Making its debut in 2012, the Australian incarnation of the The Voice franchise is set to return for the show's seventh season. Joining returning Coaches Delta Goodrem, Boy George and Kelly Rowland is newbie Joe Jonas.
I will admit that I'm a sad, sad person that's been deeply invested in the show since its inception - I have a near encyclopaedic memory of The Voice Australia's alums, I've recapped the last two seasons on my blog, and I've even gone to some ex-contestants' gigs (God, I'm a loser).
Sure, there's plenty of awkward drama between the Coaches and more than enough sob stories to digest. But the reason I come back to watch it year after year is for the talented artists I discover every season, and those incredible performances that give me goosebumps and send a shiver down my spine.
However, there's an elephant in the room. A big one. She thicc. In spite of consistently massive ratings, The Voice Australia is yet to launch one of its contestants into stardom...
Karise Eden, The Voice Australia's inaugural winner (Source)
When we look at other reality singing shows, like Australian Idol and X Factor Australia, they've produced household names like Guy Sebastian, Shannon Noll, Jessica Mauboy, Samantha Jade and Dami Im. On the other hand, the same can't really be said about The Voice. This issue is not only tied to Australia, but is also present in the U.S. and the U.K.; while American Idol, X Factor U.S. and X Factor U.K. have introduced the world to Kelly Clarkson, Fifth Harmony, One Direction and Little Mix,The Voice franchise doesn't have the same bragging rights of launching the careers of internationally renowned artists.
Celia Pavey, also known as Vera Blue, came third on the second season of The Voice Australia (Source)
Arguably, the biggest act to come out of the show has been indie songstress Vera Blue (she competed on the show as Celia Pavey), who has all but disowned her reality show past. And even she hasn't really reached household name status. But we don't even really hear about any of the other ex-contestants of The Voice Australia, and the show's winners have slowly faded from the public consciousness.
The show revolves around the celebrity Coaches
The Coaches of The Voice Australia Season 6 (Source)
I think one of the main reasons why Australian Idol and American Idol (particularly in the show's earlier seasons) were able to produce massive stars was because the format of the Idol series focuses on the contestant rather than the contestant. Judges like Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, Mark Holden and Ian Dickson were not household names before they appeared on the show. On the other hand, the celebrity Coaches, whether it's Delta Goodrem, Joe Jonas or Jessie J, are the primary focus of The Voice.
The show's narrative (especially in the earlier rounds of the competition) is built around the Coach cultivating their team. In this format, the contestant effectively belongs to a Coach as a member of their team; if a contestant wins, the Coach wins too. Although this is similar to the mentor system on The X Factor, where a contestant belongs to a particular category mentored by one of the judges, this isn't nearly as drummed up as it is on The Voice. There is extensive screen time spent on the Coaches interacting with one another, mentoring their contestants, and even performing with them. This comes at the expense of highlighting the contestant.
The seasons are too short
Once the show moves into the live performance rounds, the show does start to pay more attention on the contestant. However, in comparison to Idol or X Factor, the seasons of the show are much shorter. So by the time viewers begin to connect with contestants, the show is already over. Because of this, viewers might not be as invested in an artist, meaning they won't be as likely to follow their post-show career. As a comparison, Judah Kelly (the winner of Season 6 of The Voice Australia) had a total of 11 performances shown on TV, whereas Australia Idol's Guy Sebastian had 18, and Dami Im got to sing 19 times in her season of X Factor. With such little opportunity to get to know a contestant, it's almost impossible for audiences to really care about them in the long run.
The show casts professionals
Fely Irvine, ex-member of Hi-5 and Season 3 The Voice contestant (Source)
It's no secret that The Voice invites professional singers to audition for the show. Of course, this means that the pool of talent is really deep and we as viewers get some great talent who deliver stellar performances each week. No one on The Voice is bad, per se. By that, I mean there's no montages of crappy auditions like we get on Idol or X Factor. However, this also impacts our care factor. Part of Kelly Clarkson's charm was that she was just a regular gal from Texas. We love seeing contestants who start off a little rough around the edges and watching them grow. But since a lot of contestants on The Voice have had tonnes of experience, we don't really get this growth arc. In turn, because they're so polished, this also impacts our ability to connect with these contestants with professional experience. As a result, we're not really likely to buy their music or go see their shows after their time on The Voice - we just assume they'll be fine, because they've been through it before.
Artists that make for good TV aren't necessarily the best recording artists
Performances on The Voice are all about having big moments. I'm talking bombastic diva ballads, high notes, and tonnes of vocal gymnastics. However, while it might earn a contestant a ticket through to the next round, a competent cover of a Whitney Houston's 'I Have Nothing' doesn't necessarily translate well to the recording studio or get people rushing to iTunes or Spotify to listen to it. A contestant might have a five octave range and can sing their ass off, this unfortunately doesn't mean they'd be good for radio. Think about it - the singers you hear on radio aren't necessarily the best vocalists, but they do have that 'it' factor and a good grasp for what's current.
On the flip side, The Voice also loves to pimp those with good back stories. The more inspirational, the better for ratings. And while this makes for great TV, this doesn't necessarily translate into a radio ready artist either.
Often, the most successful artists to come from reality singing shows fall under the pop, indie/alternative, and (in the U.S.) country genres. However, these kinds of contestants don't necessarily do well on the show, due to the nature of songs within these genres, which are often repetitive and have a limited range. Not really exciting for TV, huh?
No YouTube videos = no opportunity for international success
I think one of the biggest issues preventing an international star being born on The Voice Australia is that since Season 3, they have only uploaded short snippets of contestants' performances. Before this, some of The Voice's YouTube videos had garnered millions of views. Because overseas viewers don't have an opportunity to watch the show on live television, this was their only chance to see the performances. Additionally, while Australians are able to access full performance videos on The Voice app or The Voice's website, these are landlocked and unable to be accessed overseas. By taking away the ability to view full performance videos on a transnational medium, this has only negatively impacted the ability for contestants to gain international success. BRING THE YOUTUBE VIDEOS BACK!
Universal Music Australia
By far the biggest reason why no contestant has reached household name status is Universal Music Australia. Winners are immediately signed to this record label, and other non-winners have earned a contract with them too. However, they have been atrocious at handling talent from The Voice. With little promo or live appearances, releases from these contestants inevitably flop. When have you heard one of Season One winner Karise Eden's songs on the radio? Or seen reigning champ Judah Kelly perform on TV? You might not even know who they are. And that's a sign that Universal needs to pick up their game.
Season Six winner Judah Kelly (Source)
Regardless of my beef with The Voice Australia, I'm still excited to see this year's crop of talent gunning to be the show's breakout star. The Voice Australia is back on our screens Sunday 15th on Channel 9 at 7 p.m. Make sure to tune in and support local artists!