Ultimately, it comes down to the voice.
Strip away theatrics, choreography, costumes, arrangements and backup singers, and all that remains is singing, which is the point of NBC's 13-week talent show, "The Voice," launching at 9 p.m. Tuesday.
Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine of Maroon 5 serve as coaches; Carson Daly hosts, and Mark Burnett produces.
Coaches listen to hopefuls with their backs turned.
"I find so often everything is about packaging a look and digitally enhancing things, all technology has to offer," Christina Aguilera says. "This is back to real music."
Though screeners were not available at this writing, each artist involved independently tells Zap2it how pure this contest is.
"It does bring a nostalgic approach to discovering and showcasing true talent like radio once was, before video killed the radio star," Green says.
Before hopefuls audition, the show's staff vets them.
"Everybody who even steps foot on the stage is already very good," Daly says.
Each coach picks eight singers. If more than one coach wants the same singer, the contestant decides with whom to work. Each coach assembles a team of eight, eventually winnowing it to four, then America votes for who receives the recording contract and $100,000.
"It's all about talent," Shelton says. "It takes all the bull crap out of the industry. I have selected somebody to be on my team, and I turn and woo-hoo, what am I going to do with this person? It could be a guy who looks like a sumo wrestler. The best part is I selected him because he is talented."
"I never realized before doing this show how much you do listen with your eyes," Shelton says. "Whether we like it or not, we are eliminating selecting persons on their looks."
Though Shelton had been on "Clash of the Choirs," Levine says no one involved was clamoring to be on a show.
"If you had told me I would be hosting a music competition series, I would have told you, 'You are crazy,' but just focusing on somebody's voice without seeing them or knowing anything about them [is powerful]," Daly says.
Levine, a Burnett fan, says, "I would not consider myself to be a reality television enthusiast at all. Of all the people who signed on for the show, they had a previous indifference to the whole genre. That seems to be the common feeling. I thought these people would not be involved if not for Mark. What was really exciting is this will be something different. This will be the anti-reality show."
The coaches get along so well that while Shelton was talking, he was en route to a store to buy Levine "the cheapest bottle of tequila" he could find for his birthday. Daly and Levine have a history; he gave Maroon 5 its first TV gig.
As the only woman on the show, Aguilera says, "It's definitely me and the boys. I am just like, 'What am I listening to between Blake and Adam's banter talking about God knows what?' Mark Burnett says I am the voice of reason. I have taken on this mama role of making them focus and concentrate because sometimes they just get so silly."
As goofy as they get, all involved are serious about this show and how they expect viewers to connect.
"I hope they see themselves, and I hope it enlightens and encourages them to act on their abilities and talents," Green says.
On the cover: Cee Lo Green, Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton.