Last night, ABC premiered its confusing The Bachelor spin-off, Listen to Your Heart, which stuffs the Bachelor mansion full of painfully earnest singer-songwriters and instruments, plies them with alcohol, and encourages them to pair off. It’s presented as a chance for young artists (the heterosexual ones, at least) to find the loves of their lives through the music.
Even as an avid Bachelor and Bachelorette viewer, I’m still not entirely sure how this particular spin-off works. The first episode featured twelve women and eight men, with the ladies handing out roses at the first ceremony and ultimately sending four guys home. Like the regular Bachelor and Bachelorette seasons, date cards were distributed (for people to go on music-themed dates, naturally), but not everybody received one. Only two couples went on dates. I don’t know what the plan is for next week—presumably the guys will hand out roses—but if this premiere is any indication, there will be a lot of talk about “the one” and a little bit of John Mayer music.
In the opening scene, Chris Harrison, the show’s host and puppet master, said the whole thing was inspired by the love story from the recent A Star Is Born remake. Of course, that approach completely disregards the ending of that movie and anything it has to say about the corrosiveness of fame, which, let’s be honest, is the prize this show is actually promising its struggling musician contestants. (And to digress, if the show were actually going to play out like A Star Is Born, the most famous person on it, Harrison, would have to fall in love with one of the unknown bachelorettes, then we would all bear witness to his complete professional, emotional, and moral demise.)
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Anyway, the first rule of Bachelor Nation is that we all have to pretend true love is the name of the game, so I’ll move on to a subject more relevant to the readers of this website: the Texans! Every Bachelor season is stacked with our fellow statesmen and stateswomen, and Listen to Your Heart is no exception. According to ABC’s website, this show has six Texas contestants, most of whom we met last night, including Austin longhair Sheridan Reed and Dallas country crooner Jack Mason.
I decided to power-rank the Texans on the show, based both on who is least likely to get booted off and who is most likely to amass a large, devoted social media following—the true Bachelor Nation currency. My metrics aren’t an exact science, per se. Rather, I will judge things based on what my heart tells me—apparently something I’m supposed to listen to.
Ages: 25 and 23, respectively
Location: Austin and Dallas
Style: Indie Pop and R&B/Pop
What is power, really? That can be hard to parse out in Bachelor Nation, an ecosystem in which the only players to have agency are the producers operating behind the scenes and a man named Steve Carbon, a.k.a. Reality Steve, who spoils every season via his well-established network of anonymous informants and an army of amateur social media sleuths. But if Reality Steve can be understood to have power because he has information, and information = power, then it stands to reason that a contestant shrouded in mystery (i.e. anyone withholding information) has power too.
For that reason, this week’s top ranking is a tie for Ruby Jane Smith and Mariana Jasel, two young women about whom I know nothing, since I’m not sure they were even on last night’s episode, and I’m unwilling to rewatch it. Maybe they were in the background and I didn’t notice? Maybe they’ll show up in future episodes? Who knows. But at press time they have not yet embarrassed themselves on national television, which, in my eyes, makes them the most powerful contestants right now.
Style: R&B soul pop
By the rules of the Old Testament, Sheridan has power because he has long hair like Samson (a “typical Austin look,” he says), but he also got a pretty good edit on last night’s episode. He was introduced by playing what I think was a Jack Johnson song on what looked like the Pfluger pedestrian bridge, which was very hard for me to watch personally because it is, perhaps, the worst representation of my hometown imaginable.
But otherwise, Sheridan came off as a real nice guy. He has a Subaru he named Sheila and a wall on which he displays at least eight identical telescope hats, so he did embarrass himself on national television a little. But he also scored a rose from Julia, who is gorgeous, and charming, and runs a charity organization that helps kids with cystic fibrosis when she’s not following her true passion: music. Plus, Sheridan had to compete for Julia’s affections with a man named Josh, who was definitely more objectively attractive than he was.
The main indicator of Sheridan’s power, however, is that the show really wanted us to root for him, if only because it spent a lot of time on who Sheridan is, how he feels, and what his voice sounds like when he sings. This means someone behind the scenes with actual power is—at least for now—on Sheridan’s side. But no love is more fickle than that of a Bachelor producer, so who knows what next week could bring.
Location: San Antonio
Style: R&B and pop
Rudi is another contestant who got a lot of screen time, but her edit was not necessarily as favorable as Sheridan’s. She came on strong out of the gate, charming Harrison by addressing him as “the man himself” as they met on outside the mansion, and also by developing a “connection” with another contestant named Matt, who has a fauxhawk and what Rudi described as “the biggest arms” in the house. There’s no doubt that Rudi has a distinctive personality—a precious and rare resource in the Bachelor world (see former Bachelor Peter Weber, whose entire personality revolved around the fact that he flies planes and needs constant validation from the women in his life). Though we didn’t get to hear Rudi play music, we did hear her sing, and she easily had the best voice among the contenders featured on last night’s episode.
But there’s a dark side to having a strong TV personality—especially when there’s this much wine involved. Rudi’s endearing tendency to say it like it is means she says a lot, which can be edited down to make her seem, to use the language of the show, like someone who “does drama.” She came off as a little intense last night, reading Matt the riot act for telling her he wanted to take her out when he drew a date card but ultimately chose a girl with purple hair named Mel, with whom he also felt “a connection.” I personally think Rudi was in the right. Matt seems like he is bad at communicating, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t be called out for that. But Rudi’s on shaky ground, and should be careful.
4. Gabe Baker
Gabe didn’t get a lot of screen time, though he did get an introduction and a rose from Mel (who, in a twist, spurned Matt in the process), so I have a feeling he could be in it for the long haul. The only thing we really know about Gabe is that his “faith in God as a Christian is the foundation of his life,” as he puts it. That’s a little worrisome, given that Bachelor Nation is Sodom, Gomorrah, and Babel all wrapped into one. Get outta there, Gabe! This could all change next week, but for now the producers want us to know who Gabe is. At the very least, it’s good exposure for anyone who wants to pursue a career in music.
5. Jack Mason
A generous estimate of Jack’s screen time last night is two seconds, and he failed both to make a connection and to secure a rose, becoming one of four men to be eliminated in the premiere episode. While he has no power, he also didn’t have to spend more than one night in the Bachelor mansion. In the long term, that’s probably much better for his well-being.