TORONTO — You’d have to have a heart of stone to be unaffected by the contestants on Canada Sings, says judge Rob Van Winkle, better known as early 1990s rapper Vanilla Ice.
“I get goosebumps, there’s been times I almost got teared up … this is a very tear-jerking, emotional show — unless you’re just completely feeling-less, you’re going to be touched,” says Winkle.
“I can feel their passion and it’s neat to be a part of it, but very difficult from a judging standpoint, because there has to be a winner, even though to me they’re all winners.”
The second season of Canada Sings kicks off Tuesday with more at stake for the teams of workplace singers competiting for a charitable donation.
This year, one of 12 teams — represented by the Canadian Automobile Association, the Children’s Aid Society in Ontario’s Peel region, Dumas Mining, Elmwood Spa, GO Transit, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Ontario Science Centre, Purdy’s Chocolates, RBC, the Royal Canadian Air Force Band, Stampede Casino and WestJet — will compete to perform the best song and dance routine and win $25,000 for the charity of their choice, which is up from the $10,000 prize in season 1.
Each team has a compelling personal cause motivating them, which makes picking a winner extremely difficult, say the judging panel, which also includes singer Jann Arden and star choreographer Laurieann Gibson.
Show creator John Brunton of Insight Productions says he thinks audiences will connect with the show because of its positive message.
There’s no American Idol-style snark or shaming on this show.
“It’s just got this really feel-good vibe to it, it’s a show that doesn’t really play off of embarrassment and cynicism, it tears at people’s heartstrings,” Brunton says.
After buying the rights to create Canadian versions of series including Pop Idol, Battle of the Blades and Top Chef, he’s now hoping to take the Canada Sings concept around the world.
“Having been a person that has rented many, many formats, it’s exciting to be on the other side of it, and on the side of something that spreads such positive vibes and goodwill and speaks to the positive side of the human spirit.”
Gibson says she can definitely see the concept working in the U.S. and elsewhere.
“I think the good thing about ’Canada Sings’ is it’s honest, it’s a connection to real people,” she says, adding it doesn’t share much in common with other reality shows that seem too quick to crush contestants’ dreams.
“There is a false sense of saying someone’s a star or they’re not….
“They might not be at the stage where their talent is fully developed but to say someone’s not a star or can’t sing is an ignorant statement.
“Myself, I’ve proven a lot of closed doors wrong.”
Canada Sings airs on Global at 8 p.m.