Only time will tell which reality singing show will win the long race, but in the first outing for a fall season of "The Voice,"
 the numbers were flat. Monday night's two-hour season premiere drew smaller audiences in key demographics than the show's two previous debuts, with early Nielsen data showing that 12 million viewers tuned in.

With tough competition from "Monday Night Football" and the finales of "Hell's Kitchen" and "Master Chef," "The Voice" had a 4.1 rating in the key demographic of adults 18-49, but overall its numbers were down 39 percent from its post-Super Bowl debut, 15 percent from its spring Monday night average and 7 percent from its spring season finale. Despite all that, "The Voice" easily won the night, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The 12 million figure was on par with the ratings for Simon Cowell's "X Factor,"
 which will kick off its second season Wednesday night (September 12). With the two shows facing off for the first time, Wednesday's third audition episode of "The Voice" will also mark a head-to-head competition between former Mickey Mouse Club castmates Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.

It may be a short-lived battle, though, as Aguilera told Billboard magazine that "The Voice" has kept her "away from my heart, which is creating my own music." While she said she's enjoyed her time on the show helping other singers realize their dreams, the commitment has made her worry that she wouldn't have time to get back to being an artist herself again.

Aguilera, 31, is working on a new album slated for release later this year, with a single, "Your Body," scheduled to hit iTunes and radio within the next week or so. The singer gave credit to show creator Mark Burnett for giving her the option to sit out next spring's fourth season and possibly return in the future.

"Mark made it very clear that these chairs are always our chairs," she said. "He said, 'I understand the only reason the show's going to work is if it doesn't get stale.' And he totally understood that I needed something to fulfill my creative soul, and said 'this chair will always be yours to come back to whenever you do what makes you the best.'"

The good news is that Aguilera thinks she will "probably" be back in the future, but for now, "I just need to do my thing for a minute then I can come back and be that much better of a coach."