TV Review — ABC’s “The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart”

Inspired by the deeply passionate Oscars performance from Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, the opening moments of ABC’s The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart ask, “Will a shared love of music lead to a love that is shared forever?”

*Note: this review may contain some light, non-specific spoilers for the premiere of Listen to Your Heart*

It’s been many years since I’ve watched music competitions like American Idol or The Voice and, after last year’s tumultuous and dissatisfying Bachelor season with Pilot Pete, I was approaching this new offering with a hefty bit of skepticism. However, as someone who has deeply enjoyed building a business and working shoulder to shoulder with my husband, I found the premise intriguing. I know how special it can be to find someone who shares your passion and who helps fuel you in reaching that dream.

The Bachelor Presents: Listen to your Heart cast reaches across a variety of musical stylings. Through the introduction videos, we discover Bekah’s passion for musical theater and witness her enthusiastic self-affirmation while former American Idol contestant Trevor who seems to be seeking a muse. There’s free-spirited Savannah who performs acoustic pop and practices yoga, country singer Jamie who informs us music is the way to her heart and that she has been cheated on in all her relationships, as well and we also meet musical journeyman Sheridan who has been living in his car as he travels from gig to gig.

As the participants began arriving at the mansion, which is a larger yet equally stunning venue to the familiar Bachelor Mansion, I was immediately struck by the variety of the participants’ fashion and demeanor. I found it a nice change of pace from the recent Bachelor season where many carried themself with a beauty queen poise and style. Throughout this premiere episode, we were also treated to vlogs of their journey to California — an addition that accentuated the tonal shift of this series from the fantasy romance world of the Bachelor/Bachelorette.

It’s an eclectic bunch gathering at the mansion. I enjoyed watching the party goers sift out into groups and some natural pairings as the evening wore on. And in Bachelor fashion, a relaxed piano-vocal jam session with several of contestants was juxtaposed with scenes of a couple passionately kissing in the hot tub.

I’m still not entirely sure how the mixture of evaluated performances and romance will be sifted out in a competition sense. While two men would be given the opportunity to select a female for a musically centered date – one was an incredible recording studio session of John Mayer’s “Gravity” while the other was an intimate backyard concert by Plain White T’s – ultimately it was the eight ladies who were in the driver’s seat as they could only each give a single rose during the episode’s ceremony and there were 12 men. True to the Bachelor formula, there were tears over difficult decisions, split affections, a rather heated misunderstanding between one developing couple — and even a delightfully cringe-worthy kiss denied in these first days before the familiar rose ceremony and farewell to the rose-less men.

Based on ABC’s contestant listing, I’m expecting a few more ladies to appear next week and perhaps we’ll find the men giving out the roses before we settle into the final 20 for the season. In the weeks ahead, couples will work together on crafting performances that will be judged by a variety of celebrity and previous Bachelor series contestants, with the previews showcasing the drama that can erupt within partnerships when trust erodes.

While setting up part of the story, the premiere certainly made me eager to see how the performance element is woven into the Bachelor/Bachelorette fabric and to see how well couples navigate the struggles of the creative process.

The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart airs Monday nights on ABC.