A love letter to TV competition show clips

Televised talent shows are magical, and it's about time we acknowledge it

Screenshot from YouTube

The lights rise. Earth-shattering applause is accompanied by a soaring ballad about overcoming obstacles. A starry-eyed contestant's walls collapse as tears flood their cheeks. If this scenario sounds familiar, it's probably because you've watched the same television talent competition videos on YouTube that I have.

Yes, I’m talking about those clickbait titled, over-produced and wholly mainstream clips from shows like America's Got TalentThe VoiceThe X Factor and more. If you haven't seen them, you’re most likely the exception. You'd be hard-pressed to find a successful audition from any of these shows with less than five million views; seven million for the train-wrecks, twenty-five million or more for the legends. 

While these video clips are many things — descriptions like heartwarming, tear-jerking and inspirational come to mind — they certainly can’t be described as diamonds in the rough. They populate YouTube's trending video list and latch onto our Facebook newsfeeds consistently, but trying to distinguish between them is as difficult as trying to avoid them. If every TV talent show uses the same format I described above, why should we take time out of our days to watch them?

The easy answer is that these videos are easy and consistent. They all take place in similar venues, feature a panel of quirky celebrity personalities and capture a moment of uninhibited happiness.

There are few highs as consistent as the ones provided by performing hopefuls following the audience’s reaction to them crushing their audition. Their bodies fold in half, their hands instinctively reach for their heads and their tear ducts run wild. The background music is perfectly timed to extenuate this emotional climax, which is then punctuated by the judges' enthusiastic praise.

There’s an unmistakable purity about witnessing a moment in which millions of people realize — whether they’re right in the long run or not — that they've stumbled upon a star.

The best part about these moments is that they're exactly the same in each video. You know you're about to be manipulated into happy-bawling at an auditioner's success, and you should be thrilled about it.

I mean, isn't it impressive that these talent competitions are able to manufacture a piece of art that evokes such strong and positive reactions every time you watch it? You’ll gleefully weep at the standing ovations on The X Factor, or at the four-chair turns on The Voice. Don't even get me started on the Golden Buzzer auditions on America's Got Talent. 

Innocent joy bundled into a seven-minute YouTube video is something we should all take advantage of, especially with the daily stresses that come with student life. Assignments, exams and social dramas add an immeasurable amount of pressure into our already hectic schedules.

Thank goodness that these short, relieving videos have a near-endless supply.

A more complex reason as to why talent competition videos are gems is because they’re one of the last universal popular culture phenomenona still standing. Unless your name is Game of Thrones, there are few television programs that transcend niche Netflix viewings to make their way across the mainstream and into the majority's hearts and DVRs. Yet, I’ve made three friends on two separate train rides this year who caught my attention by watching the same Golden Buzzer video from America’s Got Talent.

As we engaged in ecstatic discussion of the young hopeful's prospects, I didn’t care to ask about their political views or defining traits, or really anything else at all. How often does that happen in our day-to-day interactions? In those moments, nothing mattered other than our shared recognition that this nine-year-old girl destroyed the competition with her rendition of Alicia Keys' "Girl on Fire."

Midterm season is in full swing and the mountains of work may be weighing you down. You need something light, non-committal and reliably a good time to take the edge off. I have yet to see any of these uplifting clips fail to plaster a smile to my face.

They might not be original, particularly distinguishable or take place in Westeros. But there’s an undeniable power in these TV talent competition clips that we seldom verbalize but often feel. 


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