The Voice: The Battle Rounds

By now you’ve probably come across The Voice in some form or another? The Voice is the BBC’s attempt to rival ITV’s relentless flogging of ‘talented’ but undiscovered singers. The unique selling point of The Voice (as someone from The Apprentice might say) is that its contestants are there on merit, not for their looks or marketability, but for the fact that they can actually sing. Or so they will have you believe.

For on Sunday I sat through another installment of The Voice, and it was at times, simply cringe-inducing. Several contestants (but not all, in fairness) sounded just as crass and tone-deaf as they often do on ITV’s X Factor, and just like on ITV, it was uncomfortable viewing. As my brother insightfuly commented: “just switched on The Voice to witness two girls being murdered….no wait, they were singing.” I couldn’t have summed it up any better.


Last weekend on The Voice contestants had to ‘battle’ against each other to make it through to the following week’s show. They competed by performing a bastardised version of a duet, whereby the singers aren’t trying to compliment each other, but instead aim to stand out and overshadow their unfortunate counterparts. This in itself is detrimental to the aim of the show as it prevents contestants from actually signing in a natural context. I believe the aim of the show is to find somebody who can sing, but here, at least during ‘the battle rounds’, they feel the pressure, just as on ITV, to try and shrill and wail more loudly than the others. Hands flailing, Mariah hailing…and we all know how it’s gonna end. We know, because just like on ITV, it’s a sham, it’s a set up. The winner of each ‘battle’, as it appears to me, has already been decided. Because there is, as always, an element of favouritism, of bias.

The BBC, so far, leave the decision making to its real stars (public votes are a-coming this weekend). And the ‘star’ factor of The Voice, just like on ITV, comes from the show’s banal politician-esque judges. We have Tom Jones for the oldies, Will.i.am for the Yankees, Jessie J for the kiddies and some Irish fella for the Louie Walsh’s. Every decision that they have to make is the hardest decision of their lives. Heaven forbid they might tell a contestant that they’re just not good enough, more to the point, that someone else is better.

During the first stage of the show, ‘the blind auditions’, they had to choose the contestants of whom they believed had the best voices. The auditions were ‘blind’ because the judges could only hear the contestants when they sang. How very quirky. The next phase, which is happening now, sees the judges ‘mentor’ the contestants, whereby they can now actually see the owner of each voice. The judges interact with their chosen contestants, bond, and naturally, choose a favourite. The judges then pair their favourite with whom they want to get kicked off, and make them do ‘battle’. Well that’s at least what it looked like to me last weekend. I believe that this coming weekend’s shows will be slightly different, as the public will now have the opportunity to vote for their favourites. But I’m still kinda stuck in the battle mode, and it’s given me food for thought.

Clearly, The Voice isn’t aimed at the likes of myself to begin with. And I’m not against it really. For many, shows like this are a light-weight, escapist guilty pleasure. Much the same way as I feel about my blog, really. Wired for Sound, where I too am a fan of a good ol’ voice. And just like on the BBC, I too can choose my favourite singers and face them off against each other…whilst already knowing whom I’m going to state is the winner.

From today I shall be uploading 30 voices. There will be 15 ‘battles’, and 15 worthy winners.

The first 3 ‘battles’ that I will present to you here are from 6 outstanding male vocalists. 6 golden voices, that represent to me a hallmark of greatness. If I could, I would love to be able to sing even as half as good as these guys. These 6 vocals are special to me. They are warm, earnest, and often divine…I hope you agree.

Battle 1:

Scott Walker vs. Fred Neil

Winner: Scott Walker

Scott’s voice is mesmerising, a genuine gift. It irks me to hear contestants on talent shows being referred to as artists. Artists they are not. Singers like Scott Walker are a true definition of the label. A worthy winner.

 

Battle 2:

Roy Orbison vs. Johnny Cash

Winner: Roy Orbison

It was always gonna be tough to choose between these two, as both have such distinct, welcoming voices. But for me, In Dreams is out of this world. It’s on another level. I often think that there is a divine element to Roy Orbison’s voice. It’s majestic, heart-wrenching. It can raise the hairs on the back of your neck. I don’t believe in a higher being, but I do believe in The Big O! In Dreams is possibly one of the greatest recordings there has ever been. Essential.

Battle 3:

Ian McCulloch vs. Richard Hawley

Winner: Richard Hawley

I’m in no way comparing these two with the aforementioned singers. But they are two very fine voices indeed. I don’t think that Ian McCulloch has the best voice on a live stage, but on record, he’s often inspiring. Richard Hawley just pips it for me though. I remember reading about Cole’s Corner and it didn’t disappoint. A rare example of a record living up to the acclaim. Lush.

Stay tuned for some more fine vocal performers. Next up, some gentle men…

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