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It’s all about the voice

MANILA, Philippines - The Kapamilya network has acquired yet another franchise of an international reality talent series with The Voice of the Philippines.

Toni Gonzaga was presented to the media last Thursday as the host of the local version of The Voice, a vocal competition airing in the US and the UK, wherein four of the biggest names in the music biz search for the best voices and mentor them into becoming singing stars.

In The Voice of the Philippines, hopefuls will have to make it through the auditions on the basis of their vocal ability alone. In the first stage of the competition, what will take place are the so-called “blind auditions,” wherein the four celebrity coaches must listen to the artists without the benefit of seeing them. Mentors will then pick aspirants to form part of the team they will develop and will pit two of their team members in the second round dubbed as the “battle rounds.”

After the vocal showdown, the coach must then select who among the singers will advance. Those who will survive get to proceed to the third stage — the live performance shows — wherein viewers can save them from elimination through voting.

In the end, each coach will have one artist left to compete against the other team’s finalists. The last one standing will be declared as “The Voice of the Philippines.”

Sarah Geronimo has already been an- nounced as one of the resident coaching foursome. There’s no official word yet on the rest — an international singer actress who starred on Broadway/West End and a former frontman of an iconic ’90s rock band are rumored to be among them — but Toni claimed that the panel is “going to be the best line up of coaches you’ve seen in a reality contest.”

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As to how faithful the local edition will be to the mother production, the people behind the show said that they will be retaining the basic elements of The Voice, particularly those of the Season 1 of the hit American version (which has Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton as coaches and Carson Daly as host), but it will also be “Filipinized” especially in how the back stories of the contestants will be told.

Production executive Alou Almaden said that the viewers need to know “who these people are, why they are there” and the sacrifices they’ve made just to be there.

She added, “I’ve actually pointed it out to the foreign consultant from the fran- chise owner that personally, I think what happened on the US and UK Voice is that they gave so much highlight to the banter and competition among the coaches that the (exposure of) contestants got down- graded. But we’re better at storytelling. Sometimes, you really have to know where the person is coming from.”

Meanwhile, Toni, 29, can stake a claim as the pioneering host of Philippine editions of foreign reality shows – from Pinoy Big Brother to Pinoy Dream Acad- emy — ever since ABS-CBN started mounting these localized editions eight years ago. The range of her hosting experience also covers entertainment talk shows.

Hosting The Voice of the Philippines isn’t any different in the sense that “it’s still a challenge,” admitted Toni, who added that she’s going to reinvent herself in her latest assignment. “I’m not going to reveal yet as to how I’m going to reinvent myself but this is a different program, so I’m going to give it a different approach.”

For Toni, what makes The Voice of the Phil- ippines a distinct reality show experience for the viewers is that it’s really about the voice. Contrary to how we at times, if not often, measure the promise of a newbie — say, the more they sound like the established artists, the better — The Voice of the Philippines, Toni said, is on the lookout not for copycats or the next so and so, but for that unique “star voice.” Physical appeal is only “secondary,” if not a bonus.

“For the whole show itself, what makes it very interesting is the blind auditions. In the singing shows we’ve seen on TV, sometimes one passes because of the stage presence or looks, with the voice only secondary. I think the best asset of this show is that we will really look for the best of the best Filipino singers, and we will hear voices we’ve never heard before...”

Nationwide radio screenings have already started last January. Online screenings will happen this month. The network has not provided an airing schedule yet.

Toni, a recording artist herself, had her share of singing contests when she was younger (she joined Tanghalan Ng Kampeon when she was 13; she didn’t win). When asked if she would make it through at least the “blind auditions,” if, hypothetically, she were an auditionee, Toni said yes. “I think I have a strong enough voice and I’m gutsy.”

The “Voice of the Philippines” stands to gain big bucks, a recording contract and a shot at stardom. The winner gets to join ABS-CBN’s impressive and massive pool of talents (although some of them are deemed underexposed and under- utilized).

Nevertheless, Almaden, also the busi- ness unit head of previous reality-talent shows The X Factor Philippines and Pilipi- nas Got Talent, believes that as there’s still room for another reality show, there’s still room for new discoveries for the Kapami lya fold.

“For us, it has to be continuous. Yes, we have a lot of singers, but they have different genres and individual styles. Marami pang kailangan ang industriya what with the music industry now going through a revival. It’s hard to uplift (things) when you don’t have a pool of talents to back up new projects.”

Besides, Toni said, “People are always looking for new people to idolize. That’s why there are so many reality shows because people are looking for a new sensation, someone new to idolize and support.” She also believes that Filipino fans have “more compassion in accepting and embracing new talents.”

She continued, “Perhaps it’s easier to make a new singer or actor popular nowadays because of the tools we have. You have the social media, the YouTube, the Internet...pero ang labanan siguro ngayon, more than maka discover ng bago, is the longevity.”

And a reality show can only do so much when it comes to that, according to Toni. “At the end of the day, when the show is over, lahat ng natutunan ng contestant baonin mo yun when you’re on your own.

That’s why there are coaches to guide you along the way and there’s the production team to help you become the best singer that you can be during the entire run of the contest,” she said.

Then, referring to her experience with PBB, Toni said, “Not all big winners became big stars. I don’t think PBB should be answerable to why it didn’t happen. They were given all the means, the exposure, the break and the opportunity... but I think the staying power of one singer or performer in the business comes with having the right attitude and right perspective because so far (from what I’ve seen), the ones who last long are those who have the right attitude and have remain grounded.”

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