Sometimes the best life advice comes from unexpected places: a song lyric, maybe, or a profound graffiti tag on a city sidewalk. An Instagram hashtag, a meaningfully shaped cloud — or, as I’ve discovered, the mouths of the coaches on The Voice.
I recently mainlined all 12 episodes of Season 11, and I was surprised to find that I felt invigorated and grounded, as if I’d just taken a shower in the tears of people who attend a Tony Robbins seminar and then bathed in a hot tub of sweat droplets from people furiously trying to manifest The Secret. Turns out, you don’t have to be an aspiring vocal superstar, or even a fan of drunken karaoke, to glean motivation from the advice of Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Miley Cyrus, and Alicia Keys. Their wisdom can be applied to all of life’s problems.
Obviously, each has a very different coaching style. One is grounded and spiritual (Keys), another paternal and firm (Shelton); one is wild and energetic (Cyrus), and another wears tailored suits (Levine) — but just as contestants get the chance to choose who guides them on their journey, so can viewers. Which led me to wonder: Which vocal coach from The Voice would I choose as my life coach?
Some conditions: I am looking for charisma, wisdom, and a certain forcefulness in a life coach. I would like someone to help me unleash my feminine life force without asking me to do a lot of yoga or mindfulness practice. I also would like to covet their wardrobe. I am not asking for a lot here. Who fits the bill?
Adam Levine has a horrible back tattoo, and I cannot trust a life coach with a horrible back tattoo. I will not consider Adam Levine. But I am certain his self-help book would be called: I Wrote “This Love” and Still Married a Model. What Have You Done? The eventual, revolutionary follow-up would be titled Acceptance: Realizing You’re Not Justin Timberlake.
The best part of Blake Shelton is Gwen Stefani. I will not consider Blake Shelton unless he and Gwen Stefani start coaching together, like Faith Hill and Tim McGraw.
Now that we’ve discarded half of the options, let’s break down the remaining candidates.
Alicia Keys is the soothing, grounded, earth mother of The Voice quartet. She’s a hurricane of gentle, yet intense emotional strength; she has the wisdom of the whole universe in her gaze. She might be a witch (in the good, “feminist” way) or a telepath. Take, for example, how she coached two singers through a moving performance of “Hello,” by Adele. She looked at her singers, asked them to be brave enough to let the audience into their worlds and hearts — and voilà, out poured the tear-inducing belts and scrunched-up faces.
If you asked, “Alicia, what should I do with my life?” she would put her strong, patchouli-scented hands on your chest, sit in silence for 45 minutes, and see your entire soul. It would be uncomfortable, but she’d telepathically transmit back all of the secrets of the universe and make everything OK.
Guiding Philosophy: Trust in your heart and the universe and Mother Nature. Feel your feelings. Cry. Hold a baby. Whisper to it your heart song.
Signature Motivational Catchphrase: “When you sing, you are no longer in the physical realm,” or “I really see you.”
Inspiring Keywords: Beauty, fierceness, blossom, blooming, feel, heart, soul.
Upside: She’s soothing, like human Xanax.
Downfalls: Sometimes slips into a spiritual hippie talk that does not make any sense. She also occasionally wears those bad Coachella headbands — the kind that people who don’t know about cultural appropriation wear — which makes me question how genuine her spiritual guidance is. Like, have you even really spirit quested, Keys?
Coaching Arena: A Joshua Tree commune/cult, a yoga studio in Highland Park, a “coven” in Bushwick.
Potential Book Titles: I Feel So Much Inside You.
Similar Gurus: Martha Beck, Deepak Chopra, that woman who owns your local crystal shop, a millennial Instagram account full of inspirational quotes written on pink backgrounds, a soft quilt.
You can’t give good life advice unless you have lived (or employed a very good therapist for a lot of your life). And Miley, well: She’s ridden giant penises, bathed in milk and glitter, and groped Robin Thicke within an inch of her life — the girl can help you get through your latest Tinder crisis.
As a coach, Miley has harnessed that wild-child energy into an intense, pump you up, “Let’s make a change!” energy.
You’ll notice during the blind auditions, Miley is usually the first person to hit her big, red select button (once with her tongue). She’s impulsive; she’s spontaneous; she’ll shock you into changing your life. As a life coach, Miley will inspire you to break out of your shell and make a huge change without overthinking it. “Get the bangs, quit your job, have the threesome,” she’d twang-yell at you. “Own it! And dress with flair!”
Guiding Philosophy: Miley is guided by the purest essence of DGAF. She’s empowered by hair flips and attitude and Dolly Parton and bong references.
Signature Motivational Catchphrase: “No matter what I am, I am myself,” or “Spread them wings a little bigger.”
Inspiring Keywords: Confident, breakout, unleash, personality, Joan Jett, bong.
Upside: She won’t make you meditate.
Downfalls: She might make you ingest fistfuls of uppers and scream, “WHOO!” a lot.
Coaching Arena: A megachurch in the South, a revival tent, or an arena tour with a laser light show and a house rock band.
Potential Book Titles: I’m Just Being Miley and You Can Miley, Too or Fuck You If You Don’t Miley.
Similar Gurus: Tony Robbins, the woman slaying “Jolene” at karaoke, the popping champagne bottle, dollar-sign eyes, party confetti horn, dancing girl, and eggplant emoji.
It’s a tough choice. Both Alicia and Miley are well-dressed; both present fairly aspirational lifestyles. But who would be the better coach: the human version of Xanax, or a human Nike Swoosh?
Pass those uppers and lets sob-sing some Dolly: After much deliberation, I choose the Tao of Miley.