Sunday, 25 March 2012

Review of the Week: The Voice

Singing contests, reality tv shows and music programmes. I look back at the shows that have passed. Fame Academy, Pop Idol, Popstars and the ailing X Factor. Shows which, at the top of their game, were popular with the public and generally well received. But they got boring. The singers fell flat, the sob stories passed the ten minute mark and the judges went from A List to Z List. What is needed, is a new, fresh format to rival all other reality tv shows, and put raw talent back in the spotlight.

Which is why The Voice seemed appealing. When the US version hit screens last year, from the original Dutch format, I was excited. Watching clips on YouTube, it seemed like a breath of fresh air to an already crowded entertainment world. And when the BBC, after a bidding war with ITV, claimed the prize of the UK broadcasting rights, my excitement started to grow.

In the last few months, the BBC have been plotting something so huge, that even the big, botox-faced man himself, Simon Cowell, rushed back home to see what all the fuss was about. A format unlike any other show, four 'superstar' coaches, a contest that is rocking its way all over the world and an aim that goes back to basics. The Voice aims to please the nation.

And overall, it did please me. Last nights opening was beyond my wildest dreams. But before I delve in, let me give you a bit of a heads up.

Presented by Holly Willoughby (urgh, so dull) and Reggie Yates (oo, a bit better), The Voice on BBC One aims to find a singing superstar by judging solely on the voice of an artist, with the winner signing a record contract with Universal. In the 'Blind Auditions', four of the world's biggest singers - Will.I.Am (Black Eyed Peas frontman), Sir Tom Jones, Jessie J and Danny O'Donoghue (from The Script) - have their backs turned to the singer, facing the audience. By listening to the voice and judging on voice alone, the 'coaches' as they're referred to, choose who they want by pressing a red button and spinning their chair to reveal who is singing. If none of them press the button, then the signer goes home. If all of them press the buzzer, the singer decides who to coach them.

It sounds a bit complicated, but the fantastic first episode made it clear. It's a case of judging solely on the voice. It's not about how you look, where you come from, what your story is. It's about the talent. And the number one thing for me that was great about this show was that there was real talent. In fact, if you had all these artists on something like the X Factor, all of them would be chosen. But only the very best were picked.

In an episode which saw all four coaches singing to 'I've gotta feeling' (felt a bit cheesy, but showed off the singing skills of each coach), the show featured acts up and down the country, from working mothers, singers with confidence issues and even a boyfriend and girlfriend (was awkward, to say the least, when the boyfriend got chosen and the girlfriend didn't!) singing their hearts out.

All the singers brought something different to the stage, as did the four coaches. Jessie J has the current knowledge and popular appeal, Tom is the legend with plenty of experience, Will.I.Am plays the comedian - cool but with a game plan - and Danny shows a soft, caring side with his boyband looks. The part where the artist chooses the right judge is both fun and painful to watch, with each judge bartering for the act. In some cases, however, it did get a bit cringe worthy.

Yes, you can draw a few similarities to the other shows. It does feature a few sob stories, although moderately with a human touch, not just to exploit the artist. The auditions felt a bit X Factor-esque, especially when backstage. And the audience were still screaming and calling the shots.

But all in all, it is a fantastic concept for a show which the whole nation is tipping to be a success. The artists love it, the industry seems pleased and the critics are applauding it (unless you are Simon Cowell, whose dead horse - Britain's Got Talent - is lagging behind). It seems the BBC might have just found its own answer, indeed its own 'Voice' if you will, in the competitive singing contest market!

4/5 Stars

Pictures Courtesy of Wikipedia

Follow me on Twitter: @kieranwatkins

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