Friday, October 11, 2013

The Voice

"I want you!"

You've got the X-Factor, America's Got Talent, American Idol and too many more to list: so how is The Voice any different? Some could argue it's just another money-making, knock-off of other popular "reality" entertainment, but I wouldn't be so sure to knock it off your list before you try it. Sure, it's a singing competition and ultimately there's a winner but I have to take a moment and tell you why it's probably my favorite "reality" show out there. Yes, it's no Keeping Up with Kardashians but it brings a sort of realness that most television shows fail to give us.

I'll admit, the first time I turned it on in the darkness of a shady Boston hotel (in the midst of a college visitation) I was not entirely impressed. I had thought, "it's just another American Idol but with Adam Levine" and I easily brushed it off. But, something about it had me coming back and convinced me to stay.

I don’t think this show gets enough appreciation as it should.

Let’s start with how they go about getting their competitors: with a thing aptly named the “Blind Auditions” because well, the judges are figuratively (and literally) blind about the person who is about to step onto the stage. There is no bias. There is nothing to see. Someone, anyone, can come on knowing none of the coaches will look at them and think “I won’t choose him or her because she looks like that” or “he or she looks like a [blank] therefore is not a good fit” (not saying that any of the coaches would think that otherwise). It is a wondrously unique aspect that a lot of people look for on a day-to-day basis. It's inspiring to see someone having the freedom to throw aside society's standard of beauty, with the confidence to know they are only being appraised on their skill as a singer.

Looking at shows like American Idol, it emphasizes the cruelty of humanity. So many people will jump on how someone presents themselves, and more often than not they'll watch it only to mock those who fail. Even the show itself will highlight the "freaks" as it portrays, to a snickering audience. It's disheartening and one of the reasons why I'd never delved into this side of entertainment.

But The Voice is everything we don't see in its competition. Not once have I ever heard a contestant get laughed at, for any reason, and the concept of its live studio audience is something that really puts things in perspective for me. Sure, they're there for the sole purpose of being lively, loud, and affectionate but something about it makes it seem like their intentions are true. When they cheer and whistle as that guy hits that one note, or applause as that woman puts all her soul into belting out that one part, I can't help but join in. Because it's a celebration more than anything. It's a celebration of character, of talent, of skill, of hard work, of determination, and most importantly of the courage from every single person that steps up to the microphone.

Next is the coaches’ actions, themselves.

One of the most endearing and most honest thing about this show is the interaction between the coaches: Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera, and Cee Lo Green. It was a huge risk for the producers to choose four big stars such as themselves (who from interviews hadn’t been previously engaged before) and hope they clicked. But they did. I don’t think I’ve ever smiled as hard and for as long as I’ve had when watching a show other than The Voice. They're funny, they're witty, and they hold this aura reminiscent of Friends in the sense that I would be content with an hour of watching them banter. They have a better dynamic than is written in most scripted shows.

And I think this is because while they are competing against each other for participants, they are still completely okay with “losing.” They joke and fool around but there is no perceived maliciousness (usually) and that’s wonderfully incredible. Judges are there to, obviously, judge but The Voice never reaches that animosity. They really fall into the coaching definition: they care about their contestants, both during and long after the show has finished.

Yes, it is a competition but it's the way that this show goes about it that makes it so much more than that. When a coach loses a person or has to unfortunately cut them from their team, they don't end on a bitter note. In fact, they try their hardest to really showcase every single person to the point where "elimination" doesn't smite that person's presence. If anything, each person makes a mark and every coach makes sure it stays.

Which leads me to the fact that I am such a sucker for a good personality and I love how every contestant gets a background highlight. It’s probably why I get so excited when someone turns around for them. It's a sort of viewer-show connectivity that really pulls you along for the ride. It's like meeting a friend. To see proud crying mothers, fathers, sisters, lovers, grandparents, etc., just really hits me deep. It makes me so proud for the person even though I don’t know them personally (although I feel like I do).

And while I can go on and on about this show the concept that they (the coaches) have to compete to get a person on their team is absolutely fantastic. It’s not about the judges, it’s about the singer. An unbiased and completely passionate cheer for them to be on his or her team. Their praise is entirely genuine and, even when a person gets no chairs to turn around, the coaches make a very heart-felt and honest attempt to say "you've got skill, you'll go far."

I can't really explain it in words, but I've never seen a show (in this genre) like this. It's a triumph of the human spirit and a celebration of individuality. It's heartfelt and entertaining. It'll make you cry and it'll make you grin. It'll open you up to music you never thought you liked and voices you never thought you'd hear.

This show will make you fall off the edge of your seat, it'll make you jump up with joy, it'll make you stomp your feet in frustration, but it'll show you that nothing is beyond your reach. No matter where you come from, what has happened, or what you look like: you'll be accepted. And sure, maybe there's a winner but there is certainly no "loser." Just a bunch of voices, laying their hearts in the rhythm and their minds in the beat.

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