The Voice Week 9: Scat Practice, Apathy & Second-Rate Winehouse Impersonators

This show's quickly turning into the single biggest threat to the music industry since Napster...
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This show's quickly turning into the single biggest threat to the music industry since Napster...

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You know, people love to blame Simon Cowell for killing the music industry. They seem to think that his various talent show franchises are creating a disposable, soulless brand of music that leaves real creativity out of the mix. But on the strength of this series of The Voice, I’d argue that there’s an even more insidious threat to originality. A whole generation of girls who think that, in order to be taken seriously, they need to offer up a second rate impersonation of Amy Winehouse’s most self-indulgent ticks. But we’ll get to that shortly. For now, let’s say hello to our judges, and get this week’s contractually obliged reference to Tom’s legendary status out of the way. There’s another 24 singers to get through, so we should dispense with the pleasantries and dive straight in.

Team Ricky - Chris vs Jamie

Ricky’s happy to have Katy B as his advisor, because “she knows what she’s talking about,” which doesn’t display too much confidence in his own guidance. He’s picked Rolling In The Deep, for these two to sing, because Adele doesn’t get nearly enough coverage on shows like this. Chris talks about pulling out his “little falsetto” like he’s got a kitten in his coat pocket, and I’m just glad that Jamie has toned down the “rubs the lotion on its skin” aesthetic from his previous appearance. The rehearsal sounds nightmarish, and despite Ricky’s best efforts to big up their pairing, it’s less “serpent versus a lion,” and more “tinnitus vs perforated eardrum.” In the close-ups, Chris looks like Oliver Hardy in a backwards baseball cap, but at least that takes my mind off the awful falsetto ad libs. The song’s melody has been entirely discarded, and replaced with a nervous breakdown set to a drum beat. Tom says he wasn’t expecting the falsetto, which just means that he wasn’t paying attention to the VT. Ricky chooses Chris, and says of his protégé, “You feel like you’re in the presence of someone who should be doing something.” Spoken less like a mentor, and more like a frustrated Middle Manager.

Team Kylie – Rachael vs Amelia

Jake Shears is boasting that “Performance is really where I shine,” whilst wearing a sweater that suggests dress sense comes a lot further down his list of skills. Amelia wants to tear up the vocals, but Kylie advises her to dial it down. I think this is less in service to the song, and more out of sympathy to the audience, who’ve got twelve over-sung yelling matches to get through. Both girls keep bursting into tears, but it makes sense when we’re reminded that they’re only sixteen – if they weren’t here, they’d probably be nicking scrunchees from Claire’s Accessories. During their duet, they aim for chemistry, but it looks more like a playground rumble that’s about to kick off. Rachael’s good from the start, but Amelia doesn’t get going until halfway through. While Kylie deliberates, Emma asks Tom what it was like performing at 16, as if he should be able to remember the Cretacious period. Having chosen Rachael, Kylie gets up for yet another hug – she’d have less body contact if she went to an osteopath.

Team Will – Kiki vs James

Will’s picked two of the most memorable acts for his first duet of the night – burlesque singer Kiki, and James who often gets mistaken for a woman. There are lots of tactful remarks about Kiki’s big ‘personality’ – “When Kiki walks into a room, you know she’s there.” Also known as Archimedes’ displacement principle. Will attempts to coach James through his shyness, but he looks so disinterested, he could be sorting safety pins in a drycleaners. Kiki’s introduced with the line: “She knows what she wants and she’s here to take it,” and I’m sorry to say that I’m picturing her at a hot fork buffet. James appears to have taken styling tips from Diana Vickers, whereas Kiki looks like a sexy, 1940s weather balloon. Kiki seems a little overconfident, and Will hides in the toilet to avoid making a decision. After much sitting around, he finally returns and picks James.

Team Tom – Melissa vs Vicky

The next showdown is between two girls with fake red hair. Initially, Tom wants them to perform Keep Me Hanging On, but when neither singer connects with it, Tom’s forced to pull out a Pink song instead. Vicky’s concerned that “I’m never gonna get away from who my brother is,” so she should probably stop mentioning it every time she enters a room. Melissa wipes the floor with her, mostly because she finds the right key and sticks with it, whereas Vicky is all over the place. After a bit of confusion over Will’s reference to plaid, Tom picks Melissa and Kylie avoids eye contact with Vicky until the lighting state returns to normal.

Team Ricky – Myles vs Max

Ricky mentions how he loves the Beatles, and has no time for anyone who doesn’t. So it’s the perfect time for Myles to mention that he’s not really au fais with Eleanor Rigby. The Kaiser Chief tells us that “Myles doesn’t even have a comfort zone,” and by the looks of those skintight pleather leggings, neither does Katy B. The song gets off to a less than auspicious start - Myles is too gravelly and Max sounds more like a four-minute warning siren. The two of them go so far from the melody that even their families look embarrassed, but in the end Ricky makes the first wrong decision of the night by picking Max.

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Team Will – Sophie May and Cherri

Will’s selected Love Cats for his two jazzy singers, but by the look on their face, you’d think he’d given them Touch My Bum by the Cheeky Girls. They spend most of their rehearsal time practicing scat, which means five minutes of “scoobedy boobedy, yabba dabba boop-oop-ee-doo.” Despite that, the arrangement works well, and both singers do an interesting job. Sophie May has less stage presence, but Will chooses her anyway. As the vanquished Cherri congratulates her rival backstage, there’s a less-than-sincere edge to her wishes of “good luck.”

Team Kylie – Jamie vs Joe

Speaking about Kylie, Marvin comments “Jamie went the way of most young men,” which sounds vaguely disrespectful to the pop princess. Jamie and Joe are newfound bezzies, and spend much of their rehearsal time hugging and adding each other to their speed dial. On the night, Jamie’s voice is too big and Joe is too inconsequential, so it’s a tough one to call for all the wrong reasons. Jamie can’t stop grinning, whereas Joe constantly looks as if he’s going to burst into tears. As the two are finally wrenched apart by Kylie’s decision to keep Jamie, she seems genuinely moved. In the audience, Joe’s dad is shaking his head and wondering why the lad didn’t break out some wobbly-legged Irish dancing moves.

Team Will – Iesher vs Femi

Will’s picked two of the best singers on the show to go head-to-head, which is likely to make for a great duet, but a piss-poor result. Femi seems to think his family’s life depend on his performance, so I hope someone points out that he’s in The Voice, not one of Jigsaw’s traps. He has a cool, classic Atlantic Soul sound to his voice, whereas Iesher loses it on the adlibs a little. Will picks Iesher, to the delight of her pushy parents, and Femi sings a pitch to Kylie, in the hope that she’ll steal him. It’s pretty cringey stuff, but his voice is undeniably great. Kylie says she was going to steal him anyway, so I guess everyone’s happy. As Kylie approaches Will from behind, he comments “Someone smells nice, I know that’s not Tom.”

Team Tom – Leverne vs Georgia

After all the huggy nonsense, it’s nice to see two singers admitting that they couldn’t give a shit if the other went home. They’re doing Taylor Swift’s 22, and Georgia can really connect with it, because when she was that age, it was also her dress size. Tom picks up on the girls’ nerves backstage, but tells them “I’m gonna try and relax myself.” Let’s hope he keeps his back to the audience. Georgia has it in the bag from the first line, and the awkward harmonies do nothing to help Leverne’s case. While the mother of four now has to contend with being a loser, and portrayed as a bit of a bitch, Georgia throws herself at a pile of meat in a tight sweater.

Team Kylie – Gemyni vs Jade

Time for the weird lookalikes round now, as we get to see what would happen if Katherine Jenkins went up against two Leona Lewises, after they’d all had a cartoon safe dropped on them. Jade’s struggling to make an impression up against the twins, so she’s going to have to do more than put another long split in her skirt. The twins do a weird slow motion run, instead of dancing, and all three of them manage to make a complete hash of Baby, One More Time. In the end, Kylie picks Jade, leaving the twins’ boyfriends to regret having those Gemyni t-shirts printed.

Team Tom – Gary vs Elesha

There’s just time for a few more scenes of people straining themselves against a piano, before Gary and Elesha give the penultimate performance of the evening. The studio lights make the sparkles in Gary’s jacket look more like dandruff, which is unfortunate. Together, they give a remarkably tuneless rendition of Usher’s Caught Up, which feels more like a three-day audit than a two-minute pop song. Tom wishes they could sing together all the time, which kind of contradicts Will’s earlier point that Elesha sings better alone, then picks Gary.

Team Ricky – Luciee Marie vs Jazz

So here we are. Tonight’s last song. The last duet in the battle round. And the last time I’ll have to freeze-frame the recording to catch another ridiculous spelling of a perfectly ordinary name. “I’ve loved Katy B for, like, ever.” gushes Luciee Marie about Ricky’s advisor who’s only been in the industry for a couple of years. Katy B reciprocates by lying that she really likes the tone of the girls’ voices – because who doesn’t love an affected Winehouse impersonator?  The performance is almost unlistenable, with neither singer using their real voice, but Will seems impressed regardless. Ricky picks Jazz, leaving Luciee Marie’s mum to wonder if she’s going to be stuck carrying that banner round for the rest of the day.

Follow Gareth on Twitter, @GDimelow