14 seasons in and The Voice is still coming up with ways to keep things fresh.
The Emmy-winning reality juggernaut is known for giving its coaching line-up a refresh every season to keep things from getting too stale—hello newbie Kelly Clarkson and welcome back Alicia Keys!—but there haven't been too many game-changers when it comes to the format of the competition. That changes with tonight's season premiere and the addition of the block button.
What's the block button, you ask? Well, it's a shiny new feature on this iconic swiveling red chairs that allows each coach to, at one point throughout the blind auditions, make sure that an artist they're desperate to have on their team doesn't go to a coach who might seem like the likelier candidate. It's a twist to the game that ups the ante, requires you to consider when and why you deploy it (after all, you only get to use it once) and could ultimately keep a contestant from landing on the team of their dreams. And it gets deployed by one anxious coach right in the premiere's very first audition.
As young Britton Buchanan goes about wowing the coaches with his performance of Ray LaMontagne's "Trouble," seen above, Blake Shelton leaps into action to make sure his beloved sparring partner Adam Levine is out of the running.
"It's shaking things up. We always look for elements that we can add that seem additive and just change up the dynamic of the show. We haven't ever really had a defensive move or an offensive-defensive move, so we came up with the block," executive producer Audrey Morrissey told reporters following a screening of the premiere episode about the decision to implement the feature. "It was incredible to see how it really played out: When people used it, how people used it. It really speaks to the real competition. These people want these people. They're here at The Voice, they literally want them for their team. So it was very funny. It worked out really well."
Morrissey expanded further on the rules of the new addition beyond the whole '"you only get one" of it all. If you press to block a fellow coach as you turn around, and they never decide to turn around themselves, what happens? "Then I still have a block left," she said. And what about if you turn around and then decide you want to block someone from the artist auditioning?
"You can't block later. You can't turn your chair around and then say, 'Oh, a-ha, Chloe's definitely gonna eat you up. I'm blocking her,'" she explained. "You have to do it based on voice alone. So we really kept the sanctity of the blind audition with the block."
And as for the concern that the block might prevent an artist from landing on the team they came to the show hoping for, Morrissey admitted that they considered that possibility, but found it didn't overrule the excitement surrounding the new idea. "I think we just came to the point of we were excited enough about the idea and the concept that we felt we should do it. As [season 13 winner] Chloe [Kohanski] has been a shining example of that, there are times when people move," she noted. "You're not necessarily locked on a team. You can get stolen, you can shift, so that wasn't enough for us not to go for it and try the element. As you'll see as it plays out, things work out for the best. Somehow, it all really works well. We really love it."
The Voice premieres Monday, Feb. 26 at 8 p.m. on NBC.
(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)