Doing it for the kids
Tough love doesn’t have to be scary, The Voice Kids coach Mel B tells Holly Byrnes
IT’S been almost two decades since Melanie Brown told the world what she really, really wants. Storming the pop charts as part of girl band phenomenon the Spice Girls, the then 20- year- old knew exactly who she wanted to be: the brash, ballsy, bold one, taking no prisoners in tiger prints with a wild mane of hair to match.
Reinvented as a reality TV judge, Scary Spice stayed true to her stage form as the no- filter, all- fire panellist who knew what she liked, what she didn’t, and wasn’t afraid to tell us.
So when an ugly court case between her former Channel Seven
X Factor bosses forced her to cancel plans to be part of Nine’s reboot of Australia’s Got Talent and, as a consolation, find a new gig as a coach on The Voice Kids, the industry wondered out loud how suitable Scary was for such a PG platform and its vulnerable young artists.
The fierce Yorkshire woman curls her lip, turns up her nose and is having none of it.
“No, I’m just honest no matter what I’m judging or what panel I’m on,” she says.
“Kids more so than anyone appreciate it if you’re really honest with them. You know, they’re tough as houses these kids and they’ve got so much confidence. There’s not a lot of stress or emotion, they’re just kids who love doing what they’re doing.”
Asked about that court case, Brown distances herself from the intricacies.
“I wasn’t here, I was in America but I came out of it doing the kids’ Voice, which I love,” she laughs.
“I don’t know the complete ins and outs of that [ court battle] … I was just there and I’m glad I’m here. What else do you say about it?
“It’s not been awkward for me. It was between them, not me. They figured it out, I guess.”
Brown is still not averse to getting her claws out, but she’s also a mother of three daughters, who says she
keeps it just as real with them as she does on The Voice Kids.
The Voice Kids’ producers took a lot of the pain out of the process for the coaches – only the best of the 8000 child singers who applied made it onto the stage.
Brown says those kids all really deserve to be there.
“We’re not talking about stageschool kids here, we’re talking about regular kids. Maybe their parents have heard them sing around the house once or twice and they thought, ‘ Wow, let’s put them in for this show’.
“They are very unaffected, so from the get- go it means they are naturally talented, not chasing necessarily fame or to be a star. They just happen to be gifted.”
Any anxiety about exposing young talent to harsh criticism is misplaced, Brown says, with extra care taken to ensure they’re guided in an age- appropriate direction; or when they falter, are supported off the stage with kid gloves ( during the battle rounds, eliminated singers leave in pairs so as to share the disappointment).
Brown has tried to set realistic goals for her team.
“One of my contestants is singing a love song, so I’m like, ‘ Obviously you’re not in love, you haven’t experienced being in love yet with your to- be partner’, so I set them goals to think about what they really want by the time they’re 21. Is it a nice car? Is it house?
“I said: ‘ Think about that and the passion for getting your No. 1 dream house.’ I work around the songs with them so they can actually connect with the song because they can sing their little hearts out, it’s ridiculous.”
THE VOICE KIDS
Sunday, 6.30pm, WIN