Arden, Ice to judge wannabe crooners

Canada’s newest reality TV singing competition will be judged by Vanilla Ice, Jann Arden and Simple Plan singer Pierre Bouvier.

Rob VanWinkle

Rob VanWinkle

TORONTO — Canada’s newest reality TV singing competition will be judged by Vanilla Ice, Jann Arden and Simple Plan singer Pierre Bouvier.

The trio have been recruited to pass judgment on wannabe crooners on the upcoming Global TV series Canada Sings!

It’s a gig that Arden says she was initially reluctant to take on, noting she declined an offer to judge Canadian Idol years ago because she just couldn’t get behind the premise.

“It takes an enormous amount of bravery but I also want kids just to get out there and work hard for what they want to do in their lives. I don’t think handing them this ticket is necessarily a great idea and it creates a lot of losers and one winner,” Arden said Tuesday of the pop music franchise, which includes American Idol and Pop Idol.

“I was never a fan of the show. But when this came along my initial response was, ‘Oh my gosh, no.’ And then Bruce Allen, my manager, said, ‘I want you to listen to this and listen really carefully, read about the show and don’t be such an ass.’ . . . And then as I’m getting into the kit, I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, this sounds like something I would cry all the way through on every episode,’ because the stories behind these glee club-type choirs are incredible.”

The reality show sought out average Canadians to form “workplace glee clubs” and battle it out onstage for the charity of their choice.

Twelve singing teams have been drawn from companies including Air Canada, GoodLife Fitness, Hamilton Police, The Keg and the Toronto Fire Services.

Two groups come from Vancouver, while the rest are from the Ontario cities of Hamilton, Cambridge, Mississauga and Toronto.

Each episode features two glee clubs facing off in front of the judges and a studio audience in Toronto. The episodes are being taped this week for broadcast later in the year. No air date has been set.

Arden says she hopes to inject a bit of comic relief into the proceedings and expects rapper Vanilla Ice, whose real name is Rob VanWinkle, will add a celebrity appeal and help lure younger viewers.

On each episode, Arden, VanWinkle and Bouvier will choose the winning team and award $10,000 for their charity. The other team gets $2,000.

“They’re not professional singers, they don’t want to be famous stars, they’re not looking to get record deals,” Arden said of the competitors, just as she was about to begin the first day of shooting.

“They’re learning and singing they’re hearts out and choreographing their pieces and they’re trying to make a few bucks for the kidney foundation.”

The chosen charities include Ronald McDonald House, the B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation, the Scarborough Hospital Foundation and the Toronto Zoo’s Animal Health Care Centre.

Matt Babel from “ET Canada” will host the six-part series that comes from Insight Production Company Ltd., which was also behind CTV’s “Canadian Idol” and CBC’s “Battle of the Blades.”

Arden says she hopes to offer constructive comments.

“It’s not about me sitting there being this judge that’s like, ’That was terrible! You’re vibrato was awful and (that was a) poor song choice,”’ she says.

“We as judges are just kind of guiding the ship and adding a little bit of pizzazz and more than anything, encouraging and giving them great positive feedback. And you know what, I can live with myself for that.”