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Apr 30, 2012

Killing me softly with The Voice

W H Chong — Culture Mulcher

W H Chong

Culture Mulcher

You can lose yourself in one of the great, late Rembrandt self-portraits for an hour, and wake as if from a dream. But it is curious, to me, how a voice can feather you with goosebumps or lay you low within a bar or two, bring you to near to, or, to tears.

Short arc

The great charm about channel nine’s talent maker contest (any contest, really), The Voice, is that you don’t ever have to pay attention to any of the performers again. The irresistible pull all lies within three or five or seven minutes — only two of them in song — when success turns to face them, or declines. The judges, who will become coaches, listen with their chairs turned from the contestants. The performance videos have the simple brilliant see-saw arc of the unknown singer coming on with the room willing them on, followed by the denouement of praise or gentle criticism; though the critical rebuke of a unmoved chairback is painful enough. The stories are short and conclusive, and the audience gets to witness the possible birth of a nova.

The judges had to fight for their troupe, and their glib, sincere platitudes are delicious: I just wanted to be in your arms when I hear your voice (Seal); it goes right through you; you have *such* a beautiful soul (Keith (Urban)’s favourite trope); you captivated us; you earned it; I was overwhelmed; you have the voice; I love you (everyone’s trope).

The sweetest bit of nonsense was from the very smooth Seal (those fabulous facial scars) who told one contestant that she brought ‘gestalt’ to the show and explained that that meant gravity, as in gravitas. Marvellous!

The performance videos add up to 61 auditioners; @ twelve pickups by each judge, 48, means that 13 were let go. They were well culled to begin with; all sung very well and some were evidently outstanding — as I am in the happy position of being able to play what I want as I work, I adopted the great gimmick of the show — the singing is judged blind, and the judges only turn to see the auditioner if they want to claim him or her for their team — I watched The Voice with my back turned to the monitor (tv on demand), just like the judges. Several deliveries raised the hairs on my neck.

Blind luck; Delta tears; Keith wit

It’s a show designed for spectacular rhetoric and belters but a surprising number of soft-voiced beauties came through. One of the most surprising was Rachael Leahcar who dared to sing La Vie En Rose, partly in French, who turned every head, and all four judges’ chairs. Delta (Goodrem, they are all Single Name Stars), the most incoherent and banal speaker of the four, on hearing that Leahcar was blind, just 18, alluded to how at 18, she too had troubles (cancer) and how “the whole country was there with me”, dissolving into tears, and how she wanted to share her experiences with Leahcar. One is awed at how securely Delta identifies with her national stardom.

Keith, who exudes a well-worn, unchallenged ease, had the wit to say, ‘I love that the universe should so have it that the first time the four of us get to experience you is not by seeing you but by hearing you. It’s perfect, it’s exactly right.’ Keith, my man! Rachael Leahcar’s performance was tremblingly heart-rending, and her being ‘legal blind’ could only add to the pathos of that extraordinary song. Luckily for all concerned she confessed that Delta had been her lifelong inspiration and chose her as mentor.

Some of the auditioners managed their persuasion by imitation. Judge Joel (Madden) told one of the singers he had not turned around because it had sounded just like the songwriter’s (James Blunt’s) version. And the young woman who sang Wuthering Heights had little choice but to do a Kate Bush. The amazing Janis Joplinesque Karise Eden (only 19). But as the requirement is simply to display a splendid vocal rather than any original ideas, we can chance on hearing a terrific voice without the burden of differentiating them from the vast constellation of musicians out there. Which, one must accede, is why Seal keeps talking about making his selections Stars. And it’s gratifying that quite a number are under 20.

Two things: they must have worked hard to choose the sound of the judges’ red button: kind of a FHHhssszzzh, like a jelly explosion. I want one just like that.

The other is, what a superb backing back they’ve put on. The playing makes the singing, floating many of the lesser performers.

For what it’s worth my pick is Paula Parore whose moving rendition of Adele’s Don’t You Remember rivals the original, with a smidge of Tracy Chapman. She doesn’t look like the magazine ideal of a star (traditionally built, as Alexander McCall Smith terms it) but her access to feeling seems untrammelled.

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9 comments

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9 thoughts on “Killing me softly with The Voice

  1. shepherdmarilyn

    OMG, James K we agree on something.

  2. James K

    This is a great show… it is terrific to have a reality talent show where everyone on it is really good. None of the silly stuff from terrible singers trying to get their few minutes on tele…
    and the judges are terrific. Kind, encouraging, genuine. I am actually surprised I like the show so much!

  3. shepherdmarilyn

    I love just singing shows which is why Australia’s got talent and others leave me cold.

    I have been watching them since I was a kid decades ago.

    The thing with Mahalia though is she has been singing professionally for years with dad’s backing, she can’t really be taught anything.

    I think the big mistake was to select the woman singing against the Porter girl who had the superior power voice.

  4. W H Chong

    Dear Marilyn,
    There is no doubt that you could pick Karise out from every one’s else voice, and the only one who came close was Ms Barne’s — who was tossed out by her coach. (Joel himself indicated what a short term criteriAa he was working to; the better performance on the night. Which is disciplined of him to stay within, but also deeply unsatisfactory). But my personal capacity to listen to her is not indicative of anything — I can cheerfully ignore some of the world’s great singers, from Bon Scott to Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez. Sheer will.

    Amber, isn’t wonderful to succumb? Remember Noel Coward: ‘Extraordinary how potent cheap music is.’

  5. Amber Jamieson

    I’m annoyed that they put Mitchell and Fatai against each other because they were both bloody brilliant. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siK5jI-4aGU&feature=player_embedded

    I’m a big fan of Karise. And the Beyoncesque Prinnie. Can’t believe I’m suckered back in to one of these shows.

  6. shepherdmarilyn

    I disagree with the little bit going a long way, I could listen to that voice day in and day out because it is so different.

    I love different voices because we have had years of all the bimbette girls sounding the same.

    Young Rachael knocked their socks off again though feinting and pretending as she was and Adam Hoek’s look on his face said it all.

    He is besotted.

  7. W H Chong

    And so, Marilyn, your lass Karise took it from Paula in the very first sing off.
    And Karise was surely the stronger singer, though it’s an invidious way to sing.
    Karise’s Joplinish voice is unique and powerful but a little of it goes a long way for me.

  8. W H Chong

    Yes, Karise Eden knocked it out of the park. One of the enjoyable aspects is how much fun they seem to be having, the judges. They do not seem to me cynical, though of course they get a nice pay off in viewer awareness. I particularly like Joel, who has that Yankee forthrightness and enthusiasm, though he is not exactly guileless.

  9. shepherdmarilyn

    I pick Karise Eden.

    I like the show because they don'[t have the likes of Vile pretending they know what they are on about.