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The Voice 2023: Biggest controversies to ever rock the show

From rigging accusations to last-minute rule changes, the singing contest has had its share of scandal over the years.

The Voice Australia has just kicked off its 12th season, and while the spotlight is firmly fixed on showcasing the incredible talents of Aussie musicians, the show has also seen its fair share of headline-grabbing controversies over the years.

From allegations of rigging to eleventh-hour rule adjustments, let's take a closer look at some of the most memorable controversies that have rocked The Voice Australia stage.

Rigging allegations

The Voice faced a storm of accusations when Channel Nine was accused of exploiting a "no family" rule loophole. The controversy arose after Guy Sebastian's brother, Chris, took home the crown in 2021, despite the rule against family members participating, sparking claims of bias.

Winner of The Voice 2021 Chris Sebastian
Chris Sebastian, winner of The Voice 2021, raised eyebrows by being the brother of the show's judge Guy. Photo: Nine

Fans questioned whether Chris had an undue advantage due to Guy's role as a coach, with the hashtag #rigged even trending on Twitter during the finale. Despite the backlash, Channel Nine defended Chris's inclusion as an All-Star, exempting him from regular rules.

Many viewers also defended the legitimacy of the result, as it was determined by a public vote.

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Guy Sebastian bends the rules

During the 2020 season of The Voice, Guy Sebastian found himself at the centre of controversy when he broke the rules and turned his chair for singer Wolf Winters, despite his team already being full.

The incident sparked accusations of cheating from fellow coaches Kelly Rowland and Boy George. The situation escalated to the point where the show's executive producer had to step in to address the breach of the international format's strict regulations.

Wolf Winters the Voice
Singer Wolf Winters was embroiled in controversy when Guy Sebastian turned a chair for him despite his team being full. Photo: Nine

Guy's justification for his unconventional move was rooted in Wolf's exceptional talent, however, Kelly was far from pleased with the turn of events and didn't hesitate to voice her frustration.

"Don’t make me into the bad guy," she admonished Guy during the episode. "You're the one out here not following the rules!"

As tensions mounted, Wolf was left hanging before the executive producer ultimately gave the all-clear for him to join Guy's team.

Accusations of whitewashing

Controversy surrounded The Voice winner Lachie Gill in 2022 as claims of white privilege emerged following his victory.

The 24-year-old Melbourne PE teacher secured the crown in the show's finale, defeating a diverse group of finalists, including Thando Sikwila, Jordan Tavita and Faith Sosene. Social media erupted with frustrations about a "white boy" winning over "three people of colour".

The Voice finalists in 2022
The Voice was accused of 'white washing' when Lachie Gill won in 2022. Photo: Channel 7

Runner-up Faith Sosene shared an Instagram post that hinted Lachie won because his ethnic background made him "perfect" for Australian tastes.

"We already knew Australia was gonna love and pick you! You're simply perfect for them," Faith wrote alongside a photo of Lachie. Tagging fellow finalists Thando Sikwila, 29, and Jordan Tavita, 23, she added: "We must work harder for future generations to win. Off to work we go."

Lachie responded to the controversy by expressing gratitude to his supporters and praising the talents of his competitors. Thando also addressed the issue, urging respect for the winner's selection through Australia's votes.

Vocal looping

The Voice faced a unique controversy in 2018 surrounding contestant Sam Perry's vocal looping style. Despite initially showing interest in Perry, judge Boy George consistently highlighted the controversial nature of Perry's unique vocal performances, sparking heated debate about the fairness of his participation.

Sam Perry and Boy George on The Voice
Contestants and judges alike were unsure whether Sam Perry's vocal looping constituted 'singing'. Photo: Nine

The clash intensified during a knockout heat as George engaged in a fiery exchange with Kelly Rowland about whether vocal looping aligned with the show's spirit. Despite the controversy, the 28-year-old musician from Perth took out the whole competition.

Audience members 'held on set'

An unlikely controversy emerged during the filming of The Voice in 2019, as allegations surfaced that audience members were held on set against their will for an extended period.

The Voice audience during filming
Filming reportedly ran over during The Voice's 2019 season, and some audience members claimed they were held against their will. Photo: AAP

Radio host Grant Denyer reported a tumultuous day of filming, with frustrated fans rising up against the prolonged taping time, reportedly prompting staff to lock doors and block exits. While the show's producers acknowledged the extended filming hours, they ultimately denied holding audience members against their will.

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Last-minute rule changes

Amidst this season's unfolding drama on The Voice, controversy has already taken centre stage, prompted by a last-minute plea from host Sonia Kruger to amend the rules. The emotional moment unfolded when 53-year-old contestant Chris Watson auditioned in the hopes of inspiring his daughter, Shanae, to do the same.

Enter Guy Sebastian, who defied the established "blind" audition protocol by asking whether Shanae could audition despite the fact that the judges had seen her.

The Voice stars Chris and Shanae Watson
Chris Watson auditioned for The Voice in the hopes of inspiring his daughter to do the same, leading to a slight bending of the show's rules. Photo: Channel 7

Recognising the delicate nature of the situation, Sonia intervened, seeking producer approval for a secret audition by Shanae, carefully orchestrated to keep the judges oblivious to her identity.

As the moment of truth arrived, Shanae's blind audition went ahead, wowing the judging panel and prompting an emotional response from her proud father, Chris.

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