Are you Team Shakira or Team Christina? Do you prefer a coach who exudes bright-eyed, Mr. Bluebird-on-my-shoulder enthusiasm, or would you rather watch a brutally honest pro who’s always on the verge of stabbing the competition with her little spiked hat? Your answers will determine whether you love or hate The Voice this season, now that Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green are on hiatus and Shakira and Usher are subbing in. Aguilera gloried in needling her fellow coach Adam Levine — ”No one can bust his balls like me,” she once bragged — but now it’s almost as if they all like each other. Carson Daly introduces Usher as ”one of the greatest performers in American music history.” (Sorry, Frank Sinatra!) Levine and his sarsaparilla-swigging comrade Blake Shelton have such a tight bromance that when they bicker, Usher jokes that they need couples counseling. Even Shakira is trying very hard to contribute…something. ”I play the harmonica!” she announces in one episode. ”I can put my legs behind my head!” she volunteers in another. At least she’s always supportive of the singers, who need extra constructive criticism this year: With the exception of former Michael Jackson duet partner Judith Hill, who wields her voice like a flare gun, the talent so far has been somewhat underwhelming. But people watch The Voice for the coaches, not the contestants — and at a time when everyone’s fighting on American Idol, with Nicki Minaj playing the angriest Oompa Loompa on TV, it’s nice to see judges having fun. If there’s any sarsaparilla left in Shelton’s flask, he should pour some out for his homie Xtina. B+
A rotating chair-full of judges search for the next great superstar singer on this NBC reality show.