The Top 8 of The Voice Season 11 Arrived With an Instant Save Mystery

The Voice - Season 11

On Tuesday The Top 8 of The Voice season 11 were determined after the bottom three performers of the top 10 were revealed.  If you missed those top 10 performances you can see them all here.   The bottom three then had to sing something new for the instant save vote.

The Bottom Three “Instant Save” Performances

1. Courtney Harrell, “Bless the Open Road”




2. Austin Allsup, “Tennessee Whiskey”




3. Aaron Gibson, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”




The Instant Save Winner!

One singer, Aaron Gibson from Team Miley, was “instantly saved” by America and the other two – both from Team Blake – were sent home.

Yes, you read that right.  Team Blake lost two performers – Courtney Harrell and Austin Allsup – in one fell swoop.  Even the plea from coach Blake Shelton to save Courtney didn’t help.  Courtney and Austin were, of course, gracious about the loss.




Now,  regardless of what you think about Team Miley’s Aaron Gibson, the fact is that he’s been in the bottom two for the last three weeks.  It would stand to reason that if he’s been that unpopular then he’d have been eliminated.   Yet, he’s been saved every time.

It’s enough for some people to start wondering if there’s a conspiracy.  To some Aaron’s win is perplexing because  the “instant save” results don’t seem to match up with the voting.  Actually though, there is no conspiracy – this is just the mechanics of how the “instant save” is done. Now, is there something wrong with the mechanics?  Yes.

The Problems With The Voice’s “Instant Save”

During normal voting on The Voice America really does get to vote for its favorite singer.  However, for the “instant save” that’s not the case.  Because the live shows aren’t live in mountain and pacific time, literally half the country doesn’t get to really participate in saving an artist.  Here’s a map of how that breaks down:



(Arizona is special.  During the winter they are the same time zone as Mountain Time states, but, because they don’t do daylight savings, in spring and summer they are the same as Pacific Daylight Time.)

Sure, if viewers in time zones other than Eastern and Central are following along on Twitter they can see when the tweets come out to save someone.  Then they can tweet to save a favorite and retweet other viewers saves. For them though, this is right during the rush hours of getting home after work or even during working hours.  It also means they’re not factoring in the performances that just happened.    Not to mention a person has to be a Twitter user to vote.

The East Coast/West Coast Divide – Time and Taste

If all things were created equal, the breakdown of tweets during the instant save should match up with the general voting.  However, they aren’t equal.  Different parts of the country favor different kinds of music.

In  the world of rap and r&b most people know there’s a long-standing tradition of an “East Coast vs West Coast” rivalry in terms of musical style and greatness.  Those more deeply involved also would add in the so-called “Dirty South” rap scene which has its own unique signatures as well.   The thing is, just about every genre of music has a certain regionalism to it.  It’s not just those genres.  For a look at which genres are more popular where, check out this Movoto Blog music map.

Here are the highlights from that map: jazz, hip-hop, rap, rock, oldies, rock and r&b all have a huge following on both coasts. Blues, country, and gospel are favored in the eastern and central zones.  Alternative is strongest all over the west coast, but also has a presence in Texas and New England.  However, the love of folk, indie, pop and bluegrass are all concentrated in the pacific and mountain time zones.

When you take in the regional favoritism of certain kinds of music, you can see how the instant save may not match up with the voting – or even the iTunes sales.  Not having the Pacific and Mountain time zones weighing in for the instant save takes out the heavily populated west coast.  Indie singers like Darby Walker, the folk rock sound of a Josh Halverson, and performers aiming for the pop arena singers (like Courtney Harrell), all lose a big chunk of their voting base in an instant save situation.

The Twitter Thing

First of all, I love Twitter.  It is probably my favorite social media app.  That does not keep me from seeing its faults – especially in a situation like voting for The Voice.

When The Voice stopped using phone calls as a method of voting it immediately cut out: older people who aren’t technically savvy & poorer people who don’t have smartphones, or home internet access.  This certainly helps weed out their demographics of  viewers.  Using only Twitter for the instant save tightens that circle even more, because Twitter itself is a very niche social application.

Earlier this year a Bloomberg Gadfly article noted that while Twitter was a go to for live events, it still only had a fifth of the users that Facebook does. However:

Twitter’s users skew younger and are more diverse than Facebook’s; they’re also wealthier, more educated and more likely to live in urban areas. From an advertising perspective, these are good people to know.

So,  using Twitter for the instant save makes it more likely that the above demographic is heard loud and clear. (Unless they live on the west coast.)

Overall, this means Twitter’s role in the instant save is both smart and limiting.  It reaches fewer people, but those people are younger and wealthier than the average social media person.  In theory, these are the viewers most likely to buy music and support a new artist. These days a star’s Twitter fan-following is considered to be a gauge of their popularity.  So if an artist wins the instant save, it’s seen as proof they are popular – even if on iTunes they aren’t selling as well as another performer.

The Wrap Up

All of this is just theory of course.  One could argue that the instant save does its job as Aaron’s vocals are is reminiscent of many well-known alternative rock band frontmen.  (He needs to work on his emotional connection to his music, but still!) Think about Coldplay, Radiohead, or even Imagine Dragons.  There is definitely a lucrative market for his sound.  

On the other hand,  The Voice is still waiting for its huge American Idol-like breakout star.  This suggests that there’s something off with all the manipulations and hoops the voting on this show continues to go through.  It seems to me that more inclusive save methods, one that reaches a better cross-spectrum of viewers, might be a better model for finding that kind of star.

This is not an easy problem to solve when a country spans four time zones.  However, perhaps a live stream of the instant save performances on Facebook and adding voting there and on the app over a slightly longer period would help.  It would give people in mountain and pacific time something to tune into via smartphones without giving away the entire show.  Nor would one have to monitor a twitter feed. At the very least, it would help more people feel they had an opportunity to be a part of America’s choice.

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