Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine thinks The Voice is totally gay, and he loves it. In a new interview with Out magazine, Levine, who serves as one of four celebrity mentors on the reality-singing competition, admitted American Idol is "a cultural institution," but said his show caters to "a different type of person." Evidently that's a type of person who is cool learning that contestants on reality shows are gay. (For the record, Levine states in the Out story that he is not gay, but he thinks all good frontmen will have their sexuality questioned at some point in their careers. Fair point, but watch the comparisons to Bowie and Jagger, bro.)
"What's always pissed me off about Idol is wanting to mask [singers' sexuality], for that to go unspoken," he said. "C'mon. You can't be publicly gay? At this point? On a singing competition? Give me a break. You can't hide basic components of these people's lives. The fact that The Voice didn't have any qualms about being completely open about it is a great thing."
Measuring the "gayness" of a television show is not that simple, however. Did NBC's The Voice feature more openly gay contestants in its inaugural season than Idol has in its 10 turns on Fox? Definitely: Four singers on The Voice were out (including Nakia and Tyler Robinson), and two reached the finals (Beverly McClellan and Vicci Martinez), whereas first season Idol competitor Jim Verraros is the only hopeful who was publicly gay during his time on the show, and he was reportedly asked to remove "gay-friendly" comments from an official AI website. Clay Aiken and Adam Lambert both famously came out of the closet after their Idol season finales, while David Hernandez was the focus of gay rumors.
Famously out lesbian Ellen DeGeneres served as an Idol judge, and The Voice has no queer coaches. In fact, two of the show's mentors, Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton, were caught making what some interpreted as anti-gay remarks during the season; both artists apologized and clarified their statements. Idol, however, has repeatedly been slammed for featuring homophobic banter between former judge Simon Cowell and host Ryan Seacrest. On balance, it seems like Levine does indeed have a point when it comes to contestants, however.
Who decides whether a hopeful's gay backstory will be featured during the run of the show? Idol says singers do: "While sexual orientation is irrelevant to the competition, the decision to reveal sexual orientation has always been a choice made entirely by each individual contestant," reads a statement Fox issued to Entertainment Weekly in May. But many critics, including former Los Angeles Times writer Ann Powers, have placed some responsibility on the show's shoulders, calling on the Fox hit to "open the closet door." We'll find out where Cowell's new The X Factor falls on the reality Kinsey scale when it debuts next month.
- Adam Levine
- American Idol