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'The Voice' is in its 25th season. John Legend, Gwen Stefani and Carson Daly reflect on the show's staying power and why its 'real DNA' has never changed

Nearly 13 years after its 2011 premiere, "The Voice" is deep into its 25th season with no signs of slowing down.

THE VOICE --
John Legend, Gwen Stefani and Carson Daly on The Voice. (Trae Patton/NBC via Getty Images)

When The Voice premiered on NBC in spring 2011, the move wasn’t without its risks.

At the time, the television landscape for singing competition shows was largely dominated by American Idol, still running at peak popularity on Fox. There were also a plethora of similarly themed programs like The X Factor and The Glee Project aiming to capture a piece of the musical pie. Adding to an already cluttered climate of music competition shows seemed like a minimal return on investment.

The gamble paid off.

Nearly 13 years later, The Voice is deep into its 25th cycle with no signs of slowing down. Despite traditional television ratings steadily dropping as audience viewing habits evolve in the streaming era, the eight-time Emmy winner has proven its staying power and become one of network TV’s most consistent powerhouses.

The Voice, produced by Warner Bros. Unscripted Television, was among the top 20 most-watched shows during the 2022-23 season, beating Idol, now on ABC, in total viewers.

“When we launched, American Idol was so strong. The television singing competition marketplace was full,” Carson Daly, host and producer of The Voice, told Yahoo Entertainment. “People thought we were crazy to put another singing show on. They thought we would only last maybe a year. It’s ironic that it’s lasted 25 seasons.”

Executive producer Audrey Morrissey credited The Voice’s longevity to its unique format, in which the coaches are the gateway for viewers, and the spotlight is put on pure talent via the blind auditions.

“What people come back to the show for is entertainment, whether they like the coaches or they like the banter and the jokes — all of that was unique,” she told Yahoo Entertainment. “Right from the get-go, coaches are competing to draft teams; they all want to win. At the end of the day, people love a good underdog story, and they want to see deserving, talented people excel. They want to see them grow and put on great performances.”

Why ‘The Voice’ stands out

Adapted from the 2010 Dutch format The Voice of Holland, The Voice differentiated itself from its competitors by focusing on aspiring contestants’ voices without any visual prejudice. Through the blind auditions, singers had the upper hand — showcasing their vocal and musical talents with the hopes of a red-chair turn from one (or all four) of the coaches.

Some contestants were so impressive, it took mere seconds for that to happen, like Jesse Campbell's five-second turn in Season 2.

Coupled with the power of a dynamic coaches panel, The Voice had key ingredients in place to accelerate past the competition.

In the early seasons when the show was in its infancy, drawing superstar coaches wasn’t easy.

“Way back in Season 1, nobody knew what the show was, so that was really the big test: Who was going to do it and why?” Morrissey recalled.

“It was very difficult to find people in the beginning,” Daly added.

The first three seasons of The Voice featured a coaches lineup of Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera and CeeLo Green. They “set the tone for what the show would become and still is,” Morrissey said. “Those original four really were magic.”

From left: Blake Shelton, Carson Daly, Christina Aguilera, executive producer Mark Burnett, CeeLo Green and Adam Levine, seen on the set of The Voice.
From left: Blake Shelton, Carson Daly, Christina Aguilera, executive producer Mark Burnett, CeeLo Green and Adam Levine at a press junket for NBC's The Voice. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

The blind audition was enticing for many of the coaches The Voice has attracted over the years. It has served as a reminder that the first interaction someone usually has with a person’s music is often auditory.

“Bar none, everybody was intrigued,” Morrissey said. “You have the signature sound, you have the personality that is coming through, and they all felt like the blind auditions were like that. Then, of course, you turn the chairs and everything else comes into play.”

John Legend joined The Voice in 2019 during the 16th cycle, and after returning in 2024 following a hiatus, this will mark his ninth season as a coach.

“There’s nothing like [the blind auditions] on any other show, and I think that emphasis on The Voice has always made our show stand out,” Legend told Yahoo Entertainment. “It was such a cool way to experience listening to a singer by not looking at them and really focusing on what they sound like.”

Gwen Stefani, who joined in Season 7 and has sat in the red chair for seven cycles (and served as an adviser for two), shared similar sentiments. “You connect with the person onstage purely because of their voice and how it moves you and the connection you feel that makes you hit your button and turn around,” she told Yahoo Entertainment in an email.

John Legend and Gwen Stefani sitting in their coach's chairs on The Voice.
John Legend and Gwen Stefani. (Griffin Nagel/NBC via Getty Images)

Jordan Smith, who won Season 9 of The Voice in 2015 as a member of Levine’s team, acknowledged that the show afforded him an opportunity he wouldn’t otherwise have.

“I didn’t look like a pop star. I didn’t necessarily have that star quality that people are looking for as an artist,” the singer told Yahoo Entertainment. “The thought of being able to go and have a blind audition where my chances of success was based solely on my gift and the quality of my voice and not on what I looked like or where I came from was very attractive to me.”

What brings coaches, viewers back

In early seasons, the show regularly averaged 14 million to 15 million viewers per episode. While ratings may never return to those peak levels, the show still earns healthy numbers. The Season 25 premiere drew 6.2 million viewers on Feb. 26.

Since The Voice’s debut, an impressive stable of music stars and producers have sat in the red chairs, including Pharrell Williams, Miley Cyrus, Shakira, Ariana Grande, Nick Jonas and Usher. Mentoring hopefuls has been a large reason coaches keep coming back, looking to pay it forward. Some even return to The Voice at different stages of their careers, Morrissey said.

“Somebody like Gwen is a great example,” Daly said. “She loves going to work on The Voice because she gets to help young girls and boys.”

Being on The Voice has been a motivating and life-changing experience for Stefani, who met her now-husband, Shelton, when they both were coaches. “The most memorable moment. It’s something I never expected,” she said. “There are so many wonderful memories we have from the show together, and it’s been an incredible chapter of my life.”

Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton.
Stefani and her now-husband, Blake Shelton, met on “The Voice.” (Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Shelton was the longest-tenured coach on The Voice, remaining on the show for 23 seasons before departing in May 2023.

“Someone like Blake who was on the show for 13 years, he started the show and left the show at two very different places in his career,” Morrissey said. “There really comes a time for someone to say, ‘I’ve lived my dream, I’ve traveled the world, I’ve done it all, and I’m excited to pay it forward and shine a light on you all.’ I think that’s a big part of why they do it.”

That rang true for Legend, who won The Voice during his first season as a coach with folk singer Maelyn Jarmon.

“The opportunity to coach those artists, give them advice, compete with those artists and hopefully make great entertainment for our audience has been a lot of fun for me,” he said. “Whenever they ask me to come back, if I’m able to do it and my schedule allows, I’m always excited.”

Refreshing the coaches lineup meant there were new reasons for audiences to tune back in.

“We felt like we could survive that [revolving door], and we used it as a selling tool,” Daly said. “‘We’re losing Pharrell, but we’re getting Usher.’ We just made that work for us.”

It also provided fresh dynamics and allowed for coaches’ personalities to surface. Morrissey recalled being surprised by Alicia Keys (“She was really silly and had this funny giggle — America got to see that”), who was a coach on Seasons 11, 12 and 14, and Williams (“He’s a wonderful personality, really funny, uber-competitive”), who was a coach on Seasons 7 through 10.

“What makes a good coach is a good person,” Daly said. “Whoever you think is one of our best coaches, they’re extensions of who they are. You can’t really be a coach on The Voice and fake it.”

‘We’ve never changed the real DNA of the show’

Keeping The Voice relevant and engaging has been a constant learning process, producers say. Tweaks and additions to the show’s general rules have been made to enhance and evolve the singing competition.

“I think it’s trying to pay attention to what’s happening around us in pop culture and making sure an appropriate way to represent that on the show is happening,” Morrissey said, “while not taking your eye off the prize of the fundamentals — the things you have to deliver on: the right coaches with the right personalities and attitudes toward the show.”

Daly credits the show’s format for its ability to weather the competition.

“The format is so strong — stronger than any one coach, any one host, any one of us. I think that’s really why the show’s been successful,” he said. “We added the steals, we added the saves, we’ve added the block. We’ve tweaked the format to make it more interesting, but we’ve never changed the real DNA of the show.”

Daly is confident The Voice has a long shelf life, saying, “The show has zero signs of aging.

“People watch content differently,” he said. “Ratings are down across the board in traditional television viewing, but the way The Voice makes people feel is still at an all-time high.”

The Voice airs Mondays and Tuesdays on NBC and streams the next day on Peacock.