Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Build or crumble? The Voice

Given that our usual viewing fodder stretches to Grand Designs and Monster Moves, The Builder and I have been somewhat surprised at the level of our interest in The Voice. I thought we'd lose interest after the blind auditions, but the Battle Rounds are drawing us in.

There's a certain pattern in the battles, I've noticed. Generally, one of the competitors is an old-stager, someone who's been round the traps, learnt the techniques, done the training. The other is a raw newbie. Someone who's been keen, but never followed through. In most instances, the rawness wins. Not the polish, the training, the technique, the traps. The raw.

The training and experience seems to put a ceiling on the Voice. If you've had all that, and you still haven't cracked it, what more can be done with you? The conversation between Keith Urban and Megan Washington about the two 'pub rockers' summed it up. One would need to be constructed. The other deconstructed. Interestingly, Keith went against the trend and chose to 'crumble' rather than 'build' with his choice. In almost every other battle, the 'build' has won.

A writer's voice can be trained. Techniques can be learnt. Polish can be acquired. But at what cost? I know that when I started blogging I had to take a step back, deconstruct a little, crumble. Years of professional writing had put a particular veneer on my writing. It didn't work in this environment. Maybe my vulnerability didn't show through? (Hi Seal!).

It has helped my fiction writing immensely. When I read fiction I wrote five or so years ago, I can see the writing. When I read things I write now - well, let's just say that, to use another word thrown around a lot on The Voice (Hi Joel!), I believe the voice wins.

I'm glad that, so far, The Voice doesn't look as though it will simply come down to a 'belt-off' between the biggest voices. The biggest voices have never really interested me that much. The Dolly Parton of 'I will always love you' has always done more for me than Whitney's vocal gymnastics.

But that's not to say that training and technique don't make a difference. I can't wait to see what a few weeks of polish and performance do to some of those raw voices. Rawness will capture our attention, but it's consistency that holds it.

Here's to next week's battles.

Have you been watching The Voice? Your thoughts? Do you think about technique when you write?

[image: a small gift for Keith, this wrecking ball necklace is from mrd74/etsy]


  1. The Voice is proving popular in our house also. Team Keith all the way!

  2. My musical passion is classical and musicals but to my absolute surprise I am entranced by The Voice and I do like that the judges are pleasant to the contestants!!
    As to my writing it just comes out I cannot prepare and I don't think about it I just let my fingers do the walking!!!!!

  3. Loving the voice here. I too am pleased to see that the raw and unique voices are making it through. I try not to think about my writing voice when blogging, I need it to show through naturally. However when I am writing fiction, depending on what it is of course, I feel I need to write in 'character' and become that person much like an actor. But with everything, the more I write, the more I learn about my voice. x

  4. Yes, watching the voice in our house too. The kids love it although can't watch much of it as they're sent off to bed. I don't understand all their choices in this sing-off stage, but can't help watching it!

  5. I have completely missed watching the voice - I think I was too afraid I'd get addicted to yet another TV show! But I do agree about the potential to lose your rawness the more you write - on the other hand the more you write the more you have the potential to 'find' your true voice. Great thought for the day, Allison.

  6. Bizarre – I've been thinking along these very lines too. And have also been sucked against my will into watching The Voice.

    I've noticed, after years of working as a lifestyle journalist and advertising copywriter, how HARD I have to work to avoid slipping into my writing mannerisms.

    I think Joel said last night (ah, Joel) that it's all about who you believe the most when they sing. Contrived vs not contrived. Not contrived wins. Same goes with writing.

  7. I've actually only started watching The Voice this week - having refrained for the first couple of weeks!

    I'm interested in the nature / nurture notion of talent when it comes to writing... how much can one improve with practice vs having some vague ability to start with. Hmmm....


  8. What an interesting comparison. We have The Voice too - but not with Keith Urban. Wondered what he'd been up to lately! We have Tom Jones, Will.i.am from The Black Eyed Peas, Jesse J and someone called Danny from The Script(someone joked that Wikipedia crashed when he was announced as one of the judges).

    But yes, they're doing exactly the same on the show here - in the battle stages they're plumping for the raw talent that they can mould and build rather than try and break down old entrenched habits, people who have already been in the business, people who have been round the block a few times.

    With regards to writing, I'm at that impasse where I think I'm a has-been, that I have too many habits that have built up over the years that can't be torn down like a Grand Designs project (swapping show metaphors there) and made into something new. I was shocked to find a story I'd written (and had published) years and years ago and it was just the same - same style, same voice. I need new material!

  9. I've just spent an hour listening to a seminar on pronouns, and no doubt will spend the next 24 hours wondering if all this technique will build me up or break me down. I keep reminding myself Elizabeth Jolley was silver haired when her writing career took off.
    I completely agree with your take on blogging: writing online is a kind of 'unlearning'. It's playful and through that looseness you find interesting parts of your voice that you never knew about. I guess blogging is a little like jamming.

  10. I don't think about my writing much, but perhaps it's because I'm always a bit glib. If I had to be very revealing, I'd probably struggle a lot more. But really I'm just here to say that I am also a big fan of the Dolly original, and I'm also partial to Beth Ditto's rendition - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2w6ZNnHiKU

  11. I love that you can find an analogy to writing in everything. I have been too focused on how awful Delta is to really deconstruct the battles. x

  12. we have The Voice here but our judges are Adam Levine (from Maroon 5), Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, and Cee Lo Green! Interesting that they have different people!

  13. I can't see The Voice from over here but I love the way you applied "the lessons" to writing, your own and ours. And how long is this Voice show running? I am a total sucker for that sort of program and will no doubt be glued to the screen in my Sydney digs if it is still running in June.

  14. I prefer Dolly to Whitney too. I think about technique all the time. And whether to deconstruct or to build. I deconstructed my writing technique a little for blogging too. Blogging has given me permission to be more daring. In that way it's helped my other writing too. Despite training though, I don't think anything can replace natural raw talent. I think that must be present.

  15. We saw Dolly in concert this year: Fab. U. Lous. By husband was sceptical but went because I love Dolly so (bless him) but he had a great time as well. Needless to say I prefer the Dolly "I Will Always Love You'. I would love to be watching The Voice but child-wrangling, exhaustion and plain forgetfulness keep getting in the way. For now I'm settling for YouTube clips.

  16. I love this post as I have been thinking about The Voice for a couple of weeks now. It is such terrific television. I think by taking away the 'cringe' factor they have done reality TV proud. Yes, more and more, it's about being raw, unique, unforgettable. There's a few contestants I just can't get out of my head: Lakyn, for example: http://www.thevoice.com.au/profile/lakyn-heperi/. And Fatai: http://www.thevoice.com.au/video/teamseal. Maybe it helps to have an unusual name as well as voice:-) I'm thinking of pitching a similar show about writers (what you reckon?).

  17. Interesting post. I feel a little this way about my photography. I shoot and create themes from the heart, I suppose you could say, because I don't have much training or technique behind me. I do want to learn though in the hopes it enhances what's in my gut already. I do think about this a little with writing but I am not trained so haven't really got any formal education to deconstruct. I do have ideas about how and what though that whilst they suit some, they may not suit what my voice is - a comedian I am not!

  18. I found that I was able to connect writing to The Voice. How the judges make their decisions is how many publishers make theirs. The Singer/Writer might be great. They might love them. But they might not be what the market is looking for. They are looking for a bestseller, something they can sell the most of. There are a lot of unique and brilliant stories and singers out there, but no market for them. It's sad, but sometimes its just a matter of find the right jugde/publisher who is willing to put as much into your work as you have.



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