The BBC's new talent contest The Voice, seen as the rival to Britain's Got Talent and the antidote to ITV's image- obsessed X Factor, kicked off tonight with plenty of surprises.
The singing show opened with Black Eyed Peas' founding member Will.i.am claiming, "it's not like a traditional karaoke TV show."
However, what seemed like karaoke quickly descended on our screens when his fellow coaches, Jessie J, Tom Jones and The Script's Danny O'Donoghue, joined him for a performance of his hit song I've Got A Feeling.
Luckily it seemed like a bit of fun and they weren't taking themselves too seriously, despite one of The Voice's hosts, Reggie Yates, repeatedly pointing out they are "four of the biggest names in music".
Any fears that The Voice may turn out like the BBC's last attempt at a singing contest - Fame Academy - were quickly forgotten as it became clear much more effort (and money) had been put into the set and production.
The rules were quickly explained: the coaches have their backs to the contestants so that the auditions are blind and they don't judge all the hopefuls on their looks. They press their red buttons if they like the sound of a voice and want that contestant on their team. And if no coach presses their button for an artist,then that's it - the artist is out of the competition.
And we were told: "Each coach wants to discover the artist with it all, who will win the record contract with Universal Music and be named The Voice."
Then it was time to meet the contestants…
First up was 17-year-old Jessica Hammond from Belfast, who claimed: "In my bedroom I'm a superstar."
She also turned out to be a superstar on stage. And after she started performing an acoustic version of Jessie J's hit song Price Tag, Will.i.am was quick to press his button and get her on his team. However, Jessie J, Danny O'Donoghue and finally Tom Jones also spun round, so the 17-year-old was left with the massive decision of who to work with.
Will.i.am tried to butter her up by saying: "I'd like to work with you the way I worked with Macy and Michael Jackson." But Jessie J quipped: "I don't surround myself with yes men", which seemed to impress Jessica as she chose Jessie (presumably not just because they have the same name). She said: "I'm a songwriter.. number one hits don't matter to me.. I'm going to go with Jessie."
Next up was a blast from the past for any fans of nineties pop. Sean Conlon, who a decade ago was at the top of the charts with boyband 5ive, stepped on to the stage. He explained: "The blind audition really works in my favour," and performed a fine rendition of Coldplay's Trouble, while also playing the piano. However, no one pressed their button for him.
Once Jessie J turned around and saw who it was, she excitedly shouted: "You were the first concert I ever saw," and tried to console him by adding: "The only reason I didn't turn around is because I didn't know what I could do for you… I'd happily listen to your voice at home, it completely chilled me out."
Sean's appearance proved the point in the blind auditions, He could never have gone on X Factor and been judged fairly.
Another example of why the blind auditions add something special to the average talent show format was Sam Buttery. He told viewers: "I don't think my voice matches me," and when he started singing a passionate rendition of Adele's Fire To The Rain it became clear what he meant.
Tom Jones turned first, which was super as Tom was one of his favourite singers. But Danny hit the nail on the head when he said: "I was expecting to see a female."
And just as it was starting to seem like the coaches only turn around if you sing a song of theirs or the coach thinks you sound like them, 34-year-old Toni Warne, who suffers with alopecia, took to the stage and sang Will Young's Leave Right Now. Jessie, Tom and Danny all turned around and Danny told her: "I would fight to the death for you, I think you're fantastic." Despite that enticing promise, Toni chose to join Jessie's team.
Also trying their luck on the first episode of The Voice, was the bubbly Aundrea Nyle, who used to sing backing for Puff Daddy and R Kelly but gave it all up when she had children. Tom Jones quickly snapped her up and said: "You give it the full monty," before giving her a smacker.
Adam Isaac, 28, was so good that Tom Jones and Will.i.am both spun round and went in to battle for his affections. Tom told anecdotes of hanging out with Elvis and Will.i.am played his Micahel Jackson card. Ultimately Adam said: "I'd like to go with the Legend that is Tom Jones."
Then came the good-looking couple who had entered the competition separately. Max Milner performed a brilliant mash-up of Come Together and Lose Yourself, which got Danny doing a funny head bop. But while he got picked, his gorgeous girlfriend Twinielee Moore, who sang The Climb, was rejected. Surprisingly she took it rather well and was straight back into her boyfriend's arms.
One of the most impressive acts of the night was Ben Kelly, who performed Rocket Man. He earned the quickest spin around of the night from Danny, quickly followed by Will.i.am and everyone else pressing their buttons. Will.i.am said: "The reason I turned around is I can tell that you're singing for something." And Danny added: "This guy is the finished article right now." But despite the male coaches fighting over him, Ben opted go with Jessie.
The judges' tactics seemed to get more sneaky throughout the show and by the time it got to Phil Poole, a 27-year-old delivery driver who sung Drops Of Jupiter, Will.i.am said: "I didn't press my button because I wanted Danny to press his button."
The last performance of the night came from J Marie Cooper, who sang the second Jessie J song of the night. Belting out Mama Knows Best for her mum, she blew the coaches away and Will.i.am turned instantly with the rest following suit. Jessie J said: "I would write songs like that for you all day," and Jones added: "You were on fire."
As the jibes between the judges started getting more personal, J Marie eventually put a stop to the bickering when she stated: "I'm going to go with Will because he turned around first" - making her Will.i.am's one and only contestant of the night.
From watching episode one of The Voice, the calibre of talent already seems better than the whole of the last series of the X Factor, but is this enough to keep viewers entertained? Personally I loved the competitive spirit between the judges and all the bragging anecdotes that they delivered, but what did you make of the show? Can it match up to the reality programmes that are already on TV? Or is it destined to be a flop? Let us know below...
SLIDESHOW: The Voice's contestants in episode one...
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