The face behind The Voice
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Years from now, Christina Aguilera will be remembered for her glamour, her scandalous take on femme-pop and her voice. But she should also be remembered as the person who almost single-handedly reshaped music-competition reality programming. Her legacy as a judge on The Voice, may well turn out to be deeper and more profound than the one she's forged in her music career.
Securing Aguilera in 2011 was a coup for a show that needed to differentiate itself from Fox's American Idol, which had just signed Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez as judges.
Tyler and Lopez were past their fertile period as hitmakers. Aguilera had been in the Billboard Top 10 as recently as 2008. Of the four mentor-judges of The Voice, she was the one most obviously slumming it, even though she was coming off a bumpy professional period: a flop album, Bionic; an awkward and sloppy rendition of the national anthem at the 2011 Super Bowl; and an arrest on a charge of public intoxication.
But Aguilera was an undeniable contemporary pop star. Broadly speaking, it's because of Aguilera that it was announced that Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban, contemporary hitmakers, would become part of the Idol judge panel. (They replace Tyler and Lopez.) They join Mariah Carey, and is now the panel's unlikely eminence grise, and Randy Jackson, the lone holdover from Idol 1.0.
Aguilera's shadow also extends over The X Factor, that last week gave its new judge-mentor panel its debut: the two older male executives, L.A. Reid and Simon Cowell, remain from Season 1, but the two women, Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger, have been replaced by more current names: the former Disney star Demi Lovato and the former Aguilera nemesis Britney Spears.
As a group, they're using these shows not as a platform for stalled-career kick-starting, but as part of a portfolio of activities that reflect current music business realities. Network TV is an extremely dangerous and powerful delivery platform.
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