I have so very many questions about this show. I watched Chris Harrison explain the premise about 15 times during this two-hour premiere, but I’m still lost. What are the stakes?! Are they supposed to get engaged at the end of this? Do they get a recording contract? Are more people being eliminated? What is Jason Mraz going to do? Is he going to eliminate someone? Is Kesha a judge? How culturally relevant does this show think The Plain White T’s are? Why do they keep using A Star Is Born as a romantic movie? When do they sing?! Can they just sing whenever they want? Can they only sing a list of preapproved and pre-licensed songs so they avoid paying additional royalties? What woman was John Mayer emotionally tormenting instead of appearing on this episode? Have we all finished reading Open Book by Jessica Simpson, and do you all want to talk about it via Zoom?
So what answers do we have? Listen to Your Heart is the latest installment in the Bachelor Cinematic Universe, and it is a choice. It is based entirely on the premise that the ultimate fantasy for musicians is to be dating another musician and have their relationship judged by a panel of musical experts and Bachelor Nation stars. In execution, it’s Bachelor in Paradise with strangers in California. In college, I went with my friends to an a capella after-party, and when I got there, all the guys were singing and I was fucking pissed. Listen to Your Heart is like that party.
Let’s get to it.
After Chris Harrison lays out the very thin plot, it’s time to meet some of our alleged musicians. For the guys, every singer-songwriter archetype is represented. Sheridan is the long-haired Austin weirdo. Brandon is the straightlaced Marine turned musician who serenades a veterans’ memorial. Not like the event, the location. Gabe is a Christian a capella sweetie who also plays the cello. Trevor barely made it on American Idol and honestly, this might be a lateral move. The rest of the guys don’t get introduction packages, but there’s a charming variety in look, type, height, and age. It’s almost stunning to remember that there are other kinds of hot than just square-headed, failed athlete.
The women are all just standard-issue Instagram hot and all under 30! The producers couldn’t find one weird punk 35-year-old? We meet Bri, who was engaged and is ready to meet her new valentine and future husband. Hold on, is that what’s going to happen here? Like, is that the expectation? Do they get a record deal? Is that part of it? Then there’s Bekah, who says she wouldn’t exist without musical theater, and that’s all I’m going to say about that. Savannah is a wild-child yoga instructor. And there’s also Jamie, who is literally 21 and spends her intro package talking about how dating has been dismal because she’s been on like 100 dates and she’s been waiting soooooo long for love. It’s going to be extremely hard for me, a Strega Nona, to listen to Jamie talk about how she hasn’t managed to find true love before she was the legal drinking age.
It’s time for the songtestants (I’m still workshopping it) to head to the Bachelor Mansion. Chris Harrison greets them at the door, and then they can just … walk around? They are getting free rein of Bachelor Mansion like we’ve never seen before. There’s no Rose Ceremony, so it’s just emotional chaos. Jamie hits it off with Ryan because they are the first two people there. The next arrival is Matt; he says that they’re going to have a nice collection of human beings because they’re all musicians. I don’t know if Matt has ever watched Behind the Music, but everyone being a musician in no way guarantees them all being good people. In fact, if they’re good people, it might be in spite of them being musicians.
Jamie and Ryan sit down and have a deep conversation. She asks him what is a good memory from his childhood, and he says, “I had seizures and needed brain surgery. It was awesome.” Bitch. WHAT? He goes on to say that when he was 6 and had brain surgery, it was a wake-up call, gave him a new lease on life and really put things in perspective. He was 6 when this happened. This new format really has these songtestants struggling to know where to deploy their backstories.
Rudi is 24 and has dated all of L.A. already. Someone please tell these women that because they’ve entered their early 20s and haven’t found a life partner that they aren’t struggling. They’re doing it right. She hits it off with Matt, and the countdown clock until she messes it up starts ticking.
Then there’s Michael Todd. What in the Whaboom is this motherfucker? He squeak-sings his song “Hot Touch,” and everyone backs away slowly. He tells Savannah that he really likes her lips and tries to kiss her. She almost snaps her neck trying to whip it away from his face.
Once everyone has arrived, Chris Harrison stops by to tell them that they’ll be able to sing soon enough, but tonight is all about settling in and realizing that four of the guys will be going home. Good night! Sleep tight! The men and women split into the rooms and start claiming whom they are interested in. Sheridan realizes that other guys could be interested in Julia and some of them are hot! It’s almost refreshing watching these normies try to figure out how the Bachelor food cycle operates.
As all these couples start to pair off, they all keep saying that “The Dream” is to find another musician to make music with. Is that The Dream? Are all these musicians walking around thinking all their other relationships have failed because they weren’t with another singer? Is that what everyone got out of A Star Is Born? Because that movie isn’t about two equals finding each other and organically building a relationship. It’s about one very famous person discovering a very talented unknown then unconsciously sabotaging her success. (And listen, before anyone calls me a hater: I’m a performer, but when I’ve been attracted to other performers, it hasn’t been a result of our chemistry onstage or their talent. It’s been based on how big I think their penis might be.)
Oh god, they’re already singing. They’re already playing the piano and singing. A real flaw in this show is that on The Bachelor(ette), when a contestant can sing or play an instrument, it makes them unique and special. But when everyone can sing, the uniqueness is taken away. If everyone can sing, then no one can sing.
But these guys are making MOVES. Matt decides to take Rudi into the hot tub in order to attack her with kisses. She freezes up and doesn’t kiss him, thus launching what will be days of anxiety. Jamie takes Trevor into the hot tub and they are MAKING OUT. Ryan is about to be left in the dust.
It’s the next morning, and the first date card arrives! They have no idea what to do! Ryan gets the first date card and he decides to take Jamie. Trevor is quaking. They head to Capitol Records, and Ryan looks around and just goes, “Beach Boys. Classic.” Jamie says that music is where she feels more vulnerable, but it can bring you closer to your partner. Sure. They head into the studio, and John Alagia is there and tells them that they’ll be recording a cover of John Mayer’s “Gravity.” Oh, so this show is just all covers? Just karaoke? Cool. Ryan gets to play John Mayer’s guitar, which is a huge honor.
When Ryan and Jamie get in front of the microphone, something becomes painfully obvious: Everyone sounds the same on this show. Listen to Your Heart has attracted a certain type of singer-songwriter: mewling, breathy, with absolutely no power behind their voice. Everyone sounds like they’re doing Shawn Mendes vocal cosplay. Also, because of the style of singer on this show, every song becomes a vaguely country-pop song. This is going to be rough.
Back at the house, Matt is given the other date card, and in the interest of completely predictable drama, instead of just inviting Rudi on the date, he takes Mel and Rudi aside to talk to them about the date. He picks Mel, and Rudi begins rewriting the exchange in her mind to make Matt the villain. The date is a backyard concert with The Plain White T’s. Matt says it’s absolutely mind-blowing to hear The Plain White T’s not play “Hey There Deliah.” We get almost no other footage of the date.
Once Matt and Mel return from the date, it’s time for the cocktail party and the first rose ceremony. Sheridan is determined to get Julia to be interested in him, and Julia is just stunned that she, a thin, pretty blonde lady in a red dress, would have so many options! Sheridan tries to steal her away but ends up just watching her make out with Josh. Sheridan does steal her away and asks her to finish writing a song he’s working on. Instead of coming up with any lyrics, they just make out.
Mel is connecting with Gabe, another person we get zero footage of, so Matt has to refocus his energy on Rudi. But she is not remotely interested in that bullshit. Matt sits down with her and says, “You look so good,” and she tells him “Okay. No. Don’t waste your breath.” This is terrifying and amazing! Rudi asks him if he remembers what they talked about before he asked Mel on his date. He doesn’t really remember, and Rudi tells him that he basically professed his love and then he went and asked Mel. Matt is walking a fine line between not remembering what he said and trying to excuse what he did say. He ends up coming up with, “Maybe I’m misunderstanding how to do this,” and no one wants to hear that. Rudi tells him that he hurt her and he made her look like a dumbass. Matt walks away stunned and hopes Rudi doesn’t talk about him to every other woman.
Trevor tries to show Jamie how much he’s interested in her and takes her aside for a little chat. They make out, and Jamie has a full-blown meltdown and says she can’t trust herself and she’s so confused. She’s too horny to function, y’all.
It’s time for the rose ceremony. There is more than one person I’ve never heard speak during this episode. Savannah picks Brandon. Mel gives her rose to Gabe, and Matt is screwed. Bekah picks Danny; these are two strangers to me. Bri picks Chris. Cheyenne picks Matt because “Sometimes you just have to take a chance.” We should read that as “Sometimes you just have to do what producers tell you to maximize drama.” Julia gives her rose to Sheridan, and it’s time for Jamie’s decision. She picks … Trevor! And Ryan, the Cost Plus World Market Tom Everett Scott, slowly begins to deflate until he’s saved by Rudi. All the men going home have never spoken words, and Rudi says she can see herself falling for Ryan. Maybe next week, we’ll get to the performances? And two other women arrive? Listen to your heart and drink heavily for the next episode.