Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The Voice: my kind of reality TV

I recently re-read a rant of mine about last year's X Factor; specifically, about the number of shameless soundalikes given airtime. Having watched new reality show concept The Voice over the past three weeks, it seems like the BBC read it too, thought, 'that IS uncool' and commissioned a show where having your own, unique voice is the very minimum required.

I love The Voice. I love it for Jessie J singing along and visibly willing people to be amazing, I love it for the ultra-camp WHOOSH as the chairs spin around, I love it for's unbelievable geeky, robotic weirdness and I love it for the almost complete absence of sob stories. I even love Danny ScriptQuiff's unbearable neediness.

While not all of the singers that have got through have my stamp of approval, how boring would life be if there was nothing to shout at the TV about? The potentially spine-tingling moment when an auditionee opens their mouth and the suspense of the chair-turning have me absolutely hooked.

Some people have moaned about Jessie J's loudness (love her), patterned shirt (love it) or interrupting (don't care, still love her), but I think the judges are a nice mix. You've got Tom Jones to soak up all of the naff cruise-shippy singers (who will hopefully go this week in the SING-OFF round!), Jessie to inspire tears and worship from every misfit auditioning, Will to deliver immense and unexpected Michael Jackson impressions, and Danny to silently scream 'LOVE ME!' with his eyes every time someone's picking their mentor.

I can't bloomin' wait for the sing-offs this weekend - way to tap into the Glee audience, BBC - and see how my favourites progress. Here they are, by the way...

J Marie Cooper
The redhead who absolutely stormed her audition with Mamma Knows Best, arguably Jessie J's hardest song to sing. I liked her style, I liked her attitude and her voice was just different enough from JJ's (a touch of jazzy vibrato for starters). Rumours abound that she's an evil diva, but I don't care. I like my divas evil, demanding and a bit mental.

Ben Kelly
Team: Jessie J
Ben had me at 'She packed her bags last night, pre-flight'. Love Rocket Man as I do, though, it was the risk-taking and piano skills that really sold this one for me. He's quirkier and less marketable than the above, but I'm feeling him from his bow tie to his red skinnies.

Vince Kidd
Team: Jessie J
Vince was a tough-looking platinum blonde with the piercings and the hood. But he showed his talent when he whipped out a funky, grinding cover of Madonna's bubblegum Like a Virgin, and his soft side when he was reduced to wibbly tears by the judges' praise. Can't wait to see what he'll do next.

David Faulkner
Team: Jessie J
The only one smacking of 'underdog' that I liked, David was the Welsh builder who rocked Superstition. If he can apply his crazy vocals to something more contemporary, I'll like him even more. I also liked that other guy with the hat, but since I can't remember his name (and can remember his fiancee was called Twinnielee), he's out.

Becky Hill
Team: Jessie J
I had to pick another girl, had to. I liked this one (although I wasn't enamoured with Jessie J turning her chair so early - seemingly because she'd picked her favourite song). I really wanted an amazing black mama with a huge voice, but didn't get one, or a gorgeous country and western type - and they rejected Harriet Whitehead, who I thought was quite good. So I pick Becky, whose tone I liked and stood out for me among a few cruisey or shouty types.

The judges seemed to put through more females I didn't like than ones I did, which is odd. Loving the blokes though. And let's face it, Jessie's definitely got the best crop of artists. Do comment with who you've loved or hated, or if you totally disagree with me about the show.

Images: BBC

*Apologies for the amount of capitals, reality TV singing shows really bring that out in me.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Work experience moans: are they ever justified?

The Devil Wears Prada: the most famous magazine kiss'n'tell

This afternoon I was recommended (and have been giggling at) this very amusing postmortem of a disappointing work experience placement at a women's weekly on The Vagenda. Everyone who's ever had a media work placement will recognise this - the ennui, the tears, the photocopying.
But amusing accounts aside, isn't it a bit much to bitch retrospectively about your work experience? I've had many a placement, ranging from 'tapping nails on desk waiting for another filing task' to 'sent to a film screening on my first night' on the workie Richter scale. I've moaned to my friends about bland days and snappy colleagues, for sure. But would I publish my dissatisfaction? I'm not sure.

I think people should debate about work experience - are we being taken for a ride? How much compensation, if any, is normal? Whose job is it to make sure you're busy/happy? But there is sort of an unwritten code in journalism that, publicly, we just get on with it, smile and say thank you, and stay quiet about any horrid employers. (I must point out at this juncture that I have blogged about internships, with some reference to my personal experience - but nothing like the roast this Vagenda writer has given her placement.)

The bottom line is, work experience is business. You go along, you put up with whatever they throw at you, grit your teeth when what they throw at you is returns forms and photocopying, and in exchange you get their publication's shiny, recognisable name on your CV. That name could be the thing that gets you your first paid job - especially if the person hiring has worked there and knows it's a nightmare. Sometimes just surviving is all the reference you need.

I think people that go along to work experience expecting a fun, tailor-made experience of the real job are kidding themselves. The publication is very much your choice - of course a women's weekly is going to be 'Kerry Katona's wardrobe' and real life stories. I wouldn't have booked myself in for two weeks at one. Many people go for smaller companies and niche publications, where the teams are inevitably more laid-back and give you lots to do - they could use the free help.

Also, gritting your teeth and getting on with it can be the making of you. My very worst weeks at magazines only made me tougher and appreciate the job I have now every day. Of course it's hard at the time, especially if that time is the Christmas holidays of your very tough journalism MA when you could have gone on a mini break. How so many privileged Tatler-esque girls survive as fashion interns, I'll never know - I found it tough at women's mags when my previous experience was Woolworths stock rooms and rowdy Cardiff pubs. If you feel you're destined for The Economist, don't sign up for three weeks at Heat. Of course you'll hate every One Direction-slathered minute. (If I learned anything on my magazine-specific postgrad course, it was that one person's OK! is another's New Statesman.)

Even though my fashion cupboard experience is limited to a few days here and there (I mainly worked with features teams, but volunteered the odd quiet day to do returns for the Red fashion team), it's actually quite a chilled experience. While everyone in the main office frantically chases PRs, conducts phone interviews and files copy way past deadline, the fashion cupboard is a little oasis of calm. You can have the radio on, chat to the other girls and make friends (an advantage the usually-solo features intern rarely enjoys) and bask in the coolly repetitive nature of the returns system.

I didn't have any loftier expectations when I did my postgraduate journalism placements than on my first rookie week as a 19 year old, and, true to form, the work I was given was less challenging than my previous 1-6 month internships. Of course it was. It's hard for a junior entrusted with a workie for a couple of weeks to delegate much responsibility.

I love a snarky post as much as the next girl, but I must defend magazine placements in this case. They provide a simple function; getting you your next placement or (hopefully) job. Take them for what they are or don't book yourself in at all. I know which option will get you further...

Image: Twentieth Century Fox