On May 10, NBC officially announced that all four of The Voice ’s most recent coaches — Blake Shelton, Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, and Adam Levine — would return for Season 17 in the fall. However, on Friday morning it was abruptly announced that Levine, who has coached on every season without a break since the series premiered in 2011, will not be returning this year after all. Shelton revealed on Twitter that he only learned about Levine’s departure a day earlier.
It’s not totally clear right now whether Levine is off the show for good, or if — like his fellow original coach Christina Aguilera, who took time off after Season 3 but then appeared on three more non-consecutive seasons — he may be back one day. But in a 2017 Yahoo Entertainment interview, when asked if he’d ever take a temporary hiatus from The Voice, Levine bluntly answered, “I will tell you this much: I will never take a season off. If I take a season off, it will be for every season thereafter, in perpetuity, for the rest of my life.”
And Levine’s Friday announcement on Instagram, while positive, thankful, and eloquently worded, definitely has a sense of finality to it. Along with bidding farewell to every single person he’s worked with — singling out “BLAKE F***IN’ SHELTON,” whom he calls his “brother for life” — he says it is “time to move on” and signs off with, “I am truly honored to have been a part of something I’ll always cherish for the rest of my life.”
A Friday Instagram post from The Voice states, “We’re going to miss Adam, but The Voice is family and with family it’s ‘see you soon,’ never ‘goodbye’” — seemingly leaving the door open for Levine if he ever has a change of heart. However, a source with knowledge of the situation tells Yahoo Entertainment that “no one behind the scenes wants him to return.”
It had become abundantly clear from his attitude that Levine, whose last victory on The Voice was with Jordan Smith in Season 9, no longer seemed happy to be on the show. His once-adorable banter with Shelton had become testy and sometimes downright nasty, and after he threw his Season 15 contestant DeAndre Nico under the bus on the most bizarre Voice episode ever, diehard viewers were rallying for him to be fired. The backlash and Levine’s waning popularity as a coach became especially evident during this just-wrapped season (which culminated in the series’ lowest-rated finale ever): After the public vote, most of his team was wiped out during the Cross-Battles and was entirely eliminated in the top 13 week, leaving him with no contestants at all during last two weeks of the competition.
A source tells TV Line that Levine was frustrated by the show’s new rules, which no longer ensured that each coach would advance to the Live Playoffs with the same number of team members, and that he became “very difficult” and no longer wanted to participate once he had no more singers in the game.
Very telling was Levine’s demeanor when the four coaches performed a Rolling Stones medley at the Upfronts earlier this month. While Shelton, Legend, and Clarkson seemed to be pouring themselves into the performance, bringing great energy and interacting with each other and the audience, Levine was unenthusiastic, for the most part motionless and frowning. A YouTube video of the performance has since been taken down. TV Line reports that the NBC powers-that-be were “furious.” Says another Yahoo source who was present, “He sang, but he made it so clear he did not want to be there. It was disgusting. … He made it impossible not to hate him.”
In his 2017 Yahoo interview, Levine suggested either Justin Timberlake or Bruno Mars as his potential successors. However, this fall his red chair will actually be filled by Gwen Stefani, who was a coach on Seasons 7, 9, and 12. So, it’ll be an end to the long-running Levine/Shelton TV bromance, but Shelton’s real-life romance with girlfriend Stefani, whom he met on The Voice, will be back onscreen. (Side note: Shelton had suggested David Lee Roth!)
While Levine is off The Voice, mostly likely permanently, he’s not leaving the NBC family altogether. Songland, a new songwriting competition for which he is the executive producer, premieres on the network next Tuesday, May 28.