Sunday, 21 April 2013

Tom croons, Jessie's tunes and depressed spoons - Week 4 of The Voice

Today, two things made me momentarily contemplate the existence of a supreme being. The sun came out, which meant I got to drive home from work with the roof down. And the BBC has shaved half an hour off its broadcast of The Voice, which means I might actually make it through tonight’s edition without stabbing a soup spoon into my eye-socket. No promises. They’re still trying to push the show’s dedicated smartphone app, on the promise that you can play along with the show. Not that such technology is really necessary, since the same contact high can be accomplished by pulling an angry sex face and masturbating furiously whilst spinning on an office chair.

Kicking off tonight’s show is Alice Fredenham, who’s threatening to cause a rift in the space time continuum by appearing on The Voice just seven days after bringing down the house on Britain’s Got Talent. Not that we’re supposed to know that, since her BGT appearance was all about how shy and insecure she is. Tonight’s a very different matter, as she’s all confidence and curiously prominent breasts. She’s thought a lot about her style since, “I love Rita Hayworth and those old Hollywood glamour type people.” Presumably because speaking at good were they all.

Ordinarily, this backstage interview would be followed by Alice’s actual performance, but the BBC is trying desperately to add some variety to the repetitive format. So we cut back to the holding area to meet part-time model Sarah Cassidy, who just has time to remind us of the fact that she’s a part-time model, before we go back to see Alice’s performance. That was an edifying editorial decision.

Alice is doing her best to give a sexy performance, as she breezes through The Lady is A Tramp, but the Hilda Ogden headscarf isn’t helping. None of the judges turn around, which means poor Alice has to stand there with her life in tatters as Jessie burbles incoherently about singers who just sing because they’re singing. Danny has little to add, except repeatedly commenting on how hot she is. As a despondent Alice trudges off stage, Danny growls “Smokin’!” at her, reminding us all of the dangers of invoking twenty year-old catchphrases, and how easy it is to get an honorary mention on @everydaysexism.

Now it’s back to part-time model Sarah, who’s singing voice sounds exactly like what I imagine Katie Price hears in her head, whenever she picks up a microphone. It’s high and pitchy, and all the mellifluous bits have about as much control as a drunk driver trying to commandeer a tractor. Still nursing a painful boner over the girl that got away, Danny’s busy asking Jessie what Sarah looks like, once again undermining the whole concept of a blind audition. As Jessie tells him that she’s gorgeous, he waits until the very last note to hit the button and rotates with his feet up on the front panel. His legs remain there throughout the post-performance chatter, to disguise the telltale dribble down his thigh. Tom’s also complimentary, telling her  “You did some wonderful, wonderful things with your voice.” It’s called singing Tom, I’ll send you a pamphlet. Once again, Jessie is trying to position herself as a contemporary Jeanne d’Arc, making a big deal about how difficult it is for females on the show. Even Danny seems incredulous at this, and he has a point. It’s not as if the women are hooked up to a giant dairy machine and forced to express milk as they tackle Celine Dion. Since he didn’t turn around, Will is trying to send signals to Sarah, encouraging her to choose Tom. When the lip reading doesn’t work, he starts spelling Tom’s name by waving his arms over his head, but there’s a danger a 747 could end up taxiing through the studio.

Emily’s up next, and she’s a little concerned that the coaches won’t be able to see her. She does understand that’s the point of the show, right? Anyway, she sounds a lot like Diana Vickers, in that most of the notes seem to be hitting a sleeping policeman on their way out of her throat. When the tempo speeds up, it loses some of its charm, and sounds more like a regular singer trying to hold a tune whilst perched on a washer on spin cycle. Will’s the only one who turns around, which doesn’t bode too well, since folksy acoustic strumming isn’t really his wheelhouse. Danny helpfully observes that Will turned round because he hears things that Danny doesn’t. In this case, it’s probably laughter and spontaneous applause.

Nick Tate is a Tourette’s sufferer, but since this is going out before 9 o’clock, we’re not going to see him call anyone a cunt or spit in their face. Double shame. His family are very encouraging, especially his dad who looks alarmingly like Michael Winner. Nick’s doing an acoustic version of Footloose, with a dash of improvised beat-boxing. It’s pretty good, so of course no-one turns around. One of his family members has the saddest face I’ve ever seen, like a clinically depressed teaspoon. Jessie asks Nick to sing something else, and they all start punching their buttons, which suggests it might be time for the producers to intervene and remind them of how the show works. Still, that’s one less Christmas card that Kenny Loggins will be getting this year. 

The next compilation segment is all about contestants performing songs made famous by the judges. Or songs by The Script. Case in point - Tom Gregory is doing one of Danny’s masterpieces, but even the lanky Irish rocker seems to be struggling to follow the lyrics. Jessie says song choice is really important, which is a passive-aggressive way of saying  “…and that was fucking awful.” Laura Prescott does Jessie J, but her voice is so far off the mark, she may as well have performed it in the car park. Jessie says “I’m gonna forget that was my song.” If only it was that easy. Finally, there’s LB Robinson, who’s doing a chilled-out take on Tom’s She’s A Lady. Tom’s twinkling like a kindly granddad who’s just been presented with a birthday card festooned with glitter and macaroni, and turns around with seconds to spare. LB is a support worker with the homeless, which prompts Danny to give him a standing ovation. Meanwhile, Tom feels proud that someone would be willing to come on and do one of his songs in front of him. Technically they’re behind him, but let’s not quibble.

A change of pace now, as we’re introduced to two middle-aged biker chicks; Barbara and Carla. One of them comments that there’s a perception that “Women our age ought to be mothers,” but most OB/GYNs would advise against it once they’re in their fifties. They come out on stage in matching bedazzled green jackets, and look like half of The Corrs in about twenty years’ time. Of course, having seen the VT we’re expecting something rocky, not a note perfect rendition of The Flower Duet. All four judges turn around, and Jessie yells “They’re so cute” because every fifty year old wants to be patronized by a woman half their age. Their voices are fantastic and the harmonies are great, but I’m distracted by the weeping man in a Stetson in the green room. Shouldn’t he be presenting an expose of cowboy builders on Channel 5? Will says he wants them to educate the youth on the importance of classical music and proper singing, because Rock That Body can only do so much. The judges all admit that they don’t have a fucking clue what to do with them – the best Will can offer is matching jackets. At least he’s honest, and it’s enough to win their fealty.

David Kidd is a Tom Jones vocal impersonator. There’s a lovely shot of him performing in a club with a pair of knickers hanging off his sleeve, but it’s not clear whether they were thrown by a fan, or if he’s just giving them an airing because the clothes horse was full. Everything about his stage presence suggests David Brent not being able to take a hint, but that doesn’t stop the camera from slowly panning down Tom’s front to focus on his giant red throbbing button. Sadly, it’s not enough to get the judges to respond. In fact, even once the singing’s finished, the rotation of their chairs seems decidedly grudging. When he admits he’s a Tom Jones cover act, he’s encouraged to launch into an impromptu rendition. Let’s accept that for what it is, and try not to question why the producers just happened to have the backing music on standby. David invites the elderly crooner to join him, but it looks as though the elastic bands holding his expression in place are giving him some trouble.

Time for our second pair of interwoven stories tonight, as Laura and Jessica both lack confidence but come alive when they sing. Laura’s up first, and flares her nostrils dramatically as she waits for Florence and the Machine’s Spectrum to kick in. In the end, it wasn’t really worth the wait - the big notes sound as if she’s having trouble swallowing a runny egg. Danny turns around, presumably because it’s getting late and he’s already let two hot women get away. But as Will cleverly observes, Danny’s enthusiasm seemed to wane once he’d had a look at the young hopeful.

Jessica points out that she really, really wants it, which instantly distinguishes her from everyone else who’s ever auditioned on a talent show. She’s doing an interesting version of Don’t You Want Me, but the Amy Winehouse affectations start to become a little wearying. Backstage, Holly appears to be cheering more emphatically than any of the family. None of the judges turn around, which leaves Jessica looking as though she’s chewing off her own face from the inside. Will tells her that she has a unique star quality voice, but sounds too much like someone else on his team. Jessica seems OK with that feedback, even though it has me wondering if Will knows what ‘unique’ means. Tom and Jessie tell her to come back next year, expressing far more confidence in the show’s future than any of its viewers.

Tonight’s final performance is from Karl Michael. Six months he was recording an album, only for the record label to pull out without any warning. Now he’s cleaning windows and working in a bar, just to pay his rent. Let’s all feel sorry for him, because he’s been forced to live in the real world. He even seems to blame the record label’s fickleness for the fact that he doesn’t have a girlfriend. He’s singing No More I Love You’s, but without any of the melody from Annie Lennox’s version, and straining his throat so hard that it’s got me needing a lozenge. All four judges turn, and Jessie kicks things off by making it all about her: “If you want to learn technique, and about what it’s like to be an artist right now, I’m your girl.” Danny, on the other hand, tells Karl “I’ve been in those exact same shoes.” Dolcis, £34.99. Sounding philosophical, O’Donoghue remarks “One singer comes along that you see a lot of yourself in.” But I think he’s just licking his wounds because he missed the chance to see himself in Alice. 

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