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Which Judge on The Voice Has Benefited the Most From the Show’s Success?

The biggest winner to emerge from the first-season success of The Voice would be the floundering NBC, which finally has a hit show to work around. The second biggest winner is the actual, you know, winner of The Voice, an individual who will be revealed in tonight’s finale and then promptly go either the Way of the Kelly or the Way of the Justin. And then, there are the judges: Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine, and Blake Shelton, four music-industry professionals with very much active careers who nonetheless all had something to gain from signing on with The Voice (otherwise, of course, they wouldn’t have actually been on TV). As The Voice prepares to say good-bye until nearly the Super Bowl, Vulture breaks down the career boosts the show has given each member of the aforementioned quartet.

Cee Lo Green
It's hard to say conclusively which of the four was the least famous heading into The Voice, but we'd argue Cee Lo. Blake Shelton was a complete unknown to millions, yeah, but he’s a country music star. Meanwhile, while Adam Levine may not have had as much name recognition as Cee Lo, Maroon 5 has had more commercial success than Green. (Christina was obviously most famous.) Most important, Cee Lo came the longest way (as previously elucidated) to get to reality-TV arbitration. The portly crooner was entering a whole new level of fame, introducing himself to the type of people who primarily shop for their music at Starbucks. So how did he acquit himself with those folks? One could say that the borderline creepy compliments he insisted on doling out to the lady contestants didn’t help. But isn’t that type of salacious behavior more or less in line with (and please excuse us for a moment as we punch ourselves in the face) his “brand”? Ultimately, he was out-gained by others. Relative to where he was previously, though, the exposure was immense.

Adam Levine
Levine fronts a band, Maroon 5, that no one over the age of 19 is allowed to publicly say they like. While their last two albums (most recently 2010’s Hands All Over) were totally commercially respectable, they’re still primarily known for the at-one-point inescapable singles from their first album, Songs About Jane, and that came out nine years ago. He also sleeps with Jessica Simpson and swimsuit models and is pretty, meaning he’s the kind of guy that other guys don’t like. But on the show, Levine exhibited no outward signs of douchiness, coming off instead as a genuinely nice, enthusiastic guy and the only judge who was truly treating the whole thing like a competition. He’s got two problems, though. First: Is anyone really going to be more into Maroon 5’s next collection of punchless lounge-jazz rock because Adam Levine was not annoying on The Voice? No. His best bet, then, as far as taking advantage of this situation, is going solo, collaborating with an unexpected pop producer, squeezing out a few workmanlike singles, and then making a trumped-up “reunion” album with Maroon 5 (honestly, that plan just came to mind, but it sounds reasonable, right?). And Adam’s second problem: being outshined by …

Blake Shelton
Blake Shelton!, every female non-country fan that watches The Voice seems to be saying at exactly the same time, where have you been all my life? Shelton’s stint on the show has worked out exactly in the manner in which his agents probably pitched it to him: He’s let his natural charm and handsomeness and height do their work, and has made himself a household name for a whole demographic that previously would have audibly scoffed at the mere mention of twang. He’s also impressed within the parameters of the show, like when he got rid of country boy Patrick in favor of Xenia, saying that he didn’t have as much to teach the former. And he’s gotten a chance to shift musically: How many units of All About Tonight do you figure Blake moved after that duet with Dia last night? Unequivocally, the biggest winner from The Voice’s judges’ table has been Mr. Shelton.

Christina Aguilera
But wait, you ask, Wasn’t this supposed to be Christina’s moment? Indeed! Aguilera was both the biggest name to sign with The Voice and the one — considering her recent string of embarrassing incidents, from the national anthem flub at the Super Bowl to that arrest for public intoxication — with the most to gain. And while The Voice has indubitably been a solidifying force in her career, maintaining her relevance at a time when things looked like they could have gotten a lot worse, it still feels partially like an opportunity squandered. X-Tina’s embrace of Beverly McClellan — and, therefore, the ostensible talent-trumps-appearance point of the show — has been great to watch, but she hasn’t been the all-around elegant, delightful presence she needed to be to counterbalance that messy personal stuff. And, as much as it’s no fun to say, especially considering the aforementioned talent-trumps-appearance thing, the tabloids’ focus on her fluctuating weight is still a distraction.

Photo: Lewis Jacobs/NBC