The Voice – Blind Auditions 2

“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 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, 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!

17 comments to The Voice – Blind Auditions 2

  • taichou

    the talent is really disappointing, button pressment and the script is just killing it for me.. still dont have a favourite as its only 2nd show…

    • Dug

      Agreed, taichou! I feel like we were promised more star quality than this and a lot of the big vocalists so far have been, for want of a better word, a bit karaoke. Which script is killing you? The orchestrated banter or The Script frontman? I’m struggling with both at the moment.

      • taichou

        you know i thought that Xfactor was terribly scripted but after the Voice i can say that Simon and his crew are genius, plus you know when you watch a B class movie you can notice straight away bad camera quality,script and actors so i feel the same about the Voice:)

        • Dug

          Agreed. You can’t polish a turd so you might as well cover one in glitter and give it a key change instead. Both formats are essentially turd-like at their centre but The Voice so far seems to lack the potential for great pop moments or even low-grade entertainment that Cowell’s shows can offer. Having said that, I’m excited to see how the show moves forward. I’m hopeful that there will still be some great opportunities to debate the prospects of its contenders.

          • taichou

            could it be that all good talent still went on xfactor auditions? as people dont now what to expect of The Voice?

  • Boki

    Sadly this time I pressed my red (power off) button and decided to watch the downloaded version later with lot of skipping.

    • Dug

      I can understand the temptation, Boki. Did anyone outshine the others for you?

      • Boki

        Still have to watch it Dug, will post my impression but I think no outright bet for me, hopefully there will be some other punting opportunities.

      • Boki

        It’s all about the voice but I can’t help myself judging the contestant partially also by the looks, in particular if someone is annoying me. So, for example, Ben Kelly is a big no for me regardless of his vocal abilities. Regarding the 1st show, I wasn’t impressed by Jessica, she has the package but still nothing special. Greatest impression for me was J Marie, she owned the stage both with voice and presence.

        Went through 2nd audition show yesterday without reading your article and without looking at the odds (just to avoid being polarized). Almost nothing really worked for me except that guy Aleks – that kid got something inside, very likable. It seems he’s doing reasonably well at the bookies, so apparently they also treat voice as less important.

        Finally, compliments about the well written article, it was a fun read.

  • justin

    I’m with Boki. For me its not necessarily the talent thats lacking its the silly scripted games the judges play – hovvering their hand over the button, egging each other on (with subtitles) etc. Im bored with the gimmick of the turning chairs already. The humiliation of singers who have already ‘made it’ just adds to the general desire to throw up and/or turn off and watch the Eurovision preview videos again.

    Thankfully BGT is back to its best.

    Dug, any chance of directing your excellent analysis to BGT instead of/ as well as this uninspiring dross?

  • Dug

    Hey Justin, I’m sure BGT would be fun to write about but I think The Voice presents us with a much better opportunity for interesting discussion and debate in the long term. As Sofabet has pointed out before, BGT relies so heavily on a producer plan that we never really get much time to get our teeth into the narrative woven by the powers that be.

    Personally, I miss the glitz and tack of X Factor but I think its early days and I’m holding out in the hope of seeing a few stars before the blinds finish. The betting leader board is certainly looking a bit more David Sneddon than Leona Lewis right now!

  • Pauline

    Dug, you had me there for a minute, I was having a good laugh at your amusing way of writing until you brought certain X Factor contestant’s and the parents of one into it. Didn’t like that, sorry, not kind. and not a good comparison.

    • Dug

      Hi Pauline, good to hear from you! I shall take your slap on the wrist with grace as I probably deserve it but please be assured that my comments were meant in the best humour and not as a reflection of anyone’s chances in the competition. Having said that, I don’t see a big future for either of the acts that I imagined in Janet’s extended family. Frances seemed far too weak a vocalist to me whilst Matt and Sueleen, whom I actually liked, don’t strike me as having a wide appeal. The Devlin comparison was purely an aesthetic one based on the whimsical folk trend that is proving very popular at the moment.

  • JackB

    Maybe it’s just me, but having watched three quarters of last years American version, all of the judges seem to be less scripted then Christina ever was last year. Maybe that’s just me, but I think they made Barbie dolls more real then her…so I think the scripted-ness is just a Voice thing perhaps?

    In terms of betting, I’d remember that half of the coaches teams are going to be cut during the battle rounds if the Beeb are keeping the same format as the US. I can’t see, for example, Frances Wood making it past the next round, but there was a few weird choices in the US last year tbf (big one for me being Adam putting through a kid who could barely sing in tune, over a girl who could sing in tune, well and had a rather unique-ish style).

    Minor sidenote, but I’d lean towards a member of Team Danny making at least runner-up – after the backlash of hiring him over Will Young, methinks the Beeb won’t want it to appear they made the wrong choice.

    Further sidenote, while I see Aleks Josh making it through to the live stages, I don’t see the public supporting him enough, nor do I see Danny picking him over any of the acts he currently has, to warrant him through to the semis. I’d also apply this to Vince Kidd, David Julien, Heshima Thompson (although my opinion on him could change if will picks a range of acts similar to Frances), Barbara Bryceland, Aundrea Nyle, Toni Warne and maybe Samuel Buttery. Jessica Hammond plays a guitar and is female as well. That pretty much guarantees her a place in the lives at the shortest imo.

    Matt and Sueleen should quit while their ahead – duets have done rubbish in America, so I don’t see why they should do any better over here.

    (I wrote most of this – or similar should I say – on last weeks, but closed the window before I posted, so sorry it’s a bit point heavy or whatever…)

  • shoulders

    The show is completely flawed in its opening statement that “it’s all about the voice” Listening to the judges telling contestants they have turned their chairs to, how they can make them global artists, give them longevity in their careers, make them the biggest touring artists, is by far worse nonsense then anything any of the X Factor judges have ever said. Steve Brookstien, Shayne Ward, Leon Jackson, Joe McEldery etc etc…… show that winning a show by having “The Voice” helps nothing for accomplishing what Tom, Danny, Jessie & William ( to give him his full name) are falsely offering. Success is down to having the X Factor, and so far the Voice, (which in a nutshell is a singing competition for ugly people), has failed to show anyone worth getting excited about, unless you own Butlins and are looking for entertainment slots to fill for summer 2012

  • Andrew

    Hey Dug, catching up late on the Voice this week. I enjoyed this second episode more, which I suspect may be because I watched it after reading your excellent review and so could enjoy the flashes of recognition. Especially loved Chantelle’s underwater bird whistle and, apologies to Pauline, the appearance of Janet Devlin’s parents also made me chuckle (I seem to recall that Janet’s actual dad is a bald man with the magnificent name of Aquinas).

    Anyway, agree with everything you say on the contestants. If forced to bet at this stage I suppose I’d go for Danny at 4/1 in a four-horse race for winning manager. He seems to be accumulating as strong a team as any, and as Jack B said the Beeb won’t want to look like they screwed up by leaving him short. It does seem to be shaping up into themed teams, doesn’t it? Tom Jones has the overs, as you say, while Danny appears to be accumulating Team Authentic.

    Which all makes me even more cynical about how scripted it is. Are you also getting the impression that at least some acts have been given a nod and a wink beforehand about whom it might be wise for them to choose, on pain of ending up on the cutting room floor?

    I am even wondering about the extent of the stagedness of the ritual humiliation of the moderately established, which seems to be becoming a theme – 5ive’s Sean and now Kerry Ellis. I’m assuming the thinking is to find another way to say to the viewers “see, it’s all about the voice! Reputations count for nothing!”. I may be barking up completely the wrong tree here but neither Sean nor Kerry looked nearly as mortified as I would have expected – is it conceivable that the Beeb might have quietly put out feelers for people who wouldn’t mind being rejected in return for five minutes of primetime exposure and some complimentary and regretful parting comments?

  • JW

    Liked Matt and Sueleen, too. Kind of sick of the hyperactive bellows, and a bit R&B’d out. I wonder if the Beeb will tinker with the format just enough to allow its claims to credibility to stand up. The odds have got most of Tom’s team milling about at the rear of the field, but at least five of them are guaranteed to go through to the final 20 – and once the public get their hands on the competition anything could happen…

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