By now, you might be sick of singing competitions. After Jessica Sanchez was robbed of a win (sorry but you know it’s true) on “American Idol” and Jermaine Paul was crowned the winner of “The Voice,” you might wonder if these shows will eventually run out of credible singing talent. Well, Sanchez certainly proved that the contestants with the most star potential don’t always win – hey, Jennifer Hudson – and we’ll have to wait and see on Paul.
But the latest entry into the singing competition game adds yet another twist. On “Duets,” aspiring singers get to sing with the top-notch talent who are also the show’s judges. Former MTV veejay Quddus is the host, which is surely a big break for him.
“Idol” winner Kelly Clarkson, Sugarland lead singer Jennifer Nettles, John Legend and Robin Thicke are the judges, mentors and duet partners who have to choose two singers who best fit their voice and who have the vocal chops to win. It’s sort of a competition within a competition. Since the judges vote on each other’s picks, it makes for some potential scheming considering that the group could decide “Survivor” style to conspire to vote off each one of their strongest singers to help themselves win. So far there’s no Levine/Aguilera like feuding going on, but we’re only one show in. (If it happens, I’d pick Robin Thicke vs. John Legend – two competitive guys likely to try and roll over the sweet Southern lady singers who are on the show with them.)
Last Thursday night’s debut featured the same kind of heart-warming stories that the other shows have in droves. One of Kelly Clarkson’s picks, Jordan Meredith, was a super fan who almost passed out when she was face to face with her Idol (capitalization intended.) One of Jennifer Nettles’ picks was a gospel singer from her small hometown of Douglas, Georgia. John Legend’s pick, Bridget Carrington, is an IRS auditor who took great advantage of her opportunity with one of the best performances of the night. Robin Thicke, unsurprisingly, chose two Black female singers, one of whom he pulled from the gospel ranks. He stands to gain the most from the show. Despite several albums, he’s still searching for the kind of mainstream success the others already enjoy.
As far as singing shows go, “Duets” has potential. The two hours went by quickly and it was interesting to see who the judges kept on top of the leader board. J Rome, a singer in the Trey Songz vein, was the first to perform and no one grabbed the lead from him, although he didn’t seem to the audience or the viewers to necessarily be the strongest singer. Team Clarkson was at the bottom by show’s end, though she and Meredith had one of the episode’s strongest duets.
If you enjoy the singing competitions, “Duets” gives them a little bit of a new flavor, although there are plenty of duets with the famous coaches on “The Voice.” But the four singers here are all big fan favorites and it is interesting to watch how other voices sound on the hits these artists made famous. Despite the low first time scores, Team Thicke and Team Clarkson both have some interesting singers, as does Team Legend, who apparently loses one of them after the first show. He’ll have to go back to the drawing board, so we’ll see if he helps or hurts himself with his next pick. Given the weakness of summer TV programming, “Duets” might be one of your better choices, if only as a temporary fix until the real singing competition powerhouses, “Idol,” “The Voice,” and “The X Factor,” return.
“Duets” is on ABC on Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET
Watch the full season premiere of “Duets” here.