Virtual Travel via The Voice

May 25, 2020

What to do with airports off limits?
When trips are nixed?

I can turn to virtual travel via my guilty pleasure:
Versions of The Voice in many dozens of countries.

It's not sophisticated, but it's fun and offers a cool glimpse of pop culture around the planet. Plus, when music gets to you, it can transport you to another place beyond any confinement of the moment.

Watch some of my favorites and see what you think. (Most are about two minutes if you skip the talking that follows.)
Tip: To stop YouTube's long, cluttered ads, for FirefoxAdBlocker for YouTube works beautifully for me. Also for Firefox, if you want to invest five minutes in exploring multi-functional Enhancer for YouTube, it's probably worth the effort. For Chrome, I've not been able to find an adblocker that does not shut down these videos.

South Africa
Most music on The Voice (even in France) is British and American pop. Is all this Anglo-dominated globalized music "inauthentic"? Sure, it's not each nation's traditional songs. But, ironically, it is an authentic reflection, for better or worse, of tastes today — with the music targeted to draw the largest audiences in these countries!

Sometimes, however, elements of traditional cultures do surface. One awesome example is Siki Jo-An's "Click Song."


"Rise Up" is a perfect Voice anthem used by contestants in lots of countries, but where could be better to sing it than in South Africa and with this good singer.



Portugal
I'd never much liked this song (sorry Adele) until I heard Fernando Daniel rip it apart in his blind audition. It's been viewed over 90,000,000 times.
 


Nigeria
This may be the sweetest duet "battle" ever on The Voice. And the audience is uncharacteristically quiet as if not to disturb this intimacy.



Mongolia
Yes, The Voice Mongolia.
Gaga and Cooper never ever sang "Shallow" this well!



Italy
This video has had over 106,000,000 views and you can see why. (Also, it's interesting how so many pop songs, like the ones in Sister Act, can flip to religious; if you think of the him as Him, it's a hymn.)



Australia
One of the world's consistently best versions IMHO is The Voice Australia. Here are two extremely different examples of what you might see from Oz.





Belgium
Deeply divided by language, Belgium has The Voice van Vlaanderen (Flanders Dutch) as well as The Voice Belgique (French). Here on the Flanders show is a cute, flirty battle duet (in English, not Dutch or French).



Netherlands ★
VanVelzen with the other judges of
the first Voice of Holland (2010).
Holland is a big deal in reality TV. It's the birthplace of hit shows that became franchised around the world such as Big Brother, Fear Factor, The Voice, and many more.

Quick tale I've seen more than once online so it must be true: Dutch musician VanVelzen was a judge for the first few seasons of The Voice of Holland launched in 2010. He is 4'11" (150 cm) tall and wanted singers who were not models to have a chance. He pushed for starting "blind" using a revolving chair. The rest is history.

Fast forward: Listening blind, the Dutch judges spun their chairs quickly for this trio. Their tight harmonies manage to make even this schmaltzy song sound good.



As country of origin, Holland merits extra attention. So here's a compilation of each blind audition of each year's ultimate winner of its Voice from 2010 through 2019.

Along with the trio, I especially like the singers at 5:00, 12:00, and also 16:00 cause you do have to respect singing about Vincent in Amsterdam.



Pan-Arabia
From Beruit, the Arabic version of The Voice أحلى صوت is broadcast throughout the region on a satellite channel, with judges and singers from almost every Arabic-speaking country. Its big competitor is Arab Idol. And once again, these samples might not be what you'd expect:




Some singers on The Voice and Arab Idol leave the West behind and return to traditional, intense rifs and runs that I think are called maqam.

When I'm in Cairo for a while I can begin to get into this radically different music with all its scales, quartertones, and ornamentation (without so much focus on chords and harmonies). But for me, it's not easy without a simple, catchy melody to carry me along.

I can always focus on the virtuoso singing and be dazzled by that. Case in point is this battle round. After about 2:45 especially, who can do the most vocal pyrotechnics? I thought Bashar might win, but his opponent Batoul won.



Germany
Germany's Voice is one of the consistently best, I think. This young woman from Indonesia was studying at the University of Munich and after this blind audition she went on to win The Voice of Germany in 2019.



Thailand
Here comes a Thai powerhouse who owns the stage and walks all over a poor young man who does not stand a chance in this battle round.



Croatia
The Voice Hrvatska often has some top notch singers – or as The Voice in the United States insists on calling them "artists." So now from Zagreb:



France
A cultural chasm separated judges' preferences in Frances versus those everywhere else. The French judges were much more receptive to very raspy, rough, semi-talking voices.

You can see a really good (but somewhat milder) version of that Gallic approach with Slimane Nebchi (of Algerian descent) who went on to win France's The Voice: La Plus Belle Voix in 2016. He makes it work.



China
Never cared for this song until I heard this smoldering singer leave Beyonce in the dust as it gets more and more intense. 



Israel
Many of the Israeli vocalists kept the traditional tonal complexity but sang more "Western-type" melodies. Really liked the harmonies and the sincerity of the two in this battle.



Spain
You may have noticed that most judges around the world vary in ages and pulchritude far more than do the US judges. But, in Spain, we are back to young, photogenic judges.

What is it about the distinctive harmonies of Spanish music? This trio blends it all beautifully, especially later in the song.



Switzerland
Speaking of judges, first consider your stereotypes of likely Swiss judges, then enjoy this array.



Myanmar
You'd think English lyrics would be translated into the local language more often. Here is a rare exception with the epic words of Shania Twain translated into Burmese.



India
I admit I expected nonstop, over-the-top Bollywood. That's not what I found.

Yet, the clip I picked below was not typical. I included it because this was one of the few times I heard true jazz on any country's Voice. And, it turns out that India has had a significant urban jazz scene since the 1940s.

Even if you are not into jazz, give it a chance and listen to the man from the Punjab and the woman from West Bengal sing the 1969 Hindi jazz classic "Roop Tera Mastana." It gets better every time I listen to it. (Bonus: the groovin' dad.)



United Kingdom
The Voice UK is reliably good, but the three years that Jennifer Hudson was a judge sitting next to Tom Jones kicked it up a whole other level. Forget the contestants and just listen to these two. (By the way, he turns 80 this year.)



Turkey



Vietnam



Bulgaria



Norway



Albania



Azerbaijan



Ukraine



Indonesia



Argentina



The Philippines




Omissions

  • Some countries, like Sweden and New Zealand, are in the Idol (aka SuperStar) camp and do not support both competitions. And many smaller and developing countries cannot support either one. 

  • French Africa: Could not find non-fuzzy videos for the new The Voice Afrique Francophone which covers 16 French-legacy countries. The Voice South Africa and Voice Nigeria were featured here and there are no others now on the continent.

  • In Mexico and a few other countries, The Voice franchise seems to ban YouTube from showing the singing portions of their shows.

  • Russia: Stand by to watch two awesome Russian singers in the next post.

  • South America: Next post will include Colombia and Brazil, and this post included Argentina. But old videos from Peru were blurry; and both La Voz Chile and La Voz Ecuador are out of business. Ecuador gave it a good shot.

  • Canada has La Voix from Montreal, but it does not have a big YouTube presence. Among the few posted, this rocker was my favorite. For a few years (2003-08) Canada had an English-oriented Canadian Idol.

  • Other European Voice videos:
  • Other Asian Voice videos:

If you think you might want to see more of these, a good shortcut is to subscribe to The Voice Global and The Best of the Voice to get their highlights reels.

Obviously, this is not one of my routine travel posts, but then 2020 has not been a routine travel year! Take care and be safe.