Thoughts on The Voice and other competitions

Three things bother me about The Voice and other similar shows. The first is the glorification of mediocrity and imitation. Granted, every so often they unearth a unique talent, but for every one of those there are a hundred bartenders, schoolteachers and accountants who aren’t that good, and rarely bring something original to the show. Especially when you consider that folks like Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Chaka Kahn, Bill Champlin, Kenny Loggins, Sheryl Crow, Patti Austin, John Mayer, Sting — and another hundred supremely talented songwriters and performers were skipped over to get to the bartenders and their cover songs. So that’s problem 1 – too much wheat sitting home while we’re sifting through the chaff.

Problem two is that there’s some magic formula that “the stars” have and if they like you enough they’ll share it with you. They’re right as far as it goes – they know what it takes to win the contest. Or hope they do anyway. Sand off the rough edges, a teaspoon of this and a dash of that and now you’re more like “what America is looking for.” Fortunately as I was coming up The Kinks weren’t sanded and polished into Herman’s Hermits, and The Doors weren’t sanded and polished into Paul Revere and the Raiders.

Problem three is the obsession with turning everything into a competition. Peter Schickele took it to the extreme when he had announcers calling the play by play of Beethoven’s 5th. It’s pretty clear that NBC thought the only way to get people to watch this procession of bartenders and accountants was to encircle it with a competition of “stars”.

I don’t know if we’ll ever have another eruption of talent like the people listed above were part of, but I sure don’t expect to see it on The Voice.

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