The Voice of China voices changes

Season 4 of “The Voice of China” (TVOC) is back. In 2012, the show launched its first season in China. It soon created frenzy for both audiences and producers, as it topped nation-wide ratings every Friday night. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “the third season of The Voice of China racked up more than 100 million downloads within the first 15 hours of its premiere in July on the Tencent online platform and has topped the ratings every Friday night this season, attracting up to 6.1 million viewers.” The same source showed that advertisement prices for TVOC came to about 1.16 million yuan ($182,000) per 15 seconds.

TVOC is a Chinese reality show, also a part of the The Voice franchise around the world. Just like the U.S. version of The Voice, TVOC gains its large following mostly with its blind auditions and celebrity appearances. Season 4 is expected to be just as popular. It began with Jay Chou’s announcement that he would be joining TVOC as a coach. Chou is arguably the most influential musician in the last two decades in the Chinese-speaking music world. So far he has been the attention of the show. As candidates show up in blind auditions with adaptations to his hits such as “Shuang Jie Gun” and “Qing Tian,” they claim to be thrilled to meet him in person.

The idea of diversity becomes prominent in this season. Young applicants, possibly drawn by the presence of Chou, invigorate the show with a large variety of background and thoughts. Ike Zhao, 19, is a studio art major in RISD. She adapted two radio hits, “All About That Bass” and “I’m Eating Fried Chicken in Plaza RenMin,” admitting that this mix of motives (fitness and romantic relationship) represent her life at this stage. Another contestant, Will Jay, is a Los Angeles native and a member of the former boyband IM5. He performed his bilingual version of “Lemon Tree.” Vanatsaya Viseskul, above all, created an instant hit on the Internet as a 16-year-old Thai girl who looks and sings in near uniform of the Taiwanese icon of the ’80s, Teresa Teng. Her interpretation of “Qian Yan Wan Yu” was nearly indistinguishable from Teng’s original; it was soft, tender and nostalgic.

The set-up of the show has changed as well. This season introduces a new installation of double-blindness, which means that a box of curtains is drawn to encase the contestant, thus disabling not only the coaches but also the audience in identifying the contestants by anything but their voices. Only when the contestants have finished the song and agree to show themselves could we discover what’s behind the curtains. With this new establishment, Lin Yan, 39, a Rock ’n’ Roll mom, surprised many of the audiences. Her voice was husky, bass and instinctively masculine, which led the coaches to think that she was a male singer. But at any rate, she appeared small in person but has an immeasurable persona, along with her cornrows, faux-leather vest and baggy jeans,

One has to wonder if such diversity in backgrounds represents changes in the current demographic composition of Chinese society, long thought to be ethically and ideologically stagnant. However, while the variety of contestants is evident in their personal backgrounds, it’s not so much manifested in contestants’ age group: many are within 18 to 26. Also, it is hard keeping the show alive after three previous seasons; and TVOC has done a good job in that aspect, according to feedbacks on social media such as Weibo and Wechat, which are largely positive and engaging. Recruitment of new and old coaches is successful, as they gain no less attention from the audience than the contestants themselves.

The launch of The Voice of China changed the landscape of Chinese television market. Producers first started pirating, but are now adopting foreign reality TV programs for their own use. The market is thrilled. The Chinese people certainly like it, whether as a temporal catharsis to the permeating influence of the government or a half-open window to the outlooks of foreignness.

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