I’ll be honest, I don’t usually watch reality TV shows from other countries. For one thing, I watch more than enough TV as it is, so why would I watch shows from other countries? I know American Idol started as Pop Idol in the UK, but I never watched the original. I watched clips of the original X-Factor after I heard about Shayne Ward and Leona Lewis, and subsequently tried to somewhat keep up with the show for a few seasons, but I can’t say I was deeply invested. Though I did watch enough to keep track of favourites and knew of One Direction before they invaded all forms of media. This was before. Lately, I’ve found myself not only watching The Voice that we know and love on NBC, but I’ve also been watching versions of The Voice from the UK and Australia. Like I have been putting in the time and effort to be keeping up with these shows, even trying to find ways of getting the song downloads. At one point in April, I distinctly remember commenting on GetGlue how I couldn’t believe that I was watching 3 iterations of the same show and yet I still love it.
[Note: I know that NBC got the idea from The Voice of Holland, but for all intents and purposes, I’m using the U.S. version as the base of comparison. Like American Idol, the concept really took off after the Americans did it so there’s that.]
One of the biggest things for me is that I find The Voice so fascinating. I’ve said it before, but The Voice is just so much more entertaining and satisfying as a fan of music and television than Idol and X-Factor these days. Don’t get me wrong, Voice has had some frustrating moments of its own over its first two seasons and there’s still room for improvement as far as the voting system, but overall, it’s still a better show in my opinion. A lot of it has to do with the talent and the fact that it’s a free-for-all in terms of song choices. However, the coaches are a big selling point of the show as well, which is exactly why I decided to watch the UK and Australian versions in the first place (and be honest, it’s why we started watching the US version too). So how do the UK and Australia compare to the US version? Let’s take a look.
THE VOICE UK
For coaches, the UK got will.i.am (from the Black Eyed Peas), Danny O’Donaghue (from The Script), Jessie J, and Sir Tom Jones. With the inclusion of Tom Jones, the UK got themselves quite an interesting lineup. In comparison to our coach lineup of Christina, Adam, Blake, and Cee Lo, we can see some similarities but also some differences. Danny is sort of like Adam in that he can get the crowd going and brings the funny. Jessie’s the sole female and holds her own amongst the boys, but she is different from Christina. You always see Jessie singing along to the song and really enjoying herself. will.i.am is like Cee-Lo only in the sense of the name-dropping but you see Will taking the artistic approach when it came to convincing singers to join his team because of his skills as a producer. That leaves Tom as Blake, but they aren’t similar at all in their coaching. I suppose due to the age difference between him and the other 3, Tom sort of takes a backseat, particularly during the blind auditions. Tom says very little and even when trying to convince singers to join his team, he’s very professional and easy going about it – he let’s the others fight it out. Occasionally, he’ll do some name dropping on his own to match, if not beat will.i.am, but he definitely brings his decades of experience. As a collective, the 4 don’t bicker like our coaches. It’s a different type of teasing that they have going on. During the blinds, you often saw them talking to each other and trying to get the others to turn their chair around. One thing I must say about these 4 as coaches is that they really are taking their position seriously, particularly in their critiques (not that this is a slight to the others, just an observation). It does cause some tension between the coaches, but for the better part of things, it is all in trying to help the contestants. Then during the live shows, actually the results show, when the contestants are doing group numbers, if they are really feeling it, the coaches will get up out of their chairs and dance + have some fun.
As far as overall production, the UK managed to finish the battle rounds in 2 episodes. I’m watching the show online after the fact so I’m not entirely sure about commercials, but it came out to be 10 battles in roughly 2 hours, which for TV is a lot because of all the stuff they fit into the pre-package. Due to the fact that they do put a lot in the pre-package, this felt a little rushed at times. As for the live shows, the results are given in roughly 30 minutes (again, not sure about commercials). They’ve had the contestants sing as a group and then one guest performer, with results in between – moves along very nicely.
At the time of this posting, the UK is preparing for the finale performance show, with the final 4 contestants: Bo Bruce (Team Danny), Tyler James (Team Will), Vince Kidd (Team Jessie), and Leanne Mitchell (Team Tom). All 4 bring a little something different to the table, so it’s really nice to see such stylistic diversity. I know this is for the UK, but of the 4, I’d really like to see Bo win – she’s such a unique voice and though I’m not entirely sure, I think she has the potential to be a great crossover artist and make it in North America. But that’s just my thoughts.
THE VOICE AUSTRALIA
In Australia, Keith Urban, Delta Goodrem, Seal, and Joel Madden (from Good Charlotte) get a seat in the awesome spinning red chairs. When I first heard of the lineup, I thought it was pretty awesome, almost as good as the US. Now having watched it, I’m changing my opinion to that they are on par with the US coaches. Not that it’s a diss to the UK because all 3 sets of coaches have a dynamic that works and are entertaining in their own ways. But there’s something about the coaches from Australia (technically only Keith and Delta are Australian) that’s fun to watch, and it’s in a different way from watching the US. What I said before about Jessie J singing along to what the contestants were singing? Here, all 4 of the coaches are singing along to practically every song and are totally having fun and completely into it. This singing along has been going well into the live rounds as well, with Keith Urban doing it the most, even singing along to a One Direction song. When they are fighting to get the singers on their team, you don’t see them name dropping or really bad mouthing each other. They really are about helping and nurturing the artists to be better and convincing the singers of what they as coaches can do for them – this is about the only way that they try to one-up the other. One of the funniest things coming out of the blinds is seeing Seal’s attempts at luring singers to his team and not in the sense that he’s bad at it, he’s actually quite good. In the US, you see Christina always complaining about Adam’s salesman pitch; well, Seal does that at a higher level, but he’s so laid back in his delivery of persuasion that sometimes you don’t even realize what he’s doing. Delta’s a very nurturing coach and to me at least, I think that stems from who she is as a person. She doesn’t have a diva personality, but you can tell when she’s coaching and critiquing how important music is to her. [Sidenote: I have no idea why Delta is not a bigger artist outside of Australia. She is just such a great singer/songwriter and I’ve been a fan since she released her first album, “Innocent Eyes.”] The biggest surprise for me was Joel. I was never really a big fan of Good Charlotte, so I didn’t quite know what to expect from him. For one thing, it turns out Joel was quite the popular pick early on during the blind auditions. More importantly though, he’s shown to be quite insightful as a coach.
Thus far, the production of the show has been pretty good. 6 episodes for the blind auditions might have been a little much, but I think that was moreso them trying to show the auditions of all the singers that made it through. The battle rounds clock in at 3 episodes, which is just the right amount – doesn’t feel rushed like the UK but also doesn’t feel dragged out like the US. One aspect about the battle round that Australia added in that I quite liked was the time-out. Last season on The Voice US, we saw the mentors sit beside the coaches during battle rounds and give their input; this season, with each of the coaches having 2 mentors, we didn’t see them sit in on the actual battles. In Australia, the mentors sit behind the coaches and if the coaches are having a tough time deciding who to take through to the live rounds, they can take a “time-out” to talk to the mentor. When using the time-out, the coach presses their red button to turn their chair around and quickly discuss with the mentor (so the spinning red chairs still get put to use!)
As far as the talent goes, I have to say I have been incredibly impressed by these singers in Australia. They are all so good, so talented and each brings a little something different that I can’t even decide on a frontrunner. They are just simply THAT good. Extra dancers and whatnot have been kept to a minimum, so as to really focus on the contestants and essentially, their voice, which is something I do appreciate.
So at the end of the day, which version comes out on top? Well, none and all of them. Each iteration has its own merits and are all fun to watch. If anything, I’d say it depends on how much you like the coaches and the talent on the show – personal preference. But will that change with the news that NBC will be airing 2 seasons of The Voice a year? Quite possibly. 2 seasons in one year seems a little like overkill. Add to that, there’s no way all 4 of the current coaches will be staying for both runs; they do have actual careers going on, which includes promotion and touring. So they are going to have to find other artists to basically replace whichever coach won’t be able to come back. This is beyond the point of this post. What it comes down to is, regardless of which version of the show you watch, whether it be the U.S., the U.K., Australia, or whichever other country, it is awfully fun to watch. At the very least, you can marvel in the talent from other countries and if they become big stars, you can say you heard them before the rest of your friends.