The Voice Australia has moved onto the battle rounds section, and with it, Johnny Manuel found himself up against Mongolian throat singer Bukhu Ganburged. While the former Equinox singer won the round and will continue in the competition, it was a tense, controversial decision.
Johnny Manuel and Bukhu Ganburged were an oddly matched pairing, put together by their coach — and Australia’s Eurovision 2015 star — Guy Sebastian.
The pair sang Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song” and while the gospel ballad was a good match for Johnny’s vocal style, it was an unusual pick for Bakhu. The Mongolian throat singer spent much of the performing playing a morin khuur — a traditional Mongolian string instrument — but he came in with some unique throat singing and finally delivered a standard pop vocal performance.
While both artists delivered good performances in their own way and impressed their coach Guy Sebastian, the other three judges weren’t so happy. Delta Goodrem, Boy George and Kelly Rowland all gave comments to the effect that it was an unfair match, designed to favour the soul singer over the throat singer.
Australian pop icon Delta Goodrem told Johnny, “It felt like Bukhu was your backing player”. Former Destiny’s Child singer Kelly Rowland said she felt the mismatched pairing took away from both performers “because Johnny can’t just relish in this incredible moment”. While 1980s pop icon Boy George had praise for both performers, saying he wasn’t expecting the battle to work but it did.
Things got tense, with Kelly Rowland intensely critiquing Guy’s choice with the two coaches heading towards a passive-aggressive meltdown, with Kelly eventually walking off the set.
The action picked up on the following night’s episode, with Kelly saying “My feelings ain’t hurt, but this sh*t is redundant.”
In the end, it was up to coach Guy Sebastian to pick one of the two performers to head to the next round. He went with Johnny Manuel, saying “It’s quite clear this show suits somebody like Johnny, so I don’t think it’ll be any surprise that I’m going to go for Johnny.”
Guy later reflected on Twitter, saying “I’m sad that this went down the way it did due to my choice. It’s something that cuts me & I didn’t handle it well”.
. #thevoiceau that it seemed vocally unbalanced. I wanted them both 2 shine & thought that showcasing Bukhu’s musicianship was the way 2 do it. He is exceptional and I’m sad that this went down the way it did due to my choice. It’s something that cuts me & I didn’t handle it well
— Guy Sebastian (@GuySebastian) June 21, 2020
But once the live shows begin, things will be a little different. Due to current travel restrictions, Boy George and Kelly Rowland are unable to fly back to Australia for the shows. Instead they’ll coach remotely, while Australian soul legend Marcia Hines and indie-pop twins The Veronicas will take their places in the live shows.
Johnny Manuel’s journey
Johnny is no stranger to talent shows. In 2017, he competed on America’s Got Talent. While he received the Golden Buzzer from the judges and wowed the audience, he ended up being eliminated in the semi-finals.
In 2018, Johnny was part of the group Equinox, who represented Bulgaria at Eurovision with “Bones”. Despite the immense hype surrounding the song, Bulgaria only finished 14th in the grand final.
While Johnny Manuel is originally from Michigan in the United States, he’s now enjoying life Down Under with his Australian partner. And he’s making the most of the experience, auditioning for The Voice Australia. Now that he’s made it through to the next sound, Johnny’s The Voice Australia journey will continue in coming weeks.
What do you think? Was it a fair pairing? How far do you think Johnny will go in the contest? Tell us your thoughts below!
Read more Australia Eurovision news here