Virtual Travel via The Voice

25 May 2020

What to do during the pandemic 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.)

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" (5 million views). This video overwhelms me every time I play it.

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 120 million times.

This may be the sweetest duet "battle" ever on The Voice. And the audience is uncharacteristically quiet as if not to disturb this intimacy. The chemistry starts to get stronger after the first 1.5 minutes. (1.3 million views)

One of the world's consistently best versions IMHO is The Voice Australia

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.

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.

The Dutch judges spun their chairs quickly for this trio at 6:46 below. Their tight harmonies manage to make even this schmaltzy song sound good. 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.

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? Bashar tried but Batoul deserved her win.

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.

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.

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 a video that gets better and better as it goes along and has climbed to over 70 million views:

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

You can see a good (but 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.

This video has had over 110,000,000 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.

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

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.

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 all young, photogenic judges.

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

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 turned 80 the year this was recorded.)

Canada has La Voix from Montreal, but it does not have a big YouTube presence. Among the few posted, this rocker was my favorite.

The guy is incredible and, after the first song, go over to 4:20 for Blue Suede Shoes.



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.

The Philippines


The Voice Mongolia is full of surprises and this might not be at all what you'd expect.


  • 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 (at the time of this post) on the continent on YouTube.

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

  • South America: Ecuador gave it a good shot. I should have included examples from Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia and not just Chile. Old videos from Peru were blurry.

  • 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.