Not because she didn’t seem a good fit for the NBC reality TV juggernaut. No, the thought of her swiveling around in one of those iconic red chairs seemed almost perfect. Rather, it was the curious timing of the announcement that left us all clutching our pearls at NBC’s audacious move in adding the first (and arguably greatest) American Idol winner to its rotating stable of coaches. Why? It came just two days after ABC announced it was reviving the show that made Clarkson a star.
It seemed like the perfect chess move on behalf of the Peacock network. Announced in May, as rumors were swirling that ABC was looking at Clarkson as a potential judge for their AI revival, the “Love So Soft” singer wouldn’t join the show that fall, but rather in the spring—right as ABC would be attempting to get Idol up and running. Whether intentional or not, it was a move that said, “We are No. 1. We plan to stay No. 1. And we’re not going to make this easy for you.” The very definition of baller.
But for Clarkson, it was quite simple decision that had nothing to do with slamming her former show. The singer, who doesn’t seem to have a vindictive-enough bone in her body to make decisions that way, simply went where it felt like home.
Clarkson’s relationship with The Voice began all the way back in 2012 when Blake Shelton tapped her as an advisor to work with his team during the battle rounds. The pairing made a bit of sense, as she’d just begun dating the country star’s manager, Brandon Blackstock. She married Blackstock a year later, making her forever connected to The Voice through her husband. And while it took six years for her to finally join the show in an official capacity, it turns out she’d been circling the gig for quite some time.
“She is somebody who has been a friend of the show for seasons. Years, really. She has mentored with Blake. She’s performed on the show. Her husband [manages] Blake. It’s all very close-knit, so she certainly has been family for a long time,” executive producer Audrey Morrissey told reporters at a recent press screening. “So it’s funny the way timing works out. We had been in talks for her for a while, on and off, and just—it’s all about timing.”
As Clarkson told reporters during the 2018 Winter TCA Press Tour, she’d wanted to join the show for quite some time, but life got in the way. “Imma be real with you, a lot of people reach out to me to be a part of singing things,” she said. “I love this show, and I’ve been trying to be a part of it. I was knocked up for like three years, I couldn’t work because my pregnancies are horrible.”
“So she had her babies, focused back in the studio, she had music. It was sort of now focusing her attention on work again,” Morrissey explained. “Of course, we would pick up right where we left off with our conversations. We’re thrilled she’s part of The Voice.”
And with ratings for Clarkson’s debut episode up compared to season 13’s premiere last fall, it’s clear that fans are thrilled she’s a part of the show, too. Also clear? That for Clarkson, the feeling is more than mutual. Not only does The Voice align with her hopes for the music industry—”It literally does come back to those blinds that really separates everything. And it means something to me. I represent those people in this industry. I don’t fit the pop star image,” she said at TCA. “But I am a pop star…”—but it allows her playful spirit to shine in a way that Idol probably never could. She fits in with Shelton, Adam Levine and Alicia Keys rather seamlessly and could very well give them all a run for their money and win the whole thing. After all, she does have some experience at winning a show like this.
“She is a strong personality and she is so much fun,” Morrissey said. “I really love when she sits back in her chair and she’s listening or something will cause her to stand up and do her Kelly dance. It’s funny. It’s great. She’s charming. We love her.”
Thankfully, the timing was finally right because we do, too.
The Voice airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.
(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)