American Idol

'American Idol' vs. 'The Voice' smackdown! Which show is better?

April 4, 2013 at 1:37 PM ET

'American Idol' vs 'The Voice' Smackdown!
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images; Dominique Charriau/Getty Images for Sephora /
'American Idol' vs 'The Voice' Smackdown!

On Mondays and Tuesdays, we've got The Voice (NBC, 8 p.m. ET). On Wednesdays and Thursdays, we've got American Idol (Fox, 8 p.m. ET). And on Fridays, we wake up and ask ourselves, "Did I just watch a singing competition every night this week?"

Yep, that happened. (Ah, well.) So let's get down to comparing the two! Which show is better so far? Naturally, that depends on what you're judging them on. Of course, the two competitions are in different stages right now: The Voice is just four episodes in, and still in its "blind auditions" phase, while Idol (which premiered in January) is already down to its final seven contestants. That's worth remembering as we talk ratings and contestant quality!

The contestants: There's no question that Idol dominates in this area. Who has won The Voice? Who knows? (And yet, four seasons in, three singers must have.) But Idol's been an extra bouncy springboard for tons of former participants, like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Clay Aiken, Jennifer Hudson, Kellie Pickler and Phil Phillips, among others. Ironically, The Voice's talent pool is always good from the start. It's Idol that's all about finding undiscovered talent amidst the masses of good, bad and truly horrendous singers. The Voice comes out of the gate with a stacked deck of decent singers, which producers find through casting and some casting calls. So why has Idol managed to find superstars, while none of the hand-selected Voice contestants have made a splash? It's a mystery.

The format:The Voice's blind auditions naturally feel fresher than Idol's tired routine because they have an element of surprise built right in. ("You sing beautifully!" Chair swivels. "Oh, but you look like…Carrot Top.") And there's fun to be had in watching the judges try to lure the most vocally gifted contestants to their teams. Producers have obviously coached them to play a little dirty, disparaging one another without getting too mean. It's hard to go wrong with this formula, especially since it's still comparatively new. But Idol still has the priceless, unintentional comedy that comes with self-deluded non-singers who squeak or squawk or wail like sirens, then stand back and wait for their tickets to Hollywood. Which show offers the best early episodes? It's a draw.

The judges: The Voice wins this category, hands down. Why? In two words, Nicki Minaj. Idol's latest idea of a talent scout is full of nasally complaints, and even her weird attempts to be encouraging have made the show hard to watch at times. And because Mariah Carey is sitting at a table with this outspoken peacock, her own iconic diva-ness just seems bland and imperious. Keith Urban is likable, but his sweet vibe can't compensate for the irritation sitting next to him. "I love the judges' panel," says Idol producer Nigel Lithgoe (who has to say that). Then he adds: "Not all the time, I'll say quickly." Meanwhile, on The Voice, new judges Shakira and Usher have won viewers over by jumping right into the good-natured, competitive fray with Adam Levine (who doesn't love Adam Levine?) and Blake Shelton (ditto).

The ratings: Idol debuted with nearly 18 million viewers on board, though that number had dropped to less than 12 million after the latest episode. The Voice debuted with nearly 14 million viewers, and so far has held onto them (throughout its two weeks on the air).

Which show is better? At this moment in time, we'll give it to The Voice. But Idol producers? Lose Minaj, and we'll reconsider.

A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.

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