The return of a big talent show usually has quite a lot of fanfare around it however I wouldn’t say that was true of the new series of The Voice UK. That’s partially because a cloud was hanging over the show ever since ITV announced they had bought the rights to the format late last year. This series was also shrouded in controversy after Sir Tom Jones revealed that he hadn’t been informed that he was being let go from the coaching panel after serving four years in one of the famous spinning chairs. However, despite all of these issues I found that the opening episode of The Voice UK was an entertaining and easy watch which really didn’t outstay its welcome.
I have to say that I didn’t immediately feel this way due to the fact that the first three minutes of the show made me wish physical harm on Will.i.am. I’ve personally never been a fan of the Black Eyed Peas frontman and would rather have wished he would’ve been let go instead of Jones. He proved to be an irritant from the opening seconds of the show when he tapped on the screen telling us to wake up before adding nothing of note to the obligatory opening collaboration between the four coaches. This opening song is always used to prove that all of the coaches have musical ability however Will’s contribution to the music industry isn’t through his vocals and I felt that his constant shouting of ‘Get on Up’ detracted from the rest of the odd mash up of You Got the Love and Whole Lotta Love.
While Will was on his irritating best, fellow returning coach Ricky Wilson made it quite clear it was business as usual. Using the same humility that he’s employed over the last two years, Ricky was presented as the only down-to-earth member of the otherwise kooky ensemble. However at the same time it felt to me as if Ricky was craving attention and I personally didn’t like the fact that he stood up as he chair spun round for the first time this series because it felt like something Will would do. It feels to me as if Ricky is missing the reassuring presence of Sir Tom Jones in the seat next to him and it’s fair to say that he’s not the only one.
Taking Tom’s place next to Ricky is Paloma Faith, who is the fourth token female coach that the show has employed in its five year run. Although she has more of a backbone that some of her predecessors, I do feel that Faith is one of the more lacklustre female contributors that the show has had. I would attribute that mainly to the fact that she insists on talking like a toddler making it hard for me to take anything she says remotely serious. Paloma doesn’t have the grounded qualities displayed by Rita Ora or the girl next door charm of Kylie although I still feel she’s a step up from the disagreeable Jessie J. Despite not being a fan of her as a person, Paloma’s comments to the acts all felt fair and there’s no denying that she is a talented performer.
The biggest surprise on this year’s panel was Boy George, whose initial appointment filled me with dread as I’ve never found him to be a likeable personality. However George grew on me throughout the course of the show due to his passion to find a new singing star and the contestants’ inability to pick him as a coach. Although his pitches may not have been as earnest as Ricky’s, George clearly knew what he was talking about and was able to give constructive criticism to almost all the acts he turned his chair around for. Due to the fact that George didn’t get anybody to join his team during the show it made the moment where talented teenager Cody Frost chose him as her coach.
One thing that I’ve always thought The Voice UK had over the other talent shows was the quality of the singers that perform for the stars in the spinning chairs. The aforementioned Cody Frost stole the show with her haunting goth rendition of ABBA’s ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’ whilst fellow teenager Áine Carroll gave a good accounting of herself with her version of ‘Broken Hearted’. Elsewhere the leopard-print clad Beth Morris got the show off to a rollicking start with an up tempo cover of ‘Nutbush City Limits’ and fishmonger Tom Rickels proved to be a hit with the audience with his mash-up of ‘Love Me Like You Do’ and ‘Want To Want Me’.
Unlike other shows in its genre, The Voice UK doesn’t feature any awful auditions so I find it a little awkward when a talented singer doesn’t get anybody to turn round for them. This week it was quite clear that none of the coaches were fans of musical theatre as two unsuccessful auditionees took their numbers from stage classics. First out was singing vicar Reverend John Barron, whose cover of ‘This is the Moment’ got the coaches waving their hands along to the song but didn’t manage to get any chairs to spin round. Oddly neither did baby-faced car salesman Ryan Willingham whose rendition of ‘Stars’ from Les Miserables would’ve seen him sail through to the finals on Britain’s Got Talent but here the coaches were unable to see the face that his mature voice was emanating from and some of his charm was lost as a result.
One gimmick that I do feel The Voice UK should have dropped was in having vaguely famous people perform for the coaches. Whilst hearing the likes of Sean from 5ive and Kavana auditioning in the early days was entertaining, I think the show has drained the showbiz wells dry. This was evident last series when the famous faces included Bungle from Rainbow and the lead singer of Black Lace. Continuing that theme was legendary ostrich-tamer and stand-up comic Bernie Clifton whose version of ‘The Impossible Dream’ saw him drowned out by the band. Whilst Clifton’s interactions with Ricky provided an entertaining diversion from the rest of the action, the fact that he was never going to progress further than the audition stages of the competition almost made it feel like a waste of time hearing him sing.
One of the biggest compliments I can pay to this first episode of The Voice UK is that it didn’t outstay its welcome and when I learned that there were only ten minutes left till the end of the show it made me realise how quickly the time had gone by. Although there are still some problems with the show and I’m not a fan of half of the panel, The Voice UK still is able to showcase a more diverse range of singers than other talent shows. Furthermore both Ricky Wilson and Boy George proved their worth during the first show whilst even Paloma Faith had some interesting points to make even though it almost pained me to hear them due to her irritating speaking voice. I’m just hoping that this is just the beginning and that greater things are yet to come as just because this is the last series of The Voice on BBC One doesn’t mean that it can’t go out fighting.