The first and maybe last season of The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart has reached its conclusion, fulfilling the fever dream of a Bachelor producer who watched the first 90 minutes of A Star Is Born and immediately left the theater. What if a show took musicians (who often make music about romance) and had them make music and romance with each other?
From the beginning, the premise has felt dubious. There aren’t that many examples of coupled musicians making good music together, and most of the ones that have existed ended in some sort of dramatic, tabloid-riddled breakup. (To be fair, The Bachelor specializes in “dramatic, tabloid-riddled breakups.”) The producers of The Bachelor seem to think anything can be made into a Bachelor-styled TV sex hybrid—one recently suggested that if fans aren’t allowed to attend sporting events this year, TV networks should air baseball games with repeated shots of the players’ wives in the stands and only allow winning teams to have sex with their wives. Baseball Sex: The TV Show isn’t happening, thankfully, although I am sad we won’t get to hear Chris Harrison describe every World Series as “the most dramatic World Series ever.” But Music Sex: The TV Show did happen.
Listen to Your Heart wrapped up Monday night with the remaining couples performing in front of a full theater in Nashville, the only city in the United States according to the show. Oddly, the season finale essentially proved the show’s thesis that the most compatible relationship could lead to the best music. Several shaky couples were eliminated after comically bad performances, revealing that it may be difficult to fake on-stage chemistry if a couple’s off-stage romance is questionable. On the other hand, the winners of L2YH, Bri and Chris, spent the entire time softly singing and gazing deeply into each other’s eyes, barely noticing all the hookups and breakups happening around them.
Unfortunately, the show proved its thesis at the expense of good, fun television. The first few weeks of this show were genuinely entertaining, as hot, horny musicians coupled, recoupled, and made bad decisions. That they were musicians was a secondary detail—we watch hot, horny people couple, recouple, and make bad decisions on dozens of other reality shows—but it was a fun twist. It was surprisingly entertaining to watch people with no off-stage chemistry flail through forced performances, stuck on stage with a person they used to find attractive but now could barely look at.
But I hardly made it through Monday night’s finale, as neither the stories nor the music of the two final couples were compelling enough to demand attention. All of the other couples had been dispatched due to their instability—but instability is what reality TV drama hinges on. By the finale, both Chris and Bri and Trevor and Jamie had solidified their relationships, leaving the focus of the final episode to just music. And if I just wanted to listen to music, I’d listen to, like, professional musicians playing styles of music that I enjoy, and not some cover-playing reality show couple who was determined to have the strongest combination of compatibility/attractiveness/talent, you know what I mean?
I can see Listen to Your Heart being a permanent spring TV fixture. I just hope it doesn’t get too proud of itself for discovering the intersection between music and romance—the show’s messy disasters were always more fun than its surprising successes.
Strangest Detail: The Prizes
Bachelor franchises are somewhat singular among competition-style reality shows in that there’s no prize at the end—you’re just supposed to be happy you beat 29 other people to end up in a relationship. That was a pretty good prize back when the idea was that you got married to the lead, and the lead was, like, an Italian prince or an NFL quarterback. Now that the leads are just reasonably hot software salesmen and there’s no pretense of the relationships lasting, the only real prize for winning is the social media bump. Madison from the last season of The Bachelor may not have wound up with Peter, but at least she has 1.9 million Instagram followers, and will never lack opportunities to market skincare products.
Listen to Your Heart has not garnered its contestants a similar bump—even with the season over, Rudi is leading the pack right now with about 110,000 followers, which is worse than the woman who finished 16th on the most recent season of The Bachelor. But Listen to Your Heart decided that because it’s a singing-based reality show where competitors were hypothetically judged on their talent (or talent/relationship compatibility, whatever), whoever prevailed deserved some sort of prize. The show promised the winners two things:
- The opportunity to record music with “a famous producer.” I kind of expected that by the finale the show would reveal who the “famous producer” was, but, no. The show also specified that the winning couple would make and record their own original music, in spite of the fact that we’ve only ever heard them do Romance Karaoke together.
- A nationwide tour, performing in venues across the country as a couple. At the end of the show, winners Bri and Chris exited the venue in Nashville and hopped onto a tour bus, which pulled away as they stared lovingly into each other’s eyes. Their tour had begun!
Of course, their tour hadn’t begun. This episode was filmed in February, so even under normal circumstances, Bri and Chris couldn’t have started touring until the episodes aired. And now circumstances are, uh, not normal. I have to imagine that Bri and Chris are never going on tour together—we have no idea when live music venues will open again, or whether Bri and Chris will still be in a relationship when they do, or whether anybody will remember who Bri and Chris are whenever this pandemic is over. The show’s supposedly happy ending was actually on a bus going nowhere.
The ending of Listen to Your Heart almost exactly mirrored the classic closing scene of The Graduate. A happy couple sprints out of a venue and excitedly boards a bus. Acoustic guitar music plays—this time it’s Bri and Chris singing “Can’t Help Falling in Love” for the billionth time instead of Simon and Garfunkel singing “The Sound of Silence.” The scene cuts to black as the bus pulls away, but neither the viewer nor the riders know where the bus and its couple are headed.
Dumbest Move: Matt
The judges’ choice in the finale was made even easier by the fact that one of the final three couples didn’t show up. Upon arriving in Nashville, Matt decided to call things off with Rudi, explaining that he just wasn’t sure about the relationship and that he simply couldn’t fake the passion on stage.
Can we just all agree that of all the dumbasses on the show, nobody’s ass was dumber than Matt’s? Rudi seemed to be the most talented performer remaining, carrying Matt like Lady Gaga did Bradley Cooper. If Matt had just pretended to like Rudi for one more night, he could’ve won this show or at least come away from it looking good. Instead, he comes across as the unlikable jerk who spoiled a relationship for no good reason. And why? To preserve the integrity of a romance karaoke competition invented to fill airtime between actual seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette? Maybe he was just super-worried about having to potentially go on tour with a person he wasn’t into?
This is what happens when you let somebody into a Bachelor show who has never actually seen The Bachelor before. Anybody who has ever watched this show knows how easy it is to fake a relationship for a few more episodes for clout.
Easiest Gig: The Judges
A competition show is nothing without its judges. Would American Idol have taken off without Simon Cowell? Do people remember the winners of The Voice, or just Blake Shelton and Adam Levine? How would we know whether Chopped contestants successfully integrated anchovies into their dessert without the sage guidance of Alex Guarnaschelli?
So I have to give props to Listen to Your Heart for never deciding on full-time judges and never having them do any actual judging. Each week, the show brought in some famous musicians (Toni Braxton, Jason Mraz, the guy from Train) and ex-Bachelor participants, who were apparently equally qualified to judge. Monday night, the show brought its most famous judges yet—Taye Diggs, Jewel, and Rita Wilson. (I suspect they got Rita Wilson by agreeing to pretend she’s primarily famous as a musician—Jamie even says “I love Rita, she’s such a great singer, songwriter, and producer,” which, in a vacuum, is a really strange way to explain who Rita Wilson is.) All three are legitimate stars, and all three must have been straight-up baffled as they got smaller rounds of applause than former Bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe and former Bachelorette third-place finisher Jason Tartick.
Every week, the decisions the judges made were pretty easy, especially since they had to eliminate only one couple per week. It would’ve been hard to reward the best performance—but it was always pretty easy to identify the worst one. Danny and Bekah got kicked off after an awkwardly chaste performance that ended with a rebuffed kiss attempt from Danny—a no-no on a romance-based singing competition. Next off were Brandon and Julia, thanks to Brandon’s insistence that “screeching” and “weird faces” are integral parts of singing. Next off were Natascha and Ryan after their absolute disaster of a performance in which they tried to make Ed Sheeran into Latin jazz. And in the finale, there wasn’t much of a contest—Bri and Chris were obviously better than Trevor and Jamie.
So the judges had easy jobs—but, of course, their jobs were made even easier by the fact that in the entire series, the show never actually had the judges make any picks. They just had Chris Harrison announce who got roses and who got kicked off! I kept waiting for this dynamic to change—for L2YH to show Jewel and Taye Diggs evaluating talent and love behind closed doors—but it never did! So congratulations to all of the judges, who got to appear on TV for the small task of briefly appearing equally famous to former Bachelor contestants.