Grammy scene-stealer Cee Lo Green and Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine are in serious discussions to join Mark Burnett’s singing competition The Voice for NBC, EW has learned exclusively. Producers also considered Lenny Kravitz, Roger Daltrey, Mary J. Blige, John Legend, and Enrique Iglesias about occupying a judging seat on the show. Plus, there’s a major-name female star who’s in talks to join as well, but is not yet close to a deal (according to two unconfirmed sources, it’s Christina Aguilera, which would obviously be an enormous name for any talent show).
Deals are not signed and things could still change. But NBC hopes to close deals with the male singers within the next few days, and then sign another judge sometime next week. While taking a break from his work on Gnarls Barkley, Cee Lo has been on a star-making run with his hit single “F— You” and Grammy performance with Gwyneth Paltrow (during which he was dressed, appropriately enough for a man who may judge a show on NBC, as a peacock). Meanwhile, the L.A.-based band Maroon 5 released their most recent album last fall and played Fox’s Super Bowl pregame earlier this month.
As Fox discovered last year when trying to fill spots on Idol, securing high-profile judges can be difficult, as pop stars tend to come with prior commitments. Signing with a network for a TV show often means canceling other obligations, sometimes at a price.
Clearly NBC is going after pop stars instead of record-label suits for their judge spots, and is hoping to land current and relevant artists. If hired, Cee Lo and Levine, along with the third judge, should lend some name recognition and industry experience to the show, as well as generate press interest.
The Voice seeks to gain market share when it launches this spring in the toughest of reality genres just as Idol is ramping up for its Top 12. It’s a high-stakes plan, especially since Idol has already bested one competitor this season, CBS’ performance series Live to Dance starring former Idol judge Paula Abdul. But NBC has proven it can draw good ratings with a singing competition with its winter a cappella competition The Sing-Off.
The Voice is based on a Dutch hit where contestants audition while judges face the other direction, unable to see the contestants. The Susan Boyle-friendly format has judges making their verdicts based on the singer’s vocal talent alone rather than being influenced by the contestant’s physical appearance. Once they hit a button deciding whether to accept the performance, their chairs swivel around (see clip below). Unlike Idol, contestants will not be sequestered during the competition, but will be free to interact with fans and perform on their own (such as doing club dates) while trying to build their fan base.
Last week NBC announced The Voice will take the unique step of opening its audition process to any singer with a webcam. Carson Daly will host.
Here’s a clip from the Dutch version: