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Kylie, Please Stay - How Miss Minogue Saved 'The Voice'

Posted: 12/02/2014 16:02

Love it or loathe it but the Saturday night talent show is here to stay.

And after a gap of four years without a Minogue on our screens to judge confident crooners, at the time of writing, Kylie Minogue is now six weeks into her stint in the revolving red chair of The Voice.

But how has the diminutive diva measured up? Is she The One to save The Voice or have you been left wondering Where Is The Feeling?

For my money (and the TV license payers) Ms Minogue has been worth every penny. After just two series of The Voice, it didn't feel so much tired as positively narcoleptic. Tom Jones was left in screensaver mode and will.i.am had run out of similes. But after a spring clean, the addition of Kylie and Ricky Wilson have Febrezed the staleness left by Jessie J and Danny O'Donoghue and injected fun into the format.

My problem with the first two series of The Voice was that they were watered down versions of X Factor. It was a saccharine sweet, politically correct, non-offensive singing competition with two credible judges (will and Tom) and two attention-seeking rookies.

I felt Jessie J's desperation to be taken seriously as an artist removed every shred of warmth from the rest of her personality. Tulisa tried the same approach on X Factor with constant references to her 'urban roots', which made her a laughing stock. While there's no doubt Jessie has more talent in her talons than most singers have in their entire body, she lacked softness and came across as a headstrong singbot.

However, Kylie oozes likeability. She's been the girl-next-door since her Neighbours days and her voice is instantly recognisable, from the sensuous I Believe In You and Chocolate to joy of Spinning Around. She's been in the fame game long enough to know the highs of success and worldwide sales and the lows of public indifference.

Like her younger sister Dannii before her on X Factor, you believe that if you are in Team Minogue, the sisters will have your back and go beyond the call of duty. Ex-X Factor contestants still claim to be in regular touch with Dannii and Kylie will likely follow suit.

And credit to Ricky Wilson too. Even if he hadn't shed the pounds, fixed his teeth and hit the spray tan, he is miles more affable than Danny O'Donoghue. He's been in the business 14 years and, like Kylie, has seen career highs and lows. While some have questioned his rock credibility by becoming a judge on The Voice, he doesn't care. He's doing it for the exposure, the promotion, the cash and for the sheer fun of it.

The change in judges has seen viewing figures up on last year. It's wiped the changing room floor of Splash; that one trick pony's ratings halved once The Voice aired.

But now it's crunch time. Because the next hurdle The Voice faces is the same one it's stumbled over for the last two years. With the blind auditions about to end, it becomes just another singing contest. And traditionally, ratings have hit free fall once the chairs have stopped spinning around. I'd like to believe the presence of Kylie and Ricky could reverse that slump, but in reality, I doubt it will as it's the show's fatal flaw. And the new series of Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway is likely to take a chunk out of its numbers.

Another problem with The Voice is that it has yet to spawn a real star. Bo Bruce and Tyler James came close but ultimately failed to shift downloads. First series winner Leanne Mitchell's debut album failed to reach the top 100 and I don't expect much from last year's winner, Andrea Begley. Its best hope is 2013's runner-up Leah McFall.

If The Voice wants to be taken seriously as a show that breeds talent and not just Saturday night fluff, then it's the producers who need to find a voice that has an image to boot. And that goes against the show's premise.

The X Factor, which has suffered a dip in ratings of late, welcomes Simon Cowell back later this year. It has nothing to worry about competition-wise from The Voice. Months separate their airtime and while ultimately they are both singing competitions their hearts are very different. The X Factor has more fun, campness, bitchiness and staged drama. It's the pantomime of talent shows. But ask any singer who is considering entering a reality music contest and most will tell you they'd rather win the X Factor than The Voice. Because that's where the sales lie. And until attitudes shift, Mr Cowell's baby will always win out, with or without a Minogue.

I hope Kylie will return for series four but The Voice needs Kylie more than Kylie needs The Voice.

 

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