m thinking he’d have a hard time beating a 25-year-old with the same skills.
MORE FROM THIS CONTRIBUTOR:
Jena Irene Reaches for ‘American Idol’ Crown Plus Other ‘AI’ Rocker Chicks
What “The Most Interesting Man in the World” Means for Gender Equality, Aging
‘The Voice’ Eliminates Knockouts and Introduces Playoffs: Why the Change?