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