It was a welcome back to The Voice on Saturday 30th March as Series 2 kicked off. The four superstar coaches return to find new singing talent, with the same line-up as Series 1:
- Sir Tom Jones: music legend who has sold over 100 million records
- Danny O’Donoghue lead singer of Irish band The Script
- Jessie J: singer and performer at the Olympic games closing ceremony
- will.i.am: front man for the Black Eyed Peas as well as being a music producer and writer
There will be steep competition between the four coaches to pick the winning singer, after Sir Tom Jones coached the winner of Series 1, Leanne Mitchell.
To demonstrate their singing skills , the four coaches opened the show with a singing medley designed to showcase their individual talents. It was an upbeat start to the evening, with The Voice laying down a marker against the show it is compared against, X Factor. The Voice is positioning itself as the show that finds and develops talent rather than just assessing it and repackaging it, with mentors who are coaches more than judges.
The presenters for the series are Holly Willoughby and Reggie Yates, who in the blind audition phase of the show are operating back stage, interviewing singers and families.
A reminder on how The Voice works
Each coach is looking to build themselves a strong team of 12 singers to develop.
Singing hopefuls perform in blind auditions, when the coaches have their backs to the singers, judging them purely on the vocal performance rather than their looks. “We have no pre-conceived idea about what that person looks like” explains Sir Tom Jones.
If a coach likes what they hear then they hit a button and their chair swivels round to face the singer, an “I want you” sign lights up and that artist wins a place on that coaches team. If more than one coach turns their chair around then the power shifts to the singer, who can choose the coach they prefer to work with.
But if no coach turns their chair then the artist is out of the competition.
The prize the singers are competing for is a record deal with Universal Music as well as being crowned The Winner of The Voice.
Ash Morgan, 26, from Glamorgan and a youth arts coordinator was the first performer in week 1 of the The Voice. Singing Never Tear Us Apart he got a full set of judges voting for him with Jessie J. first to crack, to the extent that she went on stage as Ash was singing and knelt at his feet. “Your heart is as big as your voice” enthused will.i.am whilst Jessie J said “The thrill when I heard your voice was mind blowing”. It was no surprise when Ash chose Jessie J. as his coach.
Next up was Danny County, 22, from London. Singing for only the third time ever in pubic Danny performed About You Now for the coaches. It was Jessie J and Danny O’Donoghue who voted for him and after a bit of rabble rousing from Danny O. and advice from will.iam that Danny O’Donoghue was the man he chose Jessie J. Jessie was a little put out that will.i.am had advised an artist to not chose her: “I don’t think it’s fair to just cut someone out“. An early and slightly uncomfortable bit of bickering between the coaches showed that they were all serious about winning this competition.
Leanne Jarvis, 24, from Southend-on-sea was looking for her big break: “It’s been two steps forward and then two steps back again”. Singing Stay With Me Baby it was Jessie J and will.i.am, followed by Danny and then Sir Tom Jones who all voted for her. So Jessie J has been first to turn for every singer so far tonight. It’s clearly a plan for Jessie j to secure some of the early talent on display. On this occasion it was will.i.am who Leanne chose, helped no doubt by the “cool” position he adopted when turning his chair.
Louis Coupe, 16, from Telford was one of the youngest singers to perform. Singing Learn To Fly he failed to get any of the coaches to turn but they were positive about his performance. will.i.am suggested he put more energy into his performance and Danny thought there was too much control and not enough emotion. Jessie J felt that musical theatre was the best route forward for Louis and Tom Jones just wanted to hear a little Jerry Lee Lewis.
So what does it take to impress the judges on The Voice?
Tom Jones: I’m looking for originality. I like the ones that hit me with a natural sounding voice. Some one who can stand up anywhere and when they sing people go ‘wow’.
Will.i.am: I’m just looking for desire, attraction, magnetic and that sucks you in.
Danny O’Donaghue: I’m looking for massive diversity in all ranges and all areas of music.
Jessie J: I’m looking for potential. If someone gives you goosebumps then I think you have to go for it.
Next up was Andrea Begley, 26, from Belfast. Partially sighted, Andrea has experience of judging the world more through sound than vision. She sang ‘Angel’ and got Danny O’Donoghue to turn within a few bars of starting to sing. He looked like he was going to be the only judge to choose Andrea but at the very last note of the song Sir Tom Jones also pressed his button. There was a certain irony that when Andrea had finished singing she did not know which judges had turned round. A charming moment was when Danny realised this he ran on stage and hugged her before whispering “I absolutely turned round, that was absolutely beautiful“. Andrea ended up as the first member of Team Danny. The coaches all shook Andrea’s hand as she left the stage.
Kirsty Crawford, 29, from Northamptonshire had to follow the high emotion after Andrea’s performance. Like many singers, Kirsty is prone to nerves when singing. She chose Hedonism to perform but failed to get any of the judges to turn round. Jessie J. did give her a consolation hug but it does just show the standard of the blind auditions.
Mike Ward, 21, from Salford chose Don’t Close Your Eyes and it was Jessie J. who turned first, followed by Danny O’Donoghue and Sir Tom Jones. As a country music fan, Mike became the first member of Team Tom.
Katie Benbow, 20, from North Wales is a vintage clothing fan and sang Feeling Good. She has an unusual sounding voice which is hard to assess and Jessie J was in two minds whether to press her button but at the last moment she decided to turn. Katie has some vocal work to do but she certainly is original.
Anthony Kavanagh, 35, from Manchester was a former child star who sang I Can Make You Fell Good in the 90’s. After an attempt at a career in acting in the USA Anthony wants to get back into music in the UK. Don’t Dream It’s Over was Anthony’s shot with the coaches but none of them were convinced. It was the right decision as his voice just doesn’t stand out and he doesn’t hold the pitch of notes well enough. Nerves may have got the better of him. Tom thought that he sang a bit flat and Danny recognised him from the 90’s.
Matt Henry, 34, from Birmingham works for the Dogs Trust. Seeing Matt working with rescue dogs I was immediately on his side. So were the coaches. Danny O’Donogue was first to go followed by Jessie J who chose to get out of her seat to press her button. Will.i.am and Sir Tom Jones chose to follow so it was a full set for Matt. All the coaches made amusing pitches for Matt on their team and after some consideration he chose will.i.am.
So a great start to The Voice Series 2. A great mix of singing talent with some upbeat comments from the coaches. I can’t wait for next week’s singing-fest.
The judges have to build a team of 12 singers and so far we have:
- Jessie J. – 3 singers: Ash Morgan, Danny County, Katie Benbow
- Will.i.am – 2 singers: Leanne Jarvis, Matt Henry
- Danny O’Donogue – 1 singer: Andrea Begley
- Sir Tom Jones – 1 singer: Mike Ward