When Shakira, Adam Levine, Usher and Blake Sheldon get together in a room, it doesn’t seem to matter if there’s a video camera rolling. The group, joined by executive producer Mark Burnett, host Carson Daly and “social media correspondent” Christina Milian, quickly settled into a grove of ribbing one another. When asked about scripted versus unscripted content, Burnett shrugged, “It just matters that it’s good,” which inspired Daly to start the joking around.
“It’s no ‘Bible,'” he said. “But second place is pretty good. It’s Jesus, then Mary Magdalene, then ‘The Voice.’
The judges talked about their easy rapport on the show, which wasn’t a given when Usher and Shakira stepped in for Cee-Lo Green and Christina Aguilera. “I don’t think we were nervous, we were certainly curious about what the dynamic would be. We were beyond happy… there’s a lot of chemistry. It could have not been there, but it was,” said Levine.
“I was a little nervous, [because the show] was beating the odds,” said Shelton. “It was a music talent show in a world where there’s a lot of those. I never met either of these two before, and one thing you can’t fake is chemistry. And damned if its not as strong as its ever been. [Whichever producer] picked these two knew they weren’t dealing with artists with egos. They were really good people.”
“Something that is very distinctive about this show is how real it is,” said Shakira. “There’s nothing fake about it. I didn’t get any kind of preparation for this show… I was thrown to the lions. There was really no guidance whatsoever [other than] just be yourself. There are no poses here. It’s just all about being spontaneous. I was actually telling the guys I usually hate to watch myself on TV, but I do enjoy on Mondays and Tuesdays watching the show because it’s so entertaining.”
Leering, Levine joked, “I enjoy your music and your videos. I watch them. All the time.”
Usher was humble about his addition to the show, saying, “They didn’t need us in order for the show to work. I was very proud of what I saw before [and] I brought years of experience and opinion… being able to mentor other artists. I had conversations with [Carson Daly] on his radio show and he spoke very very highly of it. I said let me see… and before I knew it Iw as signed up for the show.”
The steal, a new element to the show, was one Levine joked was “a very sore topic, just so you know.”
Usher added, “There was definitely the one who got away for a couple of us.”
“[The steal] makes that decision even tougher, because you do feel loyalty to the ones who picked you to begin with, there is a trust and a bond there,” Shelton said. “If you’re really doing your job as a coach, you have to make the decision based on talent and not a relationship and that’s tough, it’s really tough, an the lines get blurred and it’s a grey area sometimes. Sometimes that makes the difference between a winner and a loser.”
One topic the judges didn’t care to get into? Competing with “American Idol,” which is slipping in the ratings as “The Voice” is holding strong. Still, Levine didn’t care to gloat. “We don’t get involved in stupid s*** like that. We think about making that show the best it can be.”
Shelton was much more interested in talking about how his wife Miranda forced him to sit down and educate himself about Usher and Shakira by watching all of their videos. Shakira apologized, but Shelton shook his head. “Why would you say you’re sorry? I didn’t have to watch HBO or Showtime [after that].”
The judges were also happy to talk about how they manipulate contestants into picking them. Gesturing toward Shelton, Levine joked, “He’s totally full of s***. Next question? We all have our brand of manipulation. His is ‘Aw shucks, you could be my daughter’ kind of thing. It still somehow manages to make us love him.”
Usher was asked about his one leg move. “I think everybody has their own thing,” he explained. “The only thing I can do is be my best self. The network was originally against it, [saying] we don’t think that will read well. But it worked. There is the freedom to be yourself and just let your hair down.”