During The Voice U.K.'s blind auditions, I had problems with it compared to the American show. Well, one problem really: I didn't like the coaches' attitude toward the game. They were unwilling to be critical even of people who needed to hear it, making all their statements sound hollow. If they don't turn around, I'd rather know why they didn't like the singer than hear some bullshit about how it doesn't mean anything that they didn't turn around. (The American coaches had a similar dishonesty in their first season, which they've since overcome a little bit as they've gotten more comfortable with the show.) Then again, it usually didn't mean anything when they didn't turn around, because their decisions were so rarely based on anything going on on stage. Or so it seemed to me, anyway. Other than Tom Jones, who seemed to just be picking what he liked, they were all talking about "strategy" for picking their line-ups, and turning away singers who seemed like they were already superstars just because they didn't fit into whatever plans the coaches had made and hadn't bothered telling us about. Danny was the worst of the lot, only ever turning around when other people were also turning around. I think he was afraid to completely commit to any singers. If someone else also turned, then he wouldn't necessarily be stuck with them. Or something like that. Whatever the messed up idea behind it, the coaches spend more time talking to themselves and looking at each other and trying to get other people to press their buttons than they did actually listening to the auditions. So while The Voice U.K. had a lot of obvious advantages over its American cousin -good editing, hosts who are merely bland rather than oppressive, and an attitude which is not pathetically corporate- I wasn't sure whether I would want to keep watching it. The main appeal of the American show, for me, is the coaches. The fact that it's the same people sitting there week after week gives the whole business a sense of playful camraderie that reminds me of old-fashioned game shows. It's not so much watching a competition as watching a bunch of people I've grown to like hanging out with each other. (One of my favorite moments of the current American season was when -in response to Blake's repeated protestations about having male strippers on stage in a show called "The Voice"- Christina started a performance by directing two male strippers to start stripping around Blake.) And based on the British auditions, I wasn't sure if I could like its coaches in that same way. Will.i.am seemed like the only one whose behaviors might interest me at all as a viewer.
Well, I've been set straight by this first battle round. This show blows The Voice U.S. out of the water! Forget the coaches - these singers are incredible! I am convinced that if the currently-remaining American semifinalists tried out for the British show, most of them wouldn't even make it into the blind auditions. (There are a few rounds of auditions before what we see on TV.) That's how big a difference there is between the talent the American producers found, and the talent the British producers found. When Jesse Campbell went up against Anthony Evans in America, it showed how the whole "battle" idea is supposed to work (but rarely does) because they were skilled enough to keep one-upping each other in their improvisations. It wasn't about the song, it was about showing off what they could do. In the first episode of British battle rounds, there were already two such pairings -Jaz Ellington vs. Jay Norton, and Deniece Pearson vs. Ruth Brown. In the American live shows, Adam remarked that only when their singers were on the chopping block did they really show what they were capable of.- and even then, they weren't so amazing. Here there are already singers stepping far beyond what they did in the auditions -Vince Freeman, for instance, whose voice didn't impress me so much at first, blew me away here, and still wasn't enough to keep him in the show because Bo was even better. Now that's a competition!
From now on, The Voice U.S. will be in my mind The Voice: Junior Edition.