Sunday, 27 May 2012

The Voice gets an embarrassing semi

Don't worry folks, just one more week to go. The excitement about The Voice quickly waned, and now we're just waiting for it to end, like putting a 'do not resuscitate' sign over an elderly relative's bed. Holly's still trying to sound excited about it all, but she must have seen the ratings numbers. After fifteen reminders that, this week, it's all down to the public vote, Tom tells us he hopes we'll make the right decision. Like switching the TV off and downing a half-bottle of absinthe. Jessie, on the other hand, cautions us that "If you miss it, you're not cool!", ignorant of the fact that we had to be watching the show in the first place to hear her warning.

The final part of the introductory segment sees Reggie promising a whole evening of singing. And Cheryl Cole. Holly joins him onstage wearing Poison Ivy's cast-offs, like a more attractive version of Stephen King in The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill. Will, on the other hand, has the Olympic torch jammed down the side of his chair. Better get used to that, we're going to be seeing it a lot over the next couple of hours.

First up tonight is Ruth, who's a great singer but a less than dynamic interview subject. Tom's a big fan, announcing "When Ruth opens her mouth, something original comes out." Which is more than can be said for his fellow coaches. Tom's chosen The Voice Within for her, but it's a bit of a cut-and-shut mess, rather than a complete song. It doesn't help matters that she's been styled like a fifty year-old gospel singer attempting a comeback on the gay circuit. Holly congratulates her, saying "You didn't just sing that, you lived it." Actually, she kind of yelled most of it. Tom talks about growing up in Wales, and tells us he's not trying to blow his own trumpet. I'm stricken temporarily blind by that mental image.

Regrettably, my eyesight returns just in time to see Vince in yet another awful outfit, understating the fact that "I guess I've always been a little different." He's struggling to find a song to sing for the semi-final, and tells Jessie "I wanna do a reefer." Maybe he can think better when he's chilled out. Sorry, my bad. He meant Aretha, because nothing says over-inflated self-opinion quite like taking on the Queen of Soul. In the end, he sees sense and picks Amy Winehouse instead. Tyler's backstage kicking himself for missing that particular trick. Holly asks him "What goes through your head when you're singing?" My guess would be the peroxide that's slowly seeping into his bloodstream. Tom tells us yet another anecdote about his youth - by the end of this series we'll have enough clips to piece together an episode of Life Stories. All that's missing is a few reaction shots from Piers Morgan. While Tom gets lost in his own reveries, Vince starts playing around with his lip-piercing, which creates the unsettling illusion that his face is slowly being pulled inside out.

Danny has given Max 'Every Breath You Take' but he's concerned that it sounds a little stalkerish. Perhaps someone can explain to him, the point of the song. Music history shortcomings aside, Max does a passable impersonation of Ronan Keating doing a tribute to The Police. In fact, the most notable thing about his performance is the fact that he's not wearing a hat. Will refuses to comment, and keeps clearing his throat, before saying "I don't want to say anything that's going to influence anyone." But I think we're safe on that front. When he finally does complain that the arrangement was too similar to the original, Danny butts in and tells him "You're a young Sting." Somewhere in Dublin, Louis Walsh puts down his mojito and speed-dials his lawyer.

Early favourite to win, Jaz is doing a gospel version of Let It Be, backed by a fifty-piece choir. Once again, the X-Factor vaults are being raided for a show that is different in name only. He looks very smart in his charcoal suit, but the camera seems more interested in the pattern shaved into one side of his head. It's hard to tell whether it's The Voice logo, or a mysterious crop circle. His performance is fine, warm, soulful and mostly in-tune. But it lacked the fire of a real church vocal, as evidenced by Joshua Ledet; second runner-up in this year's American Idol. Watch him have a crack at James Brown and you'll see what I mean. Not to worry - Tom's impressed, announcing "You can tell that Jaz does sing with a choir." That's because it was in the VT that we just watched two minutes ago. Will is coughing and hacking again. He either didn't really rate the performance, or he's coming down with TB.

Backstage, Reggie is doing another one of his shudderingly inept interview sessions with the contestants. How bad is it? Let's just say that the Azerbaijan hosts of Eurovision made it look effortless in comparison.

Leanne's taking a crack at Whitney Houston, which is never a good idea. But maybe the fact that she's chosen one of Whitney's blandest tracks might stand her in good stead. Run To You is the one that no-one remembers from The Bodyguard, and she doesn't do too badly with it. A lot of people have commented that she reminds them of Adele, but she's actually a dead-ringer for Wynonna Judd - a red-headed country singer who's never said "Not for me, I'll just have a coffee" at the end of a meal. She hits all the big notes, most of them when she was supposed to. Danny responds by saying it made all the hair on his head stand up on end. But he always looks like that, so it's not a glowing recommendation. Holly comments that Leanne has really grown through the competition - so much for WeightWatchers QuickStart.

After threatening to spontaneously combust last week, Becky is toning it down this week. No screaming, no running around, and hopefully no unscheduled pre-watershed profanities. Instead, we get her lolling around on the floor, singing a Corrine Bailer Rae song so dull that it would make an elevator attendant take the stairs. Tom's reminiscing again, this time about light and shade. I'm guessing he's talking about the time he stopped using Just For Men.

Poor old Bo. She's had a hard life you see, because she's from a really privileged background. And sometimes, that's even harder than having nothing. Apparently, standing on the stage waiting for Holly to read out her name was just, like, horrific. But don't worry, there's a group of Rwandan kids having a whip-round for her. Inching us ever closer to absolute tedium, she's doing a Coldplay song. On the lyric about glowing in the dark, the studio lights dim, and the ultra violet shows up the neon splashes on her dress. The effect is not unlike those hotel inspectors testing bed-sheets for cum stains. Meanwhile, Danny's strutting around like Foghorn Leghorn on Viagra, so at least he's happy.

The final of the eight performers is Tyler, who saved himself last week, according to Will. Given that he's screeching his way through Bohemian Rhapsody in a prawn leisure suit, I wish he hadn't bothered.
His vocal has far too much falsetto, as well as a load of intermittent heavy breathing, which gives viewers the curious sensation of taking an obscene phonecall from PeeWee Herman. At one point, he's joined on stage by ten lookalike dancers in matching suits. And you thought the baking Russian grannies were weird.

With the contestants out of the way, Reggie announces that "everyone's talking about Cheryl performing" which must make them wonder why they bothered. There's a lackluster bit with the judges where Will makes up a rhyme that nobody notices, and Jessie starts killing flies with her bare hands. But wait, there's more. Cheryl not-Cole flings herself off a balcony in a pair of paint-splattered harem pants. It's very exciting, until the audience realises that for all her talk about singing live, that microphone won't need long in the recharge dock at the end of the night. Never mind, Holly was impressed: "I can't believe you took a swan dive off there. You're the bravest lady ever." Yeah, fuck you Dian Fossey.

The results show opens with a group performance (another trick lifted straight off the X-Factor). They're singing You're The Voice by John Farnham. Surely they must be running out of sings with 'voice' in the title by now?  Danny, Jessie and Will are all standing on their chairs, like disobedient kids. Tom would probably like to join them, but this isn't Cocoon. The singers are giving it their all, but with Will moonwalking along the stage with his Olympic torch, Danny and Jessie doing their best air-punching sex faces, and a giant collage of the four coaches descending onto the stage, they barely get a look in.

After a quick recap of last night's action, Jaz confidently declares that his performance will go down in the history books. But only if the kids in his school start vandalising them.

Enough of that, it's time to choose our finalists. Holly goes to Tom for his opinion first, and he looks genuinely worried, as though he just did a fart that felt a bit wet. Will does a weird Inspector Clouseau accent to talk about Jaz connecting with French people. Reggie doesn't know how to respond to that, but no surprise there.

Team Danny are up first, and predicatbly it's Bo and her hair band going through to the final. Max seems sanguine about the whole thing, but Holly sympathetically gives him a few moments to gather his thoughts. Plenty of time to come up with "Thanks for nothing, you fuckers." On his farewell video, Max asks rhetorically "What could anyone not like about working with Danny?" Christ, how long have we got?

Team Jessie is next, and once again it's all a bit too easy to call as Vince gets picked. The audience were choosing between an Amy Winehouse classic and a Corrine Bailey Rae dirge. Jessie pays Becky a complement, saying "There are so many things, vocally, that she can do." Unfortunately, singing in tune wasn't really one of them. There's lots of talk about Becky becoming a world-wide superstar, and I wonder what happened to Jessie's promise to always be 100% honest.

Team Tom are facing the music now, and it's the first shock of the night as Leanne goes through to the final. I felt sure that the stream of tears dripping down Ruth's decolletage had secured her place in next week's final episode. Tom says, every time Ruth sings, he has chills. Or maybe he just needs a nice blanket on his lap. He says he's going to do everything he can to make her a star. He may be in for a shock when he starts trying to call in those favours with the record labels. "Tom who?"

Kylie's up now, performing her new single. And at least her microphone's been switched on - we know because she shouts "Come on" part way through the song. The stage has been decorated with a wall of perspex panels covered in derivative peace and love graffiti. It creates the illusion that Kylie's been reduced to performing in a run down council estate youth club.

And finally, we come to Team Will, to find out how the public have voted. It's another upset, as Tyler makes it through to the final, and Jaz is left standing onstage in a baseball jacket and bow tie. Jaz is very grateful to 'Sir Will' and you can practically hear Tom Jones' heckles rise at the misappropriation of his hard-won title.


  1. Gareth, once more, you've made me choke on my morning coffee.... describing Danny as 'Foghorn Leghorn on Viagra' - perfect! Although my son, aged 5, now hates you as he LOVES Danny. Still, there's no accounting for taste. Or trying to explain to a 5 year old what Viagra is.

  2. Thanks for reading - and apologise to your son for me. Danny has very nice hair.