We all remember fondly Leanne Mitchell, singer of that famous cover of Whitney Houston’s Run to Me, which reached the heady heights of number 45 in the UK charts when it was released in June 2012. The powerful vocals, the soaring emotion…it all comes flooding back when I hear her name.
Me neither. And not just because I never hear her name. Upon hearing the news that The Voice is returning to our screens on Saturday night, I played the classic game of trying to recall who won last year’s 11-week run. I had a hard time remembering much beyond celebrity coach Will.i.am’s Buzz Lightyear-inspired outfits and Danny O’Donoghue’s unbridled delight every time a husky-voiced girl auditioned.
Unlike most other prime time talent shows, not one of last year’s contestants has found the fame that seems promised to them by the hyped-up publicity, contrived studio atmosphere and hyperbole of the celebrity judges. “You’re a star,” at least one of them says to at least one auditionee every episode. Longer running shows like The X Factor have a heritage of runners up who later find stratospheric success. But likewise with The Voice, being the actual winner of the show, securing that most lauded prize of a record deal, seems to be a poisoned chalice. A guarantee of musical obscurity and critical scorn. Joe McElderwho?
Jessie J, returning coach on The Voice, admitted something along these lines: “Nothing is ever promised, just because you get signed it doesn’t mean you are going to be successful.” This seems to be in conflict with the excessive drama that surrounds the launch and run of the show, and then disappears like a winner’s single as soon as the last telephone vote has been cast. These shows rarely live up to their purported premise to search the nation for the next great singing talent. So why do they return year after year? Why is anyone still watching this faulty format?
There’s more going on than just brain-dead channel flicking. More than just nine million viewers needing to be entertained for a couple of hours on a Saturday night. I think it’s because we love judgement. And The Voice, whose only unique selling point is its attempt to avoid talent being judged by appearance, is one of the stealthiest proponents of all. The judges deliver their verdict by pressing a button that shows their approval, or remaining passive to demonstrate their disapproval, celebrating and bickering in their judgements and enabling the viewer to revel with them in the process. There’s something innate to humans that means we love to see things judged to be good or bad, but our compass for this is subjective and inconsistent.
I’m thankful that, unlike the auditionees on talent shows, we aren’t judged by how good our performance is in life, but instead by the perfect life Jesus lived. Nor are we ever faced with unloving passivity from the ultimate judge – the living God whose judgement of right and wrong is loving, consistent and faultless. Instead, He Himself supplies the free gift of grace that means we don’t have to worry about our auditions or trying to be perfect, because we look to Jesus and see that he’s already won the greatest prize for us.
Leanne’s debut album is set to be released in May, and The Voice returns for its second series on Saturday, BBC 1, 7pm. Will you be watching?
Image by David Venni. Copyright owned BBC Worldwide.