The Voice UK – Bloody Battles Pt 1

“Can’t work out if this is The Voice or Hunger Games” tweeted @katieweasel at 7.19pm on Saturday 21st April 2012. Indeed the first instalment of culls was vocally bloody as the battle format encouraged shrieking of the kind normally associated with strangled cats and war widows.

It is a pity that there wasn’t more opportunity to bet on the battle stage of The Voice as there would have been some easy money on offer a la X Factor sing-offs 2011. There were indicators of preference even in cases where one contestant had a natural advantage or superior talent and needed no helping hand. Looking at the performances may still give us some insight into how the show will develop into its live phase.

We began with the introduction of some perfunctory ‘special advisers’ in the forms of Cerys Matthews, Paloma Faith, Some Dude and The Scissor Sisters’ ‘lead singer’ (Jake Shears is totally rocking the drag look apparently). After that, it was swiftly on to bloodbath numero uno as Joelle and some blonde in the mould of a terminal barmaid took to the ring. Joelle had been styled as Tina Turner in Mad Max whilst the barmaid had been reimagined as a hotel receptionist on a girly night out. Both, we were told, were divas. The wailing barmaid was sort of eclipsed by Joelle’s stage presence and public profile and thus there were no shocks when Will chose to send the latter through and the former made a face as if to suggest that she’d just shat her pants. I’m still inclined to question the short odds on Joelle with many bookmakers. She’s talented and likeable but we all know that the public struggles to rally behind a confident black female and I fear that Joelle is more akin to X Factor’s TreyC Cohen than to Leona Lewis, despite a harrowing backstory. Her talent appears unfortunately effortless and The Great British Public likes its champions to struggle just a little bit.

Next up, Paloma Faith wanted Danny’s boys to engage with the audience. It was important, she noted, not to simply stand on stage and sing. If Paloma’s stage performances are anything to go by, audience engagement involves standing and singing but with a bunch of balloons in one hand. Neither Max nor Bill made use of any balloons but they took Paloma’s advice about not standing still a little too far. Dreamboat Max in particular writhed around the ring in some sort of agony and made himself appear rather desperate. Whilst I preferred the tone of his audition, it was nice to see his versatility come out and Max proved himself to be a competent performer. It was no surprise to see Danny choose him over whining Bill and I’ll be keeping a beady eye on him in the future, as I have been since my first post on Sofabet.

The next vocal duel was between Craig Colton and Aundrea Nyle. In this scene, Craig was represented by his understudy Samuel ‘Has Been At The’ Buttery, a Tom Jones superfan with an awful quiff and a mediocre voice that grated in auditions. We were reminded just how much SINGING CAN BE LOUD and then it was time to kill one of the contestants forever. Had Audrea been either white, male, skinny or a combination of the above, her VOICE would have seen her sailing past the amateurish Samuel but alas society is terribly racist and has long got over big, black women belting out tunes because it comes too easily to them apparently. Anyway, I don’t see ‘Sam’ as much of a threat in the lives.

Next up was Toni, who warrants attention because she is bald. Call me a bastard but I can’t help feeling that Toni wouldn’t have made it this far without the cynically milked alopecia backstory. She was definitely the better vocalist in her battle against someone who didn’t even get a proper audition but Jessie J’s assertion that the pair were two of the greatest female singers in the UK right now demonstrated how ludicrously unrealistic the show is. Toni IS a strong singer but so far she has only been able to showcase herself in a rather dated, karaoke sort of way. I’d like to see her sing something a little more contemporary but until then I feel safe to ignore her in the win market.

At this point I had started to form a suspicion that every sing off would be won by the contestant who sang first. This didn’t turn out to be true as the show went on but it was clear that certain acts were given preference by the arrangement, song choice or placement within their battle and few of the outcomes were surprising. Of those unsurprising moments, Lady Bo sailing through past a cowboy in a double-breasted waistcoat was another. Perhaps it is foolish to dismiss Bo on account of her privilege but voting publics have a terrible track record with posh Southerners.

Dead Amy Winehouse’s ‘best friend’ was up next in a fight to the death against Heshima Thompson and his success was one of the few shocks of the night. Tyler has an oddball dandy style and all the charm of a woodlouse. On top of that, he’s one of the weakest vocalists The Voice has offered so far. Let’s disregard him as a potential winner, shall we? Good.

Next up were unlikely rivals Vince Kidd and Jessica ‘early favourite’ Hammond, two contestants who had been running at relatively short odds. It seems strange that The Voice didn’t want both of them in the finals but one can only speculate wildly at the reasons for culling Jessica. Perhaps the Janet Devlin comparison stretched further than imagined and Jessica was proving to be a tricky customer behind the scenes. Perhaps the show just wanted to mislead and then surprise its audience. Either way, the early bookies’ favourite went home. Based purely on the battle, Vince won fair and square, delivering a stronger vocal and overall performance. I like Vince a lot – think he sounds good, moves well, has his own style – but I think he’s too ‘unusual’ (translate: gay) for The Great British Public to get behind (insert terrible ‘no pun intended’ moment here). Having said that, let’s keep one eye on Vince because he’s one of the show’s more charismatic performers and he certainly has a voice.

No-brainer levels reached dizzying new heights next as bookies’ favourite Jaz Ellington went up against the man who needed a DAWLER and made him look like an injured shrew in a dole queue. Poor Jay Norton, he never really stood a chance, did he? Jaz on the other hand continued to be overhyped and favoured. Vocally, he is incredible but I have found his performances thus far to be unmoving. His strong point: he sounds like Luther Vandross. His weak point: He’s about as cool as Luther Vandross. Should he still be the favourite? I’m not so sure.

The final fracas was another no-brainer. The old lady from Five Star was sent into the arena to do battle with the gorgeous-as-a-bucket-of-really-soulful-candy-floss Ruth Brown. Whilst the former demonstrated better control over her instrument, the latter was undeniably endearing and youth always tends to win through in these affairs. The crowd seemed to love Ruth and there were no gasps when Tom chose her to move forward into the live stages. I’m not sure Ruth is made of winner’s stuff but she seems to be the likely contender for Tom in the final.

It’s interesting to see that the rumours regarding Jessica Hammond’s early exit proved true and kudos to commenter Oli for guessing that Tyler would beat Heshima. I strongly disagreed at the time. I’m eager to see how the spoilers hold up next week with the final battles.

In my opinion, tonight’s stars were Joelle, Max, Vince and Ruth, who now occupy spots 2-4 according to valuechecker.co.uk. Of course this will change drastically tomorrow after the second cull. I imagine that we’ll be seeing jumps in the ranks from any qualifiers out of Becky Hill, David Julien, Aleks Josh, J. Marie Cooper and Sophie Griffin. Only the first two seem like potential winners – Becky in particular looks more interesting post-Jessica – but for the moment I’m avoiding the win market altogether.

Right then, over to you guys!

32 comments to The Voice UK – Bloody Battles Pt 1

  • maddy

    Ruth brown was the best singer of the night by far! I am definitely backing her to win. She was a million times better than that michael jackson lookalike!

    • Dug

      Hi Maddy,

      I’m definitely a fan of Ruth and I agree that her performance was the better of the two. Alas after many years of reality TV disappointment I have learnt that the acts I like are rarely the ones who win. Perhaps The Voice will prove me wrong and soften my cynicism but I feel that the two contestants who impressed me most, Ruth and Vince, will fail to appeal to a broad enough base whereas the ‘everymen’ like Jaz and David Julien could pull in more votes. It will also be interesting to see if regional voting plays as big a part as it did in X Factor.

  • justin

    I forced myself to watch last night and have to admit enjoyed it a lot more now the silly turning chairs are out of the way. Performance of the night for me was Max by a mile though I am not sure his stage school background will help with popularity with the public. He should have told the viewing public that he was a window cleaner or worked with disadvantaged kids.

    Dug, having come into this quite late – I have missed how the later stages are to be decided – is it like X Factor where someone is vote off each week – and if so by who – the mentors or the public?

    • Dug

      Justin, I totally agree. We were all worried about how the show would hold up past it’s unique selling point of the chair spin and actually I enjoyed it more. The chairs began to grate very quickly, especially with regard to the ‘inventive’ ways of pushing the buttons. The only thing I will miss is Will’s dramatic look (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8Kyi0WNg40)

      Agreed on Max – it’s rather ironic that last night’s show shortened his odds when his performance was so much less impressive than his audition. It was very stagey indeed. A good example of how odds shorten simply when we are reminded a contestant exists. It is a shame that Max isn’t a window cleaner because I’d rather see him win than David Julien who seems like the love child of Matt Cardle and Danny O’Donoghue (what an awful image).

      Re: later rounds, I don’t believe we have official confirmation although Daniel or Andrew or another commenter may know differently. If we are to go by the Dutch and American versions then the first live round involves whittling the contestants down to a final 8 – one singer from each team is chosen by the coaches and one is selected by popular vote. In the next live stage, the combined force of the coaches vote and popular vote (see: Strictly) shaves the 8 down to the 4 who will appear in the final. It all seems a bit messy with too many stages to me (blind, battle, selections, culling, final) but we’ll see how things pan out.

  • Highlighted

    The Sam v Aundrea battle was likened to 2 animals whining and wailing at each other. Horrific stuff. Max for me has a great chance and I really like Bo at this stage of the comp. Sad Jessica had to exit, but truthfully she is not the best vocalist, but looking at some of her YouTube stuff she is a great musician. However, I believe The Voice thought she could be a fave, but wouldn’t be a fitting winner of their first show given her vocal package so paired her up with someone else talented enough to be a good enough reason for her exit before the lives. However as I said as an all round musician and a total package for entertainment industry, Jessica has something and just 17 she should still follow her dream.

  • Highlighted

    It’s actually quite sad how weak Tom’s team is. There are talented contestants exiting in other groups even compared to someone like Sam and others who go through in his.

  • Tim B

    What I found reassuring about last night’s show was how predictable it was. There were 9 battles I think, and I correctly guessed 8 out of 9. The one I got wrong was Ruth at the end. In almost all cases, the more interesting looking (or better styled) contestant of the two was put through. Especially obvious to me were Joelle in the first battle and Max in the second battle – I mean, they cared enough to give him a hat! Looking at the odds, Max looks good value at 15.00. But I didn’t watch the audition shows very carefully, and I can’t remember who is in which team, so I won’t be making any bets just yet. Tonight’s show should be very telling. Will the contestant most favoured by producers be in the pimp audition slot? So, what I did take away from watching it last night is that I will definitely be on board betting-wise. I just hope the rest of the series is as predictable.

    • Tim B

      I should probably add I guessed the 8/9 winners before they’d even sung a note!

      • Dug

        Good work, Tim. My pre-battle predictions held up in 7 of 9 cases. I didn’t see Heshima’s downfall coming and I was undecided in the Vince V Jessica market. Ruth, I thought, was a no brainer as her back story had been full of tiny violins whereas Madam Five Star’s focused on her previous successes.

        You can check the teams on The Voice’s Wikipedia page or on the BBC website here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00k96j4/profiles/teams

        Max does appear tempting, even after shortening somewhat in the past couple of weeks. Personally, I want to wait a bit longer to get involved – Max would have to beat Bo, Aleks and David Julien in order to be Danny’s man in the final. Whilst the first two may not be a huge problem, we are yet to see how popular David proves.

  • Keley

    Am I really the only one who thought Ruth was dreadful? Shouting all over the place! It was obvious she’d be chosen, but I can’t understand the reaction as the best singer of the night?

    • Dug

      Hey Keley, I definitely see your side of things as well. Ruth is young and shouty and definitely needs to learn to control her voice better but I think what won it for her was her personality and backstory. From a competition perspective, there wouldn’t have been much point in progressing Deniece as she wouldn’t have pulled in many phone votes.

  • Dug

    New point. The short odds on Joelle winning don’t appear to take into account that Jaz would need to be eliminated if we are to believe that each coach will have an act in the final. I’m just not sold on her yet.

  • fiveleaves

    Ruth for me too from last night.

    She’s far more voteable than Joelle and a superior singer, yet for some reason they’re the same price.

    My main fancies go tonight however, in lifeguard, bobble hat and cheerleader.

    I hope the spoiler is as spot on as last night.

    • Dug

      Me too, Fiveleaves. Some of them seem obviously right but there’s a few odd ones in there.

      Aleks, David and Hannah on team Danny seems likely to be spot on and I would be very surprised if things went differently.

      Sophie is an obvious pick for Will but I’m surprised to read that Frances Wood wins over J.Marie.

      Becky and Cassius seems right for Jessie but I’m surprised she’s apparently chosen no-screen-time Ruth Ann over Ben Kelly.

      I thought Adam and Matt & Sueleen would get through but I’m surprised that Barbara apparently beats Leanne Mitchell to the lives.

      The predictions sound about right but I wouldn’t be surprised if one or two were wrong. Having said that, the live audience does make the leak kind of inevitable doesn’t it? How do they keep that many people quiet for so long? It’s a pity really because otherwise there might have been some betting on offer. I guess the live audience make it too risky for bookmakers.

  • fiveleaves

    Frances Woood is a very talented and charming young woman having watched and listened to some of her original material on youtube.
    Maybe the reason why the likes of Jessica & Kirsten (who I thought was robbed), 2 other talented young women were dumped out last night is because TPTB have high hopes for another young female.

    I’m banking on that being either Frances or Hannah, who btw you missed out of people Max has to beat 😉

    • Dug

      I’m afraid that wasn’t accidental, fiveleaves. I don’t rate Hannah’s chances that highly. Perhaps I am too rash – I’ll look forward to her battle tonight and reassess.

  • fiveleaves

    She didn’t have much impact on me on 1st viewing.
    My excuse is I had one eye on the masters at the time tho.
    It’s now one of my favourites auditions. Along with her chat with the judges afterwards.
    I was also impressed by a couple of songs she has on youtube.
    Vocally as strong as Becky Hill and for me more likeable, yet 3 or 4 x the price.
    Or she was.

  • fiveleaves

    Admittedly she’s in a very tough team and will need plenty of help from TPTB to make it past the 1st live vote.

    • Dug

      I’ve just watched a couple of her bits and admittedly she’s a very strong vocalist. I just couldn’t really remember her from the first time around. If we’re to believe that there’s going to be a top 8 rather than 12 then I’m not sure she’ll be one of Danny’s top 2 but it’s possible.

      I believe that the coaches each select one of their acts for the final 8 (or however many). Do we know if the remaining audience-voted acts are picked from the whole bunch or one from each team? I know the U.S. version had a final 6 which suggests the teams weren’t even. Also, will the coaches pick first and then the voting opens or will the public winners be announced and then the coaches save their favourite from the losers? It’s not exactly transparent at the moment.

  • fiveleaves

    It’s not at all clear how the lives are going to work.
    Hopefully they’ll clarify on the show, in a press release or on the website.

    Glad you liked Hannah’s performances on youtube. Let’s hope she impresses tonight and starts to gain a following.

    Frances is much more in the Vickers/Devlin camp of singer. Not a big voice, but a very charming one to my ears.
    I love this original song and video from her on youtube.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYxNdYH_KAs

    Very different to what we saw at the audition.

    ofc Vickers & Devlin types who don’t have the big voices have a history of failure in these shows, but @ 50/1 I thought she was a punt. Especially as the one slightly leftfield winner of one of these shows came on the BBC’s Fame Academy, in Alex Parkes.

    • Dug

      Hmm, I always thought that Diana Vickers was sort of natural in her quirkiness and good popstar material. I’d place that video more firmly in the Devlin league of affectation but that is purely personal taste and has no bearing on events. It seems a little behind the times in its hipster references but mainly I just can’t see Frances overcoming the ‘VOICE’ premise (that’s a theme in case you hadn’t noticed). Alex Parks was definitely leftfield but she had power in her voice that Frances doesn’t. I’ll be interested to see how she performs tonight though.

  • fiveleaves

    lol true the theme is the voice. But great voices come in many different forms.

    I loved Vickers and for me Frances is definitely more in her mould.
    Or in the Lena Meyer mould too 🙂
    They all have a natural charm that Devlin was clearly lacking for me.
    I couldn’t stand her TBH.
    She took herself way too seriously.

    • Dug

      Yes, I’m a big Lena fan, would love to see Frances doing something in that vein. Agreed that good voices come in many forms – something producers would have done well to remember last night amidst the shouting and screaming. Anyway, I suspect that the understated voices will struggle against the bigger ones in this contest. We shall see.

    • Pauline

      Maybe you perceived Janet incorrectly, tealeaves 😀

  • fiveleaves

    Now here’s a great voice.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnUnoReKP0s

    Though I’m sure plenty would disagree and prefer others covering his songs.

  • fiveleaves

    ‘I suspect that the understated voices will struggle against the bigger ones in this contest.’

    That does tend to be the case on these shows.
    At the end of the day it’s all about the price tho. At 50/1 I thought she was a punt once I knew she was through.
    Well hopefully she’s through.

  • fiveleaves

    None of my looking great.

    Leanne, Becky & David the picks of the night

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