Published On: Wed, Jan 10th, 2018

New singing competition The Launch takes off on CTV

For example, one of the songs used on the show is a number “Stephan wrote . . . around the time he was writing for Fifty Shades of Grey (for which he was nominated for an Oscar), and there’s this gem that just didn’t make that movie (and) this was the opportunity for it to come to life.”

Besides Moccio, and Tedder of OneRepublic, songwriter/producers Dann Huff, Ian Kirkpatrick and busbee also lend their talents. Celebrity mentors include homegrown stars Shania Twain and Alessia Cara, Boy George, Fergie, Julia Michaels, Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue and Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland.

Each week, Borchetta and the guest mentors and producers audition five artists with a pre-chosen song in mind.

Two of those artists move on to record that song and then perform it in front of a live audience. One of them gets “the launch” of the title, having their version of the song released as soon as the episode airs.

The process we see on the show takes 48 hours, a much compressed version of a real-life production schedule that Bell Media president Randy Lennox describes as “star-making machinery meets Kiefer Sutherland 24.”

But because the six episodes were pre-taped, the finished versions of the songs got additional production after the winners were chosen, “because you couldn’t make a world class record that quickly,” Borchetta said.

(A just announced seventh episode, “Just Launched” on Feb. 21, will look at how the chosen artists have fared since appearing on the show.)

Of course, as with any talent show, the audience needs to relate to the people delivering the material, great song or not.

Based on the episode that Bell Media provided for media preview, that shouldn’t be a problem. One person in particular in that instalment really had you rooting for him, both for his back story and for his talent.

“The artists are very special artists and also have some very special stories,” Lennox says.

They’re also a diverse group, with a range of ages, ethnicities and musical styles among the 30 competitors, who hail from across the country. Some of them have released LPs and EPs; some have performed professionally; some have appeared on other talent shows; some have huge social media followings.

“This isn’t about somebody that has never performed before getting a record deal; this is about an artist who’s ready and just needs this big break. This is the big break,” says Borchetta.

The range of talent was one of the reasons he chose Canada to get The Launch off the ground. “With the States, with Idol and The Voice and with X Factor, that talent pool has been gone through over and over again,” he says. “Canadian Idol went off the air in 2008, so the level of talent blew me away because they haven’t had those kinds of opportunities here. So I think, with Toronto becoming such an important world music centre, to do it in Canada where there’s so much pride about the artists that have broken from here it just absolutely felt like the right thing to do.”

The other draw was Bell Media’s stable of TV, radio, digital and advertising properties.

“It airs on CTV Wednesdays 9 till 10. At 10 o’clock, iHeartRadio, radio stations, (Bell) TV shows are promoting that night’s prevailing contestant,” explains Lennox. “That’s exciting; as you know, The Voice and Idol didn’t really do that. We have all hands on deck to honour the artists that have worked so hard.”

There are also high hopes for the series itself, both for multiple seasons here at home and for the format to be sold internationally.

Borchetta and Lennox both have long histories in the music industry. Borchetta began his Big Machine group in 2005 after years working with other Nashville record labels. Lennox worked his way up to CEO of Universal Music Canada before joining Bell Media. So they both have lots of experience assessing musical talent.

Do they think there’s a future Alessia Cara or Shawn Mendes or Weeknd in the crop of artists on The Launch?

“I honestly think we have the potential to (have) more than one,” says Borchetta.

“We think we have several that have that special thing that Scott and I look for,” Lennox concurs.

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TORONTO STAR

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New singing competition The Launch takes off on CTV