The four mentor-judges on The Voice are all returning for a third season, which is likely to air in the fall on NBC. But it might not be realistic for the current Fab Four to stay together forever. They’re getting more expensive now that the show is a hit, with Christina Aguilera's rumored $10 million salary topping the list. Adam Levine has a new interest in acting. And all four of the judges still have recording careers to concern themselves with, something that Simon Cowell never had to worry about.
When the producers of The Voice eventually have to decide who to prioritize among the current judges and who is less vital, what decisions should they make? And who might they decide to seek out as a replacement?
In order of most important to least:
Blake Shelton: There are any number of country stars who would love to have this job, but Shelton’s mix of positives makes him the most obvious keeper in the bunch. He’s still a vital hitmaker – the only one of the four who has arguably not yet peaked commercially. He’s extremely likable – this was proven going all the way back to his time as the winning mentor on the NBC holiday series Clash of the Choirs several years ago. He’s funny, often bitingly so, without coming across as mean. His marriage to Miranda Lambert adds glamour to the show. And he’s proven to be a very effective mentor, even with an artist like Dia Frampton, whose sensibility wasn’t country in any way. Blake is worth more than what they’re paying him.
Possible replacement: Martina McBride wouldn’t be a bad pick at all – we’ve seen her as a guest mentor on American Idol. On the male side, might as well start with Brad Paisley and work your way down the list.
Adam Levine: The winning mentor in Season One, Adam seems to relish being seen as the one among the four who takes the biggest personal interest in winning. Aside from his bromance with Blake, he has a heartthrob appeal that’s apparent to anyone who follows Twitter. And while Maroon 5 isn’t the hippest band in the world, he’s the show’s ambassador to the rock community. My biggest complaint about him so far is that his taste level is questionab
le – he’s championed some real duds.
Possible replacement: How about ex-Fall Out Boy chief and current man about Hollywood Pete Wentz? He’d bring some of the same aura of hip, and it’s not like he’s been overwhelmed with musical duties of late.
Christina Aguilera: Prior to the premiere of The Voice, there’s no question she would have been considered the most crucial mentor/judge – the most famous, the most successful, the one with the most credibility as a “pure” singer (recent missteps aside, both in an artistic and a personal sense). And the show thought so too, as she’s getting paid more than the others. But I find Christina obnoxious most of the time, and the show’s determination to spark a feud between her and Adam is both desperate and transparent. Her track record as a mentor is iffy so far, and the plain truth is that a little of her vocal style goes a long way.
Possible replacement: There’s an obvious one who is already part of The Voice family: Kelly Clarkson. Would Kelly do it, especially now with her career enjoying a sudden resurgence? Would she stick it to Idol like that? Probably not, but she would combine vocal credibility with an appreciation for the reality show grind that couldn’t be replicated by anyone else.
Cee Lo Green: Let’s be clear: I like Cee Lo. Leaving aside that his biggest hits are modern classics, he adds an element of eccentric cool to the otherwise hokey proceedings (whoever came up with the idea for the cat is a genius). You never know exactly what you’re going to get from him, and a show like this needs some unpredictability. I have to question how effective a mentor he has been, however; and he typically comes across as checked out whenever something is happening that doesn’t concern his own team.
Possible replacement: You might as well start at the top and aim for Usher, who would bring youth appeal along with his two decades of experience. Even though his singing is pedestrian at best, he’s a lightning rod for a lot of people, and he’s likely way too busy, I’d love to see the show make a run at Kanye West, if only to insure the insanity continues.