Saturday, 2 August 2014

Channel 4's THE SINGER TAKES IT ALL; average karaoke with an innovative twist

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Channel 4's thrown its hat into the ring of reality singing contests, taking on ITV's X Factor and BBC1's The Voice, with THE SINGER TAKES IT ALL. As befits Channel 4's remit for innovation in the field, the key difference with this series is how it puts the power at the audience's fingertips using modern technology...

Ironically hosted by Alan Carr (a man with a supremely irritating voice), The Singer Takes it All has modest intentions when compared to other shows of its genre. It's less about finding a global superstar, and more about having light-hearted Friday night fun with cash rewards.

The concept is quite straightforward. You're encouraged to download an app for your smartphone or tablet, and can browse submitted videos of other users singing. Voting for your favourites will democratically choose contestants for next week's live show. Then, during the live show, the lucky few stand on a conveyor belt and sing for mass adulation. Viewers at home watch the performances, then vote HIT or MISS on their app—which interactively decides their fate.

Too many MISS votes and the conveyor belt drags singers back to oblivion, but enough HIT votes pulls you forward to the so-called Gold Zone. The way to win is to stay in that zone for longer than anyone else, so you get a chance to sing again and win the £15,000 jackpot by securing another wave of positive votes.

What didn't work or needs improvement?

  • While I didn't encounter an obvious problem on my iPhone, Alan Carr apologised for the show's signature app malfunctioning during the first three performances. I assume the app wasn't working on Android and/or Windows phones, because it seemed to work fine for me. Or were my votes not being registered? It was all very confusing, and a huge first night embarrassment for a show whose USP is having an interactive app! Let's hope they iron out the glitch, this being week one, and the technology doesn't keep thwarting the show. Considering there's £15k at stake, it felt completely unfair for the earlier singers to be judged by the show's contingency plan of unseen backstage voters.
  • There were some weaker singers who found themselves disappearing through the dreaded doors in under a minute, but generally the standard was decent to fairly good. I found myself voting HIT a lot more than MISS, which is probably because getting on the show requires you to have achieved a lot of HIT votes from the online community. The concern here is that 90% of contestants won't be poor enough to seriously vote MISS, so what's ultimately the point of this live TV show? Is it to confirm with a larger audience these people are okay singers? It might work better if the participants were fresh to everyone at home and online, with a singing standard that was more random.
  • Obviously, this show's format is open to abuse. The public can vote HIT when atrocious singers are caterwauling away, and click MISS when a brilliant singer they find irritating or unattractive is on-stage. It's a sad fact that anonymous votes make people behave mischievously. It helps that this show doesn't have delusions of grandeur, so it doesn't feel like you're really achieving anything by voting recklessly, but if the show somehow develops a bit of stature and kudos... you may find more and more bizarre voting from wannabe saboteurs.
  • The climax doesn't work, because why would any reasonable person deny someone £15k by voting MISS during their final performance? They've proven they have a good voice by that point, so I don't see why anyone should ever lose. Unless, as I've said, people start abusing the system and vote MISS at the final hurdle, to try and make someone break down in tears when their cash is taken away.
  • It seems Alan Carr will be joined by two guests every week, as this premiere featured toothy comedian Rob Beckett and sexy pop star Pixie Lott (*swoon*). I'm not sure what value either provided, beyond eye candy in Pixie's case, so that idea should be dropped, unless they find a way to integrate them into proceedings better. (Maybe Pixie could have sung a duet with Rob and we'd vote on them?)
  • Can someone please turn those smoke canons off? Whenever a singer slid into the Gold Zone, they'd fire jets of smoke all around them, which would be repeated a few times more for shits n' giggles. It was very loud and distracting for viewers at home, and I imagine doubly so when you're nervously trying to sing on television!

What worked surprisingly well?

  • When it's working correctly, The Singer Takes it All app was intuitive and fun to use. I liked browsing and voting on the 'Hopefuls' audition videos, which was also a useful time-filler during ad breaks. The way the live vote makes you vote three times was also a clever touch, because you'd occasionally change your mind over the course of a performance, as the singer got more confident, or started to slip. Little touches like displaying the title of songs, and the lyrics appearing on TV for a sofa sing-a-long, also proved handy. I actually voted MISS a few times because the lyrics were being mangled.
  • There was unintentional hilarity in seeing almost everyone nearly fall over when the platform started to move as their chosen track kicked in! Maybe they should introduce other things designed to put the contestants off, like jets of water and huge swing-balls?

Closing Thoughts?

As the very first episode of a new show, trialling a fresh idea for UK television—albeit one stolen from Israel's Rising Star, which is being remade for ITVThe Singer Takes it All wasn't too bad. The basic idea is fun and the must-have app was easy and enjoyable to use, which helped boost interest in what was ultimately a pointless show. Without the interactive element, it's just a procession of so-so performances with zero stage design and no choreography. Karaoke you can vote on. I just doubt the show can sustain itself once the novelty of the interactive voting wears off, as it was already getting a little stale towards the end of this first hour.