Saturday, September 22, 2012

My story from my visit to The Voice

An interesting visit on The Voice
By Raymond de Asis Lo (The Philippine Star) Updated September 23, 2012 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments

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Judges (from left) Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green.| Zoom
MANILA, Philippines - Ever wonder what’s it like on the set of The Voice, the hit singing competition that started airing its third season on AXN this month? Well, this writer visited the set recently and I have the exclusive story for you.

A month ago, this writer received an e-mail invitation to visit the set of the popular show as it cuts the contestant field to the final set of 20 competitors before it starts airing live and allow the viewers to vote and select the eventual winner.

On this particular taping day — it was a Sunday, of all days! — I was instructed to be inside the Universal Studios back lot before 8 a.m. Yes, that early! This writer is not really a model for punctuality but, yes, there I was, a good quarter before 8, patiently waiting for the guide to show me where to park.

By the time, I was able to park, a long line of fans was already being screened for cell phones and cameras. I learned that some fans queued as early as 6 that morning and if they had any idea what awaited them that day, I would guess, they’d have had a hearty breakfast before showing up in line.

While the fans were loudly chattering, I made my way to the front, checked in, and signed the requisite embargo agreement. An embargo agreement basically prohibits anyone to disclose or discuss the results of that day’s taping. The show being taped that day won’t air until early November and it will show the semi-finalists for Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green’s respective teams. And, of course, I will not honor that embargo, and in the next paragraph, I will list the Top 5 finalists from both coaches who advanced to the Live Rounds.

I am only kidding, of course.

So, I was there at 8 but we didn’t get to go inside the massive set inside Stage 12 for another 30 minutes. While waiting, rock superstar Adam Levine of Maroon 5, and one of the four superstar coaches on the show, drove by us and only a bored few recognized him. The superstar looked his usual just-woke-up look and was wearing that torn white tee shirt which is either really worn-out or was artfully designed to look that way. A quick Google check did not provide me any answer.

By 8:30 a.m., this writer was showed to a reserved seat in the audience section just behind the show’s famous revolving chair occupied by fourth celebrity coach and country superstar Blake Shelton.

The atmosphere inside the studio was surprisingly a little subdued. I was expecting a loud and rowdy bunch but perhaps the early morning hour had many in the audience still half-asleep. The upbeat club music playing loudly did not help either as stagehands tried to finish clearing the ring-like stage.

As soon as the stage was ready, the director welcomed everyone to the show and reiterated again the importance of the Non Disclosure Agreement that everyone signed earlier and he also enumerated the severity of the punishment for those found breaking the embargo.

The threat worked! If you ask me now who survived at the end of the day, I will just be shaking my head because I have completely wiped the result off my mind. But, thanks to my notes, I know that those who advanced were very, very good! Their voices are indeed incredible when you hear them sing live.

By 9, Carson Daly, the show’s host started doing the taped introduction. He was greeting everyone “Good evening” as the show will air in primetime. He did several versions of his greeting and disappeared for a few minutes as one audience handler coached us when and how to applaud during a contestant’s performance or whether we should give a standing ovation or not. Insider tip: Those rousing audience receptions you see on TV are partially staged but there are quite a number of contestants who really do earn their ovations. Some would receive extended applause from the crowd, which, of course, will be shortened on TV.

The audience was particularly generous with their applause this particular day because half of the contestants will be eliminated by the end of the day.

This season, the show will introduce the Knockout Round. Each team will have 10 members who have previously survived the Battle Round. Each contestant will choose his or her own song to perform and will face off with another contestant from the same team. The team coach will select the winner of each round. When the episode ends, only five team members survive and they will now compete for viewer votes during the next round of competition, the Live Round.

Sometime after 9, the coaches were finally introduced. Adam was carrying a coffee cup with him and he was still wearing the white tee shirt I saw him wearing earlier. Cee Lo wore a hospital-white get-up and was the brunt of off-the-air jokes from Adam.

Christina was wearing a tight-fitting shiny dress and was carrying the foldable fan that fans of the show must now recognize as her trademark. Blake wore his usual shirt and jeans and boots get-up.

All four superstars have their own share of adoring fans in the audience but it was the Maroon 5 frontman who elicited the wildest response. One guy even screamed Adam’s name to everyone’s amusement. “It’s usually the girls who shout ‘Adam,’” Adam responded.

The contestants from Cee Lo’s team took to the stage first followed by Christina’s team. Watching the contestants perform live, I couldn’t help but wonder how difficult it must be for the coaches to let go half of their talents after selecting them in the Blind Audition Round and the Battle Round. On that day, I witnessed how the coaches really offer condolences to the losing contestants off-camera. Hugs, plenty of hugs are exchanged and pieces of advice are offered.

During the breaks, the coaches will have their make-up retouched. Adam would be seen munching on pizza and some sushi while Christina had her son join her at some point. During one particular break, the four coaches had their attention focused on a picture in Christina’s phone. It was a delight watching them interact without any cares in the world. They were like normal people on a break at work — celebrities or not, their off-camera interaction is no different from what this writer normally witnesses on any given day.

Another interesting discovery: The coaches do offer lengthy critiques and somehow only the best parts are chosen for TV. These superstars are serious at what they do and it is apparent that they really do care about the contestants.

When the day’s taping ended past 2 p.m., this writer was already famished. I only had two bottles of water the entire morning. And, as I stated earlier, those who had the foresight to eat breakfast before getting to the set must have been very thankful.

Sure, the set visit was interesting and offered a new perspective on how a show this big gets produced but, if you will ask me, I would rather watch it on TV where I only have to spend an hour to watch it and I will see only the best parts. But somehow, watching it live, I was able to witness how truly the voices on this competition outshine those in other shows. Not all singers here are what one would call attractive, but boy, everyone sure can sing!

The Voice airs Sunday nights at 8 on AXN.

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