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TV review: The Voice

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For those of you who haven’t heard of The Voice, it’s the BBC's hugely publicised new talent show which aims to base contestants simply on, no surprise, their voices. Contestants audition to the backs of four chairs where the judges sit, which are then turned around if the light is pushed to signal their approval. The aim is to eliminate any discrimination based on looks or age.

The VoiceOn the panel are Danny O’Donoghue, lead singer of The Script, will.i.am, Jessie J and Tom Jones. It’s refreshing to have judges that are credible, current and reputable artists, all with impressive musical careers behind (and ahead of) them, instead of former lacklustre mentors Danni Minogue, Cheryl Cole and Louis Walsh (yes Louis, we KNOW you created Westlife) that have graced past reality shows. It’s easy to regard their criticisms with respect, selling the show to music lovers who would have previously cringed away from The X Factor. The praise from Louis (‘you were born to be a star, you were made for this’) looks laughable. Truthfully, all four were enjoyable to watch. It’s young, fresh and humble.

Screeching power ballads by insane women and middle-aged men in their underwear are gone. The cringe-worthy initial auditions have been chucked out and no one is actually bad, a feature which will either attract or repel viewers. Some still don’t get picked though, and watching Sean from former boy band Five getting rejected is excruciating viewing, but even the failed auditions are handled maturely. Gone are the Simon Cowell and Nasty Nick comments, probably because the contestants simply don’t deserve it. There is no pantomime with The Voice, no gimmicks. Surprisingly, we’ve even lost the ‘sob stories’ that saturate Saturday night TV. It’s more ‘real’ than The X Factor ever was, the friendship and banter between the judges seems genuine, making very comfortable viewing.

Flipping the choice is an attention-grabbing notion. When the judges are satisfied, the contestant decides which judge they want out of the ones that have turned around and a bidding war ensues. This makes for a more suitable match between singer and mentor, so no more X Factor judges being lumped with a category they don’t know what to do with (again, Louis and the groups… how many years did he land those?). The fight for contestants does become a little cringe-worthy, will.i.am promising the first singer albums worldwide and boasting his collaboration with Macy Gray and Michael Jackson. Expecting no cheese throughout was naïve, so it’s hard to begrudge the show for it. After all, it’s still a Saturday night programme; entertainment is our priority.

The only bone I had to pick with The Voice was unfortunately it’s central selling point. Why? Attempting to remove the superficial attitude of shows previous to it is a complicated plan. One woman claimed that the reason she chose The Voice was so ‘they couldn’t see me’. The intended idea is positive and the show should be applauded for enforcing it. Talent in the music industry should not be based on looks, but in the first few rounds of the X Factor it’s hard to argue that it was anyway. Michelle McManus? Rik Waller, anyone? The initial auditions were never based on looks and, although it feels incredibly harsh to say it, the music industry, in general, is superficial and is based on looks. Realistically, I don’t see how one blind audition gives artists that might be considered physically unsuitable a better chance of making it big after the show. It seems futile.

The prominence on not being able to see the contestants is almost emphasised so far that it feels reminiscent of a freak show. Contestants singing behind chairs like they’re monsters, claiming that they’re glad not to have been seen by the judges turns into uncomfortable viewing, especially when all those on the show are likeable, attractive people. Designing a show to highlight and eliminate the shallow nature of the music industry was always going to be full of landmines and I’m not 100% sure that The Voice has managed to side step these.

Regardless, I’m very impressed with it. It’s definitely a great watch and a refreshing format change from the gimmicks of the X Factor. The Voice is about the music and, I hope, it doesn’t fall prey to the staged affect of talent shows before it and retains the reality it has been produced with, because it is uplifting. Removing the superficial aspect is positive but the execution is poor and I’m not entirely sure how this could ever be remedied.

Nevertheless, it’s certainly an amusing watch, but just not for the reasons it was designed. Perhaps it’s better to just enjoy The Voice as entertaining Saturday night viewing.

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