mon 14/10/2019

The Voice: The Final, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

The Voice: The Final, BBC One

The Voice: The Final, BBC One

Showcasing BBC awkwardness at its very best

Vince Kidd, Tyler James, Leanne Mitchell, Bo Bruce: 'The Voice' finalists

I love the BBC. “Auntie Beeb” really is the appropriate nickname for the Corporation, at least when it comes to television, because you just know when they try and get involved with any kind of pop culture it's going to be with all the gaucheness of a very enthusiastic auntie trying to adopt kids' tastes. This goes double with Danny Cohen – a man who gives the impression that he starts every sentence with “hey guys” and thinks “mega” is the latest street slang – at the helm of BBC One. And it's precisely this which has made The Voice such compelling viewing.

The series finished last night with holiday-camp shouter Leanne Mitchell victorious over a jazz weasel, an Essex monkey-goblin and the obligatory kookie girl in the final, but really the competition long since ceased to be the point. An attempt to give the talent show bandwagon a public service broadcasting paint job, the bought-in format has pulled out all the stops to convince us that it's about Real Music and Real Talents and Escaping The Hype, and absolutely isn't the circus that ITV's Simon Cowell shows have become. Of course, though, the harder it tries, the more of a circus it becomes.

The Voice's judges in awkward harmonyFor all the relentlessly hammered-home talk about it being About The Music, it is of course all about sob stories, the funny-looking contestants, the gossip, and most of all the celebrity judges. Sir Tom Jones, a man who exudes what must pass for dignity and down-to-earthness if you've spent half your life in Las Vegas. Some Irish guy from The Script, whose constant attempts at raw, rock'n'roll sincerity are as bland as his band's songs. Jessie J, the rather barmy Essex girl whose clear love of music rather has the dampeners put on it by the fact her own records are almost all the epitome of designed-by-committee blah. And will.i.am – a small, mischievous cat inhabiting the body of a batshit mental pop star.

On the final, a palpable relief that the nonsense would all soon be over created a generally genial atmosphere, so there was much less of the barely controlled bickering and gritted teeth as they tried to hold on to the relentless positivity which the show's ethos demands. But again and again, as they explained what great friends they were with all the contestants, as they clunkily performed one another's songs onstage (pictured above), and as they tried to stay on-brand and explain why The Voice was different from and more real than “other shows”, their egos knocked together like cannonballs in a cement-mixer.

continued...

Vince KiddAs for the music, it was a sideshow. Only one finalist – in fact, one contestant in the whole series – really stood out: the monkey-goblin Vince Kidd (pictured left), who came fourth. A kaleidoscopically striking, racially and sexually ambiguous pop fanatic with a voice somewhere between Boy George and Justin Timberlake, he represented everything that is ridiculous and brilliant about pop. Like Misha B from last year's X Factor, he suggests the possibility of the auteur pop star, informed by culture clash rather than lowest-common-denominator fusion, is still very real. I sincerely hope he does well for himself – partly because the music may be great, but also because he may burst if he doesn't become really famous soon.

Leanne will be fine: she seems like a nice girl and she'll probably be starring in Chicago within two years. Tyler James, the jazz weasel with Jedward hair who seemed unable to do anything but moany versions of mid-Eighties yuppie soul (Terence Trent D'Arby, Steve Winwood), may well sell some albums. As for Bo Bruce, well, if the world needs another slightly flat singer somewhere between Coldplay and The Cranberries to get its emotional stimulation, we're in a bad way indeed. Some other singers in the series will get jobs out of The Voice, I'm sure. But that wasn't what it was about: the whole thing was about great British awkwardness, embarrassment and passive-aggression, and as such deflated the whole format in the most agreeable way. We're guaranteed another series as Cohen chucked £11m of our license money per year on this with a two-year contract; let's hope it stays as stupidly, faux-sincerely entertaining next year.

The whole thing was about great British awkwardness, embarrassment and passive-aggression

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Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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I saw it for the first time last week. the first thing that made me do a o_O face was the opening voiceover going "Take 4 music LEGENDS!" Really? Tom Jones, i'd give him that. But who IS that Irish guy? I've never heard of him! Jessie J is NOT a legend, not by the SI unit used for measuring legends.... And anyone who comes with lyrics like this (Will.I.Am) can never be called a Legend... Will he survive? Never deceased I don't think I'mma ever gonna rest in peace I'mma kill the game, leave the rest in pieces Now everybody want my recipe Tell a jealous chicken I don't know what the beef is I'm just making money for my grankids' nieces I'mma work hard, that's my thesis This beat is the shit, feces

Is that £11m just for this year? I thought I'd read that they'd spent £22m on the show. I also read that they're considering doing The Voice for Kids... Part of the BBC's remit is to provide programming which can't be found on the commercial channels. The Voice was hyped as being so very different to The X Factor but past the gimmick of the 'blind' auditions & the supposed 'battle round' the format slipped comfortably into the same groove as its competitor: we can't trust the public to make the 'right' decision, so the highest voted is safe & the judges pick from the other two blah blah blah. The huge amounts the BBC has spent on The Voice (and Will.i.am's fee alone, I'd imagine) could have funded several smaller music shows that would have been able to expose many more new artists (making their own original music) & covered varied genres. Sure, the BBC still has Later With Jools Holland but it's become stale, with a same hardcore of establishment artists getting on it every year & occasional new band slots for industry flavours of the month. When you look at BBC sessions collections like Siouxsie & The Banshees At The BBC you realise just how many great live music shows the beeb used to have in the 80s: Whistle Test, TOTP, Rock Goes To College, Something Else, Oxford Roadshow. And this was at a time when there were only 2 BBC channels & 4 channels in all! There are less, distinct live music shows on now across 40 freeview channels than there were on just 2 during the 80's! Channel 4 also had loads of great music programming throughout the 80s & 90s. Today C4 has a whole channel dedicated to music but plays an increasingly narrow selection of current chart pop videos & reality tv shows. They REally have missed a trick. The BBC, I believe, are also meant to be considering legacy and community. There is nothing in these 'talent' competitions that inspires kids to pick up instruments, go out and form a band or produce music on their computers. People believe all they need to do is turn up and sing and they'll be a star. Unscrupulous vocal coaches have been making a killing training ever younger voices to sound like 30yr-olds. If the beeb really HAD to do a talent competition, why not a band competition or songwriting? When ITV's Pop Idol came along the BBC tried to compete with Fame Academy, which was in essence a good idea. The artist development process was filmed, giving the viewer a small insight into industry workings, and contestants had to write & perform their own song. Unfortunately this was at the beginning of the talent show revival and Pop Idol/X Factor won the battle. Today that format is tired & The Voice hasn't strayed far enough away from it so has lost again. A sea change is coming & the BBC need to be riding the wave or they're sure to drown.

Thanks Uschi, completely correct about the cost being per year, have corrected.

Personally I think terrestrial TV's approach to music is crippled by a set of awful self-fulfilling prophecies - see: Black Cab Sessions: music TV catches up with the net?

pathetic programme.

An excellent assessment. I think you're quite right about the quirky appeal of Vince. he was one of the few people on there who was an awrt-ist as will.i.am would say. The only problem was he succumbed too early to the smothering glow of mid-competition success and Jessie J's approbation and turned off the edge. Up to that reggae-arranged number he was the tricky outsider with androgynous original vision. As soon as he realised everyone loved him, he lost the killer instinct. Choosing that Amy Winehouse was a coasting choice, and 'Many Rivers to Cross' - his last choice - didn't build as it should have done. Then he let himself be upstaged by Jessie J in their duet. It was as though he was happy with having got where he was and didn't want to give it the coup de grace. On the other hand if you want to develop yourself as an original artist, the Voice ain't the place to do it. By the way, the best Voice was Ruth Brown, who you didn't even mention. But maybe that says it all.

Thanks!  And you're right, I should've mentioned Ruth, but that would have been a whole other paragraph or two and it was late and I was tired.  She was great, untrained but great, but I wasn't surprised when the Whitney/Beyonce-styled OTT vocal acrobatics of Leanne got chosen over her from-the-heart holler.  I definitely don't think, as some have suggested, it was racism on the part of the British public, just the way taste is sliced.  Likewise Jazz, who was held up as some amazing "real musician" didn't get through because he was out-and-out BORING.  I think the music does actually matter to viewers, as I said in my season finale review of X Factor last year, these shows wouldn't exist if there wasn't the desire to see real performance on prime time TV... but expecting the BBC to create the right platform to meet that desire is like expecting your straightest Auntie to do a crowd-slaying set at a Rinse rave at Fabric.

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