In 2016, Christina Aguilera exited The Voice, after coaching for six non-consecutive seasons, to refocus on her family and music. Until now, it hasn’t been clear if she would ever reclaim her original red chair, but in a new, eyebrow-raising interview, the singer seems eager to put The Voice behind her, calling the reality competition show an “energy sucker” and saying her TV experience left her feeling “suffocated and restricted.”
Aguilera, who just released the new Kanye West-produced single “Accelerate,” tells Billboard this week: “I didn’t get into this business to be a television show host and to be given all these [rules]. Especially as a female: You can’t wear this, can’t say that. I would find myself on that show desperately trying to express myself through clothing or makeup or hair. It was my only kind of outlet.”
During her run on The Voice, Aguilera was the only female coach; since her departure, the dynamic has changed to an evenly gender-split panel, with rotating cast members Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, Gwen Stefani, and Kelly Clarkson sitting alongside incumbent male coaches Adam Levine and Blake Shelton. Aguilera doesn’t elaborate to Billboard whether the gender imbalance on the show contributed to her discontent, but she says she was “longing for freedom” during her Voice stint. She recalls that when she’d drag herself home from the set, she “would just take everything off — the makeup, all of it — and would blast hip-hop, or Nirvana, ‘Creep,’ Slayer. Anything like that to get me out of that zone, that TV mode.”
Some viewers would say Aguilera is biting the hand that fed her — after all, The Voice can largely be credited for resuscitating her career, or at least re-elevating her public profile, after the commercial flops of her Bionic album and Burlesque movie (both of which came out one year before she signed up with NBC). Aguilera even returned to the charts by joining forces with her castmate Levine on Maroon 5’s smash “Moves Like Jagger.” But when she gripes about the show’s shortcomings, she makes a valid point: “It became something that I didn’t feel was what I had signed up for in Season 1,” she tells Billboard. “You realize it’s not about music. It’s about making good TV moments and massaging a story.”
Aguilera won The Voice in her final season two years ago; her winning contestant, Alisan Porter, ended up never releasing an album with the show’s affiliated record label, Universal/Republic. The Voice has long come under flak — justifiably — for failing to promote its contestants’ careers, quickly moving on to the next batch of contestants and the next season almost as soon as the finale confetti has been swept away. Even Levine and Shelton have been surprisingly frank when complaining about this disconnect. Ironically, the only hit single ever really spawned by The Voice in all 13 past seasons has been, well, “Moves Like Jagger.”
Billboard reports that when Aguilera is questioned about the possibility of returning to The Voice, she “scrunches up her porcelain face and says she would prefer to discuss ‘positive things.’” But in a statement from a show source provided to Yahoo Entertainment, NBC diplomatically says, “Christina was an incredibly valuable member of The Voice for many seasons, and we appreciate all she did for the show. She’ll always be a part of The Voice family.”
Christina Aguilera’s aptly titled eighth studio album, Liberation, drops June 15.
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