The Voice of France continued with four more recording days and I decided to stay in Paris the whole week and be back home just before Christmas. I enjoy traveling this time of the year, it makes me in a good mood, and I didn’t know how and what particular day the coaches will choose their teams so it felt safer to see all the sessions to be sure I would be there for Mika’s session.

The system was different compared to previous years. Instead of battles we saw knock out sessions where each coach saw their whole team, meaning 18 talents, performing one by one. After every talent the coach had to decide if to keep the contestant or let them go. The goal was to choose 6 talents and in addition to that to steal two more talents from the other coaches. That way every coach would have 8 talents for the battles in January. When the coach wasn’t sure if to keep the talent or not, the contestant was located on the red zone on the other side of the stage until the end of the session when it was time for the coach to make the final decision. Red zone meant also that the talent was available for the other coaches to steal.

The sessions happened in the chair order. Soprano on Monday, Mika on Tuesday, Jenifer on Thursday and finally Julien on Saturday. Monday’s session started with a guest performance and Arcadian who did their song three times. The coach team arrived to watch the performance all wearing black or black and white, Mika looking super elegant in his simple and very impressive black outfit. I loved his very classy “international pop star look”, one of my all time favorites.

The first session felt exhausting and too long and we watched several contestants sitting in the red area the whole night and I couldn’t see the point in that at all. The audience wants to know if the talent is in or out and avoiding obvious decisions feels a bit annoying and also cruel for the talents.

On Monday the whole session on was generally quite boring as the contestants in Soprano’s team are not genuinely interesting for me or my taste and the highlights of the evening were moments where Jenifer and Mika stole Soprano’s talents for their own teams. Jenifer got a boy who was a particularly good dancer and that way good on stage, Mika was lucky two times. First time maybe partly because the moment/contestant touched him and second time because he thought the contestant was too good to be sent to the red zone and I agreed with him about that. One of the talents in Soprano’s team was a good showman and managed to surprise the audience both during the auditions and knock out sessions but was still not chosen and I thought that was a shame. I would have loved to see him continuing, maybe even Mika stealing him to his own team, but after two contestants that night Mika’s limit was full.

When the first session was over Mika said he wants to be clear with his decisions on Tuesday and in my opinion he succeeded in that very well indeed. He sent his contestants either in or out putting only 3 or 4 of them to the red zone (which had to be somehow used I guess). When the contestant was out he kindly but also very honestly explained the reasons behind his decision and it was a manly thing from him to do, I was pleased to watch his approach which was very different compared to what we saw from the other coaches during the week. I very much liked his style and also how he spoke to his team so directly yet in a caring way and thought he did this phase of the competition particularly well. Postponing the obvious is painful for the audience to watch and it’s easier for everyone if the coaches just make the decisions they are supposed to make.

On Tuesday everything was more exciting for us and for everyone I believe. The level of contestants was better because Mika’s team is this year generally good quality. The coaches had changed their outfits and Jenifer was wearing the cutest girly dress I’ve seen on her, Soprano had a stylish suit and Mika had his “uncle look” with white jeans and a blue cardigan. That was a nice touch and he looked like an understanding adult giving useful advices to his young contestants and I immediately thought the outfit was much more suitable for this situation than the gorgeous, slim and elegant pop star look we saw on Monday would have been.

In the beginning of the session we saw one of the Zazie’s winners from the past and then it was time to start to go trough Mika’s team, the moment I had waited to see this week. I wrote notes about every talent to remember their names and the songs they performed but at this point I can’t give any details so I just list a few thoughts about the session and about Mika’s team after the knock out phase.

First of all, both of my favorites from the auditions are still in the competition! My biggest favorite performed first and was actually even better than I had remembered. He seems the type that takes a lot of risks which can obviously go either really right or really wrong but so far he has done well and I find him the most interesting of all Mika’s talents. My second favorite didn’t do as well as in the auditions but because Mika had seen him doing well in the earlier phase he luckily kept him. My third favorite is a girl who has an extremely weird voice and performing style. I can hear Lily Allen songs in my head when I listen to her but also think there’s something very unique in her as well. The strange thing is that I can’t even say I enjoy listening to her singing, she just makes me smile. For that reason I hoped Mika would choose her and I got the impression Mika felt the same way, that the girl made him smile as well and she’s still in the competition.

The fourth talent in Mika’s team is a girl who in my opinion is not interesting enough but who I expected Mika to choose. The third boy he chose used a weird vibrato that I didn’t like at all (didn’t remember anything like that from the auditions) and the third girl was chosen from the red zone. I liked it that Mika chose the best available from the red zone instead of the one who just sat there for the longest because it was an important decision and it was time to be rational and not just nice. Together with the two contestants he stole from Soprano he now has 8 contestants in his team for the battles.

The girl I found pushy during the auditions was out because her performance wasn’t good enough to continue in the competition. Some contestants were too young and not ready for live shows and Mika explained that to them in the kindest possible way. Two contestants ended up in Soprano’s team the same way his contestants were stolen to Mika’s team on Monday. After Tuesday I felt the most interesting and important part of the knock out phase was done but also knew that Jenifer has a good quality team so I looked forward to Thursday.

On Thursday we heard Louis Bertignac as the guest performer. He is the coach Mika replaced at The Voice and I heard as soon as he started his song that he’s actually a guitarist and a very good one indeed. He did one song and only once and after that the coaches gathered around him and Mika naturally wanted to try his guitar a little bit and that was a funny little detail for us to watch.

Then Jenifer’s team started and as an opposite to what I had expected I could remember only a couple of her contestants really well so not sure her team is as good as I had thought in advance. I could remember the contestant who has a very strong show personality and this talent was selected to continue to the battles. Another contestant from Team Jenifer has an ability to sing very fast and has also a very enthusiastic support group in the audience so it was easy to remember him and he was selected in as well. I must say I didn’t always agree with Jenifer. She chose a singer who didn’t seem good enough at all and left out another one who did a surprisingly good performance that night performing an extremely difficult song. Luckily the latter one was saved by Julien who now has two talents from Jenifer in his own team.

Thursday was not as interesting as Tuesday but after the recording we had a small Christmas party to wish Mika Merry Christmas. We had to wait our turn to exit the studio space so Mika was actually quicker than us but he pretended he needed some more time and we could organize everything ready for him. Katia had brought a christmas tree all the way from Sardinia and Ani had baked a cake and Corinne who had a car had brought a lot of lights and decorations with her. We had bought champagne to make a toast and everyone brought small gifts to put under the tree and I hope it all gave Mika a warm Christmas feeling. He arrived smiling and spent a generous amount of time with us speaking different languages, receiving Christmas gifts, taking photos and even filming small messages and it was all incredibly sweet of him.

Saturday was the last of the four knock out days and Julien had his turn to choose his team and he appeared on stage wearing a petrol colored jacket. Mika was wearing a golden jacket and golden shoes, the others – I can’t remember. I had thought in advance Julien’s team is not as high quality as the other teams and realized before the session I can’t remember any contestant from him, not a single one even I had seen them all during the auditions. I thought they would look familiar when on stage but they didn’t, I saw most of them like the first time or had only a distant memory of seeing them before.

When I saw Julien’s team on stage I could clearly remember only two of his contestants, one because he looks exactly like young Mika and another one simply because I disliked her. The first one continued to the battles. The second one didn’t continue and that really cheered me up and I even said that aloud which was of course a horrible thing to do. Someone’s distress shouldn’t cheer me up, I can sometimes be so insensitive I surprise even myself. In addition to these two talents I can now remember also the last contestant from Saturday because Maryanne knew him from school so I paid attention to him.

Julien’s night was somehow weird, even a little bit awkward. It was hard for him to send people out so at first he put several talents on the red zone and even clearly turned to Mika asking his opinions almost like expecting him to say the words that didn’t come out from his own mouth. Not sure if he’s just so nice and didn’t want to select or if it was difficult for him to select because there were no clear favorites in his team. I could very well understand he asked Mika who on Tuesday made it all look so easy. It doesn’t work that way of course, Mika has his own team and Julien improved his decision making a lot during the night. I didn’t agree with all his decisions but of course the audience sees the situations differently than the coaches who work with talents and know who has potential and who’s responding to their coaching.

This phase of the competition was quite tiring even to the audience and the coaches must have been exhausted after focusing such long hours so I imagine they all felt relieved to start their holidays and to have some rest before the battles in January. When the Saturday’s session was over Mika waved us good night and we all said good bye to each other and left.

I enjoy watching this season a lot, for several reasons, and I hope the television audience will enjoy it too. I like the coach team, the vibe is relaxed. I like observing people and details more and more. I’m not specially interested in talent shows but I’ve built interest in this concept so I can enjoy watching Mika at his work and won’t feel left out. I like how familiar everything is. Also, my body doesn’t expect Mika to sing like it used to do so it’s easier to enjoy his coaching. In the beginning my whole neurological system was prepared for his music and it was hard not to hear it. Now I don’t expect it and it’s easier to enjoy other things. This will of course change as soon as the new album is out and I can see him on stage again.

I had such a good time in Paris which is becoming my very favorite city. I walked a lot around Montmartre and sat in my favorite lunch place eating vegetable soup and reading a book. I had a very colorful Friday with the girls first seeing the Basquiat exhibition at Foundation Louis Vuitton and later watching Jean Paul Gautier Fashion Freak show at Folies Bergére. I had read an interesting book about Basquiat’s life a while ago and absolutely loved finally seeing his art and the Fashion Freak show offered a fantastic experience with incredible dancers and crazy outfits. Demi Mondaine who I could well remember from Zazie’s team last year had a big role in it and she looked very comfortable on stage and did a good performance and I generally enjoyed the whole show a lot.

I feel this year was a bit challenging on a personal level but I end it with very grateful and positive feelings looking forward to 2019. Can’t wait to hear Mika and his The Art of Song on BBC2 on Boxing Day and on New Year’s Day and I’m especially excited about the new song Sound Of An Orchestra released 4th of January as a soundtrack for a new Italian television series La compagnia del cigno. I’ve heard only a tiny snippet on the trailer but the lyrics seem absolutely beautiful. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone. xxx