When The Voice first came along last year people were intrigued by a singing show that promoted talent over joke contestants. Indeed it got off to a great start as people were entranced by the blind audition rounds in which our coaches would spin their chairs around if they were interested in representing a certain act. However, once the live shows kicked off, audience interest waned and the ratings rapidly plummeted. Despite those problems The Voice has returned for a second series but some changes have been made. This year there will only be three live shows while the incredibly popular Blind Audition rounds have been extended. Meanwhile Will.i.am, Jessie J, Sir Tom Jones and that other bloke are all back in the spinning chairs.
Obviously The Voice’s main difference from its ITV rivals is that the judges, sorry coaches, cannot see who they are hearing unless they turn their chairs around. This means that they cannot be influenced by how an act looks only by how they sound which I find is still a refreshing change.
Ash Morgan, who is the first person to sing this series, likes this change mainly because he is a bit of a heavy-set lad. To be fair to the 26 year old, who spends his days working with special needs children, did have a stunning voice. His version of Palmoa Faith’s ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ was powerful and to me was the right performance to kick the series off with. The only problem was that Ash was upstaged as soon as Jessie J turned her chair around and leapt up on to the stage to be serenaded by him. By the end of Ash’s performance all four coaches had turned around and the first bidding war of the series was under way. Tom Jones was trying to appeal to the South Wales lad as they grew up in the same places while Will.i.am try to confuse us all with his gobbledygook. However in the end Ash chose Jessie as she gave the most heartfelt appeal and probably also because she jumped up on stage first.
Next was 22 year old Danny County who was fairly inexperienced having only played live twice prior to appearing on The Voice. Danny brought his guitar on stage with him to perform his own interpretation of the Sugababes’ hit ‘About You Now.’ Danny’s performance also meant the other Danny did his annoying bit where he goaded Jessie into turning before he himself turned round. After Danny had finished singing, both Jessie and Danny were very passionate about adding him to their teams. Jessie’s appeal to Danny told him that she’d keep it real and nurture his talent adding that she won’t fill his head with smoke – whatever that means. Meanwhile Danny told his namesake that they would have a laugh and would jam while knocking back a couple of beers. Then Will chimed in, championing Danny over Jessie which got the latter all riled up believing she would be the better coach. In the end Danny chose Jessie however she wasn’t pleased with Will’s contribution to the decision and hit back at him. The fact that Danny believes that he could still be the better mentor will play into one of this series’ newer features in which coaches can steal other acts. I reckon that Danny County will be one of the acts which Danny will try to nick from Jessie whenever he gets the opportunity.
Then we had the obligatory Essex entry with 24 year old Leanne whose singing experience included performing in a Girls Aloud tribute band in Majorca. Leanne told us that she fallen on tough times recently after the pub she was the landlady of closed down. Leanne was currently back at home and sharing a bed with her mother however she felt that getting through on The Voice would change her life somehow. I found Leanne to be the classic talent show diva as she belted out her version of ‘Stay with me Baby.’ Her voice was so powerful that by the end of her performance all four judges had turned their chairs around. Will was quick to pitch his case here talking about all of the female acts he produced that were similar to Leanne while Danny reckoned that he would be able to choose the right songs for Leanne. While Tom just tried to charm Leanne to his team, Jessie tried to make it three for three by telling her that the girls should stick together. In the end Leanne decided to go for Will and I have to say I think she made the right choice there.
The youngest contestant on this episode was sixteen year old Louis Cope. Louis described himself as the boring kid at school because he liked to stay in his room and make music rather than go out and party. Louis told us he was inspired to sing and play piano after seeing Elton John in concert five years ago. I would be surprised if Louis hadn’t been bullied a little bit for idolising Elton John and staying in his bedroom making music may have been out of necessity rather than choice. Louis performed a slow version of Foo Fighters’ Learn to Fly on the piano which I have to say I found a bit dull. Indeed it seemed as if I wasn’t the only one because none of the judges turned around with Danny and Jessie feeling that Louis was very musical theatre. After he’d failed to get through to the next round he was informed by the coaches that he was a little bit too proper and that he need to build to the chorus. Instead of just letting him go they then treated him like a performing monkey when Tom asked him to pay ‘Great Balls of Fire.’ While Louis felt like he had to perform a second song was beyond me but I suppose it got him a little bit of extra publicity.
Despite The Voice seemingly shunning the sob stories, it still appears as if one or two contestants are there to appeal to our emotional side. One such contestant was 26 old Andrea who had been born with glaucoma and had lost 90% of her eyesight. Personally I found Reggie Yates fairly patronising when talking to Andrea as he seemed to be playing up to the fact that Andrea was conducting her own blind audition judgment of him. At times I felt Andrea’s portion of the show to be a little bit tasteless as the blind audition element was brought up constantly during her performance. I thought Andrea was an above average singer and thought she was fairly good making her way through ‘Arms of the Angels’. Her efforts were rewarded with two coaches turning around in the form of Tom and Danny. Despite Tom complementing Andrea’s vocals, it was Danny who ultimately won out by telling Andrea that she made the hairs on his arm stand up. However I think that Danny almost went too far with his hyperbole constantly praising Andrea’s singing ability and telling her that she should no longer feel like she was second best.
Every now and then The Voice brings on contestants who have already had a small chunk of success. The first of these was Kirsty Crawford who had been signed to a record deal off the back of appearing on the second series of Pop Idol. However Kirsty, who dropped out of medical school to pursue her singing dream, has since struggled to find recognition and now wants to get back in the spotlight. I enjoyed the fact that she picked Skunk Anansie’s ‘Hedonism’ to perform however that was about the only thing I liked about Kirsty’s turn. Indeed it seemed she’d sabotaged herself by not performing to the best of her abilities and therefore didn’t get one of the coaches to turn around. Once Kirsty had finished all four coaches talked about the pressures of performing and how they’ve all bottled it in the past. This didn’t stop Kirsty running off the stage and crying before adding that that we didn’t see the real her on stage.
Talking of nerves, 21 year old Mike Ward was too nervous to even sign up for the show so instead his mum had to do it for him. Mike’s opening video presented his hometown of Salford as some sort of ghetto where he and his brother John rap on the streets on a regular basis. As this video had presented Mark in a certain way I think we were all pretty shocked when he started singing a country ballad. His performance of ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’ was fairly tender and by the end of his song all of the coaches bar Will had turned around. Obviously Danny made a play for Mark saying that they had similar influences while Tom noted he had recently worked in the country genre. In the end Will laid on the comedy by giving Mike his three choices in which he described Tom as ‘The Silver Bear’ and told Mike that Jessie was the best singer ever. Despite the crowd wanting Mike to pick Danny, in the end Mike correctly decided he would be better off on Team Tom.
The quirky element of episode one was provided by 20 year old Katie. Katie was obsessed by all things vintage and told us that she felt safe when listening to old music. She added that she’d been inspired by her granddad while her ill grandmother had also encouraged Katie by telling her to follow dreams. Despite looking incredibly ill, Katie’s grandma Mary was at the back of the stage to cheer on her performance of ‘Feelin’ Good.’ I found Katie to be one of the dodgier singers in this first episode and for a while I felt that nobody would turn around for her. Thankfully Danny convinced Jessie that she could coach her so she would be able to counterbalance the pitching problems she had. I personally feel that Katie’s story about her ill-grandmother was part of the reason she got through because otherwise the coaches would’ve been portrayed as being heartless. However I do feel that Katie will be one of the acts that gets knocked out in this series’ extended battle rounds.
The second of tonight’s previous success stories was 1990s chart-favourite Kavana who now likes to be simply known as Kav. Kavana and Reggie reminisced over the former’s success after he was spotted by Take That’s management while working at a burger bar. The height of Kavana’s fame came in 1996 when he beat out Peter Andre and Gary Barlow for the Best Male singer award at the Smash Hits Poll Winner’s Party. Since that time Kav had tried to make it as an actor in America but had been unsuccessful and was now trying to revive his pop career. However the fact he hadn’t sung in a while was quite evident when he started to croon his way through Crowded House’s Don’t Dream It’s Over. In fact Kav’s first couple of notes were extremely ropey and though he relaxed into the performance it still wasn’t enough to save him. As the coaches turned around it appeared as if Danny and Kav had previously met each other during a Boyzone gig in the mid-1990s. Danny was quick to stick up for Kav describing him as a brilliant vocalist but I really wouldn’t go that far. Despite Kav’s nerves getting the better of him at least he’s reminded a national TV audience that he exists and will probably go on to nab a place in the second series of The Big Reunion.
The final contestant tonight was 32 year old Matt Henry who worked in a dog’s trust home. Matt had previously performed on the West End but his nerves had stopped him from gigging on a regular basis. Before Matt even sung one note I had the feeling he’d be the contestant of the night and he definitely was. His performance of Ray LaMontagne’s Trouble was incredibly powerful and saw all four coaches turn their chairs around. I believe Will had the advantage straight away as Matt looked exactly like The Black Eyed Peas frontman. Once again Jessie made a very convincing plea however Matt eventually went with his lookalike Will which I believe was probably the right choice.
I personally felt that The Voice could’ve easily capitalised on the dullness of last year’s X-Factor by coming across as incredibly exciting and presenting itself as the most prestigious singing competition on the TV. Instead the show continued to take itself incredibly seriously while the banter between the coaches seemed incredibly scripted. It is clear that the coaches have been asked to be more enthusastic as there was plenty of occasions in which they got up on stage to interact with the acts. In addition to this Will also seemed that he had to sit on his chair in a particularly kooky way every time he decided to turn around. The best things about The Voice continue to be the contestants who are all incredibly talented and have, on the whole, got pretty decent voices. However I feel it could’ve been freshened up by having a new panel of coaches as the line-up here feels a bit tired. Indeed the only coach who I still like is Sir Tom Jones who doesn’t muck about like the rest of his number and instead waits to hear the whole song before making a decision. At 90 minutes, The Voice is also way too long and relies on a lot of needless filler segments about the coaches and the judging process.
Overall if you liked the blind auditions the first time around then you’ll probably enjoy The Voice once again. It still has the same mix of judge’s banter, decent talent and spinning chairs that captivated everyone so much the first time around. However I found it a bit of a chore to get through and it just seems to me that TV singing shows such as The Voice and The X-Factor will be on the way out in the near future.
What did you think to the return of The Voice? Are you still enjoying it? Leave your comments below….