Well…less than a month later, despite press accusations of bad behavior backstage at the Grammys and some understandable speculation that she was becoming a famous train wreck, Aguilera and Rutler were out to dinner at Osteria Mozza in West Hollywood, one of her favorite restaurants. They were celebrating the completion of her deal for The Voice, an American Idol–type show that pits all kinds of singers against one another. The Voice, which is based on a Dutch hit, has a unique twist: The judges—Aguilera, Adam Levine of the rock band Maroon 5, country star Blake Shelton, and Cee Lo Green, an R&B singer—sit in huge chairs with their backs to the performer. By not looking, they can’t be influenced by the aspirants’ appearances or how they move—the judges’ decisions are solely based on how the contestants sound. If the judges like what they hear, they press a button and their chairs turn to face the stage. Each professional then picks eight singers, whom he or she will mentor. As the season progresses, the chosen singers compete with one another in a sort of battle of songs, and the winner will be crowned The Voice.
“I’ve never watched an entire episode of American Idol,” Aguilera said, explaining her initial resistance to The Voice. “It’s too mean. Why would anyone want to go on a show to be ripped apart? I don’t want to be tough with my singers, but I do want to tell them on The Voice that if you really want this, you’ll be kicked when you’re down. You have to be willing to roll with those punches. You have to really want it.” As an ambitious nine-year-old, Aguilera competed on Star Search, performing “Sunday Kind of Love.” She lost in the semifinals. “Do we even remember who I lost to?” she joked. “At that age, I always sang songs meant for older people. That fit my personality—I had pain to sing about. If there had been a show like The Voice, I would have gone on it. It would have been amazing to be coached by a mentor.”
Instinctively, Aguilera must have realized that this TV show would be good for her flailing career. It was smart: The Voice reminds audiences of what she does best, which is sing. The judges perform and are also depicted as calm, sane, passionate, and experienced. That gravitas was missing from Aguilera’s recent profile.
Excited about The Voice, she and Rutler were feeling optimistic. On the way home from their March 1 celebratory dinner, Rutler, who was “driving erratically” at 2:45 a.m., was pulled over. Allegedly, he was drunk, although it was later revealed that his blood alcohol level was .06, well under California’s legal limit of 0.8. Nevertheless, the police arrested Rutler and Aguilera, whom they claimed was “extremely intoxicated.” Both were fingerprinted, photographed, and put in jail overnight. As awful as this incident was, it may have been a turning point for the good: The case against Rutler was subsequently dropped for insufficient evidence.