Well that was it, the clash of the titans weekend is over; we can now rest easy until next Saturday. Sorry, just in case any of you don’t know what I’m talking about, it was only reality TV gold last night. Simon Cowell’s Britain’s Got Talent went head-to-head against the BBC’s new singing show The Voice.
We’re all familiar with Syco’s BGT format: there’s a stage and an audience,
three four judges, buzzers and a menagerie of freaks and rejects to lace Simon’s pocket with dollar. Meanwhile, The Voice is another talent format with a difference, instead of image, the auditions are based purely on the contestants vocal abilities – essentially their voice. The participants go through a ‘blind audition,’ no this doesn’t mean that Stevie Wonder is a coach, the judges sit facing in the opposite direction from the contestants; meaning they cannot see the singer to judge them on aesthetics. The Beeb hijacked this concept from across the pond and follows the same structure as it’s American counterpart; and who couldn’t love that format with a US advert like this:
But the anticipation for the show, I’m afraid, far out weighed the actual premiere. The viewing figures may have been in the Beeb’s favour, culminating 8.9m against BGT’s 6.71m during their twenty minute overlap, but the BBC had only won the battle not the war. It promised to deliver a show that was completely different to the X Factor but, frankly, it failed.
The focus wasn’t on ‘the voice’ at all, but more on the squabbling of the
judges coaches. Instead of the audience concentrating on the performance, there were constant distractions from bickering coaches and it became a competition of who could press their button more elaborately.
Arms, legs and chins were all used as methods of appreciation. And, despite the premise of the show being based on singing, it felt the attention was being sapped by the coaches’ egos. Rather than cringing at crap contestants, the watching-behind-your-hands moment was reserved for name dropping coaches. Tom Jones was one of the biggest and most shocking names to the line-up, and you’d think with his years of experience he would provide constructive criticism. Instead, we’re treated to vomit inducing speeches about how he, in his small town, was called ‘The Voice.’ Jones managed to turn his years of hard work and reputation into the ramblings of an old man trying to relive his youth.
The show became so judge focused that the contestants took a back seat. Amongst all that talent, it became hard to identify anyone that was X Factor remember-able. I don’t recall any Cher Llyod or SuBo moments. I do now, however, remember who will.i.am jammed with while making tea. Even the most current of the coaches, Jessie J, managed to fit in a few plugs into her comments. Delivering sarcastic lines like, ‘that’s why I wrote the song,’ sorry Jess, that audition wasn’t about you, it was about the contestants sob story.
Oh yes, that’s correct, sob story; finally, a new show to rival that of X Factor, where they could move away from the participants’ hardships but alas this did not happen. The show’s claim to focus purely on the voice were not met and the life stories of the singers became the main focus, yet again. The hour show came complete with bullying, alopecia and a deceased mum. There’s no denying that these stories are heart wrenching but it completely disregards The Voice’s agenda. The focus was not on ‘the voice’ but was still on the contestants’ journey. That”s not a bad quality to have in a show but just don’t build it up as something it’s not.
The show was so blatant on how it was not just based on ‘the voice,’ all contestants walked in like they had just been puked on by Top Shop and there was more style on the singers than there is in Kate Moss’ wardrobe. The show quickly became so predictable, that it was easy to spot that the girl-next-door looks of Twinnielee Moore couldn’t match up to J Marie Cooper’s edgy image. And that grungy delivery driver Phil Poole wouldn’t beat crisp, YouTube sensation, Ben Kelly.
It became apparent as to which acts would get through and what coaches they would pick to mentor them. The questions is, will this show create a star? Or is it merely a platform to revive the coaches own careers. Whilst you’d think, from what I was saying, that the answer would be the latter, based on ITV’s questionable talent, they may in fact have the next Beyoncé with competition like this:
BGT’s series six premiere once again made me lose my faith in humanity: with it’s booing of a German contestant, to the allowance of what was clearly a mental patient on stage. But isn’t that what we love about the show? The primitive need to watch a freak show and feel better about yourself at others misfortune. In comparison, the Voice definitely delivered more talent, but that’s like comparing a racing greyhound to a turtle – they’re just not the same type of show at all.
BGT has evolved into finding the most outrageous act possible and centres on making footage viral. At points, the show even felt like it was a mixture of YouTube clips split up with footage of the O2. Absent were the Joe Bloggs of society, instead air-time was dished out to sequined costumes and unstable dancing. The search for ‘talent’ is questionable and it seems that even the judges forget that this is a performance for the Queen.
With the return of Simon Cowell, no talent is bigger than his inflated ego. The whole show felt like a school yard, with Simon as the rich kid: who had all the Pokémon cards, all the pretty girls (Carmen Electra) and provided approval for the unpopular kids while secretly ridiculing them behind their back. So why the analogy, there’s one moral behind this story, you don’t need that rich kids approval, no matter how much you may want that Mew card, because the rich kids approval is empty. So away from the metaphors, what am I talking about, well it’s primarily the audition of Charlotte and Jonathan, where Simon initially whispered to Carmen, ‘If things couldn’t get any worse’ in response to their appearance.
This jaw-dropping performance showed Simon’s exact feelings on the act. You’d think after six year of doing this show he wouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. But it seems, unless Simon is reading his autobiography, he really doesn’t read books. As the booming voice of an operatic god came out of Jonathan Antoine’s mouth, Cowell’s eyes lit up as he was ready to milk the cash cow. But while you think Simon may rocket Jonathan into stardom, money, fame and ultimately acceptance, don’t be fooled because as soon as the hype is over, he’ll drop the act sooner than you can say Cheryl Cole.
Jonathan certainly set the stage on fire, with both his ability and his typical BGT back story, but in terms of talent he was probably the only one who had any. The show started as it meant to go on; bad. Abysmal Anthony Barnet Jose marched on stage to recite a rather brief gladiator speech, although surprisingly this act didn’t make it through many did, including choir boys and waltzing gays but the show still had that familiar feeling of beige.
The only credible part was Alesha Dixon’s ability as a judge. The most professional of the lot, her opinions seemed valid, it felt like a better fit for her over Strictly. The Mis-Teeq singer was on a mission and she certainly wasn’t letting any joke acts through. If anyone is going to do the show any favours, it’s Ms Dixon. She showed many acts the red buzzer and wasn’t afraid to stick by her guns, especially when frantic dancing duo Sophie & Lauren gave her a bit of lip – She don’t play the drums but she knows what a drum kit is.
As for the other judges, Amanda Holden was mostly away giving birth – with vapid Carmen Electra filling in, who was more mass than substance. And for a comedian, David Walliams failed to find his funny and stuck with his camp charm, playing the nice guy for some of the less able participants.
So, it seems for a series premiere both The Voice and Britain’s Got Talent could do with a subtle dose of honesty. Cowell’s team need to stop pretending that this is for Queen and country or alternatively put actual talent through to the final rather than joke acts like gold feathered Dennis Egel. The Voice needed to be more genuine on their agenda to find ‘the voice.’ Focusing primarily on an act rather than a coach’s achievements would certainly help bring credibility to the format. But with only the first episode over and many more weekends filled with reality talent shows, there’s a lot of time to rectify the problems with both shows. However, there’s still a long way to go before they’ve won the war.