Blake Shelton isn't “The Voice.” But he's helping to pick it on TV.
And millions are tuning in to watch.
In April, the Oklahoma country music hit maker joined pop belter Christina Aguilera, hip-hop crooner Cee Lo Green of Gnarls Barkley and rocker Adam Levine of Maroon 5 in a friendly contest to determine which star could field the strongest vocal team from the best singers the reality TV show had to offer.
As with most televised vocal competitions, the goal is to pick one winner as “The Voice.” But the show's quirky variations on the reality TV format, solid talent pool and entertaining chemistry among its high-profile panelists have established “The Voice” as a breakout hit for NBC.
For Shelton, starring on “The Voice” already has been fun, frightening and gratifying. And the inaugural season is just entering the final phase of determining its victor. At 8 p.m. Tuesday, the show begins its live performance rounds.
“I really am having a lot of fun with it. I'm glad I did it. You know, being just a redneck from Oklahoma, I've learned the hard way that it's a different world to step into that Hollywood spotlight and to be on television once a week in front of that many people,” Shelton said in a recent phone interview from Nashville, Tenn.
Through its first three weeks on the air, “The Voice” averaged 11.8 million viewers. It became the No. 1 new series of the season among the coveted adults 18-49 demographic and the No. 3 entertainment series overall behind the two editions of Fox's granddaddy of singing contests, “American Idol.”
Ratings for “The Voice” soared even higher last week, drawing more than 14 million viewers.
NBC has been quick to capitalize, renewing the freshman show for a sophomore season and extending the live shows from one- to two-hour episodes. Last week, the peacock network announced it would bump the number of live shows from four to six and give “The Voice” the coveted slot after the Super Bowl in February.
Like many of the show's fans, Shelton was first drawn to the series' blind audition concept. In the first phase of the contest, the celebrity coaches listened with their backs turned as the hopefuls performed, picking singers for their teams based solely on the voices they heard.
“I won't lie, I mean, I wanted to be on the show just because it sounded like fun,” he said. “But once you turn that chair around and you're looking into someone's eyes ... and you realize, man, I was that person, that person up there giving that 200 percent, everything they got, they want this more than they want to live. You know, I remember what that feels like. And instantly it goes for me from a game show or entertainment to something real.”