Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Voice of a Nation

Last night saw the final of the UK version of singing contest "The Voice", won in the end by partially sighted Northern Irish singer Andrea Begley. The final had also featured the quirky voice of Leah McFall, the Salfordian answer to Garth Brooks in Mike Ward and Matt Henry, who can now look forward to a career as a lookalike if nothing else.

The show came in for some grief early in its run, when last year's winner and former holiday camp performer Leanne Mitchell saw her debut album fail to make much of a dent in the charts. Mitchell had been something of a middle-of-the-road ballad singer, the kind you would find doing turns in clubs up and down the country on any given Saturday night.

The same format worked this year for Begley, who looked at her most uncomfortable when asked to perform an up tempo duet with her coach Danny O'Donoghue and his band The Script. Give her anything slow and emotional though and she was note perfect, even managing to make an Evanescence song sound like something you would hear being played in the background of a Werthers Originals advert.

For a large part of this series, viewers had little input into who went forward to the next round of the show, with those decisions being in the hands of the coaches. Only in the later stages did the viewers get their say, and in the most part their decisions seemed fairly reasonable and sensible.

McFall in particular looked a nailed-on finalist from the early stages, with a spine-chilling version of Minnie Ripperton's "Loving You" a particular highlight. Perhaps on another show she may well have won, but those who seek success on The Voice seemingly need to appeal to a certain kind of market. It's something that seems to be a common theme running through a number of such shows.

The final of Britain's Got Talent this year was won by a Hungarian shadow theatre troupe, while X Factor turned out a steady stream of the anodyne - culminating in the eventual winner James Arthur whose tattoos and history of homelessness at least gave him some character that his personality couldn't.

The link between the three shows? Their time in the television schedule.

Both X Factor and The Voice make significant amounts of noise about finding credible, successful artists for the future. How realistic an expectation is that though, for a television talent show that relies on members of the public to pick its winners? 

If you were to draw a Venn diagram of the audience for these shows and the record buying public, there would most likely be a very small area of crossover. The majority of "new" music is bought by a younger age group, who at 8:15 on a Saturday night are unlikely to be at home in front of their television, phone in hand and ready to vote.

So the acts which are successful in these shows are ones that appeal to a more mature audience, one that is more likely to be voting not solely on the basis of whose records they would buy, but on who they like as much for personality as for music.

In these days of Youtube, social media and music editing software you can run on a home PC, genuine talent will find a way to get out there, get seen and get signed by record companies. In the same way that there are very few talented young footballers missed by professional clubs, there scouting networks of the major record labels don't miss much in terms of young musicians.

Perhaps it's time television ditched shows like X Factor and The Voice which promise to make stars out of hopeful amateurs and exploit their emotions for our viewing pleasure and advertising/telephone revenues? Maybe. Or at least just drop the act that they are doing it for our benefit.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, being a close personal friend of Con and Dec,

what ?

Con and Dec Cluskey, out of The Bachelors, have you not read my blog recently ?

anyway, being a close personal friend of Con and Dec Cluskey like I obviously am these days, I can state with great authority that NONE of the acts who were in Saturday nights The Voice final will EVER officially unveil the foundation stone to the Batley Variety Club or star in its opening night.

Some of the acts in Britains Got Talent could have done though, especially the rubbish ones.