Troubled Singing Reality Show Accused of Mistreating Coco Lee
“The Voice of China,” one of the country’s most successful reality shows, has found itself in hot water over allegations of mistreatment of the late singer Coco Lee.
The controversy is the latest to hit the singing competition show, now in its 12th season, which has seen ratings decline over the years due to criticisms of its competition rules and the increasing frequency of adverts.
In recent days, a nine-minute audio tape of Coco Lee has circulated widely online, in which the late pop star accused the show’s production team of mistreatment. She accused the production team of threatening her after she criticized the competition rules for being unfair, when one of her mentees was eliminated despite getting a high score.
The show quickly issued a response, denying the allegations of mistreatment and accusing the audio tape of being “maliciously edited.” However, after Lee’s former mentees on the show posted messages in support of Lee, the show’s broadcaster, Zhejiang Media Group, announced Sunday that they will investigate the issue.
Chinese-American singer Lee died in early July at the age of 48 after a suicide attempt.
The controversy caused the stock of the show’s production company, STAR China Media, to fall by a record 31% on Monday, after already falling 23% on Friday.
Based on the hit Dutch series “The Voice of Holland,” “The Voice of China” first aired in 2012 to positive reviews for its blind selection of contestants based on their voice, receiving a rating of 7.7 on leading reviews site Douban.
However, ratings of the show have declined in recent years, with viewers accusing it of deviating from its original purpose of judging singing talent. The show came under fire for having contestants host livestreams to sell products on e-commerce platform Taobao earlier this year, and the increasing frequency of advertisements on the show has also been an object of scorn.
“The advertisers on ‘The Voice of China’ in recent years have really become more unreasonable … It’s as if they want to directly overlay the screen with the advertisers’ logos,” one of the top reviews on Douban says about “The Voice of China 2022.”
The current season also deviates from the original format of blind auditions by introducing a new format where coaches can see the contestants’ first performances.
Other popular reality competition shows such as “The Singer,” “Mask Singer,” and “Street Dance of China” have also seen falling ratings in recent years, with fans accusing the shows of prioritizing drama rather than judging talent.
The run-in with Coco Lee is not the first time “The Voice of China” has had issues with a celebrity coach. In 2016, pop singer Liu Huan and several other musicians sued the production company for using their songs on the show without authorization.
Editor: Vincent Chow.
(Header image: coaches' chairs on The Voice of China. IC)