@stevebrookstein was out tonight and therefore offered us no introduction to the final round of blind auditions in this series of The Voice. In lieu of his insights, Jessie J announced that it was “time to raise the bar” and I for one was hoping for a couple of corkers to shake up a somewhat measly leader board.
Emmy J Mac, founder of the notorious Jingle Jangle Club For Kids opened the night by offering us ‘something different’ that sounded remarkably like something familiar. It was hard to place the exact style she was following but perhaps somewhere between Gabriella Cilmi, Janet Devlin and Corinne Bailey-Rae would describe it best. Danny now has three girls in his final ten. If we assume that he would like more than one in his final 5 and that one of those will be Bo Bruce, neither of which are guaranteed, then I see Emmy’s chances of passing the battle round at about 50/50.
Barmaid Jenny Jones underwhelmed with a slightly karaoke version of Mercy that did little to impress. Considering that she made it into Will’s team where she will be in direct competition with Joelle Moses, J Marie Cooper and Sophie Griffin, I don’t see her as a threat in the battle stage.
Will had tic-tacs, because he stays fresh, holler. Between Danny’s sycophantic mime-dancing and Jessie’s vocal ‘expertise’, I’m finding more and more that Will is a breath of fresh, robotic, futuristic air.
Next up in the Last Chance Saloon was an award-winning musical star whose rejection only served to assure us that The Voice is not afraid to be formulaic. Hopefully this bodes well for future speculation.
Will’s next acquisition was Sophie Griffin, whose slightly shouty rendition of American Boy definitely showed potential. Whether there is room for her in a final 5 that could well include Joelle and J. Marie remains to be seen but she has youth, always a useful factor, on her side. Next up it felt like time for a no and sure as eggs is eggs, Ben Lake became another rejectee.
We were then introduced to Indie and Pixie, two BFFs who wouldn’t have looked out of place singing into hairbrushes. Considering the vocalists that Jessie has slated thus far, it seems a little odd that she was so enthused about the duo but novelty and variety won through. I wonder if that novelty would be enough to carry two very shrill singers past the battle round in a strong category.
Next up was Lindsay Butler, who surprised nobody by inspiring only Tom to swivel. I don’t fancy her chances in a team with several very accomplished, older, female singers. After Lindsay came the Devlinesque manic pixie dream girl (it’s a thing, honestly), Harriet Whitehead. Harriet was one of my favourite auditions so far and I was stunned that she didn’t make the cut. A quick browse online revealed that she has some previous experience as a contestant on Wales’ The V Factor but such a minor accomplishment didn’t seem enough to overlook her as a contender for the crown in The Voice.
John James Newman arrived next and he loved his dad, much like notorious comeback kid Amelia Lily did a long time ago in an X Factor far, far away. Danny picked up the pub singer, perhaps in the hope that they would one day join forces and sing a patronising ‘rock’ ballad about drinking cheap wine and crying over girlfriends past. I may be wrong but Danny’s category just looks too competitive to see this guy through the battle phase.
In last week’s review, I opined that Leanne Mitchell had no chance of making the final – a blatant oversight on my part as Andrew pointed out. If each coach is to have one act in the final then Leanne stands a good chance of representing Team Tom. Having said that, tonight saw the appearance of another strong voice in the adorable 19-year-old belter Ruth Brown. It seemed odd that no other coach showed an interest but Ruth definitely bolsters the credibility of what otherwise looks largely like an obligatory ‘overs’ category.
Becky Hill, a slightly less dull Sophie Habibis, arrived next to impress with her cover of the Will co-written Ordinary People and she has now overtaken Jessica Hammond with some bookmakers. In my opinion, she was a stronger vocalist and I can picture her sailing through the battle round, provided she is teamed with a weak enough opponent.
Next up, Chloe Blackwell failed to make the cut, despite demonstrating a great stage presence and killer vocal. Will blamed the voice in his gut (it was asking for a tiny bottle of probiotic yoghurt) for not turning his ruddy chair. A VT introduced the two remaining contestants in order to inject some perfunctory tension into the final moments of auditions. Daniel Walker missed the mark with a solid cover of Kiss From A Rose and then we were introduced to the final auditionee of the night, Jaz Ellington.
Jazz Ellington, Jazz Ellington, Jazz Ellington. Not only was he the final contestant of the blind phase, he was given double the coverage and allowed to sing two songs based purely on the fact that he was very good (what’s the betting that Ordinary People will be back in the charts next week?). The judges wept or applied glycerine to their eyes, one or the other. Jaz is now the front-runner with most, if not all, bookies but I think we have to be careful about picking out a winner this early. Jaz was incredibly solid but his voice was somewhat indistinct. On top of that, early prophecy has oft boded ill for contestants of reality television. Danyl Johnson did not win X Factor, Susan Boyle did not win Britain’s Got Talent. Let’s perhaps hold our horses for a little while. Still, The Voice producers clearly showed Jaz an extraordinary amount of favour and that must have meaning.
Next week, we have been promised ‘soul on a pole’, singing lessons from someone in The Script and still more impressive singers on ITV. Perhaps it’s that I’ve been reading the Hunger Games trilogy (definitely worth a gander if you choose to interpret the books as an indictment of the reality genre) but The Voice continues to feel like TV without much bite. At least, now that we have a full deck of players to reflect upon, the guessing games can begin for real.
So how will they pair the players? As cheesy as the battle phase appears, it introduces a new dynamic. Of course, contestants are pitted against one another at judges’ houses in X Factor but we are meant to believe that they are all vying for a number of spots, rather than being pitted against another hopeful in their ilk. I doubt somehow that the pairings will be picked at random and thus it makes sense to pit like against like in order to flush out the filler and allow for maximum variety in the final stages. On top of this, producers will also want to avoid similar acts from different teams making it through to the finals together. Parallels between acts could make for great competitive TV but two versions of the same singer would doubtless land one coach with egg on his/her face if his/her act has to sing in the same show as a better version of themselves.
A trio of Js currently represent the shortest odds. Jaz, Jessica and Joelle make for a respectable top three, followed shortly thereafter by Becky Hill. After that, Max Milner, Vince Kidd, Bo Bruce, David Julien, J Marie Cooper and Adam Isaac fill out the top 10 as listed at oddschecker.com. Jaz and Jessica are the obvious favourites but Becky looks reasonable at 15/1 with Skybet at time of writing. I was initially doubtful of Joelle but recent stories in the press suggest she could be set up for a ‘journey’ on the show. I do feel, however, that the odds neglect to acknowledge the public preference towards the straight-white-male-everyman type. Max Milner, David Julien, David Faulker and Aleks Josh are all available at varying degrees of value but whether any of them can challenge the front-runners is hard to call. I won’t be betting on a winning manager any time soon – not when Will has clinched the front running vocalist and Danny and Jessie both have solid teams. It does, however, seem fair to speculate that Team Tom won’t take the crown. Not unless Ruth Brown can really win the public’s heart.
Let us know your thoughts on the final 40. Who looks good in each team and what odds are tempting you at this still-early stage? In a week’s time, singers will commence the battle round, in which they are sent against one another in an excruciatingly visceral fight to the death. Limbs will be torn, larynxes ripped from throats by bare hands. May the odds be ever in your favour.