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Courtesy of Bachelor Nation on ABC

April 15, 2020

Heartstrings Meet Guitar Strings in ‘Listen to Your Heart’

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If you took Bachelor in Paradise, removed it from the stunning landscape of Mexico, swapped the beach for a hot tub and added a piano and a few guitars, you’d basically be left with The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart. Brought to the screen by the team that does juicy drama better than anyone, the show premiered on April 13 on ABC.

Franchise gatekeeper and godfather Chris Harrison noted that the show is a bit like a real-life version of 2018 blockbuster A Star is Born, occupying the musical niche for all the hopelessly romantic reality television enthusiasts out there. It’s no secret that singing competition shows like The Voice and American Idol have been wildly successful, a trend producers are likely hoping to emulate in the creation of this new chapter.

The show will work similarly to Paradise, with several men and women competing for each other’s hearts. The first episode contains a classic Bachelor-style rose ceremony, yet this season’s preview shows that the latter parts of the six-episode journey will stray from the norm. Pairings formed in the earlier episodes will perform together for an array of familiar faces as the season progresses, ranging from pop star Kesha to beloved Bachelorette couple JoJo Fletcher and Jordan Rodgers.

This season’s contestants dabble in musical styles all over the spectrum, including indie rock, soul, jazz and American folk to name a few.

When I first heard about the show’s debut, I had two thoughts. First, why mess with perfection? Second, you would quite literally have to pay me to get behind this.

One episode in, my perspective has shifted. This new spin on the best guilty pleasure show is similar enough to the original formula to keep fans comfortable, with a musical twist that is audible yet not overwhelming. I was initially quite worried that, like most musicals I’ve seen, there would simply be too much singing. (And with twenty musicians I had never heard of, I wasn’t quite ready to take that chance.) From what I’ve seen so far, though, the musical numbers are wisely interspersed between teary-eyed interviews and sunset dates. Just like its predecessors, Listen to Your Heart will make you yell at the television screen until it starts to get embarrassing. (They still can’t hear us, even in the new show.)

The arrival of musicians to the franchise is not an entirely new phenomenon. Singer-songwriters have been cast in the past, with Jed Wyatt from Season 15 of The Bachelorette being the most salient example. A clear favorite adored by hordes of fans for much of the season, Wyatt was the kind of the guy to play his guitar on the street below a woman’s window. He even opened up to Bachelorette Hannah Brown about his initial thought that the show was a “huge platform,” presumably one to grow his musical following. After Brown accepted Wyatt’s proposal at the end of the season, however, he was met with widespread scorn from Bachelor Nation in the face of allegations that he had been in another relationship when he left to film the show.

Despite the aesthetically pleasing and emotionally endearing introduction to the contestants, viewers can’t help but wonder: In the words of countless Bachelor alumni, are these musicians really “here for the right reasons?” Worries constantly surface on the regular edition of the series about participants joining the cast only to gain fame. This potential seems exacerbated in the case of performers, whose careers are fundamentally dependent on their exposure to the public. The first date card of the season brought with it a recording session at Capital Studios, quickly demonstrating that the show might be as much about career development as it is about romance.

If you’re willing to look past that possibility, Listen to Your Heart is engaging and suspenseful enough to make for some quality Monday night television. While binge watching might be the go-to during quarantine, there’s definitely something special about getting into a show that’s premiering in real time. Knowing that you’re seeing and reacting to something at the same time as the rest of Bachelor Nation is certainly exhilarating, and commercials provide fantastic opportunities for snack breaks. Who knows? You might just start looking forward to Mondays.

 

Megan Pontin is a freshman in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. She can be reached at mpontin@cornellsun.com.