We may still be in the midst of The X Factor right now, but it won't be long before ITV's other singing show The Voice UK is back to provide our New Year fix of blind auditions, swivelling chairs – and a few other twists to boot.
For the first time since the show swapped from BBC to ITV in 2017, all four coaches are returning to their revolving thrones in their search for the next singing sensation.
And as the auditions kicked off in Salford, RadioTimes.com spoke to will.i.am, Jennifer Hudson, Olly Murs, Sir Tom Jones, and host Emma Willis to get the lowdown on just what we can expect from The Voice UK’s eighth outing.
1. There are trios auditioning now – and the coaches are loving it
Three is famously a magic number, and The Voice UK coaches are hoping the brand new trios auditioning will leave them spellbound.
This latest development comes hot on the heels of the success of duos including Into the Ark and Bella Voci.
“I think it’s a good little twist and there’s now an added layer to it,” said host Emma Willis. “It’s something new that we’ve never had before. It’s always good to introduce little things.”
Its returning coach Olly Murs who’s the first team captain to land himself a trio in the early stages of the blind auditions.
“I am the only one to have a trio,” he said. “It’s great because it shows the show is evolving.”
But Murs is looking closer to home to make his threesome more successful, adding that Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am is a bit of an inspiration – as well as noughties girlband Sugababes.
“The Black Eyed Peas are the benchmark, but we want something fresh, different and unique.”
Meanwhile, Jennifer Hudson, who starred as Effie White in the Dreamgirls trio, voiced her own desire to replicate that magic by scoring her own triple threat.
“It’s that group effect. I am looking for something tight and have a connection when you sing together,” she said. “Trios make it that much more exciting.”
Having trios on the show hits a little closer to home for Willis, given that she's married to Busted guitarist Matt Willis.
“It’s nice, because when you think of trios in music, it just makes sense,” she said. “Destiny's Child was amazing. Busted is amazing.”
2. Olly Murs will be playing pranks… and dad-dancing
Cheeky chappy Murs says he will be no less mischievous for the show’s eighth season, promising he will still be strutting his stuff to his acts when they get on stage.
And Murs’ naughtiness has now extended to playing pranks on his fellow coaches – with varying levels of success.
“We’ve just been having fun, it’s hilarious,” he said. “I did think, maybe pranking or scaring Tom was maybe not a good idea; Jennifer would have chinned me if I pranked her.
“Emma was great. I knew I could get Emma because Emma and me are on the same wavelength. Will wouldn’t have flinched. He’s too clever.”
But despite his practical jokes, Murs insists it all comes from a place of love, with the four coaches getting on better than ever.
“I love the show very much,” he added. “It’s fantastic and it’s great to be here. My decision was made on the other coaches. It was really based on Will, Jen and Tom. If they weren’t there I wouldn’t be doing it. I just love the vibe we’ve got. It’s a weird, exciting chemistry that we have.”
3. This won’t be Tom Jones’s last rodeo
With an illustrious career having spanned over five decades, no-one would blame 78-year-old Sir Tom Jones if he decided to retire from the glittering world of showbiz in favour of a cup of cocoa and an early night.
But the It’s Not Unusual singer vowed to never quit The Voice UK – as long as his husky baritone is still in fine working order.
“My voice is still strong and I love to sing,” he explained. “The passion is still there. I think if you lose that you should hang it up.
“Coming back to The Voice UK is great. We’re all in it together.”
4. Jennifer Hudson will be giving ‘harsher’ critiques…
She made herself a firm fan favourite when she joined the panel of coaches in 2017 with her warm manner and friendly demeanour – but Jennifer Hudson may be taking a leaf out of Simon Cowell’s book in delivering harsher feedback for this series.
“Feedback varies, you never know,” she said. “At different moments, there are different reactions.
“But I feel the least we can do is tell them why we didn’t turn around for them. It’s not that you were bad and we didn’t like you.
“What’s good about The Voice is that you get to find out where you went wrong.”
5. …so it’s just as well Emma Willis has had hugging lessons from the master
While some contestants persuade all four coaches to spin their chairs around, not all the hopefuls are so lucky – with some walking out of the studio without being picked.
“It gets really emotional when you really are willing someone to get through,” host Willis explained. “I take it quite personally [on behalf of] the families. I do feel like it’s my responsibility to make sure they’re alright.”
In order to help her comfort some of the less successful hopefuls, Willis, 42, has taken inspiration from X Factor stalwart Dermot O’Leary, who is always on hand to help those auditioning.
“I’ve just learned to hug really well,” she joked. “I think Dermot taught me. He’s a really good hugger. You need to add warmth to it really and a good hold.”
6. More teenagers are now auditioning for The Voice UK – thanks to The Voice Kids
The success of the Voice UK’s sister show, The Voice Kids, has seen a surplus of teenagers now auditioning for the grown-up version – giving the show a younger, fresher feel.
“There’s a lot of teenagers this year,” Willis observed, “I think The Voice Kids had something to do with that as well. Because it’s that break of 15, maybe more kids have just missed out because they don’t feel ready. I’ve seen several 18 year olds come in to sing this time.”
7. Tom Jones already has regrets about the one that got away
We may only be two days in to the auditions at this point but veteran judge Tom Jones already has a few regrets at letting some hopefuls go without spinning his chair for them – because he assumed a fellow coach would turn instead.
“There was one male contestant that I almost pressed,” he explained. “Then I thought Olly might do it, then he left it. You’ve got to be careful.
“Sometimes it’s such a shame.”
But this one particular hopeful has struck a chord with Jones – who is now planning to speak to producers to get in touch with him.
“We don’t know who they are,” he said. “But I will find out about this one. He was good.”