The Voice UK 2013: semi-final – review

Andrea Begley, Mike Ward, Leah McFall and Matt Henry triumphed in a deeply uninspiring show

Ohhhhh dear. The lesson: never put your faith in The Voice. It was pretty good last week but the semi-final was a huge, huge drag. In summary: everyone except Cleo Higgins was terrible, and Cleo Higgins didn’t get through. It was like one of Simon Cowell’s spies was choosing the songs.


The first sign of trouble was Team Jessie’s group number, Stay by Rihanna. It was generally a pile of vinegar-faced polysyllables, but surely Ash Morgan could lift it and give it some heart? Not this time. He was sounding strained and twangy. Whatever was wrong was still wrong as he came out solo to struggle palely through Ex Factor by Lauryn Hill, a great record but a mess of a song to try to do live. Ash had blown it and Matt Henry, who was solid and classy on a boring song (Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys) took advantage. The guy who did the best performance of either series won’t be in the final.

“Three weeks ago, I don’t think he could have sung this song. But he’s ready.” Danny O’Donoghue was building up to Karl Michael and his highly intimidating song choice: I Believe I Can Fly, by R Kelly & Orville. The Clocks-by-Coldplay-esque arrangement was by Danny himself. It was resoundingly OK and never likely to trouble Andrea Begley, although she had been given One of Us by Joan Osborne, one of the most dreadful songs of all time. Andrea, who gets more and more likeable in interview by the week, got as near as she could to not sounding pious and square, and to hitting that unholy note at the start of the chorus (“What if GuhERD was one of us…”). It was enough.

On to and his odds-on favourite Leah McFall, who also fell over suddenly with her chuggingly average Killing Me Softly, complete with jarring falsetto arriving from nowhere near the end. Up against her was Cleo Higgins with the only fierce song choice of the night: Don’t Let Go by En Vogue, which she zapped mercilessly like Misha B’s space-aunt. Her shift from cold diva to fiery underdog was complete when she scandalously failed to beat Leah in the public vote.

Tom Jones’s last act standing is the dark horse: handsome baritone cheesemonger Mike Ward. Paloma Faith became the latest artist to be irreversibly countrified as Mike, with his waistcoat, neat hair and yee-hah leather tie, crooned his way ruthlessly through Picking Up the Pieces. Joseph Apostol never stood a chance. He made a competent but slightly panicked-looking attempt at End of the Road by Boyz II Men, another terrible song choice that, like tonight’s whole show, was ancient and tired.