S. Korean singing contest tickles the funny bone
IT IS a dark time for fans of quality singing reality shows. American Idol should have ended its run pre-Ellen DeGeneres and The Voice sabotages itself with contestants' sappy first-world problems.
Leave it to the South Koreans, then, to inject new life into a format that has grown tepid.
As far as novelty is concerned, I Can See Your Voice is unlike anything on the small screen right now.
Guest artists (usually soulful balladeers) must - with the help of a panel of celebrity judges - weed out good singers from the tone-deaf ones. The catch? They are expected to do this based solely on physical appearance.
Up to 10 contestants, who are either incredible vocalists or incredibly pitchy, must then showcase themselves through various methods except singing. These include lip-syncing, posing with a microphone and dropping some vague visual clues.
The last genuine vocalist standing gets to sing a duet with the guest artist at the end of the show. As for the tone-deaf contestants, they walk away with cash prizes - after performing an awfully off-tune duet.
While folks may tune in hoping to discover some unexpected earth-shattering vocal prowess, it is the comedy aspect that keeps me hooked. This, more often than not, comes courtesy of the celebrity judges.
After several episodes, I Can See Your Voice's unique premise gets stale but appearances by some of the country's top comedians - such as Ahn Young Mi and Jang Dong Min - help to remedy this.
If you want to be cerebral about it, you could say the show serves as a kind of light-hearted social commentary about South Korea's fixation with physical beauty.
Hearing bizarre comments along the lines of "She has a long neck, so she can't sing that well" or "She wouldn't be able project her voice with such a small mouth" are certainly cringe-worthy.
But when contestants who were doubted because of their looks turn out to be amazing singers, it's a reminder that the adage "Don't judge a book by its cover" still holds true in this image-centred world.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
I Can See Your Voice airs on Singtel TV Ch 518 every Saturday.