Simon Cowell is well-known for his tendency to say exactly what he thinks. He has already made his feelings for rival show, The Voice, currently showing on BBC1 in the UK, clear by saying that it is a copycat show. Now, during an interview on BBC Radio 4, he has gone one step further by asking why it isn’t a radio show. After all, as he says, if it is all about ‘the voice,’ why is there any need for it to be a visual show at all?
The crux upon which The Voice hangs is that it is concentrating on talent, something that many believe does not shine through in shows such as The X Factor, American Idol and even Britain’s Got Talent, because the voting process and even the judges’ comments are often based on the contestant’s personality and looks. In this year’s American Idol, for example, Joshua Ledet, easily one of the most talented contestants to ever appear on the show, has just been voted out by the viewers, despite being the judges’ favourite all along. Viewers probably didn’t bother voting for him, because his personality didn’t win them over and they thought he would be safe anyway. In many people’s opinions, had he been judged purely on his voice, he should have won the whole show.
The Voice purports to be a completely different kettle of fish. Rather than relying on the overall package of looks, voice and personality, the first round of auditions was blind. This means that the four judges of The Voice in the UK, Jessie J, Tom Jones, Will.i.am and Danny O’Donoghue, had their backs to the contestants and decided on the people to go through based purely on their voice, although the viewers got to see the contestants in all their glory. In many respects, this worked well and those contestants with the most outstanding voices did largely get through to the next round.
However, then the show’s high morals began to unravel a little, because the next and subsequent rounds all involved the judges working directly with the team of contestants that they have chosen. The rounds are thereafter based on the viewers’ and judges’ visual, as well as aural, opinions of the contestants. That is fine, but it is hard to avoid making a decision on the overall demeanour of the candidates; after all, often much of the part of the charm of singers is based on the way they move and look, as well as the way that they sound. In the long run, it is therefore no different from similar shows.
Another criticism of The Voice is that the Sunday results shows are not live, unlike all The X Factor shows after the audition stage, which a number of nay-sayers strongly feel is inappropriate for a show trying to find a star. After all, singing live and being judged live is an important aspect of stardom and viewers have no way of knowing if the show is doctored before it appears on television. When the show was initially shown in the UK, Simon Cowell was furious because there was some overlap in transmission and it was stealing audience figures from Britain’s Got Talent; however, in the end, Britain’s Got Talent won out, quite possibly because viewers preferred the atmosphere of a live show.
Ultimately, viewers have a choice as to which show they prefer to watch. The X Factor has now been televised for a number of years and some may feel that it is worth watching The Voice, which has a slightly different feel, or possibly simply because it doesn’t feature Simon Cowell. Others will prefer the sarcastic Simon Cowell touch and the fact that The X Factor is familiar and The Voice isn’t, apart from the first round, vastly different. Viewers vote with their feet; if there isn’t a market for both shows, as well as Britain’s Got Talent and the American equivalents, one or more of them will eventually be cut. In the meantime, it looks as though Simon Cowell still has the edge on the market; in the UK, at least.