Hot on the heels of an Emmy win for outstanding reality competition, The Voice returns for its ninth season Monday night (Sept. 21), and executive producer Audrey Morrissey promises plenty of action in the coming weeks.
Aside from a few tweaks that have been announced, including a chance for viewers to experience a true blind audition from the coaches’ point of view, there is a new key adviser: Rihanna. And, of course, the winning combo of Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Pharrell Williams and Gwen Stefani is back on the NBC hit.
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Morrissey, who cut her teeth at MTV and the short-lived music program Farmclub, says that keeping the show feeling fresh after nine seasons is a “delicate balance,” adding that you don’t “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Rather, “You want everything that you freshen up to be for a reason and make sense and authentically try to capture the magic and the excitement that’s going on around the show. There’s so much that nobody sees because there’s not enough time.”
Billboard spoke to Morrissey, who was named one of the Top Television Music Power Players, on the eve of season 9.
The commercials make it look like the coaches are having a blast.
They are. You hear people talk about this — whether they’re actors or directors talking about the family that formed on a particular movie set or a television show. The same is true here. The coaches truly love each other. They’re great friends. Everybody brings their family to the set. There are kids and nannies running around everywhere. It’s a really happy place to be, for sure.
What does each coach bring to the table?
Adam and Blake aren’t really about big sets and costumes. It’s more straight ahead and about musical arrangements. Pharrell is super creative and about creating a new sound. Gwen has a wide eclectic taste, but she also likes the theater, drama, character, wardrobe and costuming that goes along with it.
Are there going to be any new twists and turns in production this upcoming season? How do you keep it fresh after being on the air as long as you have?
We’re contemplating some new changes this season that will likely unfold. We added the instant save a few seasons back on our live result shows, and that was really exciting. We are always trying to think of new ways to sort of capture the incredible coaching that’s happening all the time.
Rihanna is onboard as key adviser.
She was incredible. I think people are really going to see a different side of her than maybe they typically see. I think they’re going to get to know her better. She was a lot different than I thought she would be, actually.
She was very musical — which I did expect obviously — but she was very soft and sweet and so kind to all our artists. It was great to see her in that environment. She had really smart artistic notes, smart vocal notes and creative performance notes. She’s so intuitive. She really got the essence of the artists very quickly and zeroed in. It was wonderful to watch her coach alongside our coaches.
How about the track record of Voice alumni. How is it looking for this season?
It’s something that is often talked about in terms of the show — like we haven’t produced a star yet at the level of some of the other artists that have come from other shows. It’s certainly something that we want to do. I believe we will do it. I think we’re all learning there are a lot of factors that go into launching a star, and it’s not just a TV show. It takes more than that. But I will say I know, beyond Jacquie Lee and some of the other people that have been on the show and Cassadee Pope and Danielle Bradbery, there are people from the past two seasons that I’ve been hearing their music that they’ve been working on and they’ve been signed to the labels. I was recently in the studio with Pharrell and Sawyer Fredericks from last season and there’s a lot of exciting stuff coming. So I’m very excited to see what unfolds in the next few months on that front.
What would be your dream booking?
Adele. She obviously had a monster album and touched so many people. She’s a major force in music right now.
I remember on American Idol Jimmy Iovine warning contestants against singing Adele.
Some of the coaches joke that Adele is the kiss of death. Like don’t try to tackle Adele unless you really have your point of view on it or can handle it. Can you wear that song and deliver it? Because everybody’s going to be holding you up to Adele’s version.
Is there an overused audition song this year? Like Sia’s “Chandelier”?
There’s somebody on our show this season who does take on “Chandelier” again. Just tears it up. She just chews it up and spits it out. I’m excited about the new season. We’re just trying to keep it fresh enough so that it doesn’t get stale. That’s our main focus because we love the show and we’re so happy people are enjoying it and loving it too.