“The Voice” supports diversity in its own way


This season of “The Voice” is turning out to be a kind of unusual one as the now-veteran performance show begins to create its own trends. The show that focused on the sound of singers as opposed to their looks seemed to be based on a far-out premise. As the show as progressed, the number of quality singers representing a variety of ethnic groups has increased. Likewise, a show that seemed to have a penchant for the individual artist is open to the idea of duos. Duos seem to not do as well, and while no science will be presented here to explain why, it is a curios development. Still, “The Voice” persists in the way it attempts to champion diversity in terms of race and ethnicity, looks and performance group size.

In the past couple seasons of “The Voice,” new ideas have been presented in the form of singer diversity. More singers of color have made their way to the Battles, Knockouts and Finales in recent years than previously. But that diversity also comes in the form of type of performer. Meaning, once, singers appeared individually. Now, more duos are appearing. The trend started slowly, but “The Voice” has apparently always allowed duos; this season, there are two. Also previously, the duos did not always fare well and seemed to get eliminated quickly. The exception to this is The Swon Brothers. They are the only duo to have made it to the live show and now have a record deal with Arista, according to talentrecap.com. Now however, a duo of two 14-year-old friends called Hello Sunday, is the remaining duo from this season. The pair seems likely to do at least as well as The Swon Brothers. Maybe the problem is duos can sometimes sound great and get chairs to turn, but perhaps they lose their electricity or novelty as the show continues. It is difficult to say exactly “why” pairs of singers fail on “The Voice.”

Beyond duos: “The Voice” champions genres, styles

One idea that “The Voice” puts forth is that its judges, who turn into coaches once they choose teams, and are performers themselves, know something about other genres. On occasion, viewers of the show are privy to conversations about genre. On a recent show, the judges were lamenting the death of rock. Not everyone agrees that such a demise has taken place, but it was exciting to see the judges excited about the genre.

Different styles of singing from stereotypical soft-voiced, singer-songwriter style singing is often as much lauded as heartfelt, belted out Gospel or pop styles. Seeing this variety of genre and style represented on “The Voice” makes it clear that the representatives of the show are at least trying to diversify.

But people also love to criticize “The Voice”

Despite everything “The Voice’s” powers-that-be try to do, people remain critical of the show. And, arguably, for good reason. Adam Levine’s second-to-last season on the show was rife with controversy when it seemed that he bent the performance rule for a white, female performer on his team, and urged people to vote for her, even though she was allegedly too sick to perform, while not asking for votes for a black male performer on his team who had performed according to guidelines. Levine has since moved on.

Every season, though, viewers and former viewers become displeased with the show. More than one online commenter has pointed out that while plus-size contestants’ singing voices are praised, they do not do as well as non-plus-size contestants. That is just one segment of complaints.

Still other critical audience members lament that the show is like all other performance shows, and no one gets a career as a result. Maybe it will take more time for people to trust the brand. Maybe something needs to change in the show’s process. For all its flaws, “The Voice” continues and it does seem to make singers genuinely happy to be there. For fans of rock music, one test of the show’s influence would be if an actual rock singer, such as this season’s Jake HaldenVang, would win, and more rock music would enter the current mainstream. That scenario is a longshot, but it is one worth believing in, especially for people who are resistant to the idea of yet another performance show.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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