The Voice UK 2013: battles round three – review

Ragsy, Joseph Apostol, Abi Sampa, Alex Buchanan, Mitchel Emms and loads more made it through to the knockout rounds

Ricardo Afonso v Mitchel Emms
“NHB, baby! No holding back,” said Danny O’Donoghue, cleverly jazzing up a tired old phrase by listing its initials first. West End emotion salesman Ricardo faced off against necky young headbanger Mitchel, competing to see who could do justice to one of the original, elemental standards of rock: Are You Gonna Be My Girl by Jet. The house band enjoyed it enormously and Mitchel went through because, as the other judges pointed out, Ricardo looked like he was playing a part, whereas Mitchel is genuinely double-locked. For rock.


Emma Jade Garbutt v Mike Ward
A country-tinged yelp-off to a strangely slow and boring version of Landslide by Fleetwood Mac. In rehearsal, all the banter was about whether the pair would fall in love while singing the song, and they did move closer and closer during the battle, taking the risk that their teeth would become permanently snagged. Mike’s I’ve-sat-on-some-scissors high notes prevailed over Emma Jade’s more reserved, this-blancmange-has-gone-down-the-wrong-pipe balladeering. Mentor Tom Jones claimed Mike could do something new and special with country music in the UK. Alternatively, he might be eliminated next week.

Alex Buchanan v Letitia Grant-Brown
Mary J Blige’s Family Affair was meant to bring the totally crunking party to The Voice, but this didn’t really work out. Letitia didn’t crunk so much as walk backwards and forwards a bit, while Alex span, ran, leapt and, halfway through the song, invented a new way of singing it, which was very high and sounded bad at the same time as Letitia singing it properly. Letitia went through but then Danny and both surprisingly pressed their steal buttons for Alex. Will may have been playing one of his Alex Ferguson mind games though, since he made sure Alex would pick Danny by only vaguely offering to give the next round a go. He didn’t promise Alex would win and surely he won’t, so Will’s intervention remains a mystery.

Joseph Apostol v Diva
A shimmering, show-tuney slugfest, teetering and wobbling and tied up in ribbon. Singing Elton John’s Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me, Joseph and the lasses traded punchy notes, rising higher and higher without ever losing control and, at one point, making their mentor Tom Jones cry. Whether this was emotion or simply sheer decibels forcing water out of his body wasn’t clear, but it was certainly a properly entertaining bit of showbiz. Joseph edged it.

Abi Sampa v Laura Oakes
Abi is a wild card in the competition because she offers something slightly new: the swoop and flutter of classical Indian singing on top of the standard pop karaoke. “Abi blindsided me with the raga,” said Danny. “I’ve been dying to try this out in general pop music for a long, long time.” Yep. Next Script album was going to be totally Indian. What are the chances? In rehearsal, damp corporate rock’s answer to George Harrison urged his charges to sex it up as much as possible (“I’m starting to feel quite self-conscious,” said Abi, who seems a bit too normal and well-adjusted for this TV talent show malarkey). In the event it was simply about vocals, as Laura tried to answer the raga with some old-fashioned shouting in tune. Laura fought well but Abi was a shoo-in.

Liam Tamne v John Pritchard
“What are you DOING?” Will put the impeccable credibility of the programme under strain here by choosing the slightly more awful half of a cheese-wire screech-up. Liam, in his brightly coloured suit and fluffy hair like a kid at a wedding in 1975, did a fairly hysterical version of Easy Lover, but it was hard to focus on him when fashion designer John was whipping his metal twang of a voice in all directions. Perhaps that’s why Will put John through, to the outright disgust of everyone else: he was so fascinated by his buzzsaw honk he forgot Liam was there.

Trevor Francis v Lem Knights
Soul Man by Sam & Dave, which is a great record of course, but quite a boring song when it isn’t Sam & Dave doing it: people just say soooooul maaaaaaan over and over, trying to do it slightly differently each time. At one point Lem resorted to starting right at the back of the stage slightly crouched, and running to the front while gradually standing up straight and sliding up a couple of octaves. Trevor had his stuff nailed down so, although there wasn’t so much personality in his performance, he won. But it didn’t matter since Will immediately stole Lem.

Alys Williams v Lareena Mitchell
A rare bit of needle as, in rehearsal, Alys claimed not to be able to hear herself over Adele impersonator Lareena. On the night, every time Lareena piped up Alys shot her evils, like she’s just turned up to Alys’s wedding with one of her exes and had now started singing a duet with him during the speeches. Alys needn’t have worried: she matched Lareena on Tom Jones’s mildly eccentric song choice of Rambling Man by Laura Marling, and she’s Welsh – Tom almost said this was the reason she won, before quickly back-tracking. Of course the real reason is that the programme-makers realised they couldn’t have a situation where it was The Voice series one winner – Leanne Mitchell; The Voice series two winner – Lareena Mitchell. That would be weird.

Paul Carden v Sean Rumsey
Sean has a sizeable online following; Paul used to be in an indie-rock band. These two monster CVs were pitted against each other in a macho stomp through I’m a Man by The Spencer Davis Group. Paul was a bit too macho, growling and throwing a mic stand around like a murderer. Sean won by unleashing an impressive range, and by not scaring everyone.

Moni Tivony v Emily Worton
Moni junked the rather uncomfortable cod-reggae of his audition and got through here mainly on force of personality, singing Little Talks by Of Monsters and Men against young Yorkshire strummer Emily. She was hiding behind, or weighed down by, her guitar and looked like she was only there to accompany Moni. He’ll start annoying the public soon enough though. 

Colin Chisholm v Ragsy
Two contestants who actually seem like what everyone’s supposed to be: normal people. This is notwithstanding Colin’s decades in the business, which have left him precise, controlled, carefully groomed. But Ragsy brought a surprising amount of soul and flair to Muse’s aircraft-carrier romance, Starlight. Tom was left to choose between two strong contenders and chose the one who wasn’t in his 60s but was Welsh. Ragsy was in.

Nadeem Leigh v Karl Michael
An emotional finale, as two men who have both been through terrible things (Nadeem became addicted to drink and drugs and nearly died; Karl was dropped by his record label) but had now become great friends had to kill each other with song. The song in question was Red by Daniel Merriweather. They both did it like they meant it; Karl had a smidgen more personality and emotion, so he made it in. Nadeem faces a return to busking, but let’s see how the rest of this series of The Voice pans out before we think of him as having lost.