Trimmed down to an hour – halle-friggin-LU-jah! – The Voice tried to win its ratings and cred back with the most entertaining ep of the run so far. It was also the most controversial, since it opened with Britain’s Got Talent star Alice Fredenham, who applied for both shows with wildly different results.
The Beeb could have made life easier for themselves by simply cutting Alice out, since she didn’t get through, but they bravely left her in. It was fair enough. On BGT she looked terrified and turned up alone in a baggy jumper, but then aced My Funny Valentine. On The Voice she was dolled up in sexy 40s vintage and seemed fine but – and here I must disagree with m’colleague Susanna Lazarus – lost several of the notes in The Lady Is a Tramp and generally bumbled through it unremarkably.
Cynical people on the internet thought Alice must have been faking her tears on BGT, but that was filmed a few weeks later so it was probably just knocked confidence, redeemed by a much better song choice. On The Voice, Alice was the one who didn’t get through out of an opening pair who were apparently grouped together because they were both hot women. Naughty, pervy Beeb. Sarah Cassidy belted out Let’s Stay Together from the guts, filling it with party-trick notes without being too gymnastic about it.
Emily Worton came on with her guitar to do Common People, slowed down and sprinkled with textbook Bo Bruce yelps. Danny O’Donoghue closed his eyes and remembered happier times but, as Emily bashed on into a much faster chorus and everyone was reminded that Common People basically means shouting one note over and over for five and a half minutes, nobody pressed their button.
Until, that is, the last second, when will.i.am went in. He’d been slagging Emily off using mouthing and gestures, but he was just gaming the others. Messing with them. Totally doping their mojizzles. Will was in tactical mood throughout the episode, with his other schemes including telling someone who had four turnarounds out of four that it was between Will or Danny; telling Sarah Cassidy to pick Tom Jones by spelling his name, YMCA-style; and placing giant cups over the other three judges, then rearranging them at dizzying speed.
Tom Jones was unusually combative. “When you went into the uptempo part you threw it away,” he told Emily – which, given Tom’s usual impeccable niceness, is the equivalent of someone else saying: “You sound like a fire in a children’s ward.”
Joining Team Tom was LB Robinson, who performed the club-style Jones classic She’s a Lady, but in a sssshmauve soul tone. Afterwards he revealed he works with the homeless, which earned him an immediate standing ovation from Danny, who has probably got direct debits set up and everything. LB got on less well with Jessie J, who explained she hadn’t turned round because the middle bit of the song was boring. Later on she tried to soften this but LB was having none. “You said I bored ya, don’t backtrack now babe,” he joked, ice in his eyes. On his way out LB gave will.i.am a big handshake. Jessie got a sarcastic wave. Evils.
Tom was LB’s chosen mentor. “Yeeeah!” Tom shouted, so excited he went into a Rob Brydon impersonation.
Then there were the pleasant interludes of Nick Tatham, who didn’t get through because he did a silly country cover of Footloose, but then got more applause for his straighter back-up song, Another Day in Paradise (if in doubt, always go with Collins); and Carla and Barbara, two ladies in early middle age and nearly-matching shiny jackets who did The Flower Duet. Unsure how to react to opera, the judges gave Carla and Barbara an embarrassing semi-ovation, with two out of four standing up.
David Kidd was a Tom Jones impersonator who put a lid on his professional Jonesing and sang Life on Mars, a bit too cabaret-ishly. “Control the vibrato in the lower register,” was Tom’s critique, which is the equivalent of someone else saying “Your singing should be illegal and your face proves there’s no God.” Once David had been rejected, however, there was another lovely consolation-song moment as he inevitably did a Tom Jones number, but chose a ludicrously hard one – I’ll Never Fall in Love Again – and nailed it. The man himself rose and applauded. “For you to stand up for me Tom, that is an absolute honour,” David said. “I’ve loved you all my life.”
After another gratuitous pairing of solo artists, shown one after the other because they were both shy – Laura Oakes got the vote for deploying Florence + The Machine’s UHF weapon Spectrum (Say My Name), while Jessica Steele just got sympathy for her slightly quacky but promising reworking of The Human League – Karl Michael rounded off the show.
Karl told tales of a record deal that came abruptly to an end in the middle of recording his album, leaving him washing windows and pulling pints. His dream-chasing sob story was convincing – still in a bedsit with his guitar, aged 26 – and so was his impassioned singing. Karl got a sitting ovation from the judges, but the biggest audience cheer.