It was time to start The Voice France season 8 so I flied to Paris on Monday morning to watch the first four blind audition sessions on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. It was good to be back at the studios and gave me a warm feeling to see the chairs and Mika’s name on one of them. I’ve seen these recordings many years now and they feel like a part of my annual schedule. Mika had earlier commented that everything is different this season and the new coach setting looked totally fresh indeed: we saw Soprano, Mika, Jenifer and Julien Clerc (in that particular order).
Jenifer hasn’t been my big favorite previous years but now I suddenly really enjoyed seeing her there. She looked familiar, tiny and cute and someone I can somehow predict in advance. Soprano is a rap artist and I had seen him on stage only once before but knew that many people like him and that he’s generally described as a “nice guy”. During the first audition day he wasn’t as entertaining as we could later see but still immediately gave an impression as a pleasant and smiling person and his interaction with Mika who was next to him looked natural and easy and I soon noticed his candidates are much in line with his own musical style.
At first I wasn’t sure what to think about Julien Clerc. He’s a French singer and songwriter and his audition style is clearly different compared to the others and he has chosen to push the button only after very careful consideration. He seems calm and controlled and talks in a long, considerate way and as I have to rely on translations and base my perception (of the coaches) not only to their comments and words but also to their gestures and decisions it was harder for me to observe him.
During the three recording days Julien gradually started to show also his softer side. He kept his strict line but a couple of times totally surprised the audience and maybe also the other coaches pushing the button very last moment to a candidate everyone else seemed to ignore. He chose a boy who was obviously nervous during his performance and another one who did a small, delicate performance (apparently of one of Julien Clerc’s own songs) that didn’t get attention from the others and both times I thought what a nice thing from him to do to push the button. Of all his candidates I can remember clearly only these two as all the others in his team were the same, more specific type. Of course, I couldn’t help but paying attention to Julien’s little son who run to give him kisses during breaks causing cuteness reactions in the audience.
Mika was his usual self yet still totally different than previous years. He still requires not only good talent or potential but also something that excites him, something that is different or unusual and can somehow be distinctive. He’s kind as always. He says his honest opinions in his kind, caring way offering candidates something that can be genuinely useful to them. However, this year his strategy seems different than before. He pushes the button a lot and with that I mean a LOT and to many kind of talents being very successful with what he’s doing. He is gathering material, leaving nothing last minute. He hears something exciting, his eyes start to sparkle and his fingers do a little dance and sometimes he seems to push the button just because he wants someone to turn their chair – without thinking if his own team needs another talent or not – like it was his personal responsibility to prevent a tragedy where someone who deserves an opportunity is not chosen.
After winning his fifth contestant during the first session the production gave Mika a small reminder not to be too enthusiastic. Actually I can’t know if that happened for real as we can’t hear what the production says but that’s how it looked and he really was extremely enthusiastic with the button. Soon after that we heard a young female contestant with an unusual and quite strong voice and saw Mika struggling to control his fingers and trying to give signs to other coaches to push the button and finally he pushed the button himself wanting to give the girl a chance. That was my favorite moment that day. He genuinely seemed to do that just to be fair to the girl in the situation where he already had gathered a full amount of contestants for one session.
He now has a colorful group of contestants in his team and just editing what he has can result a good, strong team. Both of my two own favorites were chosen on Wednesday and are exactly the type I like in candidates and artists in general. They are male, have a strong unusual voice and a lot of passion in their performing. Of course I need to see my favorites performing again to be sure they really are as good as I thought but I still already hope at least one of them can make it to his final team. On Wednesday Mika won also a good female candidate but even though the girl was energetic and comfortable on stage I didn’t find her interesting enough simply because I think there are already too many singers like that in the music scene.
The level in the competition is better than last year but from a huge amount of candidates only a few stayed on my mind after the first hearing. There’s a duo in Soprano’s team that is interesting and has a good energy and one of the contestants in Jenifer’s team has a touching story on the background (and these personal stories can have a meaning in the concept).
A couple of candidates stayed on my mind for negative reasons and for their rude, pushy behavior. Unfortunately the first one ended up in Mika’s team. First I wasn’t sure if the girl is a comedian or if she behaves like that just to get attention but I guess it was the latter one as she wasn’t funny in a good way and made Mika uncomfortable. Of course, Mika did push the button and he also continued talking making the girl to choose him. Another, very pushy candidate ended up in someone else’s team and I was relieved about that. In addition to these I can clearly remember only a few more candidates but won’t write more about them as all of them were quite unusual and difficult to describe without telling too many details. Let’s just say we saw some colorful show elements and outfits! Otherwise it’s hard to remember each talent only after one hearing, the days were long and full of performances.
The system has a small change in the rules. Every coach has now a possibility to block one other coach one time preventing them to get the contestant even if they’ve pushed the button. Mika used his possibility almost as soon as the recordings started. I found that quite surprising as the new rule could have been used as a tactical move later but was now used just for fun. Turned out Mika might have not known this in advance, it’s possible he thought there’re still two possibilities left (to block the two other coaches). However, the production made it clear for him and now he knows his only blocking option is used and it can be better this way. Now there’s no need to think or plan that option any more.
I really enjoyed these first recording days. We saw interesting guest performances including Pascal Obispo, Jenifer, Claudio Capéo and Kendji Girac who’s still my favorite of all Mika’s earlier talents. So pleased that one of his discoveries started such an incredibly successful career. We saw the coach team performing their song at least six times and I loved it and almost cried when heard Mika giving an example of his voice behind the curtains before coming on stage. I miss his singing so much it hurts my heart and loved it that we could at least have a tiny taste of it. On Wednesday Mika brought his little nephew on stage and let him sit in Soprano’s chair and the whole situation was adorable and naturally caused quick admiring sighs in the audience.
I especially enjoyed the new relaxed atmosphere among the coaches. There are four totally different personalities, the whole group dynamics has changed, everything is fresh. I like it that there’s no visible tension and nothing visibly threatening. I like it that Mika can breath knowing his role is desperately essential. The production could replace any of the other coaches and it would still be fine but they couldn’t possibly replace him, it wouldn’t work any more, it wouldn’t be interesting enough any more and I like his position this way.
The coaches can’t obviously communicate with the audience much but I could see Mika made extra effort to be thoughtful and patient with people during the whole week and it was very sweet of him. I was back home on Thursday and was asked if I enjoyed seeing his face again. Can’t even describe how much I did. Had such a good trip, thanks everyone who made it so lovely X