Singing competitions have been a hallmark of reality TV ever since “American Idol” brought us heartfelt journeys and early 2000s superstars. NBC’s “The Voice” stormed the scene in 2011 by inventing blind auditions that stripped artists down to only their vocal talents, reinstating that age old adage to never judge a book by its cover. And now in 2020, The Bachelor franchise is throwing its hat in the ring with “The Bachelor Presents: Listen To Your Heart,” a singing competition that asks the question: What if it was about looks?
“Listen To Your Heart” was first officially announced on Jan. 8 when the world was still spinning. Back then, Bachelor Nation rightfully blew off this new show for the ridiculous proposal that it was. What was the prize? A record deal? An engagement? (By the way – that piece of the puzzle is still a mystery) The host of the franchise, Chris Harrison, told audiences to “think of it as ‘The Bachelor’ meets ‘A Star is Born.’” Sure, Chris Harrison, sure. But by the time of the show’s premiere on April 13, things had changed. Quarantined and desperate, Bachelor Nation rallied.
With low expectations and even lower standards, I joined the rest of Bachelor Nation and sat down last Monday night ready to numb my brain for two hours. The spin-off begins as usual: brief introductions to a handful of the cast before they arrive at the mansion. There’s 27-year-old and Subaru Outback-owning Sheridan, whose long curly hair and wide brimmed flat top hat scream Austin, Texas; Savannah, a 25-year-old yoga instructor from Nashville, Tennessee and self-described “free spirit” / “wild child;” and a slew of similarly predictable characters from all (attractive) walks of life and musical genres.
One contestant, Trevor, might look familiar to some viewers for two reasons. The first is that you may have seen him on American Idol. His 2018 audition was memorable not for his voice, but for judge Katy Perry’s swooning and flirting, calling him a “dreamboat;” he was eliminated before the Top 24. The second, and less flattering reason that Bachelor fans were quick to make a connection, was the sherpa lined corduroy jacket Trevor wears in his introduction that triggered flashbacks to a similar one worn by disgraced Bachelorette contestant Jed Wyatt, the guitar-playing fool who broke Hannah Brown’s heart when word broke that he had a girlfriend while on the show. The comparison is hard to shake and pretty distracting the entire episode.
The fact is, the Bachelor producers could have been given any random twenty singles (in this case they were given twelve men, and eight women) and they would still do what Bachelor producers do best: jump cut from drama to drama. Throw in this extra singing element and there’s no shortage of material.
The first date card of the season went to early fan favorite/discount Shawn Mendes, Ryan, who picked Jamie, a 21-year-old country-pop singer waiting “sooooo” long to find a life partner. In a Capitol Records studio, the two join John Alagía, the producer of John Mayer’s “Gravity,” who tells them they’ll be recording a duet of the song. The interesting thing about “Listen To Your Heart,” that this first date makes clear, is the removal of the question that plagues every season of The Bachelor / Bachelorette: Is this person here for the right reason? Now, being there for your career is (at least half of) the right reason. It’s hilarious to see how instantly Ryan turns on the schmoozing, seriously shaking the producer’s hands and espousing his admiration for them whereas Jamie (much more likely in this for “love”) is busy gushing over how Ryan is willing to change the key for her during rehearsal.
Most of the series premiere was dedicated to Jamie, Ryan and Jamie’s second suitor, Trevor, who takes it upon himself to personally serenade her after not getting a date. We get only small glimpses at the other relationships forming in the house, and a bit of drama from Rudi, a girl who says she has dated “all of L.A.,” when she blows up at faux-hawk Matt for picking Mel to go on a date (a concert with the aging Plain White T’s.) What the first episode lacked in character development was made up for with campfire guitar jams, piano sessions and cringey original songs.
To help keep (or lose) track of all these moments, here’s a handy drinking game:
Still deciding on whether or not this show is worth your time? Well, in the words of Chris Harrison – just listen to your heart.
Delia Cruz Kelly is a 2019-2020 Arts & Entertainment Editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org