The Voice of France battles continued on Friday. The production had added new music and lights to create extra excitement and the studio audience could clearly feel that in the atmosphere. Performances we saw were all different styles. Some of them felt like real battles and it was easy to see which one of the contestants felt more confident and how the situation possibly changed during the song. Some performances had a duet vibe and were that way quite enjoyable but didn’t offer any obvious winner. In some cases the duet made the contestants look better than they looked alone so the coaches had to seriously consider if that was because they actually should work together or because the song was just so exceptionally suitable for them.

The new rules allow many outcomes and coaches can either immediately choose the winner, choose to keep the both contestants or not choose anyone at all (that meaning the both talents are out of the competition). During Friday we see all that happening and a couple of times the coaches indeed decided to make a new combination offering the contestants an opportunity to work together and I really liked these new options and thought they bring in more color compared to the old system where one from every battle was always in and one out.

Friday’s schedule had two sessions and some of us spent in the studio more than 12 hours. Most people came only either for afternoon or evening and many people commented that was quite tiring already but personally I like these long sessions because they mean less waiting outside and more focusing on the recording itself and I always feel I can see a lot and have a lot to go through afterwards. However, the coaches don’t much interact with the audience during the battles and sitting in the audience means following performances and the related discussion and watching how the recording is done. Generally I find these both interesting especially after seeing all the previous recordings (which means I already know the contestants and have my own expectations for them).

Before the battles we saw the coaches and several guests performing several times and that’s always my favorite part of the recording. This time Mika had only tiny roles on stage with short lines to sing. Singing in French is naturally harder for him than it is for the others and sometimes he needs an extra take to get the lyrics right. That of course suits us very well because that way we can hear the song one more time. A lot of people come to see these recordings especially to see Mika and of course the audience loves Soprano who’s the one giving it most attention. This time I met also surprisingly many people who were there for Jenifer or Julien Clerc. My first impression was that they were somehow organized to be there but of course all of the coaches are popular artists in France, not sure why I thought that way.

Every coach started with eight candidates. That meant four rounds of battles and every team having four finalists in the end. I’m going to shortly go through all four rounds without mentioning any names or song titles to describe how it was. For television everything will be cut and edited in a totally different order so I don’t think this will give too much information or take away any excitement (even of course people who were there with me can guess who I’m referring to).

The first round was started by Soprano’s team and he brought on stage two rap guys, one of them more a rapper and the other one more a singer type. The first one was obviously more confident and stronger on stage but despite of that Soprano chose the other one explaining the latter guy needs it more to start his career and that made me think of the purpose of talents shows in general. Are the coaches supposed to choose the contestants who have the best possibilities to make it in the competition or the ones who can most benefit from being there, being that way able to create a better career afterwards? That’s a difficult question and requires considering different aspects in the long run and asks experience and good knowledge about the industry from the coaches as well.

I felt totally indifferent about Jenifer’s first battle and didn’t care which one of her talents would continue and in the end Jenifer made the decision without following the advices she got from her fellow coaches. I might have done the same. Then it was Julien’s team and a song that didn’t fit the contestants at all. I had earlier liked the other contestant stolen from Jenifer but the song was unsuitable for him as well and I didn’t like the performance. Julien chose the other one (than my favorite) to continue.

Then it was turn for Mika’s team and the setting for his first battle was extremely interesting. He put two very peculiar contestants against each other and I thought what a brilliant thing to do. Both of these talents are quirky and yes, have a very peculiar singing style and I kind of like them both but obviously had already doubted if they can go any further than this. Putting them to battle against each other meant it would be easy to let one of them go and – thanks to new rules – even let them both go. The surprising thing was that the two talents sounded really good together, much better than either of them had sounded before. It felt impossible to choose and Mika seemed to feel the same way because in the end he chose the both (as solo singers, not as a duet). I didn’t expect he would do that but he did and I really liked his decision. Of course, after giving it some thought I realized he still has these two contestants separately (no matter how good they sounded in their song together) but it’s not my job to worry about that, I’m sure he has things figured out. I assume that even though the decision was made in the moment Mika and his team must have gone through all the options in advance and they must have plans for the both. At this point only one battle round was done but a half of the final Team Mika was already covered.

Team Julien started the second round. The talent Julien chose was a girl who I had expected to see in his final team but the song was not interesting so I felt totally indifferent about the result again. After that it was Soprano’s turn and the group that I have liked since the very beginning. There’s something sympathetic in them and I really like their positive energy and especially the tall guy who is the heart of the group. The battle wouldn’t be easy though and I wasn’t sure what would happen. The final result – suggested by Mika – was unusual but not totally unexpected and I really liked it and believe and hope that the group will do well even though they don’t represent any genre I usually listen to.

Jenifer’s second battle had a contestant I find a bit “too much”. There’s a tiny but important difference between being determined and being too pushy. Some of the talents divide opinions a lot, people can see their characters so differently. The song chosen for the battle was bold, to put it mildly, and made me sweat in an unpleasant way. The pushy contestant continued in the competition, I wasn’t surprised. I wasn’t surprised to see Mika’s second choice either. His third finalist is not my taste or style but still someone I have assumed to see in his final team since the blind auditions. I hope to see something energetic from this contestant during lives because her stage energy was what caught my attention at the first place.

We were halfway through the battles already. The third round was a bit less exciting than the other three. The talent from Team Jenifer who has a strong show personality continued to live shows exactly as I had expected and hoped. Soprano had two contestants with somehow similar style but from different age groups and he chose the younger one who seemed to have more energy than the other one. Mika put his two rap style contestants against each other and explained they had worked hard for the performance. It still wasn’t good enough and he had only one place left so he let them both go, no other option there. The boy who reminds me of young Mika went to the finals from Julien’s team. His performance wasn’t impressive but I blame the song, not the contestant.

The last battle round was definitely the most interesting of them all to watch. Soprano started with a contestant I could remember well because of his relaxed, very particular style. Not sure if his style is natural or a result of a lot of calculation and created for the competition (or just born after smoking something for years) but I liked this guy and found him very entertaining and would have loved to see him at live shows. However, Soprano chose the other one so my favorite was out.

Then Team Mika and my two favorites from him against each other. Only one place left and my biggest favorite who was clearly better already during the knock outs continued in the competition also this time. He’s been the most interesting of Mika’s talents since the beginning and I’m extremely curious to see what will happen with him. If he reacts to coaching he can be really good, his voice is very unusual. He seems someone a bit hard to control though, like someone who does whatever he wants. I guess that’s why I like him. But how do you coach someone like that? The studio audience can see contestants only during performances and this boy looks a bit wild on stage. The television audience will see also interviews and video clips from rehearsals so they might get a different picture of the contestants.

Jenifer’s last battle was between two boys who are very similar type. The other one has a skill to talk and sing really fast and the other one is generally quite comfortable on stage. The first boy has his brothers and a lot of other supporters in the audience and all the brothers look exactly similar as the contestant and I’m not sure which is more fun, watching the talent on stage or his brothers cheering in the audience and I always hope to see the boy to continue just to see his supporters partying. This time I felt a bit bad knowing it would mean the other contestant being out and Jenifer seemed to think the same way and she offered the boys a possibility to continue together. These two create the sweetest group! I believe they can – if just work well together – go far and not only in the competition. People will love them. Julien’s team performed last and the boy who Maryanne knew from school made it to the final team but the song wasn’t interesting at all, I must say.

In the end all the teams collected together and then run to their coaches and Mika’s weird little team run to him and he opened his arms and welcomed them and they all were like “we are yours, we are yours, you chose us” and he hugged them and patted them on their shoulders smiling and probably also thinking “oh god what will I do with these kids??” and the smaller boy was at first a little bit outside of the hug and I wanted to shout “the little one, see also the little one” but then he saw and took also him in the group hug. Super, super cute and so funny I had to laugh out loud. Then quite a long debriefing about these two recording sessions, it was well past midnight already, and then it was all over except for the coaches who still had interviews to do. Mika must have been so tired already but he said good night to us and went backstage to continue his work and we left. No more recordings until the live shows. Always good to see familiar faces, thanks everyone xxx

The Voice of France continued with four more recording days and I decided to stay in Paris the whole week and be back home just before Christmas. I enjoy traveling this time of the year, it makes me in a good mood, and I didn’t know how and what particular day the coaches will choose their teams so it felt safer to see all the sessions to be sure I would be there for Mika’s session.

The system was different compared to previous years. Instead of battles we saw knock out sessions where each coach saw their whole team, meaning 18 talents, performing one by one. After every talent the coach had to decide if to keep the contestant or let them go. The goal was to choose 6 talents and in addition to that to steal two more talents from the other coaches. That way every coach would have 8 talents for the battles in January. When the coach wasn’t sure if to keep the talent or not, the contestant was located on the red zone on the other side of the stage until the end of the session when it was time for the coach to make the final decision. Red zone meant also that the talent was available for the other coaches to steal.

The sessions happened in the chair order. Soprano on Monday, Mika on Tuesday, Jenifer on Thursday and finally Julien on Saturday. Monday’s session started with a guest performance and Arcadian who did their song three times. The coach team arrived to watch the performance all wearing black or black and white, Mika looking super elegant in his simple and very impressive black outfit. I loved his very classy “international pop star look”, one of my all time favorites.

The first session felt exhausting and too long and we watched several contestants sitting in the red area the whole night and I couldn’t see the point in that at all. The audience wants to know if the talent is in or out and avoiding obvious decisions feels a bit annoying and also cruel for the talents.

On Monday the whole session on was generally quite boring as the contestants in Soprano’s team are not genuinely interesting for me or my taste and the highlights of the evening were moments where Jenifer and Mika stole Soprano’s talents for their own teams. Jenifer got a boy who was a particularly good dancer and that way good on stage, Mika was lucky two times. First time maybe partly because the moment/contestant touched him and second time because he thought the contestant was too good to be sent to the red zone and I agreed with him about that. One of the talents in Soprano’s team was a good showman and managed to surprise the audience both during the auditions and knock out sessions but was still not chosen and I thought that was a shame. I would have loved to see him continuing, maybe even Mika stealing him to his own team, but after two contestants that night Mika’s limit was full.

When the first session was over Mika said he wants to be clear with his decisions on Tuesday and in my opinion he succeeded in that very well indeed. He sent his contestants either in or out putting only 3 or 4 of them to the red zone (which had to be somehow used I guess). When the contestant was out he kindly but also very honestly explained the reasons behind his decision and it was a manly thing from him to do, I was pleased to watch his approach which was very different compared to what we saw from the other coaches during the week. I very much liked his style and also how he spoke to his team so directly yet in a caring way and thought he did this phase of the competition particularly well. Postponing the obvious is painful for the audience to watch and it’s easier for everyone if the coaches just make the decisions they are supposed to make.

On Tuesday everything was more exciting for us and for everyone I believe. The level of contestants was better because Mika’s team is this year generally good quality. The coaches had changed their outfits and Jenifer was wearing the cutest girly dress I’ve seen on her, Soprano had a stylish suit and Mika had his “uncle look” with white jeans and a blue cardigan. That was a nice touch and he looked like an understanding adult giving useful advices to his young contestants and I immediately thought the outfit was much more suitable for this situation than the gorgeous, slim and elegant pop star look we saw on Monday would have been.

In the beginning of the session we saw one of the Zazie’s winners from the past and then it was time to start to go trough Mika’s team, the moment I had waited to see this week. I wrote notes about every talent to remember their names and the songs they performed but at this point I can’t give any details so I just list a few thoughts about the session and about Mika’s team after the knock out phase.

First of all, both of my favorites from the auditions are still in the competition! My biggest favorite performed first and was actually even better than I had remembered. He seems the type that takes a lot of risks which can obviously go either really right or really wrong but so far he has done well and I find him the most interesting of all Mika’s talents. My second favorite didn’t do as well as in the auditions but because Mika had seen him doing well in the earlier phase he luckily kept him. My third favorite is a girl who has an extremely weird voice and performing style. I can hear Lily Allen songs in my head when I listen to her but also think there’s something very unique in her as well. The strange thing is that I can’t even say I enjoy listening to her singing, she just makes me smile. For that reason I hoped Mika would choose her and I got the impression Mika felt the same way, that the girl made him smile as well and she’s still in the competition.

The fourth talent in Mika’s team is a girl who in my opinion is not interesting enough but who I expected Mika to choose. The third boy he chose used a weird vibrato that I didn’t like at all (didn’t remember anything like that from the auditions) and the third girl was chosen from the red zone. I liked it that Mika chose the best available from the red zone instead of the one who just sat there for the longest because it was an important decision and it was time to be rational and not just nice. Together with the two contestants he stole from Soprano he now has 8 contestants in his team for the battles.

The girl I found pushy during the auditions was out because her performance wasn’t good enough to continue in the competition. Some contestants were too young and not ready for live shows and Mika explained that to them in the kindest possible way. Two contestants ended up in Soprano’s team the same way his contestants were stolen to Mika’s team on Monday. After Tuesday I felt the most interesting and important part of the knock out phase was done but also knew that Jenifer has a good quality team so I looked forward to Thursday.

On Thursday we heard Louis Bertignac as the guest performer. He is the coach Mika replaced at The Voice and I heard as soon as he started his song that he’s actually a guitarist and a very good one indeed. He did one song and only once and after that the coaches gathered around him and Mika naturally wanted to try his guitar a little bit and that was a funny little detail for us to watch.

Then Jenifer’s team started and as an opposite to what I had expected I could remember only a couple of her contestants really well so not sure her team is as good as I had thought in advance. I could remember the contestant who has a very strong show personality and this talent was selected to continue to the battles. Another contestant from Team Jenifer has an ability to sing very fast and has also a very enthusiastic support group in the audience so it was easy to remember him and he was selected in as well. I must say I didn’t always agree with Jenifer. She chose a singer who didn’t seem good enough at all and left out another one who did a surprisingly good performance that night performing an extremely difficult song. Luckily the latter one was saved by Julien who now has two talents from Jenifer in his own team.

Thursday was not as interesting as Tuesday but after the recording we had a small Christmas party to wish Mika Merry Christmas. We had to wait our turn to exit the studio space so Mika was actually quicker than us but he pretended he needed some more time and we could organize everything ready for him. Katia had brought a christmas tree all the way from Sardinia and Ani had baked a cake and Corinne who had a car had brought a lot of lights and decorations with her. We had bought champagne to make a toast and everyone brought small gifts to put under the tree and I hope it all gave Mika a warm Christmas feeling. He arrived smiling and spent a generous amount of time with us speaking different languages, receiving Christmas gifts, taking photos and even filming small messages and it was all incredibly sweet of him. A few pics below.

Saturday was the last of the four knock out days and Julien had his turn to choose his team and he appeared on stage wearing a petrol colored jacket. Mika was wearing a golden jacket and golden shoes, the others – I can’t remember. I had thought in advance Julien’s team is not as high quality as the other teams and realized before the session I can’t remember any contestant from him, not a single one even I had seen them all during the auditions. I thought they would look familiar when on stage but they didn’t, I saw most of them like the first time or had only a distant memory of seeing them before.

When I saw Julien’s team on stage I could clearly remember only two of his contestants, one because he looks exactly like young Mika and another one simply because I disliked her. The first one continued to the battles. The second one didn’t continue and that really cheered me up and I even said that aloud which was of course a horrible thing to do. Someone’s distress shouldn’t cheer me up, I can sometimes be so insensitive I surprise even myself. In addition to these two talents I can now remember also the last contestant from Saturday because Maryanne knew him from school so I paid attention to him.

Julien’s night was somehow weird, even a little bit awkward. It was hard for him to send people out so at first he put several talents on the red zone and even clearly turned to Mika asking his opinions almost like expecting him to say the words that didn’t come out from his own mouth. Not sure if he’s just so nice and didn’t want to select or if it was difficult for him to select because there were no clear favorites in his team. I could very well understand he asked Mika who on Tuesday made it all look so easy. It doesn’t work that way of course, Mika has his own team and Julien improved his decision making a lot during the night. I didn’t agree with all his decisions but of course the audience sees the situations differently than the coaches who work with talents and know who has potential and who’s responding to their coaching.

This phase of the competition was quite tiring even to the audience and the coaches must have been exhausted after focusing such long hours so I imagine they all felt relieved to start their holidays and to have some rest before the battles in January. When the Saturday’s session was over Mika waved us good night and we all said good bye to each other and left.

I enjoy watching this season a lot, for several reasons, and I hope the television audience will enjoy it too. I like the coach team, the vibe is relaxed. I like observing people and details more and more. I’m not specially interested in talent shows but I’ve built interest in this concept so I can enjoy watching Mika at his work and won’t feel left out. I like how familiar everything is. Also, my body doesn’t expect Mika to sing like it used to do so it’s easier to enjoy his coaching. In the beginning my whole neurological system was prepared for his music and it was hard not to hear it. Now I don’t expect it and it’s easier to enjoy other things. This will of course change as soon as the new album is out and I can see him on stage again.

I had such a good time in Paris which is becoming my very favorite city. I walked a lot around Montmartre and sat in my favorite lunch place eating vegetable soup and reading a book. I had a very colorful Friday with the girls first seeing the Basquiat exhibition at Foundation Louis Vuitton and later watching Jean Paul Gautier Fashion Freak show at Folies Bergére. I had read an interesting book about Basquiat’s life a while ago and absolutely loved finally seeing his art and the Fashion Freak show offered a fantastic experience with incredible dancers and crazy outfits. Demi Mondaine who I could well remember from Zazie’s team last year had a big role in it and she looked very comfortable on stage and did a good performance and I generally enjoyed the whole show a lot.

I feel this year was a bit challenging on a personal level but I end it with very grateful and positive feelings looking forward to 2019. Can’t wait to hear Mika and his The Art of Song on BBC2 on Boxing Day and on New Year’s Day and I’m especially excited about the new song Sound Of An Orchestra released 4th of January as a soundtrack for a new Italian television series La compagnia del cigno. I’ve heard only a tiny snippet on the trailer but the lyrics seem absolutely beautiful. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone. xxx

My earlier report about the first week of the The Voice France blind auditions is here, now some thoughts about the second part of the auditions last Monday and Tuesday. This time I had a couple of mornings to spend in Paris and really enjoyed having time to walk around. On Tuesday it was sleeting but Paris looked as pretty as ever and I walked in Montmartre and saw mothers with their babies and school groups and people walking their Dachshunds and as the weather was quite awful had my nails done in a funny old ladies place. It made me smile and I thought maybe I can go there also next time, maybe it can be my new routine.

Recording days are not always he same, they are all different depending on the songs and the general mood and for many other reasons. This time Monday was a little bit boring compared to the other days. Maybe too many slow songs in row, maybe a bit less interaction between the coaches. A bit weird atmosphere that is hard to explain, everyone somehow distracted. Tuesday on the other hand was extremely entertaining including numerous funny details and a lot of interaction between the coaches. It was the last day of the blind auditions so every coach had to complete their teams and use their blocking options and they were teasing each other in a nice way, creating many hilarious moments especially between Mika and Jenifer and it was all fun to watch. During a break Mika gave his little nephew a small tour on stage again and it was cute and it gave me a warm feeling to know his family is there to support him.

This year we’ve seen interesting guest singers who usually perform their songs three times each (once before the coaches arrive and two more times in front of them to make sure every detail is recorded) and without exceptions I’ve enjoyed watching them all. This time we saw Zazie, Slimane and Frédéric Longbois on Monday (the last one not as a guest but making an appearance) and Soprano and the guy from Fréro Delavega (his name, anyone?) on Tuesday. I was impressed by Soprano. I couldn’t understand the lyrics but heard the story translated and thought it was different than I had expected and now I look forward to hearing also Julien Clerc to learn to know his style and naturally pray that this year we will also see Mika on stage. I can’t tell if the guest artists really are that much better than previous years, it’s possible they are now more familiar to me and for that reason I can enjoy them more.

The level of contestants is generally good and clearly much better than it was last year. I’m curious to see which contestants Mika will keep. He has a lot of good material and can have a very good quality team and I’m curious to see which way he decides to go, obviously there are several options.

Just a few words about the contestants without giving too much information. At least a couple of times I expected contestants to choose Mika thinking they were extremely lucky to have him turned his chair but eventually the talents chose someone else. That didn’t make any sense, knowing Mika is particularly interested in their genre or style. I can’t tell if it wasn’t an independent decision from them or if they just weren’t smart enough to choose him. A couple of times contestants had very special singing techniques. These cases sound always too special for me but on the other hand, Mika loves them and I enjoy watching him being genuinely interested and having a sharp look in his eyes.

A couple of times contestants performed those songs I always think no one should ever perform in a talent show. This time it was songs like Nothing Compares 2U and Wicked Game, both very complicated to cover. There’s a time period in my youth I can hardly remember. I remember nothing until I hear Nothing Comparers 2U and random little images start to flow into my mind and it must be the same for everyone in the audience old enough to remember the original songs. No one wants their personal memories to be connected to a wrong version of the song. Performing Sinead O’Connor or Chris Isaak or maybe Sia from more current names is rarely a good idea. Surprisingly I wasn’t that annoyed to hear Nothing Compares done by a talent show contestant, first time that has ever happened.

After the last recording night Mika said thank you to people who had come to see him in Paris, many from far away. It was after a long recording day and he probably couldn’t wait to have some rest and some private time, yet he made the situation look very relaxed. In my experience Mika is always in a hurry. He has always a minute schedule and he is always busy moving from one commitment to another or has worked hours in front of people and just wants to get away from them (which we all understand very well) or is simply hoping to be somewhere else, having so many things to do and so little time. On Tuesday he made it look he’s not in hurry at all and I thought it was the sweetest thing to do. Very sweet indeed.

Thanks again everyone I met in Paris and who helped me in so many ways, translated and kept company. Hope to see you all soon X

The crowd at Cirque d’Hiver was exceptionally good to be a private gig audience and was dancing, clapping and singing along considerably loudly. I was thankful for my possibility to be there and hardly breathed and also kept my camera in my bag so I have only a few mobile vids to add in my post. Basically everyone in the audience was filming with their mobiles and have been sharing pics and vids on Instagram so I decided to share my small clips as well. I really wanted people to see them, Mika sounded and looked stunningly good and it’s important people are aware of that while waiting for new gigs in the future. It’s easier to be patient knowing something is surely worth waiting.

It was wonderful to see him on stage again. The gig was joyful and made me incredibly happy. I was smiling and then had tears in my eyes because everything was so beautiful and then smiled again and was relieved I could finally remember how it feels to be that happy about live music again. It’s a magical feeling, like it could fix everything. Like there were no worries in the world at all. Mika is in great shape. His voice tells he has been both exercising and practicing fiercely, I could hear he’s in excellent physical condition. He moved beautifully on stage and I heard from the sound he and the band are experimenting some new things for the old songs like always between tours so people can have new interest in them. At Cirque d’Hiver he did 11 songs which was a proper amount for a corporate gig like this one.

I’ve been a bit frustrated to read about his many private gigs lately. I’ve felt he’s not on a gig break like he says, I’ve felt he’s just choosing his audiences and it has made me sad not to be good enough to hear his singing and to be in the audience. Now I kind of saw what I have of course on a rational level always known. Artists would be mad turning down these gigs when offered to them. Private gigs mean more money with shorter gigs and less commitment with the audience and must be generally easy to fit in their schedules. The usual audience is so much more demanding than this more general crowd was.  At private gigs there’s no stress about rare songs or new music. Basic, energetic setlist is enough. To develop and improve his shows further he will (well just my opinion) need his own audience, crowds that are genuinely into his music and react quickly to changes and new details.

The gig started in French with Un soleil mal luné and continued with Relax, Blue Eyes, Big Girl, Boum Boum Boum, Grace Kelly, Underwater, Lollipop, EMD, WAG and Love Today. Approximately in that order, please correct me if needed but at least these were the songs we got. Loved it that we heard Blue Eyes and absolutely loved Boum Boum Boum – I love the atmosphere and Mika’s voice in it, it’s such a strong favorite for me – and burst in tears during Underwater after waiting to hear it such a long time. Not surprising these were the biggest highlights for me. I loved Relax and the three energetic songs in the end. It was hugely emotional to see Cirque d’Hiver again and watch the round center in the middle of it, it’s been 9 years since the last two gigs I saw there 2009, it’s such a special venue and I loved watching Mika using the circle shape of the stage to reach every corner of the audience with his microphone (see the Underwater video).

A couple of videos below. I might have also some smaller clips and will add them to FB or somewhere. Thanks everyone who made this possible and who kept me company! X

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

I bought my ticket to see the Top 14 grand finale as soon as Mika announced performing after the game but been busy with different family things and couldn’t be sure about being able to go until a couple of days before the event. I decided to do a short 24 hour trip and still managed to have a few hours to spend in Paris before going to the stadium. I walked up to Montmartre like I always do and had lunch with the girls at my favourite crêperie and it all felt like a lovely day off I had needed and the best part was of course coming at Stade de France in the evening.

We arrived to the stadium quite late and the game had already started when I finally entered and found my seat. The place looked giant and I was sitting far away but exactly in the middle and above the presidential area and the journalist/television space (see the first pic below). I had a beautiful symmetrical view, it gave me a lot of pleasure to watch it even of course it was more important during the gig than during the game. I couldn’t much follow the rugby part. I had tried to learn the basic rugby rules in advance but was still totally unable to focus on the game. Finally the match was over and it was time for Mika and his show.

Preparations started and a big, heart-shaped stage with wings was brought in the middle of the field. I loved it and thought this giant show element had an important role during the show. The impact wouldn’t have been the same with an ordinary stage and the heart made the setting look Mika style since the beginning.

148D1A16-BD64-4628-B0EE-922C34B20A30

What a fabulous show it was. Everything was huge and I immensely enjoyed watching it all. It was good to see Mika on stage again. Generally, a stadium size venue is rarely a flattering background for any artist to use. Giant, cold and impersonal space is always difficult to fill and this time the situation after the game was even harder as the audience was naturally not on the field like during ordinary concerts but all distantly seated and far away from the stage. This was a great opportunity to perform to a large audience though and to build a colorful show in the middle of the field and I could easily see what a big team of people had worked for it and genuinely thought every part of it went as well as possibly could and that it all was incredibly impressive. A fantastic, big-scale show, I couldn’t stop smiling watching it.

I added some small clips of my favourite parts on FB, nothing great quality, just tiny video clips I had on my mobile to give an impression what I’m talking about. The show started with a rugby inspired dance intro for Relax and then the song continued with a beautiful light show (the pic above). I think both the dancers and lights worked really well during the whole performance and for example glowing outfits and pink M formed by the dancers during EMD created a cool detail and the lights and fireworks during WAG an impressive surprise. My biggest personal favourite was “let’s talk about love” – a part of Origin – added in the middle of the songs and as always Underwater felt the most powerful song in circumstances this massive.

The majority of the crowd stayed for the music show even the game was already over and I had totally not expected that. I haven’t read any feedback afterwards but the reactions in the audience around me were very positive. People were listening and focusing on the performance (not always the case if they didn’t particularly come to see the artist) and seemed impressed by it. A stage this big and a venue this gigantic must be challenging as an environment (because it means moving a lot) but in the live situation I didn’t give that side any thought at all and was only admiring how well the combination of music, energy and show elements managed to fill the giant stadium.

It would have been a pleasure to watch Mika a bit longer – it’s too rare to see him on stage these days – but the show was meant as a highlight after a rugby game and as that it was generous, not just a couple of songs but almost a half an hour real mini gig and I felt so happy to be able to be there. I wish I had proper photos to share but stadiums don’t officially allow cameras and I wasn’t sure I could sneak in mine so left it home. Thanks again everyone I met in Paris xxx

8447363F-478E-44B5-BB23-53D711DAE755

Back home from Paris and The Voice after the third live show week (I think this one was called ”demi-finale”) and a quick update about the show. This time my focus was purely and only on two teams and three contestants in them meaning Pascal’s and naturally Mika’s teams and more specifically Xam, Frédéric and Casanova as the talents. I hoped Xam to show to the television audience that he’s clearly better than Ecco who’s the other talent in Pascal’s team and to be chosen for the final week, he’s smart and the only contestant I personally find genuinely interesting this year. Also, I wanted to see Mika’s team doing well and even I wasn’t sure which one of his contestants would continue in the competition I was curious to see them on stage and had high expectations as the both of them had been evolving and showing us better and better performances each week. Raffi Arto and Maelle from teams Florent and Zazie felt obvious finalists from their own teams and they both made it to the final and I thought and still think they both deserved their places being finalist or even winner level but for some reason wasn’t interested enough to really look forward to their performances this week.

Ecco started with Adele’s Rolling in the Deep and I knew as soon as heard the song title that Xam will have good possibilities because the song chosen for Ecco felt too big for her and it was that indeed. She did well but wasn’t impressive and it made me wonder if the song was chosen on purpose just to show the difference between these two contestants. After Ecco it was Xam’s turn and he did – like my local friends described – this ”monumental” French song and I loved his performance and of course didn’t know the song well enough to put it into perspective but could see just watching my friends’ faces that they loved it as well and knew to expect Xam to continue in the competition and he did. The first goal for the evening was that way achieved.

We had to wait Mika’s team until the end of the show but we could see his contestants when the teams gathered together on stage in the beginning. I noticed my two favorite teams stood out even in that situation and looked different than the other two teams. Xam in Pascal’s team could hardly stay still to be in the group and Mika looked adorably protective and proud holding his talents on his both sides Frédéric looking tiny on the other side and persistent Casanova who had been fighting against the expectations since the beginning on his other side – and I loved watching them and found the whole setting very Mikaish. I naturally also knew that despite of his small size Frédéric has both a big voice and personality and that even Casanova hasn’t been a favorite in any way he has two important advantages for a contestant. He’s eagerly learning and well using the coaching and advices given to him and also extremely likable. For those reasons he had already previous weeks won over and convinced both the voting audience and Mika, simply by doing better in each performance and being easy-going, easy to like contestant.

Mika’s team performed and Frédéric’s Nessun Dorma was wonderful and somehow done in his very own style which I didn’t know was even possible for the song and Casanova’s French meaningful song balanced and very pretty performed together with a young talented dancer boy. Frédéric is a better singer but Casanova pushed his way to the final the same way he had done every week and it felt deserved because like in life in general things happen when people want them and work for them enough. Mika’s face when he realized Casanova is going to the final show was absolutely priceless and even neither of his contestants did the best performance of the show the sum of the their solo performances was still better than for any other team and team Mika’s group performance definitely the best of all teams being genuinely funny and not forced at all. The second goal for the night was achieved.  All the success for Mika’s team is due to the coaching and the decisions and choices made during the competition and thinking that makes me happy and pleased for him and I think he can be very pleased with his work as well no matter what the result for the final week will be.

Everything seems open for the final show. I still think Xam is the best and most interesting of the talents but would naturally be happy to see Casanova and team Mika doing well or even winning. I also assume Maelle is popular among the voters but have no idea what the numbers are and feel that anything can happen depending on the songs and how everything eventually goes during the last show. No pictures of Mika or his contestants to share this week, sorry. I had no possibility to take any and just saw the show xxx

I started to read Uncommon People by David Hepworth while waiting for the 2nd The Voice live show and the book is full of interesting, funny and sometimes even dirty anecdotes about the biggest ever rock classics and it made me laugh out loud as I could almost hear Mika’s the Art Of Song voice in my ears while reading it.

The forewords for the book claimed that the age of the rock star, like the age of the cowboy, has passed. But the idea of the rock star, like the idea of the cowboy lives on. There are still people who dress like rock stars and do their best to act as they think rock stars would have acted in an earlier time…

I mention the quote because that was my first thought when I saw Xam from Team Pascal on stage during the auditions. That boy wants to be a rock star. He had the rock star attitude and gestures, he did his best to do them all, and I thought he immediately branded himself with all that and was clever and consistent while doing it. He was a good performer since the beginning but I wasn’t sure whether I will like or be annoyed by his possibly calculating attitude. Then I looked at his face. Such an innocent looking, young face. I can’t help it, I hope that kid can be a rock star and on television two more weeks until the final show.

We will see how it goes next week. This week Ecco was the audience favorite in Pascal’s team and can be too much for Xam to win. She’s a good singer and very sweet. The whole Team Pascal was super cute, see the pic below. Betty Patural was not bad at all either, just unfortunate to be in the same team with these two distinctively good other contestants. Xam’s performance was everything it was supposed to be, he was wearing leather pants, hanging inside and on a giant cage, singing, screaming, dancing and jumping like a rock star.

After Team Pascal came Team Florent Pagny and Raffi Arto was as awesome as he was during the previous rounds. He’s my another favorite and someone I would be glad to see winning as well. I love his style and why wouldn’t we all like this smiling and energetic young boy. Personally I didn’t like the Elvis song chosen for him because that kind of vibrating singing hurts my ears a lot but he did very well and both the audience and all the coaches seemed to appreciate his performance and he was voted to continue in the competition.

Otherwise I found Florent’s candidates a bit boring. During Hobbs’ performance I had my focus purely on the dancers. I turned my head on the left and saw Isa doing the same and then on the right where the coaches were sitting and it looked to me Mika was watching the dancers as well but I can be wrong of course and have imagined it all. Florent had to choose between Hobbs and Yasmine Ammari and he chose the girl to continue in the competition with Raffi Arto.

This time I didn’t know what exactly to think about Mika’s contestants. I knew both the audience and Mika likes Frédéric a lot. Casanova is smiling, charming and very pleasant and could be voted also for that reason and after the two previous performances Guillaume was my own favorite and I hoped him to continue. Mika’s team felt the most unpredictable of all the teams. I took quick pictures of his candidates earlier and they all impressed me being extremely nice and polite with everyone around and kindly agreed to have their photos taken (I was a bit shy to ask that).

During the live show I very much liked the songs Mika had chosen for his team. Frédéric is so theatrical that his every appearance is like a small scene and it’s almost too much, so the song without any extra show elements was extremely suitable for him and made him the audience favorite. Guillaume did well but maybe had too much happening on stage during his performance (I felt a bit distracted) and eventually Mika chose Casanova over Guillaume. He explained his decision, unfortunately I couldn’t totally catch it but he seemed very proud of what Casanova did after demanding so much from him. Obviously there’s a language barrier between us and I miss many details but I still try to enjoy the show and performances.

With Zazie’s team I didn’t have any strong opinion in advance or even during the show. I knew Maelle is popular and she was again voted safe by the audience and after that Zazie eliminated Eduard Eduard and B Demi-Montaine will continue in the competition.

I enjoyed watching the show. People often tell they don’t like talent shows and my first reaction to that is to ask why anyone would like talent shows. I find most of them boring and I haven’t even had a television in years. However, after all these years The Voice has become something much more than a talent show. It’s a world of its own and I enjoy following it. I generally like watching how recordings and especially live shows are done and I like it how familiar everything has become. I can recognize a half of the audience, not only those who come to see Mika but many other groups as well and of course people organizing, filming, doing technical stuff, styling etc. The organization is always nice to the audience and it’s something I appreciate a lot. I can’t know how it is for Mika and the other coaches to work for The Voice because we can’t see that side and there must be a lot of pressure behind the scenes but for us the atmosphere is good as long as people behave nicely and follow instructions and we all do our best to do that.

I tried to spot some special details during the night. Nikos had a lovely blue jacket and blue shoes instead his usual grey outfit and I liked them a lot. Zazie had amazing comfortable looking red shoes as an opposite to the female host who is very pregnant and was still wearing insanely high red heels. I felt for her so much. The funniest moment was Mika putting his brother to sit in his chair instead of him wearing his jacket and I was wondering if they’re planning to joke with that during the show but Fortuné escaped last minute before the filming started. We were not allowed to have our mobiles inside so no photos from the studio but below a couple of photos of Mika talking with the crowd. There were people between us so I had to crop the pics but I still add them so we can remember how he looks. Don’t you just love that hair?

Back at the Voice studio this weekend and it was exciting as always to see the change that happens in contestants between the battles and live shows. On television it’s just a week between, in reality it’s been months since the previous phase and the talents have gone through many – both external and internal – changes. I often think them going through a “machine treatment”. Styling, receiving coaching, practicing, getting confidence and getting used to the idea of this new possible career.

Young talents experiment with styles trying to find their own, older contestant stop holding back, show more of themselves and possibly hope to sharpen their original style to finally break through. Either way, the difference is always huge and fun to watch, not forgetting the rest of the package: familiar faces, live show excitement and busy atmosphere inside of the industrial looking studio building.

This time our international group was lucky to be located in the camera corner nicely close to the chairs and we had to stay focused and ready to move every time the camera man moved his equipment. I was surprised to realize our group of six represented six different countries (Poland, France, Bulgaria, Belgium, Korea and Finland). I hadn’t met my Korean friend Jieun for a while so I felt grateful for this good timing and for having a possibility to spend some time together.

The coaches marched in and I loved the outfits Mika and Zazie were wearing, a golden embroidered jacked for Mika and long grey/blue silk shirt for Zazie. I didn’t pay attention to what Florent and Pascal were wearing but Pascal made gestures to make the audience yell as soon as he arrived whereas Florent was quite quiet the whole evening and also furthest away from our corner.

Zazie’s team started with Maelle, then Eduard Eduard, Liv Del Estal and B Demi-Mondaine. Maelle and B Demi-Mondaine were selected by the audience votes as expected and Zazie chose Eduard Eduard also as expected meaning Liv was eliminated. Maelle is an interesting singer and seems quite popular already, B Demi-Mondaine has a strong character and style and Eduard Eduard is a charming showman. Very curious to see what will happen in this team next week!

Pascal’s team continued first with young, talented and very pretty, tiny and cute Ecco who sang Eurythmics and then with Xam and his French song. They both took my attention already during auditions and I must say I find it surprising if Pascal doesn’t win this year considering this is his first year and considering how good his contestants are. Crazy Xam is as much a rock cliche as a young contestant can be and at first I wasn’t sure how much it will bother me but I’m warming up to his performances and he seems smart so I’m already starting to think him as one of the four final contestants and kind of hope that will happen (but not sure about that yet Ecco being that talented and that pretty, tiny and cute). The third contestant in Pascal’s team was Betty Patural and fourth the electro duo who was eventually selected out (also as I expected).

Florent’s team started with very young and energetic Raffia Arto who I could easily remember from his Johnny Hallyday performance and who kept me awake with Blues Brothers this time as well. The rest of Florent’s team made me very sleepy and I can’t remember details, I just can’t remember. I checked the names and also Jasmine Ammari and Hobbs will continue in the competition.

Finally it was the turn for Mika’s team! Sherley Paredes started and Mika looked genuinely happy to watch her performance. Then Casanova and Frédéric Longbois who’s starting to show his super theatrical, funny side more than he did earlier and as the last one Guillaume who became my favorite in Mika’s team after Mennel was out of the competition and after hearing Guillaume’s version of the Harry Styles song which I liked very much. This time the audience result was different than I had expected. I expected Frédéric and Guillaume  to be selected by the audience votes, maybe Mika did as well. That way he could have chosen Sherley as the third contestant.

However, Frédéric and Casanova were selected and to keep Guillaume – which felt an obvious thing to do as Guillaume was the best contestant in his team this week – Sherley had to be out. I thought this was totally fine, I prefer male voices any way but not sure this was what Mika wanted. He looked sad for her elimination and comforted her with kind gestures.

An entertaining night in many ways. My favourite part was the small dance group seen quickly in the beginning of the episode. We could watch the group rehearsing before the show started and it was very impressive even the official part was over so quickly. After the show I took my bag and continued to the airport with Jieun who had an early flight as well. I spent a few days in Paris before Saturday so I collected a few Paris pics from my mobile below. Blog wise it would be more interesting to discover some new things during every visit but I’m not that kind of a person, it’s the possibility to have routines in foreign places that makes me happy.

I booked a hotel near Sacre Coeur to be able to climb the hill every morning and often also day and evening time. It’s hard not to feel grateful and very blessed in life while watching gentle morning colors and the beautiful view over Paris. I spent time with the French girls whom I’m very fond of (love the pic of us at the photo booth). I visited the English book store and bought 4 or 5 books like I always do (that’s my limit as I carry only a backpack). I chose a museum and this time it was d’Orsay which is one of my favorites the building included. I sat in cafes. Small things. Very much enjoyed my week, thanks everyone xxx

 

After auditions and final auditions in December it was now time for the Voice France battles and they were done during two Saturday sessions on the 13th of January and our full day was both interesting and entertaining so I decided to immediately write a description of it not to forget the details during the break which will continue until the live shows (starting in April).

Two sessions during one day means long hours. For a person like me traveling from far away (in this case from Helsinki) only to see these recordings this kind of a schedule is ideal and means good value for money as I can arrive on Friday night, spend the whole Saturday at the studio and be back in Finland and with my family already on Sunday.

However, it’s quite hard for the coaches to do two sessions in row and I could see Mika felt really uncomfortable in the end of the latter session. He had explained to the audience his eyes were hurting and that he saw things a bit blurry and spending hours and hours under bright studio lights probably made him feel much worse and his head hurt and I felt so sorry for him, I could so well remember my own horrible headache during the December recordings. Of course, with the full studio and big expensive team the production has no possibility to do any big changes and they just have to finish the work and all four coaches stayed relatively sharp even they had such a long day.

The afternoon session started late because of rehearsals and we were let in the building but still waited in the so called waiting area almost two more hours. Luckily it was early and I didn’t feel tired at all and waiting was just fine for me and eventually we had our places in the studio. The coaches did their song together as usual and this time it was David Bowie’s Heroes. They all had new outfits for the battle round and Mika was wearing dark trousers, a white shirt, a navy casual jacket and really cool red and gold shoes. Florent was totally in grey, Pascal had a metallic shiny outfit and eye glasses that reminded me of old-fashioned driving glasses and Zazie had a long black shirt and boots. No skirt or proper pants I think, but it wasn’t as weird as it sounds because she can really wear anything and look gorgeous.

The system was different than in previous years and included four rounds of battles (so afterwards every coach had their final teams of four)  but this time every battle duo did a song together instead of doing their own separate songs and it made the performances look like real battles and was very interesting to watch and showed how much of an effect the song choice can have and how it can make two totally different singers either closer to each other or make the difference between them even bigger (depending on what’s the wanted result). The audience was quite loud, partly because on Saturdays they always have more kids than during week night recordings but also because both of the sessions were entertaining so the audience was not bored at all.

Two times two rounds of battles. Every coach had chosen two singers for every round and Zazie’s team started the first round singing Sweet Dreams. I’m going to avoid mentioning contestants and songs by names to protect excitement but I mention Sweet Dreams because it’s one of the songs Mika used to cover years ago so naturally my mind started to wander through different versions he’s done, versions I’ve seen live and versions I wish I had seen and all that took most of my attention but I still got the impression the performance was good and one of the biggest favorites in Zazies’s team was in the first duo and went to finals as I expected. After that it was turn for Team Pascal and again, probably his biggest favorite and I imagined the battle would be clear but the song was chosen to make the difference look smaller (at least that’s how it looked to me, they could have made the favorite to look even more special) and it was really interesting that way, even though the winner was clear of course.

After these two favorites it was time for Mika and his team and obviously neither contestant in his battle duo was a favorite in advance and even though the song was really interesting – I really liked the choice – it didn’t start well and I already felt bad for Mika (because his team had to battle right after those big favorites from Zazie and Pascal) when suddenly something changed. The duo consisted of a girl and a guy and it looked like the guy suddenly realized this is his change to go to the final phase and got a weird amount of confidence and did an extremely good performance. A weird performance I think, somehow peculiar but the style fitted to the song and I really liked it and thought it was a very nice start for Mika’s team and much more memorable than the next performance by Team Florent from which I can remember only the dress the girl was wearing.

I was pleased Mika’s team got such a positive start and the same continued for the second round of the first session. It was time for his battle duo and I saw him staring the stage smiling and wondered what was happening when the most interesting contestant from his team appeared on stage. I’ve rarely seen anything as beautiful as this girl. She looks like a real princess in her exotic outfits and on Saturday I just stared at her and could very well understand Mika’s smile and his expression, she’s fascinating and it almost feels she’s taking the whole place under her spell, everyone was staring at her. Her voice is not that much my taste to be honest but I love her personal style, she’s very soulful and aiming to tell a story and to create different atmospheres and not only to sing, will be very interesting to see her during the finals. During this round we saw entertaining songs from the other teams as well. Team Florent did a Johnny Hallyday song (I think it was his song, please don’t blame me if I’m wrong) and I loved the energy and seeing the audience joining.

After the first session we had a small break and most people in the studio left and just fans stayed waiting for the second session. The staff gave people water and sandwiches (I had brought some bread with me) and we had a possibility to use a toilet. The second session started, also a couple of hours late. We had already seen the biggest favorite from Mika’s team and in the evening his duos were not as good level as in the afternoon. Both times I felt it didn’t make any difference who won the battle but during the last duo I really liked the performance, it was genuinely lovely (even I couldn’t understand the French lyrics, Melyssa translated me the idea though) and it was  a bit funny and very interesting and will look good on television as well.

Zazie had good quality battles also in the last session and the first performance from her team turned out to be an extremely emotional episode. A mature (I like to to use that word because it means more than just saying older) and a very young contestant did a song together and it ended up being strong and emotional, not only to the audience but also to the coaches and I can’t describe it more without giving spoilers but I imagine the production loved getting this kind of teary material. I felt weirdly sad after the performance.

Pascal had one of his biggest favorites in the evening session and I’m still not sure what to think about this contestant, something in him disturbs me. His every move is totally crazy but also very calculated. Not saying it can’t be his natural style but at least the contestant knows how well the craziness goes for people and how it makes his performances stand out and it’s all so arrogant. The contestant is good though. He’s really good and will definitely do well and might even be the winner. I don’t have much to say about Florent’s team in the evening session. The last battle for his team was genuinely awful. I felt a tiny bit bad for him but not too much, Florent is experienced and will without a doubt handle everything with style as always.

Then it was all over and Mika came to say good night to the audience and spoke mostly French but in the end said also something in English, that he will go and will be doing something, I hope that meant music. Would be so lovely to think he’s making music again. Thanks again everyone I met and talked with and everyone who helped me in so many ways. I felt Saturday was genuinely a very interesting recording day, maybe because of the new battle system but also because I liked many songs chosen and found them entertaining. I love these short trips. I’m starting to understand I’ve actually learning a lot during my regular visits to France. About the country and the culture and the people. I was watching a random French film the other day and so many things and details I didn’t think or even know existed a few years ago felt now so familiar. Love it. xxx

The view in the pics above is one of my favorites in the world and I try to climb to the hill Montmartre every time I have a possibility during my Paris trips. I love the color combination and different shades of white, cream, grey and pale green and I love how the light and clouds look always different depending on the time of the day. The place was not too crowded early in the mornings so it was lovely to walk there. I stayed in Paris five nights and had two whole days off between the Voice recordings on Saturday and Tuesday and used the time walking around, doing my Christmas shopping and visiting cafes.

All practical things went well I think. The recording sessions were quite interesting considering that this part of the recordings is generally less interesting than blind auditions or live shows. It was good to see people and it was good to see Mika and it made me happy to have a possibility to wish him merry Christmas. A small thing but always brings the holiday mood. He was very considerate and sweet to people both nights I saw him, paid attention to the audience and waved people good night and after the Saturday’s session tweeted both in French and Italian to thank his main fan groups. He came to have a little chat when saw us and after the last session made a small thank you speech in French.

The recordings were fun but I miss seeing Mika doing something that makes him genuinely excited. The Voice isn’t the kind of project where he can use his creativity or do anything new or really interesting and it’s the same for all four coaches, they all seem to have a very business like attitude. This season Mika’s team is not as strong as Pascal’s or especially Zazie’s. During the December recordings the contestants did the second audition in groups of three and the coaches had to pick the best one for the next round. A couple of times Pascal and Zazie had such good trios it was almost difficult to say which talent deserves to stay, with Mika’s trios I was once or twice relieved he could choose only one meaning he could let the other two go.

He needs to work with the team he has and he’s really good at it and no one knows for sure who will make the biggest progress. I like his style, he’s always kind but still extremely honest and I generally like that and that must be useful for his talents as well. All teams included I can now remember maybe four contestants quite well and think they will all go far but I don’t want to give any spoilers before live shows (at that point everyone already knows the teams).

This is my last blog post for this year so wishing Merry Christmas to everyone. Have a peaceful holiday time with your families and friends xxx

Back home after a long “The Voice” weekend in Paris. I saw four auditions on Friday, Saturday (x2) and Monday and it felt good to be back in France. Not as magical as watching Casa Mika but I enjoy seeing these recordings live and I generally enjoy being in France. I’m grateful to my French friends for making me feel accepted every time I visit the country. It’s not something I can take for granted, the local fans make a strong, tight group and I don’t even speak their language. Yet they make me feel welcome and are always kind and help in every way. I feel I can be there weirdly quiet and it’s just fine. It’s nice to enjoy these events without feeling any pressure or stress.

I can’t understand French or know French music so it’s a huge help to have someone who translates and gives background information during the recordings and Melyssa deserves all the chocolate in the world for doing the job again and again and for doing it so well. Her English is excellent (much much better than mine) and she can translate easily but what’s even more important is the information she can give me outside the translations. She has a good knowledge so she can very quickly decide what’s important for me to know to understand the situation. She tells things like the theme of the song and if it’s iconic or not, how the original version was and who performed and maybe even wrote it. She tells how people are connected and what happened in the past and all kind of facts and general references only locals can know that help me to follow the show and make it possible to put everything in context.

Recordings started with the usual warming up and then we could see Nikos who always chats with the audience for a while. After that it was time for the coaches to do a song together. They performed it in the beginning of three different recordings (actually twice every time making it total six times) and I really enjoyed watching it and liked this French song very much. The song was written for Florent Pagny by Pascal Obispo who is the latest addition in the coach team and I thought it fitted the coaches very well and it was of course lovely to hear Mika singing a little bit both on Friday and Saturday (always makes me feel the trip is worth while).

The new coach is very different compared to Matt Pokora I must say. Not sure how to put it in English but in Finland we would say he’s someone who wasn’t born yesterday and knows a trick or two. I can’t much describe his coaching yet (the local girls tell he hasn’t said anything really original) but he seems a very strong character and likes to entertain the audience. A half of the time his entertaining is funny and a half of the time it’s a bit gross. He takes a handkerchief and blows his nose in it and then very theatrically uses the same piece of fabric to clean his eyeglasses or puts candy in his nose and things like that. Things some men find irresistibly humorous, things gentlemen shouldn’t be doing if you ask me (I’m a mother of three boys and there’s no tolerance for things like that in my house). I’m mostly worried about him showing an example to Mika who will start to imitate him but so far that hasn’t happened. Very proud of Mika for being mature enough not to join the game.

Pascal and Mika are next to each other so they had quite a lot interaction and a half of the time Pascal was joking and a half of the time kind of showing who’s the man in the house. Maybe just a role the production has given to him, I can’t know, and I noticed he kept lower profile on Monday so maybe they noticed the idea wasn’t that good after all. Or, maybe the coaches are just learning to know each other and testing what’s the best approach in communicating with each other. I really don’t know how much the coaches are instructed and how much they have freedom with finding their roles and the position in the group.

This time Mika is the one who doesn’t belong to the group the same way the other three coaches do. He’s not the same age group compared to the others and the other three know each other really well and have a long history together. Mika already knows Florent and Zazie from previous years and seems to even be quite close with Florent but that can’t be compared to decades of common history. Just watching the coaches sitting in their chairs makes me think Mika is different. Three of the coaches are wearing shirts open down to their waist, two times with leather pants and one time with a short black skirt. Then there’s Mika wearing a stylish and simple, darker green suit combined to a sweater with a pink glittery detail and white shirt under that. Oh I love green. And I love it when men wear proper shirts under their sweaters, looks so cozy and safe. Zazie can of course wear anything she likes, she looks always gorgeous.

Mika looks even more elegant and handsome sitting in his chair than previous years and we all look at him with very approving eyes. Not sure he can see that. What he can definitely see is people eating during breaks. He must think his fans have two alternative pleasures in their life and that’s either listening to his music or eating. That’s not far from the truth to be honest but there’s also another logical explanation why people like to have food with them in the studio. The recordings are done very late hours and sitting in that warm closed space for hours makes us not only hungry but also sleepy and having something to raise our blood sugar level makes it easier to stay awake. Mika might actually understand that and on Monday he kindly – as a special gesture to the French fans – handed the girls a bag of snacks (he even came in the middle of the audience just to deliver it himself, how sweet is that). I found some gluten-free food in the bag and I ate it and for once I wasn’t hungry after the session.

About the talents this year. I didn’t see anyone who would have immediately felt truly special but we saw several somehow interesting contestants and I believe that’s enough to make the season interesting enough. The coaches have all their own, particular style and year by year it’s easier to guess who’s going to push the button. It’s becoming easier to guess which coach the talents are choosing as well because the contestants are not used to be on television and can’t control their body language so just by paying attention to their reactions it’s possible to guess their choices as well (whether I agree with them or not, I don’t always think they choose the best for them).

Talents who make unique animal like sounds make me always worried because Mika seems to find them fascinating and often pushes the button for them. I can see how his eyes start to sparkle when the talent makes weird sounds and his hand gets ready to touch the red button. I assume his enthusiasm is based on the fact that some in my ears unpleasant sounds are extremely difficult to make and that way show a lot of talent and controlling the voice. I never expect much from those contestants though. If someone is not willing use their talent to do pleasant sounds in the beginning why would they be willing to do that later? This kind of contestants give some color to the competition of course. This year we didn’t see many really original contestants and especially on Monday similar looking guys with guitars walked on stage again and again (and again). It was very hard to see any difference but for final episodes they will of course cut and mix everything and it will look much more variable on television.

The organization around the recordings at the Voice is always nice to the audience and fans in it and I experienced it this time as well. I wasn’t feeling well on Saturday (I had a headache and no amount of painkillers seemed to help) and somehow one of the security guys in the studio noticed it and took me to get some fresh air and brought me water and coffee and insisted me meeting a doctor (I couldn’t keep my balance so I understand why he wanted to make sure I was okay even I said it’s just a headache) and the doctor gave me some more medicine which eventually helped and I could enjoy the evening. I could still feel the pain but it wasn’t overwhelming and I could focus on what happened on stage. They could have asked me to leave but instead they did all that and I could stay for the second part of the day and didn’t miss it. Super nice thing to do, very much appreciated it.

The recordings will continue in December. Thank you everyone for this weekend! In the pic below I’m with my translator Melyssa xxx

I spent a long weekend in France and had a lovely time. I’ve visited Paris many, many times but I’m learning to know it properly and seriously falling in love with the city only now. I had a couple of extra days so I walked around, visited a museum, bought some books and checked a few gluten-free restaurants and cafes to visit them again with my family next time we are in Paris. I had looked forward to this final television show. I generally enjoy live television, there’s a particular excitement in it and I enjoy watching people working around the production. Of course there was the usual bittersweet feeling related to my trip as this was my last one once again and now there’s nothing to look forward to in the near future. The pics below are taken at the radio station where Mika did an interview for Saturday and fans used an opportunity to give him some gifts (thanks to Eriko, listen to the interview here).

I felt bad after seeing the results of the last week’s show because Mika had voted Audrey over Vincent (who still went to the final after the audience votes) and in my eyes his decision looked almost like an insult towards Vincent. Vincent hadn’t made much progress during the live shows but I had assumed that was partly because of the format which put him on the same level with the other contestants and instead of letting him be different asked him to be ordinary and like everyone else and he seemed to be only average at that. I thought since the beginning there’s something special in Vincent, not in his technical skills but in the way he performs, there was something passionate and even and a bit mad in it and I thought that Mika (if someone) could bring out whatever was special in him.

It didn’t seem to happen though. I wanted to think it will happen if we can just be patient. After seeing the results I thought even Mika had lost his patience and given up with Vincent and for that reason voted Audrey. That was an irrational conclusion of course. Maybe as a professional he understood why things didn’t work out and also, even if from my point of view only Mika’s opinion matters and all those audience votes meant nothing this contestant hardly thought the same and being among the final four talents was an achievement itself. I could see both Mika and Vincent were well prepared for their night this week and Vincent did really, really well and finally made some progress (at least in my honest opinion) and can be pleased with his part in the competition and how it ended.

We saw many actually quite interesting performances during the night. Nicola was clearly the weakest contestant during the final. None of his songs impressed me in any way. He might have tried a bit too much and had also bad luck and the least interesting special guest as his duet partner. Lucie was better than earlier and I liked her songs. She looked absolutely stunning during her New York performance and did well with it. I’m warming up to Florent’s music. I’ve liked him as a person since the beginning but never much paid much attention to his singing even I know he has a great voice. Lucie had Shakira as her another special guest and no one noticed anyone else than her on stage so Lucie was totally in the shadow of her but it was quite an opportunity for a young girl to be on stage with a star like Shakira and probably well worth sacrificing this one song especially taking in account Lucie wasn’t a favorite in the competition at all.

Lisandro was the big audience favorite and (I admit I’m biased in this as I’m a mother and in my world teenage boys can do small wonders every day) I kind of hoped and assumed Lisandro would win even I supported Vincent as my personal favorite. I watched Lisandro this week and he looked amazingly ready for his new role and was incredibly smooth with people shaking hands, giving hugs, smiling, posing in pictures, chatting and doing even small dances on the street in front of crowds (a pic of him below).

Lisandro’s first song was not his style and generally not suitable for him but as soon as he started his performance with Soprano every single person in the studio knew there goes the winner. There was no other possibility and at some point I turned my head and saw Mika’s face and imagined him thinking ”oh fuck there goes the winner” even of course it couldn’t be a surprise to him. I thought Lisandro is a better singer than his coach but Matt is a fantastic dancer and their talent/coach performance was for that reason quite impressive as well. Lisandro deserved to win the competition without a  doubt. He is still a kid and yet someone ready to be a pop singer and probably has a better possibility to make it than talent show winners in general.

Vincent did super well with his solo performance Take On Me from A-ha and I hope Mika feels proud of him. He performed well also with his guest partner but the French song was not familiar to me and I practically missed it because the guitarist took over both the stage and my attention. Yesterday – Vincent’s duet with Mika – was absolutely beautiful. They sounded lovely and balanced together and I thought Mika was very thoughtful and sensitive with his talent and well remembered he was was there not alone but had someone to take care of and also that Vincent’s singing didn’t disturb my pleasure of listening to Mika at all and that’s a big compliment and more than I can say about most people I’ve heard singing together with him.

I had so looked forward to finally hearing Mika’s singing and even it was only one song and together with his talent it was still breath-taking and put my life in order like it always does. I sometimes have moments when I question this weird dedication but he needs to sing one song only, just one, and everything makes sense again and every hour of traveling feels well worth while. The whole world becomes like a different place than it was before. Everything looks suddenly brighter, colors are much stronger and there’s a fresh, beautiful smell and I feel harmonious and happy and confident that everything is like it should be. In seconds. It’s like magic.

I wish he could make music all the time. He enjoys his busy cosmopolitan life and wants to try everything new and different and challenge himself and probably thinks business wise as well and I understand that all well and think he is extremely good at several areas, much better than most people can ever be. I still think he is at his best when he sings. And if he wants to stand out as much as he has potential and to be something truly special he should include singing and making music in whatever he is doing. Like do Casa Mika built around his music. The art of song covering great song writers. Musicals. Symphony. Singing is his super power. It’s like a part of his soul. I want to be understanding and supportive and I enjoy watching whatever he does (and will do it in the future) but for selfish reasons I cry just thinking of my life without his music.

I had hoped that something I see or hear at the Voice would make me excited and look forward to the future but it didn’t happen. I was lucky to see Mika quickly a couple of times but there was no possibility to actually talk with him. He was sweet and polite and greeted me in English (paying kindly attention that way)  and then quickly continued discussion in French so I wasn’t in the conversation or wasn’t even expected to ask anything (only fair remembering we were in France) and didn’t get any excited vibes. I know he has mentioned a new album but to be honest I haven’t got an impression he can dedicate enough time for it in the near future and expect more television or other projects whatever they are. The second season for Casa Mika is confirmed though and I live in hope I can follow it like I did last year and I leave my blog here to wait for either that or something else that might come up.

I really enjoyed this The Voice season and especially the final night. We saw Shakira as an international guest and she came on stage giving a few handshakes to people on her way and I was surprised she assumed people are prepared for that and was grateful I wasn’t standing where I was last time (because I wouldn’t have been prepared) and was told that she is hugely, hugely popular and actually a big star. She was charismatic indeed. She started her performance showing some incredible – and I mean absolutely unbelievable – moves and you know, after watching her a while I kind of hoped she would come to me and shake my hand as well but she didn’t, just high-fived people on my right and left. Impressive lady.

The evening was entertaining and after midnight the show ended and we took a pic and said – reluctantly of course – good bye to Mika and to each other and left everyone our own ways. I left with Isa and Ani and we stopped at a restaurant to have drinks and crashed a random birthday party and were invited in to have wine and cake and to watch burning lanterns sent on the sky and it was a weird but funny ending for a wonderful day. We saw a crowd on our way out from the area and recognized Vincent in the middle of it and I took a pic with him but not sure how it turned out and will see it later. The girls gave me a lift to my hotel in their car (I was worried to walk alone) and I heard later they were robbed on their way to their own hotel and felt shocked about it. Luckily they are okay (just small bruises) but everyone please remember for the next season that the area around the studios is not safe at all.

Thanks everyone for this spring and the whole season. Special thanks to my dear French friends! I miss you all and hope to be back soon. It was such a pleasure to meet you again and to do things together. I add below a few pics I took this week. Take care xxx

Back home from Paris. I haven’t slept and have a really busy week ahead so just a very quick summary about the show this week. The weekend itself was sunny and also quite funny, I laughed a lot. The recording event was very crowded and I was totally lost both during and after it, a huge thank you to the French girls who patiently helped me to find my way in the chaos. 15 calls from the uber-driver while he tried to find me in the studio area. 15! I gave him five stars just for not leaving me there in the middle of the night.

The teams gathered together a moment before the show was supposed to start and Mika appeared on stage wearing his best stage outfit black trousers and a white shirt looking super, super, super stylish and making my heart almost stop. I’ve seen him doing some amazing concerts wearing that kind of an outfit but no concert this time, of course. He added a glittery jacket and sat in his chair between Florent and Zazie and the show started.

I had no idea what to expect this week. Matt’s team was the first one to perform. The young boy from his team is seriously good indeed. He is very confident and performs like an adult despite of his young age. He was voted safe by the audience again and after that Matt chose the girl as his second talent for the next week’s show. I wouldn’t have done that but I don’t much care about female voices any way.

Zazie’s team was next and the first guy from his team had the most interesting song in the group (With Or Without You) and he did it well and was therefor my favorite from Zazie’s team this week. Her two other talents had boring songs like most contestants this week. I wasn’t surprised the Italian guy was voted safe, he seems popular and is good even sounds quite similar every week. I hoped Zazie would choose the first guy as her second talent and she did.

Florent’s team was visually as stunning as last week but I didn’t like the songs chosen for them this week. The girl who did I Will Always Love You was saved by the audience and I totally agreed with the television audience. Not because I liked her version, even the song is massive and bold, but because I generally like her performing. She is a true show girl and a great dancer and I can well see her as a professional performing artist in the future.

Team Mika was the last one. Audrey started and she and Mika were extremely cute together having a sweet little dance moment in the end of the song. Audrey is sweet and I wish her well but I still hoped she would be out so Mika wouldn’t have to choose between the other two. She was saved by the audience though and Mika had to make the difficult choice.

Just like last time in a similar situation I hoped he would choose Vincent. Also just like last time I didn’t trust him to do so. He can be unpredictable and this week Imane was better than earlier and Vincent wasn’t having his best week even the song was a good one. He did choose Vincent – just like he did last time – and I was happy (and again, a bit ashamed that I had doubted his decision). Vincent is definitely my favorite, he has a very unique style.

This week was Florent’s turn to do his solo performance and I was happy for his fans who could see him performing. Sigh, we haven’t seen Mika’s performance yet, I selfishly hope it won’t happen next week when I’m not there (but don’t know the schedules at all). xxx