Seal of ap­proval

Be­ing in break-out hit The Voice is some­thing singer Seal doesn’t take for granted, writes Sarrah Le Marquand

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Cover Story -

WHEN you’re part of a show that’s not only the stand­out hit of the year but also has been cred­ited with putting the ‘‘ nice’’ back into tele­vi­sion, it’s easy to get car­ried away with the mushy stuff.

But for all the talk of ca­ma­raderie on the set of The Voice, Seal wants you to know he and his fel­low celebrity coaches are far from saint-like bea­cons of hu­mil­ity.

‘‘ Oh there’s plenty of ego, don’t be fooled,’’ Seal says with a laugh.

‘‘ I of­ten say to the artists who we are men­tor­ing, ‘ You don’t get to be an es­tab­lished, suc­cess­ful artist with a ca­reer with­out hav­ing an ego’. You have to have an ego. And if you don’t have one then you’d bet­ter find one fast. Be­cause it’s a dog-eat-dog world.

‘‘ But there’s a time and a place. When you get on stage, you open up your box, you get your ego out and you go and face the au­di­ence. But among friends, or when you’re off­stage, you’ve got to put that away. It doesn’t work and there is no place for it.’’

Which brings us back to ‘‘ nice’’ — a qual­ity Seal and fel­low coaches Keith Ur­ban, Delta Goodrem and Joel Mad­den have sought to bring back into fash­ion since The Voice made its top-rat­ing de­but two short but event­ful months ago.

‘‘ We hang out, we laugh, we joke,’’ Seal says of his on­screen col­leagues.

‘‘ I’ve made three great friends. And that’s be­cause this tone had been set to not al­low it to turn into some kind of cir­cus that is fu­elled by sen­sa­tion­al­ism and false ru­mours and bick­er­ing. But I don’t think Aus­tralians would have stood for an­other show that’s full of the same old stuff.’’

Hav­ing pre­vi­ously turned down of­fers to star on ri­val re­al­ity tal­ent shows, Seal says it was the move away from con­trived con­flict and overt neg­a­tiv­ity that lured him to the Aus­tralian ver­sion of The Voice.

‘‘ I think that era is pass­ing. It’s a new par­a­digm now,’’ he pre­dicts. ‘‘ Yes, it is kind of funny to look at other peo­ple and go, ‘ Oh ha ha ha, they’re not re­ally spe­cial’ and feel bet­ter about your­self. The prob­lem with that is that it kills the fun­da­men­tals on what coun­tries are built on— which is dreams. We want to see peo­ple who are liv­ing the life that we dream about.’’

If achiev­ing high rat­ings is what a net­work ex­ec­u­tive dreams about, then The Voice has cer­tainly de­liv­ered, at­tract­ing an au­di­ence of about 2.5 mil­lion view­ers an episode dur­ing the blind au­di­tions and bat­tle rounds.

‘‘ I think the whole con­cept of hear­ing a voice and mak­ing a de­ci­sion rather than see­ing some­one’s pic­ture or YouTube video is beau­ti­ful be­cause it harkens back to the golden age of the mu­sic in­dus­try,’’ he says.

But while the struc­ture of some re­al­ity shows is built on a slow-burn premise, in which in­ter­est grows as the se­ries reaches its fi­nal, The Voice seems to face the re­verse chal­lenge, with rat­ings slip­ping just be­low the two mil­lion mark for the first time last month. Hardly a re­sult to cry over, but a dip none­the­less.

Yet if Seal has been feel­ing the pres­sure, he’s not about to let on.

‘‘ There’s an old say­ing, ‘ Go with the one that brought you to the dance’,’’ he replies. ‘‘ The rea­son this show is suc­cess­ful is sim­ple — it’s au­then­tic. It’s re­ally that sim­ple. As long as we stick to that ba­sic fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ple, we’re fine.’’

He is equally un­per­turbed by em­bit­tered con­tes­tants who run to ri­val net­works to com­plain about their lin­ger­ing dis­tress over unsuccessful au­di­tions. Such was the case with Shauna Jensen, who earned an un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally sharp re­buke from Seal af­ter whin­ing ‘‘ Are you men­tal?’’ to the four coaches for fail­ing to be wooed by her ren­di­tion of Aretha Franklin’s You Make Me Feel Like a Nat­u­ral Woman.

Still smart­ing from the re­jec­tion, she aired her griev­ances on Chan­nel 7’s Today Tonight.

‘‘ If you’re go­ing to bitch about no one turn­ing around, you gotta bring it,’’ Seal says of Jensen’s sour grapes. ‘‘ Smokey Robin­son once said to me, ‘ You know, we’re not the first and we won’t be the last’. Any mu­si­cian who thinks that they are big­ger than the song is mak­ing a fun­da­men­tal er­ror. The artists come and go. Great songs last for­ever.’’

While con­firm­ing he’d be in­ter­ested in re­turn­ing for a sec­ond se­ries next year — ‘‘ if I’m in­vited back’’ — for now Seal’s fo­cus is firmly on nav­i­gat­ing his team through the fi­nal.

‘‘ I think I speak for the rest of the coaches when I say I never look down on them,’’ he says pro­tec­tively of the fi­nal­ists. ‘‘ We all un­der­stand as artists how dif­fi­cult it is. I couldn’t have done what they’re do­ing.

‘‘ Up un­til that point you can find a num­ber of ex­cuses why you haven’t made it. You could go, ‘ Oh, it’s be­cause I don’t fit a cer­tain de­mo­graphic’ or ‘ It’s be­cause I look a cer­tain way’ or ‘ It’s be­cause that guy’s an ass­hole’ or what­ever.

‘‘ For the first time you are be­ing as­sessed on one thing and one thing only. Tal­ent. Do you have it or not? No ex­cuses. And that is ter­ri­fy­ing.’’ The Voice, Chan­nel 9, Sun­day and Mon­day, 7.30pm

Seal and his fel­low men­tors share a gen­uine friend­ship.

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