“La Voz,” premiering Sunday on Telemundo, is the first Spanish-language version of NBC’s “The Voice” to air in the US.
Its format will hew closely to its NBC cousin with host Jorge Bernal and four Coaches: recording superstars Luis Fonsi, Alejandra Guzman, Wisin and Carlos Vives.
“I think it was long overdue … especially since we’ve seen so many amazing Latino vocalists perform on the NBC version,” says Fonsi. (“The Voice” premiered in 2011.) “We know the talent is there and I just think it’s nice to be able to formally celebrate the Latin community — and to unite and celebrate our different cultures within the Latin community here in the US.”
Fonsi, 40, had a huge hit in 2017 with “Despacito” (featuring rapper Daddy Yankee) and is both a veteran of the music business and a veteran of “The Voice”; he’s appeared as a coach in iterations of the show in Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico and Spain. “The cool thing is we’re not judges,” he says of himself, Guzman, Wisin and Vives. “We kind of speak to [the contestants] at their level. A lot of them are older than me or my age. It’s fun to get them out of their comfort zone, to challenge them. At the end of the day, what I want for them when they walk off the stage and go to the next level … is to be comfortable and to be themselves and knock it out of the park and not have to worry about the little details.
“Being relevant in the Latin market and having success is, obviously, very important — that’s what the contestants want in a coach,” he says. “Just to be around a coach who’s out there doing it, out there touring and doing this every day … It’s cool to be able to have someone like Wisin, who comes from the urban world and who’s not only an amazing artist but a great producer. And you have Alejandra Guzman, who represents Mexico and she’s a rocker and has been doing this a long time, and Carlos Vives who covers the more tropical side of the equation. And myself, who’s one of the pop guys highly influenced by American music as well.
‘I think it was long overdue … especially since we’ve seen so many amazing Latino vocalists perform on the NBC version.’
“I’m 100 percent Puerto Rican but I moved to the US when I was 11 so … I sort of understand how these kids think,” Fonsi says. “It’s a competition, and we all want our team to win, but we all have our different edge and different style. There’s a coach for everybody.”
Fonsi says “La Voz” will be “almost identical” in format to “The Voice.” “The contestants are going to be singing in English and Spanish and you’re going to get people similar to me — bi-cultural singers who have been living in the US for a long time or were born in the US to Latin parents,” he says. “They’re highly influenced by ‘American’ music but obviously have a Latin culture they want to celebrate.”
He says the talent level of “La Voz” contestants is “amazing” — and that the coaches are getting along famously. “It’s scary how amazing our chemistry is to the point we’re driving the producers nuts because we just won’t stop yapping and playing jokes on each other,” he says. “I’ve [previously] worked with Wisin the most — we recorded a few songs together and performed live many times and he’s done a few remixes for me.
“I never formally worked with Alejandra but we bumped into each other many times and I’ve performed with Carlos on stage but we’ve never recorded together.
“One thing about the Latin community — we’re a tight circle,” he says. “There really is a great vibe.”
“La Voz” Series premiere 9 p.m. Sunday on Telemundo