I’ve never really subscribed to the theory that there aren’t enough singers to sustain talent shows. We are 22 million-strong and even talent shows that have struggled in the ratings have actually managed to stump up with bright performers.
Just because a singer isn’t charting with ARIA it doesn’t mean they aren’t working. Darren Percival from Season One of The Voice is constantly working in clubs and corporate gigs. Rob Mills from Season One of Australian Idol swings from gigs to theatre to television with ease. The list goes on.
That said, the challenge for The Voice is to deliver a star, something The X Factor has managed to do several times over. Last year’s underwhelming release by winner Anja Nissen suggests that Universal Music could learn a thing or two from Sony Music.
For season four of The Voice, Ricky Martin, Delta Goodrem (now the sole Aussie rep) and Joel Madden are joined by Jessie J. and Benji Madden. The fun kicks off with a group performance of Bang Bang -suitably the girls deliver show-off notes.
The series also adds Sonia Kruger, despite the fact that there is barely enough for Darren McMullen to host in these early episodes. They tag-team duties are what I can only assume is primetime compensation for the absence of Big Brother this year.
Like most reality shows, the backstory is crucial to us connecting with a parade of candidates (look how far Rachael Leahcar and Harrison Craig progressed in previous seasons). In episode one there are more tales on health, family, last shot at fame and more.
The first act (Nine has asked me not to reveal names) is just 16 years of age and their simple song draws emotion. By the end of the act there are coaches on stage fawning and clutching tissues -making this a curious choice for the first act of the season. It feels more about them than the act.
The coaches (not judges) turn up the red chair hijinks, grooving, dancing, emoting, hovering their hand over buttons, arguing with one another. There’s no Seal, but there are possibly five performing counterparts.
But wait for a relaxed performer who turns all 4 chairs and, as the format so cleverly dictates, the power shifts while they mull whom to choose. This act is eminently likeable and seemingly unfazed by the bright lights and TV hype. Hallelujah.
Episode one also features a ‘Blind’ Blind Audition’ where the camera only reveals the performer if a chair turns. Although we’ve seen the trick before, it constantly entertains.
While episode one leans towards youthful singers, it ends with a seasoned act with a big voice. Other acts in between show promise -and possibly it’s first reggae act- while some are sent home with a consolation ‘prize’ of sorts (I won’t spoil it for you).
The episode plays up coaches building their stocks like schoolyard picks, with this season set to have a Super Battle of 3 acts singing at once (yikes!) and no guarantees of a singer for each coach in the finale. Doubtless due to previous her experience on the UK series, Jessie J. stamps her personality all over this episode, proving to be animated, expressive and no slouch. At one stage she tells Ricky Martin, “We’re not a game show.” You go, girl.
Benji Madden, seated in a double chair as a team with brother Joel, is yet to show his strengths. “We are not like technical singers, we are great producers,” they reveal. C’mon there’s two of you, couldn’t one be a technical singer?
With an overload of renovation I welcome the genre shift, even if the singing is about 25% compared to the format gameplay.
The Blind Auditions are, after all, the best part of the show.
The Voice premieres 7pm Sunday June 28 and continues 7:30pm Monday and Tuesday on Nine.