‘Listen to Your Heart’ Is ‘The Bachelor’ Crossed With ‘A Star Is Born’ and Dumb, Corny Fun
With its emphasis on music and slightly tamer emotional drama—plus a dash of corny impromptu serenades—this offshoot from the franchise might just be pitch-perfect.
Early on during the premiere of ABC’s Bachelor spin-off Listen to Your Heart—full title: the much clunkier The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart—Chris Harrison made an interesting case for the show’s existence. “Think of the really iconic couples in music,” he tells the 20 sexy songbirds hoping to find love on the show. “Like James Taylor and Carly Simon. Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Your journey here could end with a relationship just like that.”
Just “like that,” a sane person might wonder? Aren’t James and Carly divorced? Was the Lemonade drama surrounding Jay-Z cheating on Beyoncé just a waking fever dream we all collectively shared a couple years ago? Are these the true peaks of amore to which we should all aspire? Has any musical couple actually made it, aside from Tim McGraw and Faith Hill?! Another interesting reference choice? A Star Is Born. “Watching Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s characters fall in love through their music was absolutely magical,” Harrison said, sounding a lot like a middle schooler who didn’t quite make it to the end of Romeo & Juliet before writing the book report.
And yet, this premiere was a corny delight—the precise level of emotional involvement I am equipped to handle right now, all wrapped in a familiar, rose-colored bow.
During Listen to Your Heart’s Monday premiere, 20 singles gathered in a palatial mansion in search of love—and, probably, if we’re being honest, a nice dose of publicity. As with Bachelor in Paradise, the starting numbers were uneven—but in this case, there were more men than women. With 12 men and eight women it was incumbent on the men to win over the female contestants if they wanted to stick around; by the end of the premiere, four men went home. And thankfully, one of them was the insufferable Michael Todd, an apparent Justin Timberlake wannabe whose best pick-up line was, “Ya got nice lips.”
As with any Bachelor series, love triangles emerged almost immediately. Another refreshing trend among these contestants is a much wider range of personal style choices than we usually see on these shows. One contestant, Mel, has purple hair, while the Austin native Sheridan looks way scruffier than the series typically allows. That said, this is still the Bachelor-verse, so everyone is thin and conventionally attractive.
The starkest difference between Listen to Your Heart and other Bachelor programs might be the nature of the drama between contestants. Some of these lusty lovers still seem like powder kegs waiting to explode—especially the singer Rudi, whose connection with a mohawked “neo soul” singer quickly sours when his eye wanders elsewhere. But the premiere featured a strikingly low amount of infighting—among both the women and the men.
And although some of this season’s contesticles are certainly not Grade “A” dating material, none of them are as terrifyingly toxic (read: violent) as some of the Bachelorette contestants we’ve seen in recent years. (That might sound like a low bar, but after last season of The Bachelorette, especially, that’s where it is set.) At the end of the day, these are musicians trying to make a name for themselves—so perhaps they’ll be a little less eager to let their drama get out of hand on national television. Perhaps.
Listen to Your Heart will, basically, stitch together the bones of Bachelor in Paradise and American Idol. Once everyone couples up, the series promises to shift gears as it tests their musical chops together. In the meantime, though, it’s all about the musical dates—which this week included Nashville native Jamie and Michigander Ryan recording a very fussy version of John Mayer’s “Gravity.” The other big date of the week saw Matt and Mel attending a Plain White T’s backyard concert that made me feel devastatingly old. (“That’s what they look like now!?”) Producers knew what they were doing with these two dates, too: As they departed for their rendezvous, Jamie and Matt each left another hopeful suitor waiting nervously back at the mansion.
And speaking of which, I’ll leave you with this: If there’s one contestant to watch this season so far, it’s Rudi. At first, it seemed she and Matt had connected—but then Matt took Mel on a date instead. Rudi, meanwhile, stayed home and crooned a sad song while another contestant, Chris, played piano. When Matt came home and tried to repair their connection, Rudi exploded, calling him out for telling her he’d like to take her on a date before asking out Mel in front of everyone. By the end, Matt left to get two drinks, feeling like he’d “just gone 12 rounds.” But then came Rudi’s real shining moment: During the show’s first rose ceremony, Jamie chose the sketchy Jed Wyatt knock-off Trevor over Ryan. And in swept Rudi to save the day, giving her rose to Ryan, thereby guaranteeing this low-stakes drama will live on another week.
Those who don’t like any of Bachelor Nation’s other offerings will likely not fall in love with Listen to Your Heart, either. Its premiere, like all Bachelor premieres, is replete with filler. Young contestants like Jamie, who is all of 21 years old, pine, “I have been waiting for this moment for so long!” The serenades are cheesy and the intensity of some of these people’s feelings are, yes, a little much. But as fans know, that’s all part of the deal at this point; you either love to hate it or you just hate it. And in this case, unfortunately, I have to admit I love it.