Adam Levine is a popular musical artist with Maroon 5 and a coach on NBC’s singing competition The Voice.
Last night was an elimination round for two of the remaining eight contestants. Each of the four coaches (including Shakira, Usher and Blake Shelton) has members of their respective teams in the competition.
After the typical tense triage, three contestants remained. Only one would survive. Of those, two were from Team Adam, and one was a talented singer named Judith Hill. She may not have been destined to win, but she was a solid performer who had already had a career as a backup singer for Michael Jackson, and might yet get a chance on her own. The two other singers remaining were not in her league.
The camera was on those three as host Carson Daly pronounced the obligatory nail-biting “America has voted” spiel. In the background, you could hear a simple comment from Coach Adam, as he likely sensed that the most worthy of the three was about to be eliminated:
“I hate this country.”
Meaning, one presumes: I hate these stupid popularity contests, even one that I am a part of, where merit matters less than the judgment of numbers and the crowd. I don’t hate America, but I hate it when America speaks like this.
And then, Judith Hill was gone.
Every one of the artist-coaches has built a successful career, and knows that entertainment, like every other field, is not entirely a meritocracy. Still, even accounting for differences in taste, a few minutes of singing can reveal those with consistent control, those who can find and hit all the notes, those who can put power and style in what they sing—and those who can’t.
So Adam, and everybody else who gets frustrated by singing competitions that don’t always give us the best, or political systems that don’t either, embrace your frustration. At least it means that you haven’t given up, that you still have standards, that you still have hope and expectations that the competitions and elections will give us winners who really can sing—even if we lose some worthy ones along the way.