Brad Paisley and Kesha are heading into the June 22 launch of ABC's "Rising Star" with no idea of what to expect. They have not seen or heard the contestants, their first run-though will be a day before broadcast and they're not entirely sure about the "expert" title they have been given.
"It's terrifying," Kesha tells Billboard, speaking both for herself and the competitors at the Los Angeles soundstage where "Rising Star" will be broadcast this summer.
Unlike other competition shows, decisions on which contestants advance rest almost entirely with the audience from the start. Kesha, Paisley and fellow "expert" Ludacris will each have a vote that counts for 7 percent of a performer’s total. Each act needs at least 70 percent audience approval during the performance of their song to move forward.
The show's hook is a wall that separates performer from audience and rises only when 70 percent is hit. During the performance, the singer will see Facebook images of people who have voted for them; the audience sees the performer and a meter indicating the percentage of votes received.
New to the process, Paisley and Kesha have no idea what type of judges they will be.
"What I'm looking for is not how somebody looks or their pitch," says Paisley, who hopes someone has the audacity to do an original song at some point. "If they have heart and are looking like they’re there not just to be famous, but have something to say, then they'll get my vote."
The first three weeks will feature 10 contestants on each show. Audience members will be able to vote via an app to determine a singer or group’s fate. (Vocal groups with up to five members are allowed to compete).
Following a performance, the experts and host Josh Groban will offer comments on what went right – or wrong – for a performer. As the show progresses over its 10-week run, the experts will spend time with the performers honing their skills.
While dramatic tension is plentiful during the 90-second performances, Groban thinks the diverse backgrounds of the experts will add to the show's drama as well.
"Between the four of us," Groban says, "it gives the contestants very different views and I expect there will be some throwing down."