The Voice must have one of the most complicated formats of any talent contest on TV. As if the role of the spinning red chairs wasn’t baffling enough, there are four distinct audition stages before the public gets to vote on acts. This Saturday night it was the final show of what are called the “Battle Rounds”, in which the celebrity coaches whittle down their acts by having them sing against each other in competitive duets. The rejected singers then have a chance to be “stolen” by a rival coach.
What’s the art to matching singers in battle pairs? Is it to choose singers with different styles so that they bring out the best in each other? To compare close matches? Or should the coaches use the battles as a way to eliminate acts they’re having second thoughts about? After this marathon 130-minute episode, we were none the wiser.
Amelia and Rachael must have been paired in the category for 16-year-old girls who have been made up to look like 35-year-old women. This is something of a trend on these shows. Soon they’ll be sending teenage contestants on stage with prosthetic wrinkles and dyed grey hair. Vicky and Melissa were facing off in the rock-chicks-with-lip-piercing category – and it was Miles vs Max in the battle for the title of Man of Medium Height with a Guitar and an “M” Initial.
The highlight of the evening was Obama look-a-like Femi and Iesher, the spit of pop rapper Nicki Minaj, in the People Who Look Like Other People category. They did a version of “Stop, Look, Listen (to Your Heart)” which gave Kylie a chance to use her final steal, Tom Jones a chance to name-drop Diana Ross and Iesher a chance to show off her stony singing expression. Everyone was happy – except Iesher, obvs. Will.i.am says she needs to emote more, but I disagree. Those perma-frozen facial muscles only emphasise the effortlessness of her talent.
The battle round’s real format issue is not the illogical match-ups. It’s that it just takes far too long. Two hours and ten minutes is more than enough time for the earnest thank-yous to sound clichéd, for the hysterical meltdowns to get old hat and for the paucity of will.i.am’s vocabulary to become apparent. “Awesome” is a fine adjective, but it will not do for every situation. Worst of all, when Tom Jones does one of his boggle-eyed double-takes, it proved impossible to tell if he was surprised by an auditionee’s bum note, or had just been rudely awoken from an afternoon nap.