‘The Voice UK’ Recap: Do The Voices Matter?
The British version of The Voice debuted on Saturday. For a show that’s all about the voice, the coaches ignored great vocals and seemed fixated on some singers’ looks.
First, a change in the panel: Olly Burns, who was the runner-up on the sixth season of The X Factor UK, has replaced Gavin Rossdale. He joins Tom Jones and Americans Jennifer Hudson and Will.i.am.
And we were reminded Olly could sing, as all four coaches joined together for a rendition of Muse’s Feeling Good. Unsurprisingly, J-Hud outshone her colleagues.
Then it was time for The Voice UK blind auditions. The whole premise of the show is that the voice is all that matters; that’s why the coaches don’t see the singers at first. But it seemed to me that the coaches ignored some great voices while rewarding some mediocre ones.
First up was 26-year-old carpenter Jake Benson, with a cover of Issues by Julia Michaels. It started off light and whispery but had some falsetto heft at the end. Olly called his voice “husky” while Jennfier said it was “raspy.” Jennifer and Tom turned pretty quickly, while Olly turned at the very last moment. Tom said he liked Jake’s “tone,” a word he used over and over.
In their appeals to Jake to join their team, Olly reminded him that he had competed in a talent competition at the same age. Jennifer reminded him that she had won an Oscar at that age. Guess who Jake chose?
Next: 22-year-old Chloe Jones, who works at a coffee shop in Manchester. She sang Just Like A Star by Corinne Bailey Rae, accompanying herself on guitar. She has the kind of nice, soft, airy voice that gets through the first rounds of the show, but isn’t unique or exciting enough to make it to the finals.
All three men turned their chairs for her. Will called her voice “effortless and gentle.” Olly told her “I’m a fan already,” and she picked him.
27-year-old Lauren Bannon was next. She sang Lean On by Major Lazer with a strong, bold, radio-ready voice. All four chairs turn for her. “Your voice is so pure and clear, and you have such great control,” Jennifer told her. “Oh my god, Jennifer Hudson just complimented me!” Lauren replied. Olly reminded Lauren he was the first to turn around, and she chose his team.
On the first episode of every season of The Voice, on both sides of the Atlantic, there comes a point where the coaches calm down and stop turning their chairs around. Now we hit that point. Two perfectly fine vocalists sang back to back (Niall Donnelly and Jimmy Balito), but no one turned their chair for them.
Even after a brief interlude of Jennifer singing Spotlight (complete with a church collection plate, with the money going to charity), the coaches were reluctant to hit their buttons. Only Jennifer turned for the next vocalist, Jason Nicholson-Porter, a 36-year-old father of three, who sang Amazing Grace in an odd, nasal voice like a cartoon character. “I’ve been waiting for that song and that voice,” Jennifer told him (waiting for one of the most overplayed songs on Earth?). He had little choice but to join her team; I don’t predict much for him.
The next vocalist was actually two people, and I’d like to register my objection right here and now. “RYT” is Ryan and Tania, a romantic couple as well as a singing duo. They sang JCB Song by Nizlopi, sounding a lot like Once. I think Ryan’s voice is stronger than Tania’s, but you either pick both or neither of them. The crowd seemed to adore them, perhaps because they were happy to see something different. Olly, Jennifer, and Tom all hit their buttons. The duo picked Olly.
Then it was time for another Jennifer Hudson showcase! She sang I Never Loved a Man by Aretha Franklin, with Tom joining in for the call-and-response portion. Olly and Will.i.am had a snack break, I guess.
One more contestant, and the coaches rewarded him with all four chairs. The lucky singer was Donel Mangena, just 16 years old. His parents are from Zimbabwe, and Donel lived there for a while. He sang Cold Water by Major Lazer — and sang the chorus in his native language.
Then the battle began. Will.i.am told him, “You pick me, you got me for however long you want me in your life.” Jennifer said she was “willing to physically fist-fight for you.” Olly jumped in with “I’ll fight you right now.” Tom remained seated and dignified. It would be hard for any teenager to turn down lifelong mentorship with a star; Donel indeed chose Will.i.am.
And that was it for the first round of blind auditions for The Voice UK. If you’re scoring at home, the teams so far:
We’ll see you next week for more of The Voice from across the pond.