So who is the better coach – Jessie J or the woman who replaces her on The Voice, Kylie Minogue?
At the press launch for series three of the BBC's singing talent show today that rather inelegant question was put to her colleagues, Sir Tom Jones and Will.i.am – two people who have been on The Voice from the very beginning. And like gentlemen they ducked the question – to a degree.
Sir Tom said: “Kylie is different but the attitude is the same.”
Will.i.am said it was ”not fair to compare them” but said that a number of singers of both genders came on the show solely with the intention of getting Kylie to coach them. “But they came for Jessie too,” he added diplomatically.
Kylie herself said that Jessie J’s voice was superior to hers – “I wouldn’t even get in the door if we were talking voices” – but said that she was not seeking to replace her. “You have to be yourself,” she said, confirming that she had been approached to coach in series one but turned it down because it wasn’t the right thing at the time.
And being herself she certainly is. You don’t survive with an unblemished reputation for professionalism and niceness for more than 25 years in the sometimes savage world of pop music without having something rather charming about your personality. And on The Voice Kylie has made the canny decision to go for Aussie authenticity.
The pint-sized pop star from Down Under has clearly been brought in to give the show some fizz and glamour but it is in those moments when she acts like the girl next door we first met on Ramsay Street in the mid 1980s that she earns her fee. She flirts openly with one of the contestants and does her image no harm with her sweet enthusiasm for all the acts we were shown in the episode one preview tape.
She is also highly competitive – something she admits – vying to secure a couple of acts with new coach Ricky Wilson, frontman of The Kaiser Chiefs, and old hand Tom Jones.
Kylie herself is happy with the format. “I think it works – one girl and the three guys because it stops stories of bitchiness and cattiness,” she says.
Clearly the producers are relying on the honesty of both the format and its coaches to win the ratings battle and Kylie is clearly a key weapon in this campaign.
After all this is the USP of a show in which the singers are judged in the first instance on their voice alone.
And Will.i.am admitted at the launch that it does not guarantee overnight success – just as talent is not always a guarantee of success in the real music business.
Some people have been saying that this third series is the last throw of the dice for a format which has had its problems – the biggest one perhaps being the loss of momentum (and viewer interest) once the swivel chair is dispensed with.
So who knows? Maybe the honest to good sweetness of a pop pixie from Melbourne may just be the thing to save it....
The Voice airs on BBC1 on January 11 at 7pm on BBC1