The Voice massage: TV's top pop quest returns 7pm Sunday on Nine

The Voice coaches Boy George, Delta Goodrem, Kelly Rowland and Guy Sebastian.

The Voice coaches Boy George, Delta Goodrem, Kelly Rowland and Guy Sebastian.

They're calling this year's season of The Voice, which returns to Nine on Sunday night, the "biggest, boldest and most controversial season yet".

Viewers might be forgiven for wondering if that's what Nine promised last season. And the season before that.

"Fans can look forward to some of the most unique voices ever to grace The Voice stage," Nine hypoventilates, "and some of the most heartfelt, jaw-dropping and controversial moments in the nine-year history of the show."

OK, so we might not be spinning out of our armchairs just yet - not after all these years of nightly, sledgehammer-subtle marketing of reality gameshow drama.

But when you're putting the professional reputations of four chart-topping singer-songwriters - Delta Goodrem, Boy George, Kelly Rowland and Guy Sebastian - on the line by pitting them against each other in prime-time as talent-spotters and star-makers competing to discover and coach the next Aussie pop idol, the scene is set - carefully stage-managed, if you like - for a clash of showbiz egos.

The name of the game is the still same in 2020: turn a wannabe into a could-be with an EMI Music recording contract plus $100,000 in prizemoney.

 Renee Bargh, pictured centre with Darren McMullen, joins The Voice as co-host.

Renee Bargh, pictured centre with Darren McMullen, joins The Voice as co-host.

But new this season carries some novel contest elements - or what Nine terms "dramatic innovations" - called "The Playoffs" and "Showdowns" and "the Block", which are intended to "raise the competitiveness to a new level". During the blind auditions, for example, each coach will be allowed two "blocks" that deny the other coaches the chance to pitch for the appealing voices they hear.

Also new this year is Renee Bargh, a co-host for Darren McMullen. The Aussie presenter has spent the past decade in the US on star-spangled entertainment show Extra.

Nine says top contestants from previous years will return to perform. And 2020's competitors include an ex-Australian Idol winner, an international winner of The Voice and "the youngest artist to ever audition" for the franchise globally.

This story The Voice massage first appeared on The Canberra Times.