The one question everyone wants to know as The Voice UK returns is if newbie Olly Murs is any good. And whether he makes a better coach than presenter.
However there’s another question that seems far more pressing. Can Olly Murs be the saviour of The Voice UK?
Whether it’s on the BBC or ITV, we all know the narrative of this show. Ratings have hovered around the so-so arena of four to five million in recent years and although this is the seventh series, ask anyone and they’d probably struggle to name a winner – let alone someone who’s gone on to have mainstream success.
There have been 12 different coaches on the show and six different variations of coaching line-ups in its relatively short history, and yet still the number of bonafide stars produced stands at zero.
But during this series the coaches will again over-promise to hopefuls, urging them to join their team and saying how they’re the artist who can make them succeed in this cutthroat industry and become a star; that holiest of grails which these days is becoming increasingly elusive for reality TV hopefuls. And yet again 2018’s winner will get a recording contract with Polydor, which is a prize that comes with connotations of instant fame and overnight success.
The X Factor has stalled in recent years, but you can’t argue that two of the most globally-successful bands from recent times have spawned from the show. The Voice UK? In seven years it’s promised so much and delivered so little.
When it comes to Olly joining as a coach, he is at least a positive addition. Although I personally liked Gavin Rossdale (who?), he was so mellow and laid-back last year that it was often easy to forget he was there.
But the former X Factor finalist-turned-presenter brings his full cheeky chappy persona to the chair (he’s accurately described as an excited “puppy dog” by presenter Emma Willis), enthusing about everything and everyone (there’s a lot of “mate” going on) and in the odd moment it seems like he’s consumed too many E-numbers. Basically, imagine what Olly Murs would be like as a coach on The Voice UK… and yep, that’s pretty much it.
But what Olly makes up for in enthusiasm he does lack in experience. At times the nerves are palpable and it looks and feels as though he’s out of his depth. Sitting next to Sir Tom Jones (100 million records sold, a career spanning six decades) hardly helps.
Olly is at least self-aware and throughout the first episode frequently remarks that he feels inferior to his colleagues. “I was standing there at 25…” he says to one hopeful. Jennifer instantly interjects stating how at the same age she won an Oscar. All he can do is put his head in his hands.
From the get go he’s openly nervous and although he doesn’t always know what to say during his pitches (he can repeat the same patter) he gives the line-up a much-needed shot of energy, vigour and youth in a show which can sometimes struggle to enthuse and inspire, especially when will.i.am is being indecipherable or it feels like Tom is shouting “YEAH!” on a loop.
But no matter how good (or not) Olly proves to be, it doesn’t really matter. If we’ve learnt anything since 2012, whoever’s sitting in those chairs really makes no difference. Famously the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results – and that’s what expecting The Voice UK to create successful artists feels like.
The Voice UK returns Saturday 6th January at 8pm on ITV