Season 7 of The Voice premiered last night, to the tune of nearly 13 million viewers anxious to see how new judges Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams would mesh with mainstays Blake Shelton and Adam Levine.
So, what’s the verdict? Does this new four-judge combo work? In a word, yes. In two words, hell yes.
Not that we were exactly skeptical about the skills Stefani and Williams were bringing to the table — as the cofounder and lead vocalist for No Doubt, Stefani’s been a pioneering force for women in music since 1986. As for Williams, well, whose career hasn’t this guy helped make? From Justin Timberlake to Robin Thicke to, yes, even Stefani, Williams has furthered some pretty phenomenal artists.
Plus, for the record, when CeeLo Green left the show, we suggested Williams as a viable replacement.
If we had any reticence at all, it stemmed from our affection for the previous “replacement” judges, Shakira and last-season champ Usher. Honestly, we were sad to see them go. They were fun, a bit flashy and, ultimately, endearing. They seemed to share a genuine connection with Shelton and Levine, too.
After last night’s premiere, though, it seems apparent Stefani and Williams will enjoy the same easygoing rapport with the veteran judges.
In fact, the depth of Williams’ experience — rapper, producer, lyricist, musician, etc. — and high-profile collaborations add a refreshing new intensity to the show. He’s smart, he’s to the point, he has a proven track record with some of the biggest names in the biz — all of which parlays into contestants being eager to join his team.
For her part, Stefani brings an enthusiasm that is contagious and, so far, doesn’t feel contrived and isn’t acerbically directed at the other judges. Also, she’s adorable. It had to be said. We kinda want to be her bestie. And did we mention she hands out glitzy T-shirts to her team? So, yeah, there’s that too.
But where does that leave Shelton and Levine? Working. Hard.
Stefani and Williams are each strong draws and, together, they have a commanding presence. After seven seasons, it’s nice to see Levine and Shelton sweating a little bit over the competition.
Besides, their bromance isn’t going anywhere anytime soon — it’s kind of the shtick that brings the judging panel together (and, you know, helps pull in millions of viewers each week).
It goes without saying that we’re pretty “happy” with the addition of Stefani and Williams, but only time will tell if our crush on this new combo of judges will turn out to be a fling or a long-standing affair.
Will Levine and Stefani butt heads the way he and former judge Christina Aguilera did in the past? Will Shelton, as some viewers have suggested, start to feel out of his league?