The Voice, American Idol offer respite from Malaysian politics

** This opinion piece appeared in some parts in the New Strats Times. (

AT some point in this political turmoil and Covid-19 non-pandemic, I am veering towards more fun and melodious entertainment like Allan Perera’s new show in called “HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS”, starting March 19 at the PJ Live Arts, Jaya One, The Voice and American idol reality shows. No pun intended! (

Why not I Can Hear Your Voice on local television? For one, I just don’t get the title… something lost in translation perhaps. For another, there is no diversity in the show. Like most of the reality shows on local TV, it’s like the non-Malays don’t take part in such shows. (Oops, censorship snip!) You may disagree with that take, but I really like what I see and hear on the auditions that’s going on now for the American Idol and The Voice UK, France and the US. The latter, like The X Factor, has a global franchise.

To watch wanna-be singers try out with even non-mainstream genres is so inspiring. The back-stories of some of the tryouts are the standard format for American idol (I can’t call it AI, can I?),  so far in comparison to the rest. Popular songs are all over the place, from Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts and “Girl From the North Country” by Bob Dylan to “Rise Up” by Andra Day and But Season 18 is seeing more singer-songwriters trying their luck, it seems to me, with more crooning their original songs. Most aren’t so bad with some pretty darn good. Tough choices for judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan, and not so much airtime for the host, an ageless Ryan Seacrest. From the audtions so far which began airing on Feb 16, I was taken aback at Nepali Dibesh Rokharel. Er, he looked like a Nepali but was introduced as Arthur Gunn. Wow! He has an okay singing voice, with a strong country twang. He’s been living in Kansas for the past five years, after his parents migrated there. There’s also a Filipino, as par the course.

While I like the singing on Idol, and the judges banter, The Voice UK 2020 with judges Olly Murs, Sir Tom Jones, Meghan Trainor and has a more eclectic repertoire. The wannabes are offering Mi Gente (My People) recorded by Colombian singer J Balvin and French singer and producer Willy William. I think the remix with Beyonce reached a bigger audience, Anyhow, tryout and Londoner Lucy Calcines – whose parens are from Cuba and she was brought up in Spain, as she said on the how – gave a danceable version of the 2017 chartbuster. The Voice UK is now in the battles round, where two singers slug it out for a spot in the semifinals.

Watch Mi Gente by Lucy Calcines on the The Voice UK 2020:

For more auditions, France’s The Voice: la plus belle voix (the Most Beautiful Voice) starting in mid-January 2020 with judges lara Fabian, Amel Bent, Marc Lavoine and Pascal Obispo. I do miss Mika’s antics from previous seasons but it’s all about the voice. French wannabe singers that have auditioned so far include Lebanese Enzo Sabbagha who sang Sam Cooke’s A Change is Gonna Come with soulful jazz.

In the US, Season 18 of The Voice which kicked off Feb 24 2020 is now being judged by Blake Shelton, Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas (of Priyanka fame,  although Newsweek thinks its someone else and John Legend. The tryouts are earnest and generally good singers. The American reality shows mentioned seem to like belters and those who can hit the really high notes (or low), while – from my humble perspective – the Brtish and Euro versions seem to want story-telling and heartfelt deliveries.

Whatever, I’m having a blast with the online availability of these shows – terima kasih, unifi.

Yes, when confusion reigns on the homefront, why not dig into these wannabe singers’ auditions on YouTube!

** Cover pic of the judges is from The Voice Facebook page.

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