Series 3 of the BBC talent show The Voice concluded last weekend, with teenager Jermain Jackman taking the recording contract to kickstart his singing dream. After the disappointing post-victory careers of the two previous winners, Leanne Mitchell and Andrea Begley, hopefully he will meet with more success. After all, the audience vote decides the winner. Why that doesn’t then translate into chart positions is a problem the BBC have to figure out. The most likely reason is that the people sat at home voting aren’t the same people downloading singles. This year there’s been a big onscreen push for audiences to vote for the contestant whose track they would go and buy. And despite the wide ranging media doubt, Jermain could be the first winner to fit the bill.
The Voice itself is already starting to lose its appeal. Falling viewing figures are another obstacle that doesn’t bode well for aspiring stars. After the initial blind rounds, and then the knockout, the show falls back into a dull stupor. The problem is that once the novelties are over, the judges just don’t seem to be capable of one mean word. They have nothing even remotely critical to say. The semi-final was awash with praise, all roughly along the lines of naming the performer on stage as the ‘next big thing’. This gets old by the third contestant. By the eighth its painfully obvious that everyone is a winner, really. Not everyone will get the recording deal, but it’s the thought that counts.
It’s all so … nice. And bland. And checking-the-time change-the-channel boring.
It’s a shame because you really can see what the BBC were aiming for. The Voice is a show that wants to celebrate the talent of the singing, not the face or the bright lights or the flamethrower to the side of the stage. Unfortunately, after the original entertainment of the blind auditions, that concept largely falls through. The singer is visible, marching about under a spotlight, with accompanying spurts of fire every second beat (if recalled correctly, this combination took place in the first of the live shows). The Voice is the voice no longer. It’s the same formula as all the other talent contests from the past decade.
Well, all except for the mean judge, who audiences love to hate. The mean judge doesn’t exist on The Voice. Instead, between the coach and the contestant there are secret handshakes and taking the parents out to tea. Nice … but not riveting television.
Don’t misunderstand what’s being said. To be successful, a talent contest shouldn’t humiliate its performers to raise the viewing figures and drag along a dying piece of TV, ahem *X Factor*. There should however be a standard which is raised as the show progresses. It is a competition. There will be a winner. People are going to be voted out. For goodness sake, if you’re paid to be a judge, then pass judgment. Real, honest, helpful judgment will do a singer a world of good. Sentimental fluff, the same fluff being fed to each contestant as they stand on the stage, won’t guide them to greater heights. They’ll feel warm inside, but they came on here for the chance of a career. Life-counselling from Sir Tom Jones is once in a lifetime, just not quite the same thing.
The final nail in the coffin is the general atmosphere of the show. In between acts it becomes a two hour slog of time filling, which relies too much on pre-recorded activities and speeches. There’s no chemistry between the presenters, and the jokes fall flatter as the weeks continue to pass. By the semi-finals, Marvin had resorted to reminiscing on his JLS days, probably for comfort that life wasn’t always this job.
The best part of The Voice was the blinds. The second best part: will.i.am accidentally swearing on pre-watershed BBC television – and then receiving an angry text from his mum. After that, you’d be stumped to remember much of excitement at all.
Still. Maybe fourth series lucky.