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American Idol, The Voice and gay singers

UPDATE: Executive producer Nigel Lythgoe has responded to Adam Levine's comments. Learn more here.

One of the biggest things I took away from the first season of "The Voice" -- aside from the talent -- was the relatively large number of openly gay contestants.

Four openly gay contestants advanced on "The Voice." Two of those singers competed in the final round (Beverly McClellan and Vicci Martinez).

As reviewers noted, it’s a distinct departure from "American Idol," where contestants are generally mum on their sexuality until after the competition, if at all.

In this column, I wondered if this would be a factor in the divide between "Idol" and "The Voice."

Turns out the answer is yes. Kind of.

MJ's Big Blog directed me to an excerpt from Adam Levine's recent interview with Out Magazine.

Levine is a judge on "The Voice," of course. Anyway, here's what he says about the sexuality issue:

"What’s always pissed me off about Idol is wanting to mask that, for that to go unspoken. 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."

The "Idol" science of depicting back stories is often confusing. We don't get well-rounded portraits of the singers. That said, it's a TV SHOW. For better or worse, you give up some freedom in sculpting your image when you decide to put your fate in the hands of a reality TV talent contest.

Was it refreshing to see openly gay singers on "The Voice"? Sure. Did it have any bearing on the talent the show attracted? I don't think so.

Also, two judges on "The Voice" faced accusations of homophobic remarks (not related to contestants on the show).

There was the whole ordeal with Cee Lo calling a female reviewer gay, and also Blake Shelton's possibly homophobic comments.

I don't entirely support the "Idol" route of selectively building contestants' public identities. But it's a tricky issue.

Discuss your show's openness/honesty too frequently and you risk becoming a vehicle for something other than finding a marketable recording artist. Which may or may not be a bad thing.

Then, there's the long debate over whether sexuality should even be a factor in a singer's career.

One more thing: I can't help wondering if "The Voice" is more open with contestants' sexualities because the competition doesn't rely on viewers' votes as much as "Idol." Just a thought.

What do you think?

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