The Voice UK 2012: The Battles part one review

Blow by blow, note by note, battle by battle: here's who got knocked out on Saturday night


This meeting of the “super mega divas”, as mentor called them, soon developed into a psychological, sporting contest. Rehearsing round the piano with Will and the Black Eyed Pea nobody could pick out of a line-up, Dante Santiago (Jenny and Joelle both looked slightly alarmed until they realised he wasn’t an intruder), Jenny’s massive volume caused a problem. Having seen Jenny flex her larynx, Joelle had to keep her control and her cool in the ring as Jenny thwacked her with decibels during I’m Every Woman – she was slightly more refined than Jenny, so chose Joelle.


Cocky, theatre-trained Max took on sweet amateur Bill, singing Beggin’ by Madcon (or Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, if you’re incredibly old). Max wasn’t going to let this pale squirt get a look-in, so during the battle he got louder and louder, at one point unleashing a growl like a Tyrannosaurus belching. Bill was a naturally better singer and was backed by (Tom Jones: “I’d have no idea”), but coach Danny O’Donoghue went for Max. Wrong, wrong, wrong, for the first but not the last time tonight…

A vaguely uncomfortable pairing of two of the more… comfortable contestants, but as far as the singing went, anyone wanting to make tired cracks about a super-heavyweight bout wasn’t able to. This was high farce as Tom Jones’s batty song choice – Elvis Presley’s frantic A Little Less Conversation – caused two already unstable contestants to lose it completely. Their outré hair (Sam’s all-encompassing quiff versus Audrea’s horizontal raspberry weave), and the way Sam danced like a man repeatedly stepping on rakes, laid the nutty foundations for their increasingly manic attempts to out-fabulous each other. Towards the end, the song’s multiple syllables escaped from the rhythm altogether and the pair were freestyling randomly, ignoring the backing band and causing simply to burst out laughing in their faces (Danny O’Donoghue: standing ovation). Tom might as well have swivelled his chair round, tossed a coin, then spun back to listlessly announce the winner; as it was he went for Sam, and the comedy section of the show was over.

Another all-female shouting match as Kirsten and Toni, who’d been seen duetting nicely on bits of Aretha Franklin’s Think in rehearsal, forgot all that on stage. Kirsten threw every note in her range at it, while Toni ended up planting herself, legs apart, and booming scarily. Despite Jessie J’s announcement that this wail-off was somehow “TV history” it was a low-scoring contest (Tom Jones: “I wouldn’t know who to pick”), but Kirsten surely had a touch more class. Jessie went for Toni.

The first major clash of styles. Bo, the aristocrat who wants us to forget her lineage and enjoy her weird, quiet Dolores from the Cranberries impression, faced off against Vince, with his waistcoat, geometric beard and yelling. Coach Danny O’Donoghue warned that Vince would have to turn it down a bit to avoid trampling over Bo. Yes, because if you do win a record contract, you’ll often have to completely change your approach when another singer comes in to record their album at the same time in the same studio, or does their concert on the same night as yours in the same venue. These are important life skills. Anyway, Vince dutifully hacked off the top of his register for U2’s With or Without You. Bo did her usual faux-Irish warble, crouching sensitively to sing every line. Possibly one of her great aunts was in the audience and she was actually curtseying. Whatever the explanation, it’s something to talk about and so Danny, after umming and aahing for a bit (Tom Jones: “I wouldn’t be able to say one over the other”), put Bo through.

The decision by to give this pair the song Yeah 3x by celebrity wife-beater Chris Brown (in a set designed to resemble a boxing ring – oops) may have hexed the whole enterprise. Tyler struggled to sing it, but Heshima descended into a malevolent trance. At first he just answered back a bit when given instruction in rehearsal but then, in a genuinely unsettling moment that should perhaps have gone out after the watershed, he responded to a bland enquiry from his coach by simply staring at him. And staring, and staring, and… staring, the half-smile of a madman playing on his lips. “Are you gonna choke me?” asked, freaked and only half-joking. “No, I’m just… focused,” said Heshima, still staring like he was mentally fitting himself up for a suit made of’s skin. On stage, Heshima returned to his normal self, and although both contestants hunted for the song’s melody without success, Jessie J thought Heshima edged it. But chose Tyler. Afterwards, he suggested it was because Tyler had worked well with the house band. In reality, was still trembling.

A battle overshadowed by the rehearsal footage, during which Jessie J said, without any warning for those of a sensitive disposition, that Vince and Jessica needed to “bring it DOTCOM”. Viewers were still writhing in their armchairs, the horror of Alexandra Burke guest-judging on The X Factor flooding back, as cute Jessica and lovely Vince performed Rihanna’s We Found Love. Tom Jones stuck his neck out again (having wisely counselled to pick Tyler James), saying the key the song was in was more suited to Vince – a nice way of observing that Jessica had wobbled under the pressure several times. Vince was in.

For the second week running Jaz Ellington provided the high point of the episode, this time with a lot of help. This was the best and worst of the battle rounds format: much more exciting than a normal audition, but it was crazy that there had to be a loser. We heard several coaches say they’d made a mistake pairing certain people up – on this occasion, really had made a mistake, because these were the two best performances of the night, with Jaz and Jay getting better and better (not louder and flatter) as they competed to sing I Heard It through the Grapevine. Jaz had to be the winner, though. “Television is not ready for the talent on this show!” cried Jessie J, almost not exaggerating. “You are better than Justin Timberlake!” told unlucky loser Jay. That was definitely exaggerating, but the guy was great and deserves to still be in it.

Ruth Brown is the dark horse to win The Voice. Her unvarnished talent was brought out by pairing her against Deniece Pearson, formerly of Five Star: as Deniece pecked round the ring, over-emoting in her single jewelled driving glove and complicated trousers, Ruth just stood there in a plain dress, belting her off the stage. In rehearsal, Ruth had broken down when a line in No One by Alicia Keys reminded her of her dead father; not only did she set Tom Jones off, but he more or less cried all the way through the performance as well. You had to feel a bit sorry for Deniece as she desperately added a few extra widdly notes after Ruth had stopped. A raw youth or a veteran trying slightly too hard for a second chance? No contest: Ruth had to be the one.

You can see all the battle pairings and vote for your favourites here