Andrea Begley has upset the odds to win the 2013 grand final of The Voice UK, beating Mike Ward, Matt Henry and bookies’ odds-on favourite Leah McFall.
It was impossible to begrudge the 27-year-old from Co Tyrone her victory after three charming, technically solid performances – but BBC bosses were surely hoping the edgier McFall would repay the faith punters had put in her and bring home the trophy.
Begley probably bagged the title in the first of the grand final’s three rounds, with her rendition of My Immortal by Evanescence – a characteristically pure and simple performance that moved her mentor Danny O’Donoghue to comment: “There wasn’t a hair on the whole of my body that wasn’t standing up.”
The other three finalists faltered. Leah McFall, who reportedly had suffered badly with nerves and uncertainty in the run-up to the live broadcast, presented a messy version of I Will Always Love You in which the Belfast singer’s trademark high notes were some way off their intended target. Salford country boy Mike Ward offered a dull and persistently flat reading of Suspicious Minds by Elvis Presley.
Matt Henry made the most effort with his song, acting out a backstage scene for the start of Babylon by David Gray and boldly singing the whole first verse and chorus directly to camera in close-up. A rather busy and overcooked stage performance followed.
“It’s the final, and that was a final performance,” said Matt’s coach Jessie J, and indeed Matt was the first to be voted out, although not before each contestant had sung with their celebrity patron.
Mike Ward duetted with Tom Jones on Green Green Grass of Home, a tired choice of song that sealed his fate as a runner-up. Matt Henry and Jessie J shared an energetic version of Never Too Much by Luther Vandross, while Andrea Begley coped well with contributing to Hall of Fame by The Script, hitting a series of very missable cues in a song that didn’t suit her voice at all.
The collaboration with the coaches was where Leah McFall started to make her mark. TV talent shows are only really worthwhile when they conjure up something beyond karaoke: McFall and will.i.am’s Gatsby-style take on Bang Bang by Nancy Sinatra fitted the bill. Presented mostly in black and white with McFall riffing around will.i.am’s rapping and, er, tap-dancing, it was the most entertaining performance of the night.
McFall scored well in the last round too, when – with Matt Henry having been eliminated – the last three repeated their favourite performance from the series. McFall’s reprise of Loving You by Minnie Riperton was even better than the original version in the knockouts round.
Despite Begley’s pleasing run through Angel by Sarah MacLachlan, McFall seemed to have done enough to win – but Begley was announced the winner by Holly “Oh My Goodness Me” Willoughby. With the judges having previously complained that Matt Henry had not deserved to exit so early, the defeat of McFall meant the final result was also tainted slightly by the feeling that those in the studio weren’t sure the right person had won.
Begley can go on to huge record sales if she taps into the angel-voiced ballad market. McFall, who seemed to disappear from view for quite a while when the other acts from the live shows rejoined Begley on stage, and was not seen in close-up again, will have to hope will.i.am comes good on his claim to have music for her ready to record. Because whatever will.i.am – the real star of the series – and BBC1 might have preferred, Andrea Begley was the viewers’ choice.