One of the criticisms levelled at last year’s series of The Voice UK was that there were far too many singers in the final live rounds. To counteract this we’ve been promised a lot more knockouts at the battle round stages but, after watching the first battle episode, I see no evidence of this. Instead each coach will see their teams decrease from twelve to six but they’ll also have a seventh team member who they’ll pick from one of the eliminated artists. This is due to the new ‘steal’ feature in which the other three coaches are offered up the chance of adding one of the Battle Round losers to their teams.
The first battle tonight came courtesy of Team Tom as larger-than-life builder took on soul man LB. Assisting Tom once again this year will be Cerys Matthews who is accompanied by her selection of hats. The two men initially struggled with the notes on ‘When Love Comes to Town’, but once they had got to the studio rehearsal both had nailed it. I personally thought this was the right start to the show as both men wowed with their powerful vocals. There was also a sense that this was a proper battle as there were plenty of stare downs and one moment where Jamie almost lamped LB in the face. After they’d finished, Danny described it as the perfect battle as each understood what the other was going to do but at the same time they both fought for the position. Jessie described Jamie as mesmerising while Will complemented the builder on his ability to push the notes out. However all of three coaches decided that they would pick LB if they had to make Tom’s decision. Obviously not caring what any of his colleagues thought, Tom picked Jamie and I personally believe he made the right choice. This then meant that any of the other three coaches could have LB on their team however, when push came to shove, none of them picked him. Instead a gracious LB thanked all of the coaches for their hard work and in particular Jessie for telling him he was incredible.
Team Will’s first battle was between charity worker Matt and Jordan who hit some ridiculous high notes the first time around. Will was joined by his old Black Eyed Peas mate Dante Santiago who told the duo they needed both talent and charisma. Jordan certainly took the early advantage during rehearsals drowning out everybody with his falsetto while Matt just stood there in shock. Thankfully Matt got some advice from his mum who reminded him off the awesome electric slide that he used to do at birthday parties. With his moves giving him the advantage, Jordan tried to one up him but his ‘funky moves’ looked all shades of wrong with Will instructing him to turn down his musical background. As the battle took place, I was astounded at how great Matt was but I’m afraid Jordan doesn’t do anything for me. The coaches all admitted that Matt was the better of the two however Will decided to go with Jordan. This apparently was a tactical move because he knew one of the other coaches would steal Matt but wouldn’t do the same for Jordan. I personally didn’t understand these tactics as Will was essentially picking the poorer of the two singers and letting one of his rivals receive a potential winner. Tom and Jessie both pushed their buttons to indicate they wanted to steal Matt and in the end he decided to go with his gut and became a member of Team Jessie.
Team Danny’s first battle was between partially sighted Andrea and former Hollyoaks actress Alice. Danny had a new assistant this year in the form of Dido who looked just thrilled to be a part of the show. Dido claimed that she wanted to find someone with a voice that she can remember, which is ironic seeing as most people trying to forget hearing her voice as soon as they’ve listened to it. The song that Danny picked for the two girls was Birdy’s ‘People Help the People’, a track that has a lot of emotion behind it. Alice felt that the track suited Andrea’s voice a lot more as Andrea’s wore her heart on her sleeve while she was more used to putting on a persona. As Alice thought Andrea already had it in the bag caused her to run off and cry which gave Danny the excuse to give her a big hug. Alice later got to the heart of the song which meant that Andrea had to up her game in terms of stage presence which I felt was a big ask. Alice and Andrea’s battle was where the pace of the episode started to drag for me as the song felt like it went on for ages. There was no surprise for me at all when Danny picked Andrea and poor old Alice went through further humiliation when none of the coaches wanted to steal her.
Jessie was the last coach to showcase two of her team members in former beauty queen Sarah and vintage fashion fan Katie. Jessie’s assistant was writer and producer Claude ‘Moonhead’ Kelly who told us a good singer had to have a passion for what they do, an idea of who they are and the confidence to appear on stage. Jessie chose Katy Perry’s ‘E.T.’ for the girls to sing which I don’t believe showcased the abilities of either of the contestants. The footage of the rehearsals featured a lot of crying with Katie upset that she hadn’t had as much vocal training as Sarah and Sarah was later upset when Jessie said she didn’t believe her expressions. I personally thought this was another underwhelming battle, but that may well be down to not liking the song very much. I have to concede that Sarah sounded better here especially when she went for a stupidly high note. Jessie acted like she had a tough decision to make but it was clear to all of us that she was going to choose Sarah.
Up to this point, the battles had been fairly tame but that wasn’t going to last for long when Will pitted former 90’s girlband star Cleo Higgins up against aggressive duo Nu-Tarna. I found this 2 on 1 situation to be a bit harsh to begin with and I would’ve loved to have seen Nu-Tarna up against those two women who sung the opera. Instead this was the battle of the egos as each act claimed they would be ad-libbing while the other was trying to sing. Will promised that this battle would be full of fireworks but what we actually got was a lot of shouting. The girls were singing ‘Finally’ and Cleo kicked it off pleasantly enough but then Nu-Tarna started to up the pressure. As the two acts tried to outdo each other, Jessie rightly noted that it was ‘too much.’ Jessie said as much when she’d finished, criticising Nu-Tarna for attempting to tempt Cleo out of her comfort zone. Will agreed and so sent Cleo through, mainly because she could control her voice much more than the other two girls.
The final battle came from Team Jessie as Welsh man-mountain Ash went up against hairy soul man Adam. Their initial rehearsal was so good that Jessie felt that they didn’t need any lessons. Despite this, some drama had to be created so Jessie felt Ash lacked confidence while Adam’s rendition of ‘I Won’t Let You Go’ lacked any passion. As the boys’ coach, Jessie had a heart-to-heart with Ash and told Adam to think of his fiancée when he was singing. After a couple of mediocre battles, this was a fairly entertaining match as both guys tried their all to get through to the next round. The coaches found it hard to separate the two and each had a different opinion on who they thought Jessie should choose. In the end she went with Ash, however the contest hadn’t finished for Adam as both Danny and Tom indicated that they wanted him on their team. After the usual generic pitches from both, Adam felt his place was on Team Tom and I personally believe he’ll be better off there.
I know I’ve been ultra-critical of The Voice up to this point, but I think we can all agree it’s been a bit dull. Thankfully this first instalment of the Battle Rounds was a vast improvement as each performance had a story behind it and the majority of the episode felt perfectly-paced. There were only two battles that really lacked any drama for me but all of the rest had something to offer. In fact the only thing I’m not sure about is this steal option as it is needlessly-complicated and doesn’t add a lot of jeopardy to the show. Overall though I found this to be the most enjoyable episode of The Voice UK so far and hope the rest of the Battle Round are equally as entertaining.
Did you enjoy this first Battle Round episode? What do you think to the steal option? Leave Your Comments Below.