“Some of them have never been on stage!”: Tom Jones and The Voice coaches give their verdict on the X Factor judges

Sir Tom, Jennifer Hudson, Olly Murs and will.i.am address Sharon Osbourne’s comments that the X Factor rival is only a “gimmick with twisty chairs”

ITV, TL

The X Factor and The Voice UK may now be united under the ITV umbrella, but that hasn’t stopped a friendly(ish) war of words breaking out between the two shows.

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Take Sharon Osbourne’s comments from earlier this year: the X Factor stalwart told RadioTimes.com that The Voice is simply a “gimmick with twisty chairs” and that half of the contestants are only “backing singers”.

The Voice coaches’ reaction to this? Unsurprisingly, they’re not too happy. “It’s not a gimmick, it’s a great idea!” responded veteran Voice coach Sir Tom Jones, talking to RadioTimes.com. “There’s no trickery in it. It’s straight vocal ability.”

“[The Voice coaches] have all been on stage before and we’ve all been up there before as performers, opposed to other shows that give their views on things. Some of them have never been on stage! They’ve never been in the same shoes [as the contestants]. Some of the judges on other shows have never done that. We have.”

“They don’t necessarily sing either,” added fellow coach Jennifer Hudson, who will be returning for her second series of The Voice this month.

Olly Murs, Sir Tom Jones, Jennifer Hudson and will.i.am. in their Voice chairsITV, TL
Olly Murs, Sir Tom Jones, Jennifer Hudson and will.i.am. in their Voice chairs

Coach will.i.am, who’ll be back for his seventh run, also backed Sir Tom in his defence of the show. “There’s no gimmick about somebody who has walked that road and is going back and listening for a [singing] potential to be coached. Not to slight anybody, but [other talent show judges] just give opinion.”

They might have a point. Although The X Factor has uncovered the likes of Little Mix and One Direction, most of its judges are not performers. Out of last year’s panel – Simon Cowell, Sharon Osbourne, Nicole Scherzinger and Louis Walsh – only former Pussy Cat Dolls frontwoman Scherzinger has had a career as a singer.

New member of the spinning-chair panel Olly Murs also suggested that he prefers filming The Voice to The X Factor, a show where he featured as a finalist and presenter. “I’m not going to lie, I’m loving being a coach. I’ve got the freedom to say what I want and do what I want. When I was presenting The X Factor I was told what to say, I couldn’t really be myself,” Murs told us. “It was restrictive… I couldn’t say anything because I was told I couldn’t say that.

“If I wanted to make fun of one the judges while I was presenting they were like ‘you can’t say that!’. That’s what I love about the Voice: not only can I give contestants my advice, but I’m able to just enjoy it.”

The Voice is returning for its second series on ITV after moving from the BBC in 2015. Since its swap to ITV, the show has adopted a ‘no spins, no feedback’ rule that means the coaches do not turn their chairs if none of the panel press their red buttons after a contestant’s blind audition.

The rule will remain in place in the new series, with host Emma Willis telling RadioTimes.com that in terms of format, The Voice will be “pretty much the same as it was last year.”

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The Voice UK returns Saturday 6th January at 8pm on ITV