The Perils of Original Spark

I’ve become enchanted by something called “The Voice / Kids”.

It’s about talent, mostly, and it’s about showbiz, definitely, but most of all it is about ratings. Sure: everything on TV is about ratings. It’s a jungle out there and good ideas don’t survive alone. They need a fancy vehicle with bells and whistles. They need ‘celebrities’ of one sort or another. And ‘HOOK’ – the edge-of-the-seat kind of hook that will survive the season: “Will-they-or-won’t-they? (Win? Survive? Marry? Copulate? …)

In other words: they need FORMAT.

So here’s the scene: A single child walks out onto a glittering stage equipped with more lights and mirrors and cameras and SFX than a James Bond movie, and they have to sing to the backs of some 3 or 4 chairs, and compel the occupants of said chairs to hit their big red button that turns them around.

The clips I watch seem to be Highlights. I’ve never seen the clip yet where none of them turn. Ugh! How very triggering! Nor have I seen the pre-auditioning process that must surely weed out the hapless, the lame, the pant-wetters and the terrible voices. Never mind, highlights are good too! Here’s a compelling sequence.

Child sings. the chairs turn one-by-one, All Chairs Turned Means Something Big – kid goes into the semi-finals – and it’s all beautiful and heart-warming and touchy-feely/warm-fuzzies.

There’s something astonishing about these children: they’re hyper-confident. Hyper-focused. In The Zone / In The Now!

Таисия Скоморохова - Goomba Boomba - Голос Дети
таисия скоморохова

And some of these kids are ASTOUNDING. Especially this one: таисия скоморохова. You can guess, she’s Russian. In lettering *I* can understand, it’s Taisiya Skomorokhova. She explodes with Talent; Vitality; Personality. She OWNS the entire auditorium! She owns her song! It is glorious to watch. And I’m like: <floored> <slack-jawed astonishment> <delighted beyond measure> …

So she goes on into the semi-finals, then into the finals … And I watch each segment, each highlight, and I see all of her magic decay. Her next act just ain’t got the same old juice, know what I mean? Her final didn’t grab me at all. (Honestly, I’m not even sure if she wins The Thing.)

It happened to these two as well: Mimi and Josefin. Sisters. Here’s their incredible, very electric first appearance.

Two Little Girls Sing The Hell Out Of Radiohead's "Creep" On 'The Voice':  Watch

SO WHAT HAPPENS? WHAT GOES WRONG?

The people in the chairs are all adults. They’re ‘coaches’. They’re making choices about advancing these kids into later stages of the show. (From the show-runner’s perspective the kid is getting milked, and milked, and milked some more..) Back to the ‘Coaches’. They’re show-biz experts. ‘Voice-coaches’. Supposedly they’re gonna make these kids into stars. They’re gonna turn this Raw Talent into some sort of silky finished product. And what they really do is ruin them.

In my opinion.

For all the good intentions, the focused coaching, the professional inputs, it seems to me that something very precious is left on the cutting-room floor. The vitality of the contestant – the very essence of the performance – is mushed right out of them. The very thing that got those chairs turning … dies. Because suddenly they’re in school. The proccesses that follow are build onto the same patterns that we impose on our children – for years and years and years. Adult Knows Best. “Here’s what you do, step one, stage one, we have to shape this. Train it. Contain it. Try this – it’s how the professionals do it…”

Little by little, the kids no longer own themselves. They no longer own their decisions, their passion, their voices.

I watched numerous of follow-up videos, the coaching sessions, the new songs, their semi-finals and finals performances – and that Original Spark was missing. I kept hoping to see it again … but never did.

Is this our Collective Format? Our education system writ large? to channel the waterfall – whatever it is, whatever unique flavour or colour or sound it comes in; channel it until it comes out of a tap? On/Off. “Here is how the song goes … Uh-uh, let’s try that again …”

It’s sad to see. Seems to be a tragedy to me. The Perils of Original Spark.

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