Little Voice — Reviewing an Apple TV+ Original Blurring the Lines Between the Musical and the On-Screen

Apple Sep 25, 2020

It is no secret that the fray of new streaming options have inundated potential subscribers and viewers with advertisements and petitions for a chance to entertain. However, it is hard to say who will emerge through this explosion of competition as a winner, but it will likewise be hard to say that Apple will not be there - when one considers the ecosystem they already have for their users, and their culture of design and as well as their penchant for creative and ambitious endeavors.

With Little Voice, Apple has confirmed its promise to partner with great storytellers to bring viewers a unique streaming experience. Indeed, watching Little Voice made me appreciative that such a show saw the light of day. It reflects Apple’s DNA of commitment to creators and the beauty of the creative process. Through the creators, actors, musicians, and various gatekeepers it may have gone through, what resulted was an uniquely satisfying show that brings you in close.

As traditional cable and television delivery have been in the process of being thoroughly and completely disrupted, we have been, throughout this medium shift, likewise exposed to a widening of the content that has been given the green light, and we are better off for it.

Apple TV+, which is a monthly subscription, has declared itself to be “the new home for the world’s most creative storytellers”. Though not necessarily biographical, one can see the fingerprints of co-creator and executive producer Sara Bareilles, whose original songs serve as the imaginative spine for the playing out of the season, throughout. We are reminded with Little Voice that songwriting is often storytelling, and we are also shown that every song can have a story behind it that is worth telling.

This shift in the how and subsequent what of how people receive video entertainment has presented itself as an opportunity where Apple, who already owns the software platform, content delivery relationships with end users, TV streaming hardware, and digital media stores, to bring its viewers enjoyable content that stretches the familiar in a unique way.

One apparent big play that Apple has leveraged is the Apple TV app, that organizes all different streaming and video viewing options for the user, even content spanning other rival streaming platforms like Hulu, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime Video. The user does have to grant the app permission to their information from the other apps, but once they do it effectively becomes the one click portal for their video streaming and video purchase and rental library.

Little Voice follows Bess King (Brittany O’Grady), a beautiful young singer-songwriter who is unknown yet who carries a rarely seen gift. In the respite of her storage unit writing space, she gets to do what one can tell is her true passion, in between all the various jobs and gigs she does just to stay afloat.

Set in New York City, where individual voices can get drowned out by the constant flow of business, around-the-clock activities, and a flood of things that vie for attention, we are allowed on the juxtapositional journey of the young life of Bess who is finding that difference-making little voice inside her as an artist and person in the midst of the realities of big city life. Through set-backs, humiliation, frustration, and even a love triangle, Bess lets the whirlwind of everything happening in her life become the catalyst by which her gift and voice can fully express themselves — and they end up taking her to places of both deep connection and professional breakthrough.

Throughout the trajectory of the season, we are not simply presented new original songs with just about every episode, but we are taken into the life and story of the songwriter-protagonist, to get a taste of the visceral beauty and realness of the art, which I believe will resonate with many that already use Apple products in their own creative pursuits.

Like many of us Bess is loyal to her family, and she has had to assume many responsibilities that many her age do not have to worry about, because of her mother’s leaving, her brother’s special needs, and her father’s struggles with addiction.

The show does not shy away from themes that youth today deal with and resonate with seeing depicted, and that also gives space for moments of dialogue that remind you that Little Voice can also claim credentials as a thoughtful production even when the music is not considered.

Bess’ loveable brother Louie (Kevin Valdez), who is a whiz in all information related to Broadway and seeks to share his knowledge with the world via his vlog often offers thoughtful comedic relief. Louie is on the autism spectrum, and we are treated to delightful scenes with him and his friends that also are, as he adjusts to life on his own.

In reality, Little Voice has been able to hit upon and skillfully articulate a truth we all have innately understood: that the experience, enjoyment, and creation of music is not simply musical, but that it is multidimensional.

At the same time you can connect with the songwriter, learn from them, admire the art and expression and yet feel yourself as their equal, experiencing the music in your own way yet sharing in the creation that has a unique story for the life of its creator as well. A song can affect us in ways we cannot understand, and the indiscernible fusion of musicality, instrumentation, lyrics, the human connection with the songwriter and those that listen to and experience the music with us both asynchronously and together at the same time, and all of the memories and hopes we ourselves as the listeners have, can move us to tears.

Music is also social, some of the deepest bonds we have with friends are built upon the scaffolding of certain songs in a certain season of life, as well as when we discover common points of enjoyment. The experience of live music is also an influential and memorable force in our lives, and the show also reflects that.


There is no question that the principal creative heartbeat behind Little Voice is Sara Bareilles, the renowned singer-songwriter who has also released an album of the songs in the first season of the series. She even appears in a cameo and becomes enshrined as part of Louie’s vlog. The fresh songwriting and the way weighty lyrics are utilized in surprising ways are sure to inspire those already participating in songwriting, or those who dream about letting their own little voice within out into the world.

Throughout the first season Brittany O’Grady’s vocals, with their impactful and refreshing register, immediately draw the viewer/listener in and make it clear that she was a perfect fit for this role. She is aided by Samuel (Colton Ryan), whose talents compliment and enrich hers. He shows patience and character throughout the season, having the understanding to allow Bess’ gifts to sprout and bloom, even though the process may sometimes seem to leave him as a casualty.

The listener can continue listening to the musical manifestation of the first season through the collection Little Voice: Season 1 (Apple TV+ Original Series Soundtrack), available everywhere music is streamed.

The ensemble of the on-screen versions has been one that impressed me, and I look forward to getting into the versions by Sara Bareilles (More Love: Songs from Little Voice Season One).

These are some of the songs from the first season that personally resonated with me, either for musical or various other reasons, and that I have personally had on repeat since finishing watching:

Simple and True

Tell Her

In July

More Love

Little Voice

When the audience sees the on-screen rendition of Simple and True, not only are we witnessing the performance that is quite rapturing and enveloping, but we also have known the pain and confusion Bess was experiencing from everything going on her life, and that takes the audience to a moment where the lines of TV show, the experience of a live performance, and the world premiere of a moving song, are all blurred at once. This artful bending of cinematic and musical dimensions is what makes Little Voice special.

Little Voice is unique in that it in one sense takes a collection of original songs that stand very well already on their own, and yet it brings us into the battle of a songwriter and the beauty and grind of their life that is relatable to many people, young and old alike — because it is a life that represents the wonderful experience of human life, with the vine of genius, like the musical and creative, weaving throughout all the mundane and hurtful circumstances of our situations and past. And through that, we can all relate to Little Voice in some way.

Watch Little Voice on Apple TV+ (sponsored link)


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