So “The Voice” has started airing in New Zealand! Finally! Remember all the press you read about what an incredible and unique cultural phenomenon and non-non-event it was when it aired in the States? No? Ok, me neither, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give it a chance. You in? Good. Cancel your plans for the next eleven Saturday nights.
“The Voice” is the latest in a long line of shows trying to take the show-about-people-who-sing-quite-well-but-not-as-well-as-paid-professionals crown away from American Idol.But with a twist! In The Voice, the twist is that that the judges have swivelly chairs that are activated by a button, and they start the auditions facing away from the contestants. Get it? The contestants are being judged on their voices only, so they can be ugly (they are mostly not that ugly). If the hosts like the contestants, they press their button and get to mentor the wannabe pop star through the next eleven weeks of challenges. Which I guess makes the swivelly chair thing pointless and not really necessary from here on out? I don’t know. Who am I to call into question this show’s fine premise. Let’s recap!
Man The Voice has some big names involved. The show opens with an introduction from our host, Carson Daly (who NZ audiences will most likely recognize from his cameo role as himself in the 2001 film Joe Dirt).Throughout the episode, it seems his main role is reminding us just how different this singing show is from the other singing shows. That it is most definitely unlike any other. Not even remotely like them. He then introduces us to our four judges. Who are not referred to as judges, but coaches.Because of how it’s different. Anyway, the coaches (whose main job is to decide whether or not a contestantis good enough to progress) consist of Maroon 5’s Adam Levine, Cee-Lo Green, Christina Aguelira and Blake Shelton. What an, attractive, well-tattooed line-up! They are all so famous! Apart from Blake Shelton. Who is Blake Shelton? You see, for some of us, the entire history of Country music consists of 2 Taylor Swift albums and “Amazed” by LoneStar.
Anyway it turns out Blake Shelton is this guy.
I hope he can choose singers better than he can choose honey! That joke is funny if you watched the whole video, because at the end he can’t choose which honey to buy so chooses all of it.
After we are treated to a special, once-in-a-lifetime karaoke performance of Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy that the four judgecoaches threw together at the soundcheck, the competition itself finally gets underway. One thing this show legitimately does differently is that it spares us all the terrible auditions – and everyone we see has already made it past the producers at least (there is no mention if swivelly chairs were used at the preliminary auditions, I like to imagine they were). So yeah, spoiler alert, basically all of them are quite good at singing, it’s just a matter of which coach chooses them for their respective team. There are teams, btw.
First up is Tarralyn Ramsay, a Florida woman who seems to have modelled her look on a combination of every fictional nail salon employee in pop culture history.
Of course her looks are irrelevant, a voiceover reminds us for the 400th time. It’s all about the titular voice. I start to wonder if this show should just be on the radio or something. Or at least whether or not I should fashion my own swivel chair of sorts to watch it in.
So this Tarralyn has a decent crack at 'Breathe' by Faith Hill. She starts off a little flat (I am just always going to say “flat” when I mean “something wasn’t right”, because it makes me sound like I know about singing) but by the end of the song she busts out some Christina Agueliraesque screams that make both Cee-Lo and Xtina herself get their swivel on. The show then becomes this weird thing where the coachjudges try and woo the contestant to their team with hyperbolic flattery. Surely there could be some element of “dibs” involved? Like, you swivel first, you get them? No? In any case, it’s diva for diva and our sassy pal picks team Aguelira, while “What a Girl Wants” plays in the background. Are they going to score the entire show with stuff from the mentors’ back catalogues? I hope so. I just want to see people getting eliminated to the sweet sounds of 'Goodie Mob'.
Second up is an attractive, clean-hatted20 year old cowboy who sings a song called “Live Like You Were Dying” which I have never heard of. The Voice inadvertently creates a fun game for those at home by displaying the title of the song a contestant is about to sing but not the artist. And then you have to guess the artist when you don’t know it. I mean, it’s not really a game, but I sure had a blast. Turns out it is a song by Tim McGraw. Who is the subject of a Taylor Swift song. Six degrees of knowing about country music.
Naturally, the judges love our cowboy friend and are pleasantly surprised to find out that he is attractive and he chooses to be mentored by the country singer because duh. Nothing but high stakes, this show.
Our first sentimental story of the night came in the form of Chris Daughtry and Howie Mandel’s triplet brother, Jared Blake. An ex-drug addict who is now a family man or something.
I’m not one to judge people based solely on their appearances, but, man, I did not like this guy one bit! Based solely on his appearance!. Luckily for me, he was also a terrible singer and did a Rock FM version of a Cobra Starship song which no one liked at all. The best part about his appearance was the very fact that no one swivelled, so we got treated to an entire song’s worth of practiced “listening faces” from the coachjudges.
To mix things up, they do a section called “play along with our coaches” where they treat a contestant like a mob witness until you have heard them sing.
It turns out that playing along with the judges is not very fun at all. Vicci Martinez gave us a fairly solid rendition of “Rolling in the Deep” (which, by the way, I predict we have not heard the last of on this show) before it was revealed that she looked like…
A normal person! I think I would rather just look at the people the whole time and judge them solely on their appearances.
My favourite performance of the night by far was “Elenowen”. What? Elenowen? That’s not a person name. No it isn’t. It is the collective name of this disgusting hipster “folk pop” duet.
They are so attractive and beardy and vegetarian looking! Just get married already! WHAT? You already are?
Too much! They speak in unison heaps and are all like “it’s amazing being able to work together and to also be in love”. Of course you are in love! Look at you! Now let the rest of us normalsbe and go have a threesome with your copy of the Once soundtrack. By the way, in a surprise move, the song they performed was the song from Once.
In the end, it’s a battle between Cee-Lo and Blake Shelton to see who gets them. They choose Blake, because he promises them he will teach them how to not get divorced whilst involved in the music industry, or something like that. It’s really weird.
From here on the show generally took a dive into Dontcarestown: Population – zero cares. Either that or the two hour running time of the pilot started to take its toll on me. Luckily there is only one two hour “audition” episode to go. Before we get four normal episodes and six “two hour specials” to go out on. Yeesh.
There were still highlights though. We had Rebecca, who is homeless and looks like a 30 year old Selena Gomez.
She wowed everyone with an R&B-cum-lounge rendition of Come as You Are, which I am glad Kurt Cobain was not alive to hear. Because he would have kicked himself for not doing it originally in an R&B-cum-loungestyle. Jokes, it was average.
Then there was Jeff, who definitely won the award for goofiest grin of the night slash the award for contestant that I wish didn’t look the most like me of the night.
There’s pain behind that doltish grin though. Jeff’s mother had recently passed and he was performing in her honour. Coping with loss in the very best way – telling Carson Daly about it. In all honesty tough, he nailed it - with probably the best overall vocal performance, belting out some Rascal Flatts song (which I had to look up). Congrats, Jeff!
About six hours into the show, Carson Daly was still reminding us how noble their premise was for not caring about looks. Right before introducing us to Kelsey Ray…
Now… I’m not one to judge people solely on their appearances. But Kelsey Ray is very, very pretty. And therefore I judge her GREAT! What annoyed me though, was that she spent a long time going on about how people only ever focussed on her looks. And that her youtube videos have millions of views because of her looks. And that she had record deal offers because of her looks. I know that is a result of the horrible, shallow world we live in, but… Good for you? Do you really need The Voice? Why don’t you just try and capitalize on your youtube videos or something? And leave winning The Voice to someone like Beverly…
In a surprise move, this outspoken 41-year old lesbian sang “Piece of my Heart” by Janis Joplin. She tore it up though, and joined up with Team Xtina. Oh yeah, I didn’t really talk about how there were teams much. That’s because it isn’t very interesting. I imagine in weeks to come being in a team will actually mean something (or will it? I have a sneaky suspicion the producers are just making this show up as they go along) but until now, the team selection only really exists to give us stuff like Blake Shelton saying to a 16 year old “choose my team and I can be a male father you can depend on”. Seriously, Blake Shelton.
While I may not sound the most excited about this show, I think it’s about time I got seriously into a reality singing competition again. I can get into these things pretty hard. Last time resulted in me waiting for a Planet Jack to open at 9 on a schoolday so I could buy Matt Saunoa’s NZ Idol Season 3 winner’s single: Hold Out. Will this show have the same effect? Maybe. I mean, at the end of the episode, we got a sneak preview of future rounds, where there will be a giant boxing ring. Cool! Maybe they will even punch each other for real? Who knows? Probably not though.