Britain’s Got Talent loves to save the best till last, so when we came to the end of last week’s crowd-rousing opening episode – which offered up the likes of 11-year-old “superhuman” Arixsandra Libantino and tear-jerking shadow puppet company Attraction – we knew to expect big.
And big we got, with 28-year-old beauty therapist Alice Fredenham, whose spine-tinglingly soulful rendition of My Funny Valentine had all four members of the judging panel enraptured. Her endearing modesty and gorgeous vocals were just the ticket – and with that the public were hooked, as was Simon Cowell who labelled her the “easiest yes” he’d given throughout the competition.
So imagine our surprise when we discovered that Alice had already pitched her abilities to the judging panel of another high-profile talent show. The Voice – that bastion of Saturday night reality nous – who had not only had the opportunity to snap up her talent, but had turned it down. Smart move there, BBC.
Having heard this last week, I decided to reserve my judgement/disbelief/incredulity until I had watched the offending audition. Now, I cannot profess to be an expert when it comes to The Voice, having made only a couple of half-hearted attempts to engage with Jessie J & co’s irritating melodramatics. I’d much rather reserve my Saturday nights (or Sunday mornings) for Ant & Dec’s chirpy smiles and David Walliams’ flirtations with Simon Cowell’s high-waisted trousers.
But having settled down last night to watch Alice’s audition, I was reminded exactly why I dodge this tiring bullet on a weekly basis. Ok, the Alice we saw was a somewhat different creature, jazzed up in Amy Winehouse-inspired attire with a twinkle in her eye compared to the nerve-wracked figure she cut on the BGT stage. But as she delivered her toe-tapping version of Lady Is A Tramp, we got another glimpse of the sultry vocals that Cowell had last week termed “liquid gold”.
But despite her best efforts, not one of the judges turned around, leaving a downcast Alice – and her supportive audience – disappointed. But what really riled me was the mindless criticism they patronisingly fed her. Jessie told her she was just “singing for singing” (err, right…) while will.i.am explained that she didn’t understand her instrument (again, what?).
And worst of all was The Script front man Danny O’Donoghue who, after informing her she was too “safe” for his groundbreaking competition (awkward Leanne Mitchell reference, anyone?), offered consolation by reassuring her she was “absolutely gorgeous”.
Indeed, he looked like a lost puppy when she scurried off stage, stressing to his fellow judges just how “smoking” she was. I don’t know what offended me more – his pervy attitude to a vulnerable contestant or Jessie J’s suggestion he try and get her number (“We all human too, son”)?
But while his lecherous manner really got my goat, it also highlighted one of The Voice’s many pitfalls. Because however much producers try to stress the importance of vocals – a point I’m not trying to dispute – their insistence that image is of no importance is painfully outdated. No doubt Alice would have got Danny’s vote of confidence if he’d been facing her, and so she should. As a music artist, the visuals impact the vocals – look at the likes of Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, not to mention The Voice’s very own Jessie J and will.i.am. Without the bigger picture, the BBC’s flunking talent show misses out on the megastars it dearly needs. And boy did they miss out on Alice Fredenham.