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Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Voice-- France vs USA

As I mentioned previously, lying sick on the couch is something I've been doing a fair bit of lately. Reading is wonderful of course, but a TV break every once in a while is appreciated. Othman and I follow a few shows at a time on the internet, but for those, we watch every episode together. Since we don't have a TV, I needed to find something on the web that I'd like and Othman wouldn't. Actually, that's harder than you'd think! I settled on the American The Voice. I had only ever seen the French version, called The Voice: La Plus Belle Voix, and I love it. This spring we'd go have dinner at his parents' house every Monday, whether or not they were there, because I hated missing it. ;p His brother and mom watched it too, and we had fun comparing our favorites.

Seeing two incarnations of the same show is a very interesting opportunity for comparison between the French and American cultures.

On the American show, possibly because it's already in it's 5th season, I was astounded that the contestants are dominated by semi-professionals or prodigy highschoolers. On the French show of course there are contestants that fall into those categories, but not in such a majority. The result of that is the level of vocal performance is much less amateur, which makes it almost more fun to watch. But I do have to admit I started from the knockout rounds in the 11th episode, which might have my vision slightly skewed.

This might be due to my French not being perfect, so maybe I miss some of the technical talk, but there seems to be a lot more musicality discussed on the American show. The French coaches often focus more on interpretation.

I thought it pretty representative of American culture that all the singers in the US version are able to record their songs once they get to the live shows, and downloading the singles from iTunes counts as a vote. 

On the La Plus Belle Voix, contestants routinely come from all over the French speaking world, including many islands, North Africa,  Lebanon and even French-speaking Canada. The diversity is very cool. This season in the US version there's a Chinese-Jamaican which is awesome, but I'd love to see more of that. 

Here's a touching performance by Antony Touma, a Lebanese singer who I adored last season ("Embedding disabled by requeston Youtube, sorry): 

And this guy --> 
went pretty far in the competition, and he never stopped dressing like that! 

There is a lot more focus on the backstories of the French contestants. There is also more that surrounds the singing... people getting interviewed and caught being silly or rehearsing backstage, and lots and lot of interviews with the singers and their families. Because it's filmed in Paris, and France isn't huge, many more of the families can attend the shows in the audience, which makes for a charged, if emotionally, atmosphere. There are a lot more tears on the French version. ;D 

The French Voice contestants often sing songs in other languages, usually English, which adds a whole different level of difficulty to the contest, and I enjoy that. Sometimes the covers are pretty stunning, this one for example. Never really liked this song, but when she sings it, yes ma'am I do: 

There are lots of traditional French songs sung also, which is lovely for me as musical education. In the US we sadly tend to focus heavily on American and English-speaking artists, when there is so much more wonderful art to be found.

This incredible song by very-famous Jacques Brel, for instance.

Now listen to the version by a season 1 contestant:

Interesting similarities: they both have silly and plastic-looking hosts. They both have 3 male and one female coach, and both female coaches are pretty silly. Christina is more believable than Jenifer, which is almost unbelievable. 

Here's a video to leave you with. A magical moment I'm not sure we'd find on TV in the US. Keep in mind one singer is 16, the other is 18 years old. Incredible.


As the American Voice season progresses, here are a couple more observations:

--There were few-to-no families earlier on in the season, and suddenly they're ALL THERE. Hmmm.
--There are so many episodes! Even though the Tuesday episodes are kind of fillers, I like it. The French Voice shoves everything together into one episode, so they're really, really long.
--There are more behind the scenes things now but they're much more contrived than what we find on the French version.


  1. I have to say that having been frequently assaulted in our home by French pop music, I am a skeptic.

  2. Thankfully they keep the French pop to a minimum. There's so much American pop to choose from that when they pick something French it's generally nice to listen to. ;p