Whisper it, but I think The Voice might be alright this year. Not now. Not yet. Let’s not get carried away. The first live show had a lot of bad singing and it was technically unstable, with constant confusion caused by the new “fast pass” system (where does The Voice come up with these snappy, hep-to-the-groove catchphrases?), under which each judge exempts one of the acts from the public vote and puts them straight through. Tom Jones and Jessie J both thought they had to assess all three of their acts and started to do so, before clearly being given the NO! SHUT UP AND GET ON WITH IT sign by the floor manager.
Then will.i.am decided to reveal his choice by tweeting it. After a long pause as he tried to take a photo – accidentally filming a two-second video, I’ll wager – he tapped out the name and showed it to a camera that wasn’t switched on. Holly Willoughby got the OH FOR CHRIST’S SAKE IT’S OBVIOUSLY LEAH, YOU SAY IT FOR HIM, EASTENDERS IS ON IN THREE SECONDS sign from the floor manager and a massive anti-climax ensued.
Also, several times during the show we cut to a cameraman who was madly zooming in and out on someone’s face or a bit of scenery. They should just get rid of that guy.
So yeah, not perfect. But Leah McFall, the subject of Will’s tweet, might just save The Voice, along with a couple of others. Her show-closing performance of I Will Survive, smashed up and glued back together as a wonky torch song, was one of the only turns on the night that looked like it was being delivered by a singer, not someone off the street having a go. In her weird charity-retro outfit and Baby Jane make-up, Leah didn’t much care what the tune was or where the song ended. She’s sweetly nuts and I want to watch her again.
Surely joining Leah in the final the week after next will be Ash Morgan, who did Lego House with his normal poise and power. Ash’s feat of making an Ed Sheeran song entertaining was topped by Andrea Begley, who made Mumfordian, foot-tapping, trust-funded, braces-wearing, tea-lights-on-packing-crates fake Starbucks folk acceptable by not just nailing Ho Hey by The Lumineers, but having fun with it and transmitting that fun through the screen. Well played. Ash, Andrea, Leah and someone from Team Tom will make a final that, unlike last year, doesn’t leave Britain unsure whether to shrug or laugh.
Sadly, immediate qualification did not get these guys out of their compulsory visit to Reg on his new balcony, which has replaced his series one cupboard but still contains viewers’ worst tweets and Reg’s interviews. Make some noise! Was that amazing? Yes, Reg. It was incredible. Great. Make some noise!
Struggling next week I fear will be right-on soul singer Matt Henry, reformed diva Cleo Higgins and hardened industry veteran Karl Michael. Karl is hard to watch. “I can’t take another knockback,” he said to Danny O’Donoghue in his rehearsal VT, and on stage he was clenched with determination. “We worked all week on the key change,” commented Danny, who was in top faint-praise form all night. “My fingers were crossed.” Karl made an observation about not being used to in-ear monitors. Easy confidence and reckless star quality were scarce.
Tom Jones had to choose between Joseph Apostol, who did an OK but too repetitive and static version of the Marcus Collins classic Higher and Higher, and country-singing Salford scally Mike Ward. Mike is very, very country-and-western, perhaps too much so for British tastes, and he struggled when he wasn’t on the low, twangy, brooding bits. Joseph is lovely but has lost a bit of oomph. He went through straight away, Mike was voted in by the public.
Not voted in by the public, and thus out of the competition, were the other four. Probably hardest done by was Alys Williams, who put her soft, enticingly Welsh vocals over a slow, oddly Greek-sounding acoustic version of Is This Love by Bob Marley. Her dress looked to have a touch of Demis Roussos as well, although on closer inspection it was a kimono maxi. This breathy Welsh-Greek Japano-reggae didn’t fly with the electorate, but it was definitely different.
Leanne Jarvis won the battle of the belters against Sarah Cassidy, since her incredibly high, incredibly loud notes seemed to have a lot more to do with the song in question. In the end though, it was a war without a victor since they both went home, as did teen rocker Mitchel Emms, who was just a bit sweaty and boisterous. “That was the best performance I’ve seen,” said Danny, “… from you.”