Sunday, April 29, 2012

Vox Potpourri

Seal prepares to pounce - Kodakotype by Pants

Another autumn, another talent show appears, making fire-tending suddenly seem a fascinating and engaging pastime. Why wait for the ads when the excoriating sight of someone trying to sing their puny little heart out is more than enough to drive you to cinder caressing in the search for a meaning to life, the universe and self-immolation.

The Voice, they tell us, is a cut above the usual bear-pit spectacle we're used to gawping at as our fellow plebs succumb to their own vanity. First aired in the US, then the UK and now the U-Beaut (Australia to non-speakers of our peculiar native language), its aim is not to humiliate fragile fledgling talent, but rather to nurture it with the tenderest of tongues. 'Where's the fun in that?' you may well ask. I know I did, fleetingly, and then immediately resumed my search of the embers for eternal truth.

'And how is this new niceness made real?' you may further ask, if you haven't already wandered off to stoke your own coals. At this point, I normally call upon my esteemed colleague the Question Why, whose wit and wisdom are invaluable in pondering the bleedin' obvious and the unfathomability of its annoying persistence. Pause for applause as TQW enters the equation. You will also be familiar with our, er, familiar, the intrepid Barney, voligarch about town and general factotum here at Seat of Pants.
As Barney prepares us a perfectly chilled glass of his superb Russo-Barnique, we kick back to consider the baffling question of how a talent show modelled on whooping, fawning and the sickly sight of C-class celebs pleading with a will-never-be for the chance to mould him/her into a top recording artiste can possibly sustain interest for more than the time it takes to snap a Kodakotype of Seal's alarming nail job.

The USP of The Voice franchise is that the auditions are 'blind', an element which offered an opportunity for an 'ilarious pun here in Australia when an actual blind person showed up. We shall leave you to fill in that particular blankety-blank yourself as TQW and I are above such things and, besides, our glasses need topping up so we must hit the pause button in order to give thanks for our entrepreneurial house-pet.

The 'blind' initial cull is premised on the belief that it's difficult to develop a bias against someone because of their looks if you can't actually see them. This appears to work quite well as the contestants are spared the fright of Keith Urban, Joel Madden, Delta Goodrem and Seal all together in one horrific frame. That sight alone would be enough to put anyone off a career in show biz. Keith (main claim to fame being Mr Nicole Kidman), Joel (main claim to fame being Mr Nicole Richie), Seal (main claim to fame being the ex Mr Heidi Klum) and Delta (main claim to fame being the ex future Mrs Brian McFadden), certainly do challenge the notion that 'looks matter in the biz'. In fact, the converse appears to apply. Even someone as blessed with such luscious god-given hair extensions as Delta Goodrem feels the need to supplement her natural attributes by acquiring the rights to the hands of Wilhelmina W. Witchiepoo and then waving them around dramatically at every opportunity, neck'n'necking with Seal's jaundiced digits for the honour of being the owner of the world's most horrible hands.

Another departure from the standard baptism-of-fire talent-show format is the styling of the sparsely groomed C-classers as 'coaches', rather than 'judges', very much in line with the 'no-losers' ethic of the present day. Even the singers who don't trigger the big red button that would bring them face to face with a future 'champion' are told 'you're still a winner' - of what? Steak knives perhaps? Although, for some experienced warblers who didn't get picked, perhaps a daggered look would be a more appropriate description of the final outcome.

This gleefully inclusive hugathon would seem to be very much at odds with the reality that exists beyond the neon world of revolving chairs and 'every contestant a wanted contestant' rhetoric. There is still no getting around the fact that, at the end of this tedious process, only one act will win the precious 'recording contract'. By my maths, that leaves 47 people who will walk away with nothing. TQW also points out that if you multiply this number by the hundreds of television talent shows from around the globe and down through the decades, for every Leona Lewis or Kelly Clarkson, there are many hundreds of thousands of canaries who didn't make it out of the coalmine. And we can only hope that there is only room for one Susan Boyle on this beleaguered planet of ours.

These days, anyone can have a recording career simply by acquiring a handful of friends with friends of their own and an ability to upload a file onto YouTube. TQW and I therefore conclude that assembling people to sing someone else's song is probably not the ideal brokerage arrangement to bring us the recording stars of the future. Everyone knows that sustained careers in the music business are founded on writing songs rather than singing them. 'So, where is the contest for original songs?' you may well ask. 

This whole process simply smacks of inefficiency. There are two people in the Australian competition with hugely successful close relations in the biz - Jimmy Barnes's daughter Mahalia and Guy Sebastian's brother Chris. Did it not occur to them to ask their dad/bro if they could have a lend of a few musicians, a little studio time and the iMac for an afternoon? It doesn't make any sense. We are forced to conclude that pointlessness is the point. 

Anyway, now that all these ghastly people are able to see each other - and doesn't that make the world a better place - let's see how long it takes before all that botox-faced awe melts into hardcore, scowling competitiveness. My guess is that it will smell as sweet as last year's toilet-based potpourri by Week 3. TQW and I plan to have the roaringest, most lavishly attended fire in Larrikin's End by then. Barney, another of your classic Russo-Barniques over here, there's a good fellow...