The Voice – Midweek Musings – All The Subtlety Of A Sledgehammer

When I was younger, I saw a particularly awkward youth production of The Wizard Of Oz. In this version, a terrified looking girl in the role of Glinda was heard to repeat the line, “Snow, snow, snow will wake them!” as she conjured up a magical snowfall to wake Dorothy and pals from their poppy-induced slumber. Something about the lack of subtlety in her delivery inspired a running joke within my friendship group whereby one person would take on a glazed look and repeat her line, replacing the word snow with another of our choice. “Cannons, cannons, cannons will wake them”, “Hammers, hammers, hammers will wake them”, etc.

I couldn’t help recalling the above anecdote last weekend as The Voice threw every last scrap of subtlety out of the window in terms of which contestants it was prepared to push. Indeed, it was almost as if producers had released a light rain of spanners upon an understandably yawning audience whilst shouting “SEE! SEE? JAZ AND RUTH ARE STILL FUCKING GREAT, AREN’T THEY? HEED NOT THE EVIL DOCTRINES OF THE WICKED WITCH OF FREE WILL! GLINDA THE GOOD-CHOICE WITCH IS HERE TO WAKE YOU BY DROPPING HEAVY MACHINERY ON YOUR FACES.”

Indeed, the general consensus amongst the majority of Sofabet commenters seem to be that The Voice has surpassed even Cowellian levels of pimping. As Eurovicious articulates:

It’s just been RUTHJAZ RUTHJAZ RUTHJAZ RUTHJAZ ever since they first appeared – going beyond TXF/BGT-style pimping into blatant favouritism. I’m sick of the dead dad klaxon being honked mercilessly every time Ruth is wheeled out to wobble-holler another tune to death, and this week’s show seemed to spend what felt like an entire 15 minutes screaming “LOOK EVERYONE! JAZ HAS FUNCTIONAL SPERM!”

Andrew corroborated this perception by comparing the surrounding contestants to “children who are painfully aware their parents love their siblings more. But why exactly has The Beeb been unable to utilise a little more subtlety? We were all under the impression that The Voice was going to be a more wholegrain, organic answer to the dream-crushing industry of ITV talent shows. In its defence, The Voice has avoided the young, vulnerable and mentally unstable contestants that make X Factor so much fun. However, it has failed to provide any leveller a playing field to the ‘serious’ musicians it does feature. I think that there are two possible reasons for this:

Reason for hurling sledgehammers #1

Producers of The Voice just don’t have the carefully honed skills of their ITV counterparts. They haven’t developed a sense of how far they need to push a contestant in order to guarantee them votes. Little Mix’s opening slot in week 8 of last year’s X Factor was an excellent example of how well the show knew its acts’ popularity and how far they could hold an act back in preparation for later pumping. The Voice is yet to learn its own strength and is simply playing it safe.

Reason for hurling sledgehammers #2

Jaz and Ruth are not as safe as we are led to believe. As Jake points out:

“After the pimping in the Blind auditions and the coaches massive (almost unfair) enthusiasm for Jaz since the beginning, they would all look slightly foolish if he didn’t seem popular with the public.”

If Jaz really needs a sledgehammer in order to top the vote then we need to consider the potential power of Team Will’s dark horse, Tyler James. His perfectly chosen arrangements for Higher Love and Sign Your Name, along with Danny’s assertion that Tyler is not just a musician but ‘an artist’, show that he has come a long way from his initially abysmal ranking in the betting markets. The idea that Tyler has a chance to win is puzzling at best but the idea that it was necessary to pimp Jaz in order for the favourite to leapfrog the underdog in a specific week’s vote is a little more palatable.

Reason for hurling sledgehammers #3

Jaz and/or Ruth are not The Voice’s Plan A. Unlikely but possible. Whilst the relatively short run of live shows means that producers don’t have the same opportunities as those on XF to hold contestants back, the current pimping would leave the semi-final and final pimp slots open to characters like Tyler James, Aleks Josh, Vince Kidd or my personal favourite, Everyman Julien – all of whom are yet to perform close to the end. Is it imaginable that rather than pimping in preparation for more pimping, The Voice are actually leaving the win open for a different kind of winner? By pushing the most vocally accomplished performers, the show could be creating a win-win situation. If Ruth or Jaz win, then The Voice really was all about The Voice. If another, less likely candidate takes the crown, well, the public have spoken and a people’s champion has been elected without having been pushed in our faces. I admit that this seems the least likely of the three options but it’s worth a moment of thought.

So what of the coming weeks? Jake reckons that next week’s qualifier will elect Vince and Becky from Team Jessie along with Bo and one other from Team Danny. I’m tempted to agree – Vince and Becky look like a particular no-brainer (although I have been using the expression ‘no-brainer’ with caution these days). Dropping Bo at this stage might look a bit embarrassing after her recent pimping but then again there is a rich pool of vote-grabbing potential in Team Danny. In fact, the problem with Team Danny is that the absence of a clear front-runner has probably done no favours for the market rankings of its members. Does this set David Julien up nicely to swoop in and steal the crown as the everyman underdog? Or allow for Aleks to finally pull a belter out of the bag and become the new, albeit more charming, Leon Jackson?

And what of the semi-final? About which we still know precious little? Andrew kindly “checked the beeb’s T&Cs to see if they’ve announced exactly how they’re going to stich up the semi” but alas we still get no more than “published closer to the time… may involve a combination of public vote and coaches scoring.” It should be noted that in other countries’ versions of the show, the vote-topper from the qualifying week generally beat out the judges save for a place in the final.

Eurovicious tied the feeling of the week up nicely in one brief sentence, “Give the other contestants a chance FFS.”

The contestants and us both.

8 comments to The Voice – Midweek Musings – All The Subtlety Of A Sledgehammer

  • eurovicious

    Good piece. I think it’s both #1 and #2. Couple of typos in your quote of me (“pumping” -> “pimping”, “and” -> “an”).

  • Boki

    I checked the Dutch semi results, coaches and public vote get 100 points each so coaches can basically choose who they want.
    Having said that, in season 1 all coaches went for the same act that public wanted. In 1 case in season 2 there was an act who got just a bit more from the coach to overrule the televote.
    Since the UK televote numbers will not be published it seems the coaches will basically choose who they want.

  • Andrew

    I can think of a couple of other possibilities for why they might have felt the need to tilt the playing field so dramatically –

    #4 – As you say, the relatively short run. In a typical XF, by the time of the final we’ve seen the finalists 12 times and had the opportunity to vote for them 9 times. With The Voice those numbers are 5 and 3. They may have worried that if the first public vote showed their favourites doing badly, they might not have had time to turn it around.

    #5 – They feel boxed in by the organic, wholegrain nature of the show. If they’ve taken the option of negativity off the table, they’re left only with gradations of positivity through which to differentiate the acts. And at the top end of the scale, the positivity is cranked up to nauseatingly extreme levels.

    However, neither of those excuse the crassness, the artlessness with which they’ve done it. They’ve overegged the pudding on several occasions, and that can only be down to #1. And I maintain that it’s counterproductive, that you can be both less obvious and more effective.

    Apropos #2, if that is the case it would suggest Tyler is not doing as well as we’re assuming, wouldn’t it? Otherwise they wouldn’t have taken the risk of sticking him on 6th – they’d have put him 2nd instead of Franny Woo.

  • lolhart

    I don’t want to sound like a The Voice UK apologist, but maybe the producers also don’t trust the public to pick the “right” winner. I think Jaz and Ruth would both struggle to win the X-Factor (I can imagine Louis saying about Ruth “But she’s not a popstar!” for example). Perhaps that’s why TPTB are pushing for the two of them hard; so they can say the public chose a winner who is not typical of other shows. I agree with Sledgehammer #1, but in fairness the X-Factor took a couple of years to become the slick micro managed machine it is today. I think they only got it down pat during the series Alexandra Burke won, whereas the years before Leona were pretty messy.

  • Dug

    Thoughts on reported song choices?

    Max Milner – ‘Black Horse and the Cherry Tree’ (KT Tunstall)
    Bo Bruce – ‘Love The Way You Lie’ (Rihanna)
    Aleks Josh – ‘Better Together’ (Jack Johnson)
    David Julien – ‘She Will Be Loved’ (Maroon 5)
    Becky Hill – ‘Seven Nation Army’ (The White Stripes)
    Cassius Henry – ‘Turning Tables’ (Adele)
    Toni Warne – ‘Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word’ (Elton John)
    Vince Kidd – ‘My Love Is Your Love’ (Whitney Houston)

    Definitely a big favour done there for Bo Bruce.

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