If you’ve watched the Battle finals on BBC’s “The Voice” and somehow resisted the urge to spray-fart diarrhoea into the Television screen then you’ll have noticed that the new format involves twelve singers competing in a knockout contest that takes place in a Tekken-style boxing ring wired up to a powergrid that rivals the Tron universe.
The four judges on the UK show include KYLIE MINOGUE, Australia’s oldest milf; WILL.I.AM, a malfunctioning American cyborg from the future; RICKY WILSON, an English riot forecaster who’s normally forced to perform oral in the KAISER CHIEFS; and name dropping Welsh national treasure and Santa lookalike TOM JONES, each of whom take it in turns deciding which contestant’s career they wish to destroy by choosing their more attractive nemesis. As much as it’s an improvement in many ways compared to ITV’s cosy Saturday Night karaoke slaughterhouse it’s still painful to watch. The losing singer in any battle is given the degrading opportunity afterwards to be “Stolen” by one of the remaining judges so that they can still continue to participate in the show; a bit like watching LUKE SKYWALKER begging to be taken seriously in a clapping competition moments after having his right hand chopped off in the Empire Strikes Back movie.
Guitar players moan that they aren’t represented at all in these shows; well pretend there’s a new show on TV now called “The Hands” purely aimed at guitarists and done the same way as “The Voice”. Imagine you have original licks and riffs and for arguments sake let’s also say you are the most accurate and fastest playing guitarist that ever lived. Now see yourself competing in and doing well in “The Hands”; get taken under the wing of professional mentors, guitar coaches and industry experts, you express yourself musically within the parameters of an existing rock composition chosen by your mentor (“Smells Like Teenspirit” by NIRVANA perhaps?); and let’s imagine you win “The Hands” hands down. As a winner you would receive rapid spotlight, your new fanbase would have no fucking idea what else you are capable of so you’d probably get asked to quickly record a version of the songs you played during your stint on “The Hands” because the gormless public that watch the Television show (may) like it. What shows like “The Voice” and “X-Farter” do is automatically brand their winners with songs which are bigger than what they are; the song will always be more famous than they ever will be. Also, if these shows are made in different countries then there are winners around the world that we’ve all heard of right? Well name them all…good luck.
Musicians have mixed opinions on these shows, some love the competitive aspect and regard them as a serious platform for artists to build a successful career or view “The Voice” as a compelling insight into how decisions are made in the music industry; whilst others view it as a big pile of neon painted monkey bollocks. In these shows defence they do expose some of the weaknesses and limitations mainstream pop acts have. Confused?Allow me to explain…
Having the best voice and ability to use it is what’s sought after in these talent shows and those that participate are arguably attracted to the ideology of being a big star. Show producers are not looking for songwriters or great musicians; just androids with a slight personality who can obey a vocal coach, sing other people’s songs and somehow make them sound unique – That’s about it. We’re all conditioned by this style of Television programming and expected to desire and crave what the contestants are pursuing but the truth is that the finish line for them is not the career that many would actually want to have; especially the majority of musicians.
Now if we assume that this process of artist development in “The Voice” is genuinely accurate and that this is the way the music industry really works then ask yourself how do famous singers with no talent at all for song writing release original hit singles and how did they do it in the first place to elevate them to where they are now? Let’s look at the artist RIHANNA and first examine one of her singles.
According to NPR (2011) it cost approximately $78,000 in 2010 to make the song “Man Down” off her album “Loud” plus another $1 million to roll it out onto radio playlists across the USA and get a banner advert on iTunes. RIHANNA herself only gets paid if the label recoups what it blew on the album; apparently it didn’t sell particularly well and radio play was minimal so the label had to release other singles to make up the shortfall.
Well that’s a lot of money to spend on an original song isn’t it? Getting a song in the pop charts takes massive investment and labels don’t trust an artist to write a song themselves so let’s break down their costs. DefJam for example held a writing camp in L.A. to create the songs for RIHANNA’s “Loud” album and hired leading songwriters to form a writing camp to work in a cushy recording studio for about a fortnight – that’s about $18,000 per song (flying writers to studio, hotels, renting studio rooms etc) plus $15,000 for the songwriter, $20,000 for the producer, $15,000 for the Vocal producer who has to teach RIHANNA how to sing her own song and $10,000 for mixing and mastering; Oh, and as I said before $1 million to get the song on radio and we haven’t even included costs for her music video.
The Judges on “The Voice” know all this because it’s the industry they are in, they aren’t looking for songwriters or great musicians or even care about your unique original lyrics; they want a robotic slave to create an income for existing people in the music industry. This explains why artists like RIHANNA act like spoilt twats, it makes sense why she’s insisting on having a rider; she’ll make faster money finding a dollar bill on the floor of one her live shows. The Vocal producer has the job of being paid to get her to be in the mood to sing; no wonder she famously asked for doves to fly around the studio during the recording because the producer has to pay to make it happen! If I was a slave and I knew someone was getting paid $15,000 to get me in the mood then I would insist on having gigantic posters printed of the producers mom, have them covering all the walls of the recording studio, demand he paint the word “slut” over them in his own human excrement and then invite his father down to watch me record a hit single; cheaper and more satisfying than doves.