We all know The Voice’s thing. It’s like The X Factor except with spinning chairs. I remember finding it quite inventive when it started and then I forgot about it. And then Kylie was on and I watched one episode. And then I forgot about it. Now it’s back, and it’s going to be forgettable again.
The first episode began with an introduction to the judges, and they sang us a song to show us their credentials. Or, at least, three of the four did. Will.i.am shouted into his microphone and was just there. These guys are supposed to be ‘superstar coaches’. I’ll give you Sir Tom Jones. But really, would you want will.i.am coaching your singing? The most notable thing Rita Ora has done in the past year is join Sinead O’Connor in the over-the-top section of the new Band Aid song. At least Ricky Wilson out of the Kaiser Chiefs is an upgrade on Danny from The Script.
So, the first contestant comes on. She sings. She’s not spectacular, but she’s good. The judges do their spinning thing, and the entire thing fills up with all the familiar clichés. “You really felt it.” “You have so much passion.” That’s alright, I guess, but then the judges have to persuade her to join their team. It becomes like the boardroom of The Apprentice, with all four selling themselves – Tom Jones’ experience (i.e. his age) is basically all anyone talks about.
The bickering is the show’s best feature. Just as The X Factor worked best when there was some tension between Simon Cowell and everyone else, or when Louis Walsh was irritating people, the interaction between the judges is the main source of entertainment. We don’t care that much about the singing, what we want are some jokes and some fighting.
Half an hour in, Rita Ora is getting on my nerves, and will.i.am hasn’t built on the one joke he cracked early on. It’s starting to drag, so I check how long I’ve got left. Oh dear. This episode is ninety minutes long. The whole of High Noon is ninety minutes long, and that won four Oscars and was nominated for three more. This is one episode, and it’s not winning anything at all. Why are they doing this to me?
But then something interesting happens. Kym Marsh, who was a member of Hear’Say when it formed on the TV show Popstars in 2000, turns up with her 16-year-old daughter. Again, she is good, but unspectacular. No one turns around. Will.i.am likens her to medium-rare steak (I don’t know why). She is crying, Kym is crying. Frankly, I don’t know how Emma Willis, who is on hosting duties, is holding it together. She isn’t the only young contestant to depart in tears this week, and it makes for incredibly uncomfortable viewing.
Here, the comparison with The X Factor is worth looking at again. Even without the spinning chair gimmick and with Simon Cowell, whether you like it or not, The X Factor can keep things going with the terrible and delusional acts. There, although it is fairly easy to see which way the audition is going, there are jokes and awful people to liven things up. There is no point watching rubbish people singing to the backs of chairs – they only have any worth when they are face to face with the judges, and have a dialogue with them afterwards.
In that respect, The Voice is probably more politically correct, but it is also far less entertaining. And given the way that The X Factor has gone in recent years, that is a damning indictment. It tries to take itself seriously, but can’t consolidate that with will.i.am talking rubbish (at one point he describes Tom and Ricky as ‘soggy monsters’). Next week will be more of the same, and when the auditions are over, the show loses its only good aspect. Once the spinning chairs gimmick goes, this is just a budget version of The X Factor. I can’t tell you the names of any of the winners of The Voice, and that’s not likely to change this year.