Anybody worrying that the chairs no longer spinning would mean the charm of The Voice would wear off can put their fears to rest – this show is a winner, and tonight in the first of the Battles rounds, it hit the ground running. One coach was in tears, and it’s only Week 5.
The Battle rounds meant each coach, having selected their 10 artists each, had to pair them up against each other for a sing-off, in a boxing-ring type arena, and the chance to sing in the live shows.
Five Star alumna Deniece Pearson had a lot to prove, but so did her opponent Ruth Brown, singing for her lost father. Even in rehearsal, her tears got Sir Tom going too, but he told her to channel it for the performance of Alicia Keys' No One.
Ruth ended up throwing poor Deniece on the ropes, vocally speaking, with the former pop star left doing some moves recognisable from her Top of the Pops days. Sir Tom had to reach for the hankies again, saying of Ruth, “every time she sings, she gives me chills.”
As fellow coach Danny summed up, the problem for all the four was, “there’s no one on my team I don’t want.”
Surprise of the night: Hosts Reggie and Holly doing some work
So what are the strategies? A cynic would say that each coach is pitting their strongest artists against their weakest ones, to increase their chances of triumphing in the live shows. Whatever the tactics, it made for some knockout duets, with not a dancing dog in sight…
The Irish minstrel had Paloma Faith to help him in the training sessions, a lady with a pet hate of motionless singers. So his first pair Max and Bill had to remember to swing while they were Beggin’. The charisma, the edgier voice, never mind the hat, carried it for Max, but it was a close thing, and it was an incredibly enjoyable duet. The good news for Bill’s fiancée is she can carry on planning the wedding that had been put on hold.
Vince and Bo were the first male-female sing-off, and Vince was in the self-conscious position of having to restrain his power for their U2 rendition. It was “dope” according to Will, and Sir Tom couldn’t choose between them. Danny had to, and he opted for Bo.
Jessie had Ana Matronic from the Scissor Sisters on hand to help craft the showmanship of Kirsten and Toni who came on to ‘Think’ like two “ninja assassin singers” according to Will. This was one of the hardest decisions of the night, but Jessie plumped for Toni. More tears, and Toni got the prize for most chuffed winner of the night.
Jessie’s other pair Vince and Jessica had a strange problem – they liked each other too much to do proper battle with We Found Love, and Jessie had similar problems, eventually plumping for Vince.
Fashion statement of the night: Will’s black round glasses
Sir Tom, with the help of Catatonia frontwoman Cerys Matthews, managed to overwhelm his protégé Sam even in the training session – “just to have this time with you, thankyou.” Aundrea and Sam channelled their inner Elvises, but her massive voice couldn’t compete with his quiff and enthusiasm.
And then it was the turn of Deniece and Ruth, singing Alicia Keys’ No One. As seen, it seems no one gets in the way of a young powerhouse, not even a former pop star.
Will’s training partner was Dante Santiago, his Black Eyed Peas mentor, who made Will.i.am - uber-producer and globe-conquering chart-topper look like a little cub standing next to a big lion.
When diva Joelle Moses stood up against blonde barmaid Jenny Jones. Will knew he’d done a good job, as they both belted out Chaka Khan’s I’m Every Woman. The bar was set incredibly high from the start, but Will eventually opted for the rich timbre of Joelle.
Will didn’t seem to be getting much love from Heshima in the rehearsals – “the most uncomfortable experience I’ve had” as Will reported it – and he fell by the wayside on the night, with Amy Winehouse’s friend Tyler James coming through with his version of Yeah 3X.
Meanwhile, Will’s stunning protégé Jaz was having problems with a chest infection, but Jay was still feeling like the underdog for their Marvin Gaye sing-off. Jay held his own, and it was clear Will knew he’d erred in putting them together – “Jay, I’ve worked with Justin Timberlake, and you’re better.”
But that wasn’t good enough (!) and Jaz was going through. What does it tell you about the talent on display when being better than Justin Timberlake doesn’t get you the gig? Keep it coming.
Here's a reminder of the finalists - who gets your vote to be the winning Voice?