There’s a very special moment in the opening episode of The Voice Kids, when a child you fully believe is destined to break down in tears on stage hears the beat of the music, loses all her inhibitions and comes alive on stage.
It’s one of several ‘wow’ moments served up by the new series, which sees talented seven to 14 year olds from across the country competing for a £30,000 bursary towards their musical education and holiday to Disneyland Paris.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, because I thought it too. When ITV first announced The Voice Kids was coming to UK TV screens I was skeptical. I fully expected the new series to be teatime fodder; an easily forgotten spin-off to a somewhat tired singing show that had yet to produce a single successful winner.
“There’ll be an endless queue of precocious pre-teens with pushy parents left bawling their eyes out when the coaches don’t turn their chairs”, I predicted, banishing the series to the far reaches of my memory bank.
But the moment the first talented teenager opened her mouth on The Voice Kids stage, my inner cynic conceded defeat and laughed, whooped and very nearly sobbed her way through the fun, family-friendly and thoroughly entertaining 90 minutes of TV that followed.
There’s nothing new about the format – save a few changes they’ve made to make The Voice Kids a little less daunting than its older sibling – and yet it feels rather fresh, because the contestants are utterly unpredictable and genuinely talented little stars. Coach will.i.am (who jumps over from The Voice UK) told press that the purity and innocence of the performers made The Voice Kids a much better show than The Voice UK, and he’s definitely not wrong.
There’s something refreshing about hearing contestants tell you they’re there purely because they love singing, rather than to try and re-ignite a waning career or snap up a few extra followers on social media.
Now that’s not to say there isn’t the odd stereotypical ‘talent show kid’ with a whiff of ‘pushy parents’ about them, but contestants of that ilk appear to be few and far between. The majority of musically gifted youngsters who’ve made it through to the TV stage genuinely seem to be there for the love of music.
There’s a feel-good atmosphere backstage as the kids bond over homework and develop the odd utterly adorable crush in the game-stocked green room while waiting for their Blind Auditions. Their families are never far from the budding stars, and often offer up as much humour as their unpredictable charges.
Out in the auditorium new coaches Danny Jones and Pixie Lott join will.i.am, and all three seem determined to keep things positive – even when they don’t turn their chairs. That element of rejection in the glare of the TV lens is the one element of the show that’s bound to spark a legitimate debate about whether or not we should have kids competing in the first place.
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Watching a child get a no from the coaches will never, ever be easy, but to be fair The Voice Kids does try to keep that ‘no’ as positive as possible. There’s support, encouragement and plenty of advice from the coaches, who appear to be treading as carefully as they can when dealing with the young hopefuls’ dreams.
The kids really don’t make it easy for the coaches, though. There’s so much terrific talent on offer that the trio visibly struggle to decide whether or not to hit their button, and more than one act leaves them engaged in a good humoured pitching war.
The ‘no losers here’ atmosphere may well be tougher to maintain when we reach the more competitive Battle Rounds but, for now at least, The Voice Kids offers up the kind of family-friendly Saturday night entertainment we know and love.
You’d be a fool not to turn your chair – and your telly – to ITV, and at least give it a shot.
The Voice Kids UK airs on ITV on Saturday at 7.45pm