The Voice: Midweek Musings – Who signs the winner?

A thought occurred to me today as I was clipping my toenails and weeping over a Youtube clip of Sophie Griffin for the eight hundredth time. At first I thought the egg of Damocles was still hovering above my head but, upon closer inspection, the object appeared to me not as an egg but as a dimly flickering light bulb that posed an interesting question. Who signs the winner of The Voice?

Of course, having done at least some research before the series began, I knew it would be Universal. But that means very little in specific terms. Universal Music Group is something of a Hydra –a mythically powerful, muli-faceted beast that grows two new heads from every neck that is severed. There isn’t just a Universal Records like there used to be. There’s Interscope-Geffen-A&M, a label which (unsurprisingly) covers the subsidiary Interscope Records, Geffen Records and A&M Records. There’s Island Def Jam, which covers Island and Def Jam as well as Mercury and Motown. The list goes on.

So who signs up the winner of The Voice? The answer is Universal Republic, a label that boasts a roster featuring, among others, Amy Winehouse, Claire Maguire, Florence + The Machine, India Arie, Jack Johnson as well as rock favourites The Who and The Rolling Stones. It’s not all one-sided of course – Universal Republic also represent Taylor Swift, Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj, although the latter two are on the subsidiary Young Money label which is unlikely to be signing the winner of The Voice. The point is that Universal Republic seems to lean slightly on the adult side of pop – at least it does so in comparison to sibling labels like Interscope and Defjam.

Naturally, this information is irrelevant, right? Because The Voice is a competition in which the public vote for a fair-and-square winner based on unbiased allegiances.  RIGHT? Hmm…

I should make something crystal clear, lest someone at The Beeb wheel the lawyers out at me, as Simon Cowell did in response to the BGT-Ronan Park fix fiasco (he supposedly called the police as well, the diva). I do not, in any way, claim to suspect the possibility that producers of TV music competitions have any kind of agenda or start a series with a winner in mind. That would be evil and the TV would never do that to me. Having said that, punters should always consider the dark alternatives, just to keep an open mind and safeguard their investments.

With X Factor it was relatively simple. Simon Cowell wore a hat of three corners that signified him as talent-show judge, TV executive and record label tyrant. If he wanted a particular performer for his Syco label, he didn’t need a spy behind the scenes or a rep on the judging panel to apply pressure. He was everywhere.

I think now is the time to start thinking about how this works for The Voice and its relationship with Universal Republic. It seems likely that the label will have required some assurance that the BBC would coax the public into selecting a winner worthy of Universal Republic’s roster. It seems unlikely that Universal Republic would be satisfied with a win by, say, Matt & Sueleen or Samuel Buttery. These people just don’t seem like money-spinners. Of course, this is all wild speculation and I don’t believe that anyone, ever, in the world would manipulate anything (ever) but the minute I scanned the U.R. roster, my first thought was “JAZ ELLINGTON AND RUTH BROWN” shortly followed by “AND DAVID JULIEN AND MAYBE EVEN A LITTLE BIT OF BECKY HILL”.

It seems increasingly clear that The Voice has dreams of creating the next Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight or Bob Dylan – rather than the next Rihanna or Justin Bieber. With that in mind, should punters be paying more attention to the labels that sign competition winners in order to predict producers’ intentions? I don’t know how useful this track of thinking will prove but it’s certainly worth a ponder.

Interestingly, Javier Colon (HA! COLON!), the winner of The Voice U.S. Season 1, is also signed to Universal Republic. And his particular brand of pop definitely leans more towards the soulful, adult market than the tween pool.

Am I barking up the wrong tree? Leading myself up the garden path? Getting my knickers in a twist? Let me know!

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26 comments to The Voice: Midweek Musings – Who signs the winner?

  • Owen

    After watching the string of lack lustre performances that is the voice last saturday, I do remember thinking….”is this competition sponsored by Radio 2?”

    In an ideal world it would be a competition to find an artist of any genre whether it be rock, pop, soul, R&B etc, etc, and then the competition would truly be about the “Voice”. But it seems that they have already chosen what style they are after. The stand out acts last week seemed to be Jaz Ellington, Tyler James, Leanne Mitchell and Ruth Brown. They seemed to have the best song choices suited to their voice and got the biggest reaction from the crowd/judges. All of these i just mentioned are definitely very much in the soul, Jazz and adult pop (is that a thing?) markets.

    It would be naive of us as viewers to believe that there wasn’t a grand plan for the winning contestant. If sophie Griffen had been on the x factor perhaps she wouldn’t have been brutally sacrificed for the greater good.

    It’s a shame that the BBC and the Voice are hiding behind morals when it is clear it isn’t about the voice its about finding someone to fill the void left by Amy Winehouse. A soul or jazz singer that will shift records for universal. My money is on Jaz Ellington or maybe Tyler James.

  • eurovicious

    A black soul singer (Ivy Quainoo) won the German series too. In comparison with the UK series I’d say she was better than Ruth but not as good as someone like Joelle or Leanne. The final 4 of the German definitely all fell under the “credible adult pop” umbrella – a rock guy, an Ed Sheeran clone (I called him Edmund Scheeran) and two female soul/pop-soul singers. All 4 released a single the week before the final and purchases of it counted towards their vote. The winner’s album came out within a few weeks of her victory.

    I’d love to see Joelle win the UK series, she’s tremendous but just isn’t getting the pimping that Jaz and Ruth are, when arguably she’s better… and while she’s had a difficult life, it hasn’t been exploited on the programme the way they keep pressing the big red “OMG DEAD DAD” button for Ruth (who certainly has a voice but who lacks control, charisma and finesse, all of which Joelle has in abundance).

  • Jake

    Thing is Joelle just doesn’t come across as likeable (though im sure she is), something that no amount of pimping would change.

    In the Battle Rounds Will commented that she thought she had it in the bag and that no one could touch her vocally. Then in the lives he said she came to him and ‘complained’ about being put on first. He then Corrected himself and said she was ‘concerned’ (which only draws attention to the fact she complained).

    All these things put a slight ‘diva’ image on her, which is even worse when contrasting with the rainbows and hugs atmosphere of the Voice.

  • Boki

    Max Milner – Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty)
    Bo Bruce – Running Up That Hill (Kate Bush)
    Hannah Berney – Cry Me A River (Julie London / Justin Timberlake)
    Aleks Josh – Dream A Little Dream Of Me (Michael Bublé)
    David Julien – Sweet Disposition (The Temper Trap)
    Ruth-Ann St. Luce – Promise This (Cheryl Cole)
    Becky Hill – Good Luck (Basement Jaxx)
    Cassius Henry – Paradise (Coldplay)
    Toni Warne – Proud Mary (Tina Turner)
    Vince Kidd – Always On My Mind (Elvis Presley)

    This is obviously not the running order…

    • Tim B

      Thanks Boki. To me the dodgy songs choices look like Promise This for Ruth-Ann and Proud Mary for Toni. I think my strategy’s going to be, bottom 2/elimination bets on the first 2 performers unless they are Becky, David or Vince.

    • Dug

      Hmm, very good news for Aleks Josh. Michael Buble arrangements, contrary to popular opinion, are extremely easy to sing and particularly good for making weaker voices sound impressive in a sort of cabaret way. Cases in point: Liam Payne’s X Factor audition, and the entire singing career of The Only Way Is Essex’s James ‘Arg’ Argent. That aside, Dream A Little Dream Of Me is almost positively designed to pull in crush votes.

      The two versions of Cry Me A River mashed together seems to me to show Hannah favour. It maximises the audience the song will appeal to whilst also allowing her to demonstrate ‘artistry’. Having said that, I thought Titanium showed favour last week and I was very wrong.

      I think Aleks and Hannah are the only two acts we could see surprise jumpstarts for. I expect Vince and Becky will be shown a decent amount of favour, although the latter’s song choice seems very odd indeed so perhaps not. Max could be one to run out of steam and Ruth-Ann and Cassius are unlikely to gather any.

      Bo has been given an especially suitable song so it will be interesting to see how tonight plays out for her.

      I think Toni will be safe, she’s the only slightly older female in tonight’s show.

      Odd song choice for David – relatively current and indie friendly but it doesn’t have a strong hook or distinct melody so it might be hard to work with. Any chance at all they want to put the brakes on the Everyman? I guess running order could be a giveaway.

      • Boki

        I find Becky’s song really suitable to her voice, I don’t get Vince’s choice at all – brakes on him also? Unlike last week I’ll do nothing without running order although it’s no guarantee since Sophie was 8th.

        • Dug

          Becky doesn’t have the greatest control over her voice, although I think the tone is wonderful. I worry that a) the song is screechy and b) it’s not a vote grabber.

          Always on my mind was covered by The Pet Shop Boys, which could really suit Vince as long as it’s not literally something out of Priscilla Queen Of The Desert. Either way, I reckon he’s pretty safe for this week. Don’t want to speak too soon tough.

          • Boki

            Oh, he should be safe indeed, just trying to figure out who will be the last slot pimped one.

          • Dug

            Well, there might be some clues in the songs. X Factor was no stranger to turning ballads into dance numbers and vice versa. It’s hard to imagine The Voice turning Basement Jaxx’s Good Luck into the kind of arrangement befitting of a pimp slot (although I would love to hear it as a ballad). Equally, Free Fallin’ is hardly a showstopper.

            Assuming that none out of Cassius, Ruth-Ann or Toni will be The Voice’s desired Pimpee, that already cuts the pack down by half. Now I’ve been very hasty here but humour me.

            It also seems too outlandish, even with his potential breakthrough performance, that Aleks will be granted the final slot. That leaves Vince, Hannah, Bo or David.

            I’m still against the possibility that The Voice really wants to push Bo anywhere close to the win and I’m unconvinced about Vince’s widespread appeal so I’m going to have a vaguely educated stab in the dark and say it’s David or Hannah for pimping. The Temper Trap number is an odd choice but it could be shoehorned into a kind of euphoric belter ballad if needs be. Whether David’s voice can carry it, I do not know.

  • Highlighted

    Toni has gone first. A reasonable performance, but bottom 2 bet already just for being on first.

  • Pauline

    Mid show Musings. The talent scouts’ for the X Factor are far superior to those of The Voice.

  • Highlighted

    Aleks before he has even sang has gone from 65 to 22 due to his VT on Betfair.

  • Highlighted

    Wish I backed Bo from the start when I said she had legs in this comp. pimped today big time. Great song choice.

  • Tim B

    Bo was amazing in the pimp slot and they gave her the best staging and emotional VT. Reminds me of Katie Waissel when she did the ‘Help’ performance on The X Factor.

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