‘I’ve been wrestling with this for a while’

Blake Shelton on 'The Voice'  Season 22. (Photo: Tyler Golden/NBC via Getty Images)

Blake Shelton on ‘The Voice’ Season 22. (Photo: Tyler Golden/NBC via Getty Images)

When The Voice premiered in 2011, its four original coaches were Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera, CeeLo Green… and Blake Shelton. One by one, the coaches vacated their big red chairs, until Shelton was the last coach standing (or, um, sitting). Levine hung in there, for 16 seasons, before leaving acrimoniously and abruptly (I’m sure NBC’s powers-that-be are relieved to steer clear of Levine’s recent PR nightmare), but only Shelton stayed on — sharing the stage and playfully sparring with rotating coaches Shakira, Usher, Pharrell Williams, Miley Cyrus, Alicia Keys, Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas, Ariana Grande, and current co-stars John Legend, Camila Cabello, and his wife Gwen Stefani, who he actually met-cute on the set .

Shelton quickly became the anchor of The Voice — with his shady gameplay, aggressive finger-pointing, rumored on-set drunkenness, and complete blissful ignorance of 90% of the non-country songs covered on the show becoming comedy fodder each season. He also became the show’s winningest coach, guiding eight of the past 21 Voice champions to victory and 15 total contestants to No. 1 on the iTunes Top Songs chart. Some of his champs directly appealed to his country base, like Cassadee Pope, Danielle Bradbery, Craig Wayne Boyd, Sundance Head, and Todd Tilghman, but he also coached two R&B winners (Jermaine Paul and Cam Anthony) and one indie-pop-rocker. (Chloe Kohanski), indicating that he was so popular with Voice viewers that singers of all genres gained a big advantage simply by joining Team Blake.

But now, it is the end of an era, a day Voice fans never thought would come: On Tuesday, just hours before the Season 22 Battle Rounds kicked off in earnest, Shelton took to social media to announce that he will be leaving The Voice after Season 23, which airs this coming spring.

“I’ve been wrestling with this for a while and I’ve decided that it’s time for me to step away from The Voice after next season,” Shelton wrote. “The show has changed my life in every way for the better and it will always feel like home to me. It’s been a hell of a ride over these 12 years of chair turns and I want to thank everyone at The Voice from NBC, every producer, the writers, musicians, crew and catering people, you are the best. It takes a lot of hard work, passion, and adult beverages (Ha!) to pull off a live show twice a week. I’ve made lifelong buds with [host] Carson [Daly] and every single one of my fellow coaches over the years, including my wife Gwen Stefani! I have to give a huge shouts to the singers — the ‘Voices,’ who come on this stage season after season and amaze us with their talent and a special thanks to those who chose me to be their coach. Lastly, it’s about y’all, the fans, who watch and support these artists, us coaches, and everyone at The Voice who are chasing our dreams. It wouldn’t happen without you!”

It could be argued that Shelton is actually the most successful artist to ever emerge from The Voice. He was, of course, already an established country star when he joined the show, but soon after the inaugural season finale, he scored his first No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart with Red River Blue (his sixth album overall); five of the albums he’s released since have also cracked the Billboard 200’s top 10. After joining The Voice, Shelton also racked up the majority of his major solo accolades, including 2011 Music Video of the Year, 2012 Male Vocalist of the Year, and 2013 Song of the Year from the ACMs, four Male Vocalist of the Year trophies from the CMAs, and nine Grammy nominations. Earlier this month, it was also announced that entertainment company Influence Media Partners had acquired Shelton’s catalog of master recordings from 2001 to 2019, a venture that the company called a “groundbreaking deal” that would “amplify his works” and entitle the country superstar. to participate in a share of the profit generated.”

So, clearly Shelton no longer needs The Voice (or even its reported $26 million salary), but The Voice — which took a season off from its usual biannual cycle in 2022, and whose ratings have waned over the years — surely needs a star like him. So, who could ever replace Blake? Back in 2017, when Yahoo Entertainment asked him that very question, he nominated an interesting, unexpected successor: “We need somebody that’s, like, going to come in swinging. So, I’m gonna say David Lee Roth! … I want to see that! Come on! Let’s get Dave in here,” he answered. (Levine suggested Justin Timberlake or Bruno Mars as his own replacement, for what it’s worth.)

It remains to be seen if Diamond Dave will end up on The Voice (although his Van Halen successor, Sammy Hagar, once served as a team advisor on the show). But when Shelton sticks around for his final, 23rd season next spring, he’ll be flanked by Clarkson (who is returning, after being replaced by Cabello for this current season) and new coaches Chance the Rapper and Niall Horan. As for which superstars might be in the running for Season 24, Radar Online reported last year that producers were eyeing younger pop acts like Justin Bieber, Lil Nas X, Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo, or the Weeknd, so watch this space.

In the meantime, with Season 22 still in progress, Blake has two more chances to increase his overall Voice championship total to 10. But no matter what happens, it’s clear that he’s exiting The Voice as a winner, professionally and personally.

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