When Bachelor Nation fans first heard about The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart, the new series sounded like a fun diversion between seasons of flagship series The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Trailers for the upcoming reality show — about musicians looking for ABC-produced love — played regularly during the commercial breaks of Peter Weber’s Bachelor train wreck. The teasers’ constant promise of “a real-life Star Is Born” was intriguing, but clumsy (had no one on the Listen team finished the movie?). Yet, the stakes for a total unknown series were low, particularly as 2020's Bachelor In Paradise and Bachelor Summer Games initially loomed right beyond The Bachelorette, leaving Listen in their collective shadow.
Now, as Listen premieres on Monday, April 13, those countless hours of imminent Bachelor content have vanished before our very eyes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bachelorette is indefinitely delayed and a new production rumor for the series finds its way onto Twitter every day. The future of Paradise 2020 is a mystery that at least Chris Harrison remains bullish about. Summer Games has been completely cancelled. All of a sudden, Listen To Your Heart is the only remaining piece of the Bachelor kingdom that is confirmed for the remainder of the year.
Despite its cast of totally unknown characters and completely new premise, Listen still delivers, particularly if your biggest TV concern right now is the return of Bachelor in Paradise. If you're looking for Bachelorette-style high romance during these scary times, however, that's another story.
Listen unfolds with most of the trappings of a Paradise premiere. First, there are intro packages for the major players. Then the cast trickles into the season’s home base (a palatial L.A. pad that is not the Bachelor mansion), awkward introductions abound, and an evening of flirting follows, complete with hot tub smooches. Eventually, one-on-one dates begin, leaving everyone else to wander around the mansion feeling jealous or jilted. The episode closes with a rose ceremony.
The reason these beats work in Paradise is simple: Viewers already, at minimum, are acquainted with the people on their screen. It is absolutely thrilling to watch a recent Bachelorette Number One Boy like Blake Horstmann stumble through incomprehensible fuckboy behavior while bringing in real-world, festival-based multi-tier drama. That's just science.
However, the fun here is developing extremely strong opinions on contestants — who are all just as gorgeous as the rest of Bachelor Nation, now with the extra talent of musicality — within the premiere. After just an hour and 24 minutes of footage, I have a favorite player (the mononymed Rudi, followed by Julia Rae), a handful of men I resent, and a strong opinion on Listen’s core love triangle. There is even the promise of intense IRL drama influencing inside-the-series matchmaking. After 18 years of Bachelor franchise production, the team behind Listen knows how to craft engaging romance storylines as quickly as Chris Harrison can say “journey.” The sexy contestants’ penchant for self-created, makeout-heavy chaos certainly helps their producer overlords along.
At a time when we have no idea if Bachelor In Paradise will even air in 2020, the harmless antics of the Listen crew is a welcome distraction.
But with 24 total singles competing for love, it’s impossible to focus on one specific love story à la The Bachelorette. Certain women step to the forefront of the series — namely Nashville singer Jamie Gabrielle, and, likely, second episode entrant Natascha Bessez — but, by design, the narrative can never fully revolve around them. Listen also isn’t flying its cast members around the world to reinforce their individual connections. A quick jaunt to Hollywood’s Capital Records building is the height of luxury here, not an all-expenses paid trip to the Greek Isles.
The differences between Listen and Bachelorette will only become more obvious as the former solidifies its romantic pairings. Eventually, as trailers show, the final couples will have to compete based on their musical chemistry and talent. Clare Crawley would never.