There are two extra auditions shows on The Voice UK this year. This was the first one. Skip it. Step away from the iPlayer. Don’t read this review any further. Go outside.
Once Jamie Bruce, a hulking, 34-year-old chef, landscape gardener, builder and carpet fitter, had made the classic karaoke error of doing Try a Little Tenderness (“Sheeeee may be weeeeary… yep, that seems pretty straightforward. Stick me down for it!”) it was on with the comedy contestants. You know, the ones The Voice doesn’t do, because it’s cruel to laugh.
In fairness, Jordan Lee Davies justifiably got through. His song choice: I Believe in a Thing Called Love, by The Darkness. The falsetto chorus should not be attempted by anyone, certainly not without an electric guitar turned up loud and a fully re-gusseted catsuit. Jordan had neither but it wasn’t falsetto enough for him. He was adding in his own higher ad libs and screamed “GUITAR!” like a hyena in a Magimix. Rail-thin, in red Chelsea boots and camp as an ox: Jordan is my new favourite.
Next, the first underwhelmingly themed segment, as we met people who didn’t get through because the judges were confused by not being able to see them. The ducky soul of salesman-like Charlie Ryan had the four experts in a spin – or rather, it didn’t!! – because he sang the title phrase of Let’s Get It On much lower than the rest, leading Danny O’Donoghue and Jessie J to believe that he was a duo made up of 1) a singer, and 2) a hype man whose only contribution is to announce each song halfway through in a deep voice. This was not in fact the case.
Aret Kapetanovic apparently didn’t make it because nobody knew she was a stunner in a cocktail dress, and she should have sung something suitably, as Tom Jones had it, “sultry and sexy”. This seemed stunnerist, if not flat-out sexist. Aret had only sung Upside Down by Paloma Faith, anyway – it wasn’t as if she’d shimmered on in her heels and her skirt up to there, and done Groovy Train by The Farm.
Ricardo Afonso began a run of people who had to choose between Tom and Danny, which was exciting because which mentor you pick makes a vast difference to the rest of your time on the show and indeed to your future career prospects. It really is absolutely crucial. You’re basically defining what you will leave to posterity when you die. “Christ, I wish I’d picked Jessie,” several of these people will be saying in five years’ time as they narrowly miss out on a Grammy.
After his walnut-splintering version of Hard to Handle, clenched West End veteran Ricardo finally prised his teeth apart for long enough to choose Danny – as did Sean Rumsey and his sensitive, operatic beard. When former Hollyoaks star Alice Barlow made the same two chairs turn with her over-seasoned Call Me Maybe cover, and then also picked Danny, it looked like Tom might never get any scary vote-repellers on what I call “Team Tom”.
Underwhelming segment 3: people who were just very happy to be there. Katie Evans had overcome drink and drug problems but had found a new life through parenthood. It didn’t matter that none of the judges liked her mannered, oddly Jamaican-sounding You Got the Love – she was singing to inspire her small son who there was with her. She went backstage to give him a hug. “YOU DIDN’T SING PROPERLY!” he said. Get that boy a spinning highchair.
Gemma Marshall and Em Bruleé were breaking out of their worthy but unglamorous jobs in the NHS, as a casualty nurse and a Department of Health staffer respectively. They glammed up, gave it a go and didn’t get through.
It was very much a case of Em Brulée to Creme Brulée as we met old industry lags Nate James, Colin Chisholm and Paul Carden, all of whom got a second bite of the rider spam sandwich. Nate was formerly a touted next big nu-soul thing but seems like he might get trampled underfoot on a big shiny-floor Saturday-night TV show. Paul previously sang with The Black Velvets and was from Liverpool. Tom asked whether anyone famous had ever come from there: Atomic Kitten, Paul quipped. “Ahahahahaha! Forget about The Beatles!” said Danny, joining in with the joke.
Colin’s past was as the singer in the inexplicably not-massive 1970s light-hearted Scottish funky rockers Bilbo Baggins. Tom looked like he might have slightly regretted pressing his button when he saw a jolly, balding 60-year-old cheesemonger in a leather jacket.
Not as much, however, as will.i.am, who lost his mind and span for annoying duo Nu-tarna. A rictus grin formed on Will’s face as the one on the left shouted “will.i.am BABY!” twice, and also “Nu-tarna! THAT’S THE NAME!” It means “progression on a large scale” and is “from a spiritual book”, you see. Will had clicked “accept friend request” in haste and come across a wall of emoticons and capital letters. What’s an acceptable juncture to break things off at in that situation? I suggest the battle rounds.