Adam Levine has always defended The Voice in the past, but in a candid new Rolling Stone interview, the Maroon 5 frontman and Voice coach has finally addressed the show's failure to launch "a breakout success like [American Idol's] Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood."
Adam, who respectively led Javier Colon and Tessanne Chin to Voice victory in Seasons 1 and 5, told the magazine: "The Voice is very successful, but it's got a ways to go if it wants to have as profound an impact as Idol. I'm not going to lie to you: I think there are problems… Millions of people watch the show every week and fall in love with a singer, then you don't hear much from them."
The success, or lack thereof, of Voice contestants has long been a hot topic, despite the fact that the show has consistently trounced American Idol in the ratings (and it even once won a Emmy for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program, something Idol has never achieved). According to SoundScan, Season 1 champion Javier Colon's post-Voice album sold 46,000 copies (a third of what his 2005 album for Capitol Records had sold), and he was subsequently dropped from Universal. Season 2's Jermaine Paul never released an album at all. The show's next two winners, Cassadee Pope and Danielle Bradbery — both country singers coached by Blake Shelton — did make inroads in Nashville, but still only shifted 175,000 and 139,000 album units, respectively.
It remains to be seen how Season 5's Tessanne Chin and Season 6's Josh Kaufman, arguably the series' two most vocally gifted winners, will fare, since their albums aren't out yet; it's possible that this summer's Voice Tour will help their cause. However, with little promotion or media presence for either contestant since their victories, and public focus already shifting to Season 7, which debuts in September with new coaches Pharrell Williams and Gwen Stefani, it's not looking like Tessanne or Josh will be able to break this Voice curse.
While of course nothing in the music business is ever guaranteed, and Idol has certainly had its share of sales disappointments, Idol does have the support in place, thanks to 19 Entertainment, to at least give its contestants some sort of fighting chance. The Voice, on the other hand, is helmed by Mark Burnett Productions, the company behind reality shows like The Apprentice and Survivor, shows that tend to quickly move on to their next seasons with very little concern for keeping past winners in the public eye. Mark Burnett Productions' other forays into the musical talent-show world were the short-lived Rock Star and P. Diddy's Starmaker franchises; the one album by Rock Star Supernova stalled on the Billboard chart at number 101, and both Rock Star winner Lukas Rossi and Starmaker winner Liz Davis interestingly ended up competing on The Voice years later. Mark Burnett simply has little experience marketing music, and possibly little interest in doing so.
So Adam certainly had a point. But what made his Rolling Stone comments surprising was in past interviews, he dismissed the idea that The Voice wasn't a credible star-maker; in fact, at one press conference for Season 5, he claimed that wasn't even the point of the show, likening The Voice more to a "musical boot camp" at which as aspiring artists got the invaluable opportunity to work closely with the best in the business — a fantastic learning experience, regardless of whether it led to a trip to the winner's circle or a record deal.
Blind Auditions for Season 7 of The Voice began taping this week with the above-mentioned Pharrell and Gwen, and it's sure to be a successful season — since, let's face it, the show has always been about the superstar coaches anyway. Ironically, the biggest hit to ever come out of The Voice was "Moves Like Jagger," a duet between Adam's band Maroon 5 and original coach Christina Aguilera that came out a week before The Voice Season 1 finale… and went on to sell more than 6 million copies in the U.S. alone. It's likely Adam didn't have a problem with that.