This, in case you are from Mars, was THE VOICE. Not the personality, the looks or the stage presence but THE VOICE; the notes and the tunes and the mind-blowing authenticity of hardcore vocals. We at Sofabet hope that you had the foresight to hold on to the parts of your spines what tingle.
The biggest thing to understand about The Voice is that The Voice is NOT THE X FACTOR. In order to demonstrate this, the series premiered with a group performance that demonstrated the talent pool of its mentors. That performance was about 22% as good as THIS. Distancing from Simon Cowell? Job done.
It’s easy to see why the BBC’s newest reality venture wants to disassociate itself from the downward spiral of The X Factor. However, it’s equally easy to lament the fact that ITV didn’t secure this format in order to flush out its own cloggy U-bend. The all-round fear about The Voice, as I have discussed with Daniel and Andrew, is that it worries towards boredom. It’s hard to imagine Betfair going into a frenzy over an argument between Tom Jones and Danny O’Donoghue. Let’s be realistic.
A series premiere is always difficult to gauge, especially with a new format, but it goes without saying that the British public like to back an unlikely champion. Starting off with an announcement that all auditionees have been hand-picked by expert vocal coaches seems like a bad start to me, but what do I know?
So let’s talk about the troubadours in question – the hardworking ‘n’ authentic folk faced with the challenge of impressing one of four esteemed judges (or ‘coaches’) on the panel. In case you missed the memo, that panel consists of A ROBOT FROM THE FUTURE, MARY MAGDALENE, SUN-BED SANTA and someone from The Script. The troubadours have their work cut out.
In a shock twist, the first troubadour out (Jessica Hammond) sang and strummed a song by voiceofthepeople.com AKA Jessie J. All four coaches turned their futuristic chairs around and paid attention. In X Factor territory, it would be easy to say that this contestant was going places. In The Voice? It’s too early to tell. Hammond was solid but it was hardly the stuff of dreams.
Even at this early stage, one has to wonder about the show’s preference towards a specific coach. Does the BBC care which coach wins? Is it as calculated as ITV in this matter? It seems obvious that Jessie J is the easy Cheryl of the show – an already popular female with the potential to play sweetheart to a nation. Grabbing the first win in a Dragon’s Den-esque bidding war certainly seemed like a positive step for the Essex warbler. Time will tell if The Voice places more emphasis on its applicants or its judges.
In order to further push its aversion to industry standards, The Voice then showed us a mediocre cameo from boyband wash-up, 5ive’s Sean. The exact point of this exercise was unclear but it must have had something to do with the show’s mission statement on raw talent. That statement was furthered by another cameo by X Factor loser, CER-RRAIG COLTON. Except we weren’t actually looking at Craig Colton but rather Samuel Buttery, a slightly less vocally adept impersonator who wowed little and wailed lots. In response to this, the judges conferred a lot, nudging and winking in a way that enforced management rapport but did sweet Fanny Addams for promoting the The Voice’s obsession with professional objectivity.
So the coaches proved that they can cajole one another just like X Factor judges but they were not satisfied to draw the line there. The Voice happily displayed a propensity toward tiny violin strings with a performance by alopecia sufferer, Toni Warne, who was presented not as a mediocre club singer but as a disadvantaged woman with an impossible dream of self-acceptance. Toni was hugely likeable, but her voice just did not stand up to the supposed standards of THE VOICE.
The other notable contestant of the evening was surely ‘Youtube sensation’, Ben Kelly. Whilst his online success might have seemed jarring at first, it played a decent nod to the roots of the online phenomenon trend that has made stars of, amongst others, Justin Bieber and Jessie J.
Flame-haired Holly Valance stand-in, J Marie Cooper (who already has a notable presence online) managed a pretty impressive none-for-note, woo-for-woo, pebble-for-squizzle cover of Jessie J’s ‘Mama Knows Best’ but failed to come across as a deserving outsider. The Jessie trend, however, continued. I know for a fact that chairs turned around – maybe one, maybe all four – but this aspect of the format continued to underwhelm.
Personally, I was not wowed by anyone but if I had to pick out contenders, I’d initially be looking at Jessica Hammond or Ben Kelly. So far, they are the only two that will pop up if you care to Youtube ‘The Voice’. Max Milner, he of that hat and guitar who dared mash The Beatles up with Eminem, is definitely worthy of attention. If there was a star of the episode, which I’d argue there wasn’t, it would have been him. I hope that later episodes turn up something a bit more special than this but my faith at this point resembles a dandelion ghost.
As ever, please let us know how you felt about tonight’s show – the contestants in particular. Did you see any stars beginning to shine? Or did you see blanket day at the Laundromat? Your comments are welcomed, desired and in danger of mild molestation.