“We are gonna hear some shit hot singers tonight. I can feel it,” tweeted Steve Brookstein in anticipation of the second episode of The Voice. In fact, few of tonight’s auditionees were particularly shit OR hot but neither were they obvious stars or ugly enough to warrant any hyperbolic SuBo-style praise in return for holding a tune. In short, we were presented with another motley lot of mediocre wannabes who together personified the theme of “last chance saloon.”
We began with a reminder that Jessie J “knows what she wants” (to win, which it looks increasingly likely that she might) and then moved on to the first celebrity auditionee of the night.
Okay, celebrity might be a strong word but The Voice doesn’t seem shy about featuring contestants with professional experience. Heshima Thompson’s buttery voice was sort of dampened by clips of his previous acting and musical achievements. It was a tighter vocal than last week’s opener by Jessica Hammond but I think we can afford to drop the pretence and accept that Heshima is the kind of act that the industry and public see as a backing singer or session musician and not as a true recording star.
Next up in the Last Chance Saloon, was ‘experienced’ Barbara Bryceland, arguably too good a vocalist for the Mary Byrne bracket that she clearly represents in a show which continues to pigeon hole its contestants as crudely as its ITV counterparts. If you closed your eyes, and I did, Barbara was actually very impressive but I don’t see her going far, even with her technical ability and a regional accent.
Next up was a scruffy ex-shelf stacker with a big dream. I was always repulsed by the X Factor’s milking of Matt Cardle’s plastering experience and the comparisons with the curly haired David Julien were unmissable as the latter launched into an impersonation of The Man Who Won’t Be Moved that wouldn’t have been out of place on Stars In Their Eyes. David was likeable, blandly competent and probably the first potential winner out of tonight’s auditionees.
The next celebrity guest of the night was Kerry Ellis who is a HUGE theatre star. I’m not talking about a few stints at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2am cabaret shows, Kerry Ellis is a big, big name in the West End. Luckily Kerry failed to swivel the judges and therefore removed the need for us to speculate about her chances in a competition that’s really supposed to be (correct me if I’m wrong) about making people famous rather than degrading musical stars and leading them to wail, “WHY DIDN’T YOU TURN ROUND?”
The next contestant in this special celebrity edition of The Voice was ex-boyband member and X Factor finalist, Vince Kidd, who channelled various elements of Prince, Stacey Solomon and the demon Pazazu and in doing so managed to come closer to demonstrating artistry than any auditionee thus far. Vince was interesting and, for want of a better word, a bit different. However, I’m going to call this one early and say that I don’t see him appealing to a broad enough market to be a threat in the win market, even with Jessie J on his side.
At this point, I’d like to make a brief point about Oyster cards. For those that don’t know, Oyster cards are magnetic smart cards that allow you to travel around London without fumbling about for coins and paper tickets all the time. When I first got an Oyster card, it was exciting, a novelty just to tap it on the reader and watch barriers fly open as if by magic. After a while I noticed that other travellers were keeping their Oysters in wallets and various pockets that allowed them to tap in and out without removing the card. For a while, I experimented with storing my oyster in different places. I even tried putting it in my shoe and tapping my foot on the reader. That didn’t work and I got into trouble. Quite quickly, I got bored and stopped thinking about my Oyster card as any kind of novelty. If you’re wondering where I’m going with this then I shall tell you. Each time Will.I.am elbow-stabs his button or Jessie J activates hers by dragging her purple hair ends across it, I am reminded of just how quickly the novelty of The Voice’s chair gimmick has run out.
For a change, the next contestant of the night was not a celebrity but Chantelle, a 17 year old rough-talking chanteuse who sang opera that, whilst impressive, sounded largely like a bird whistle being played underwater. Owing to the fact that the coaches assumed she was old and posh and already accomplished, they neglected to bother turning around. Quite why the programme would want to point out such a vital flaw in its own logic remains a mystery.
Next up was a slightly podgy man who played a guitar in a waistcoat. That is to say that he wore a waistcoat. The guitar did not. He was also barefoot. This is the kind of thing that makes me pull my dictionary off its shelf, rip out the word ‘authenticity’ and lay it atop my toilet roll holder in preparation for nature’s call. History tells me, however, that this is the kind of quirk that the British public will lap up quite happily (barefootedness, not dictionary bog-roll). Vince Freeman gave a solid performance, potentially the strongest vocal of the night and I can see him doing well in a climate that celebrates Ed Sheeran like Christmas. An obvious selection in Danny as a coach could see Vince doing quite well. Whether he can hold his own against the younger, more appealing contestant Max Milner depends very much on how the format works out in later stages.
Next up Aleks Josh was a huge hit with coaches and audience alike when he wiggled around like a snake with an itchy bum whilst singing a series of bops, beeps and shoop-de-woops to the tune of Jason Mraz’s picnic anthem, I’m Yours. His youth and charm were sort of hard to resist, despite a muted performance that was made even harder to decipher by a lot of noise in the studio. Voice aside, there was a buzz in the segment that said Aleks is going to prove popular. It will be interesting to see what direction ‘Danny’ (the producers) decides to take him in.
The Voice then introduced us to a strange combination of Janet Devlin and Little Mix’s Jesy in the form of Frances Wood. She seemed to me the worst vocalist of the evening as she stabbed her way through a bizarre cover of Where Is The Love? Unfortunately, in a late moment of sycophantic weakness, Will.I.am turned his chair and sent Frances forward. I’d be very surprised if she would be put forward to the final stages where she would be in direct competition with the more obviously popular Jessica Hammond.
Duos were officially introduced as an acceptable category of auditionee with the appearance of Janet Devlin’s parents who were also a Magic Numbers tribute act and also, in fact, neither of the above. Matt and Sueleen’s intervention was definitely an interesting inclusion. Best of all, I liked that they chose their mentor by tossing a coin. It reminded me of the time the Dalai Lama was invited to guest judge Masterchef and refused to give a preference towards any specific dishes on the grounds that it would negate Buddhist principles.
The last of Tom Jones’ snares for what looks increasingly like X Factor’s ‘overs’ category was Deniece Pearson of Five Star fame. Jessie J had the decency to own up to her hypocrisy after calling Deniece out for trilling too far around the tune but she made a fair point – I can’t imagine Deniece’s vocal style being particularly popular with audiences.
The last contestant of the night was Maggot from Goldie Lookin’ Chain, or so I assumed based on his Welsh accent, scraggly get-up and the almost famous theme of the night thus far. It was obvious before anything happened that David Faulkner was going to blow the judges away. The late placement in the show, the unlikely image, it all added up to some obvious promotion. It seems impossible that David, with his surprisingly soulful voice, won’t appeal to the masses.
Of the night’s measly pick, I’d highlight Vince Kidd and David Faulkner as the most interesting artists. From a punting perspective, one or two out of Vince Freeman, David Julien and Aleks Josh seem like potential contenders for some level of success but none strike me as more appealing than last week’s Max Milner. Jessica Hammond seems to be the clear favourite with most bookmakers but at prices like 7/1 (Paddy Power) or 9/1 (Coral) for a not particularly special performer, I wouldn’t even think about it. Until we get a better idea of how the format will play out, I think I’d rather speculate over the next Archbishop of Canterbury.
What are your thoughts? Please do let us know!