Sunday, 25 March 2012

Review of "The Voice"

Hi guys, welcome to Orygyn!

Yesterday, a new music talent show debuted on the BBC called "The Voice". In this post, I'm going to review the show, specifically comparing it with ITV's "X Factor". First, a bit about myself.

I personally despise the X Factor. I have so many reasons for this but I guess the most important for me is that it fails, and never tries, to live up to its title. An X Factor would strike me as being something which is unique. In the case of an artist or band, something which makes them vocally different to everyone else. Very few of the people that audition for the show, or at least the ones that are shown to us, have anything original to offer at all, and fewer still are unique in a good way. People either rehash what's currently saturating the market or may appear to be more original by imitating an even older style (which is, of course, still not original). This is my main gripe with the show but I have many more: cringe-worthy false drama, the deliberate preference of style over substance both in contestants' appearances and when it comes down to who the judges send through, an almost complete lack of creative control for the winner, the car crash element added by painfully bad singers being put in front of the judges in the auditions, the false hope that these same people are given as a result of it, the arbitrary new rules added on the spur of the moment that could see contestants having to do things they weren't expecting to have to do or get kicked out without even having a shot at the round they were otherwise meant to participate in...

I could honestly go on and on. One criticism which I don't agree with, though, is that talent shows give people success when others have been trying for years with no luck. It's good that people get that shot, but that's all it is. A shot. Once they get it, they must prove that they are worthy, and the X Factor has spectacularly failed at this. The success stories tend to be runners up, and the only truly successful winner was Leona Lewis. All others fell into obscurity not long after releasing their 2nd original single, except Shayne Ward who coasts along. If you don't think people shouldn't even get that shot, you have a fundamental problem with TV talent shows. The Voice is no different, so I don't wish to waste your time any further by leading you to believe otherwise. For everyone else, that's enough about X Factor, is The Voice any different?

Short answer, yes. Very very much so. Instead of coming out and telling your story to the judges while you sing in front of them, you walk in and start singing while the judges sit in chairs turned away from you. These judges are Jessie J, Will.I.Am (Black Eyed Peas), Tom Jones, and Danny O'Donoghue (The Script). If the judges like what they hear, they push a button in front of them and the chair spins round so that they can see the singer. Until they press the button, they can't see you, and this is the fundamental premise of the show. It's all about the voice. This fact alone leads me to respect it more than the X Factor. The contestants are allowed to play instruments if they wish, and there does seem to be some quality control. There was no-one that was terrible, that could only have been put through for us to laugh at them. Mistakes were made by many contestants, but they would all have gotten the initial "yes" if they went on X Factor.

There is still some excessive dramatisation, although I can look past this as it seems to be a part of every reality show. It is relatively toned down on "The Voice" though. There were still some sob stories, but they have no effect in the show because the judges won't hear them until they've made their decision. If it's not the kind of thing you like, though, I can see it putting you off.

Let's talk about the judges. All of them are currently successful musicians. Whether you like the choices will likely depend on whether you like each individual person as a musician but I'll talk briefly about each one.

Tom Jones is the really big name. He has proven himself for decades and still attracts an audience. Whether you like him or hate him, he became popular at a time when the industry had far more quality control, and many of the contestants specifically wanted his approval, which he gave to the majority of the contestants.

Will.I.Am has been around for the next longest amount of time in the Black Eyed Peas. Personally, I only liked 1 of their songs, "Where Is The Love", their debut track. It had a unique message unlike all the others I've heard which seem to talk about either partying or love, something which can be said for most music around at the moment. He also relies far too heavily on autotune.

Danny O'Donoghue is the lead singer of The Script. I've heard their stuff on the radio for a few years now. Musically, the songs are relatively simple, but lyrically, they are brilliant. While the theme of love is prevalent in many of their songs, something which I criticised about the Black Eyed Peas, they come at it from a different angle. It's not as simple as "I love you", "I want you" etc. The lyrics involve complex and specific situations including a man who sits on a street corner who is believed to be homeless by passers-by ("The Man Who Can't Be Moved"), and putting it in the context of the recession ("These Times Are Hard").

Finally, Jessie J is genuinely brilliant. The songs for me are hit and miss ("Price Tag", although cheesy, and pretty much structurally identical to the previously mentioned "Where Is The Love", again diverges from the usual themes of love and partying), but she is an extremely good singer.

They also interact extremely well. Contestants who successfully turn more than 1 judge end up being pitched to by the judges. The competition was extremely fun to watch, especially when Tom Jones and Will.I.Am started name-dropping. It is a far richer chemistry than anything I've seen in X Factor.

It's only been 1 episode. It remains to be seen how the development of the contestants will be handled, but so far the series was a very pleasant surprise to me. On principle, I would favour it over X Factor, but I'm glad that it doesn't come to that as I have reasons I can point to for doing so. Now, you get your say.


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