If I were to have given last week’s premiere a nine out of 10, this episode gets a 6.5. That’s not to say it was downright terrible, but it became apparent last night that what we’re destined for with Listen To Your Heart isn’t so different from another season of Paradise, except with talent and air conditioning. Call me an optimist, but in terms of premise and format, I was hoping for something a bit more off-the-beaten-path, something to leverage these folks’ musical abilities. There is SO much to work with here, so many new options for how eliminations, newcomers and competition amongst contestants could work. Yet, with a formula identical to Paradise, it would appear the show insists on *not* reinventing itself.
The most Paradise-y thing to occur last night was Natasha. With her polished appearance and confident strut, she even looked different from the rest of the cast, and would be far more at home in any typical Bachelor setting. She surfaced just as Jamie was heard saying in an ITM, “I honestly can’t see anything going wrong,” the sort of layup Bachelor producers can’t resist. It would turn out that Natasha is a friend of Trevor’s ex-girlfriend and that, according to the ex, he was quite the liar and cheater. I give Natasha kudos for her gumption—the woman was rarin’ to go and eager to make a splash worthy of any Bachelor season. She hardly even pretended it wasn’t her sole purpose in being on the show.
I wasn’t a particular Trevor fan based on the premiere and had no loyalty towards him going into this episode, but how he handled the Natasha blindside was pretty commendable. He didn’t retaliate or get defensive. He owned up to remaining in the relationship longer than he should have, to having “emotionally” cheated on his ex, to hurting her and feeling remorseful about it. He took responsibility for everything, all the while managing not to speak ill of his ex at any point.
Meanwhile, the more insistently Natasha gunned for Trevor, the less I trusted her. When Trevor admitted not to physically cheating but only emotionally cheating, she retorted that the latter was worse (as if, had he admitted to physically cheating with no emotional connection, she would have found that somehow better). Natasha said in an ITM, “If he has no problem cheating on a girl after two and a half years of an intense, serious relationship, what the hell is he gonna do after meeting a girl for a couple of dates?” I couldn’t disagree with this statement more. Dating 101: Folks are far more likely to cheat in longer-term relationships, after novelty and excitement wears off. And frankly, when the choice adjectives at hand are “intense” and “serious,” I’m not so sure that’s a relationship I’d want to be in, either.
Ultimately, while I enjoyed watching Natasha’s brazen personality, she didn’t do herself any favours by being such a producer’s pet. This is supposed to be the show about talent, isn’t it? For once—certainly the first time in this franchise’s history—singing could result in airtime, and not the Wrong Reasons variety. Unfortunately, it became clearer and clearer that, as opposed to Natasha being heard singing or playing an instrument, this was her role to play. But under the flimsy guise of “protecting” a 21-year-old woman she’d never met before? Please. I never take very kindly to those who appear on this show specifically to lambaste someone on national television, but at least in the case of most past shit-disturbers, they were personally and pointedly wronged by their target. Natasha is only the ex’s friend, and this happened a year and a half ago. I’m not saying Trevor is a saint, but based on the evidence we were shown, he didn’t do so wrong. I thought he handled this bomb about as well as anyone could and, ironically, the very bomb that was supposed to make me like him less only made me like him more.
Why couldn’t we have heard Natasha sing a single note (which would have done wonders for legitimizing her appearance on this show)? Why couldn’t we have heard more of Mel‘s talents before she was sent packing, as opposed to shot after shot of her crying over Brandon? Why is it that everything MUST come down to “love?” We saw in next week’s previews that performances will be judged as much for the “romantic connection” as they will talent, which is such a waste and seriously dumbs down these musicians’ potential as collaborators. Ninety-nine percent of the world’s best music wasn’t created because a couple was in love. (If anything, you could argue heartbreak makes for WAY better songs.) Further, it’s friendships and platonic partnerships that have often resulted in the best output.
On LTYH last week, we heard Chris at the piano while a sweats-clad Rudi casually sang nearby. Last week’s group sesh of “Stand By Me” is still one of my favourite musical moments. A highlight of this week’s episode was watching Rudi and Ruby singing Amy Winehouse’s “Love Is A Losing Game” together. Are you telling me that, because these parties aren’t partnered up romantically, these duos can’t make viable, “performance”-worthy music together? Talk about limiting. The love factor should be an added bonus, the cherry on top of two musicians who collaborate well together (à la Bri and Chris), not the foundation upon which their abilities or performances are judged.
I’m (unfortunately) reminded of Peter Weber’s recent Group Dates, where contestants were made to sashay down a catwalk or pose in swimsuits for a photoshoot. Their performances were never judged for their actual runway walk or modelling skills, but for how convincing their “chemistry” with Peter was (code for how willingly they’ll stir up drama.) In a way, that system is more defensible in that it really was some of the very little time with Peter they’d get that day, and those women weren’t actual runway or swimsuit models. We weren’t missing out on some exciting or collaborative artistry by them not focusing on their “craft” or properly representing their skills. But on Listen To Your Heart, the singing and playing IS what these contestants do. They were cast for their talent—why cast them for it and then stifle what they can do with it, limiting their options to collaborating based predominantly on romance, not artistic or creative compatibility? It feels like we’re missing out on some potentially phenomenal musical moments because of this massive restriction.
Perhaps the issue is that, as a singer (albeit a classical singer), it’d be difficult for me to consume this show and not watch through the lens of a performer. Last night I found myself sympathizing with Sheridan and Julia when it was sprung on them that, with no notice or time to prepare, they’d be singing on a live radio show. When Savannah and Brandon were prompted to get up and sing for the Dresden’s open mic, it felt like they were performing monkeys. Even if there’s little to no preparation, or no rehearsal to sound their best, or even if they’re mid-conversation on a romantic date, if they’re told to sing, they must sing! This made me shudder. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been pressured to sing at the drop of a hat, at people’s houses, on the street or at events, even on my own Bachelor season. With no warm-up, no preparation, not even any accompaniment, as though what I could produce under those circumstances could possibly represent what I do. To some, it would appear the culmination of so many years of hard work is a glorified party trick.
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Here’s the thing, though: It would seem our LTYH contestants did get time to prepare. It was obvious Sheridan and Julia were allowed to at least review and rehearse “The Bones” before performing it with AN ENTIRE BAND. With the arrangement and the harmony, I find it doubtful that it was a complete surprise to Savannah and Brandon that they’d perform “Fever” at the Dresden. I understand (and appreciate) wanting to show these musicians at their best, but why pretend this crucial preparation—the thing that bonds these people far more than the performance itself—never happened at all? Is it somehow more impressive if it just happens, like in a cheesy movie where couples somehow instantly know the dance steps and harmonization to complement each other? Is it more magical if we believe a duet is haphazardly thrown together on the spot? To me, it shows a misguidedness in how The Powers That Be view these talents—it’s as though they think the romance is more convincing when the music collaboration requires no effort or planning, but that’s simply incorrect. The true magic (and bonding!) is in the discovery of each other’s abilities and the collaboration based on those discoveries—NOT the finished product. I’m not saying we need to be shown the rehearsal process (though I for one would enjoy that!) but, rather, don’t pretend the rehearsal process never existed. It’s the journey, not the destination, right?