Something has gone seriously wrong with The Voice. It was supposed to be an innovative new platform to launch a previously undiscovered talent. I don't know about you, but I couldn't give a shit about the contestants, since most of them sing with all the tenderness of Ian Paisley berating a careless waiter. Instead, the only true star emerging from this ear-punishing ego-fest is a man who doesn't just murder music, he defiles its corpse in a manner that would make Buffalo Bill want to sleep with a night light.
And yet here we are, celebrating the man who once thought nothing of punishing the world with the one-two assault of Meet Me Halfway and Boom, Boom, Pow. To be fair to the BBC, scoring a mentor of Mr I.Am's status was something of a coup, especially when compared with the usual level of influence exerted by talent show judges. As a multi-million selling, Grammy-winning singer, songwriter and producer, he certainly casts a significant shadow over the music industry, albeit one that looks as though a corner of his head has been cut out. The papers have been full of revelations recently that Will was angling for a permanent role on one of Cowell's ratings juggernauts. But since we now understand a little more about how his preferred judges get their space on the desk, Will was unlikely to do what was needed to secure a spot. Still, Simon's loss is the BBC's gain as Will's appointment as a mentor on The Voice has single-handedly turned an overly worthy talent show into must-see TV.
Over the course of the last few weeks, he's also revealed an uncanny knack for humour, although the jukebox jury's still out with regards to how much of it is intentional.
Unlike his many rap and R&B contemporaries, who spend their time reminding everyone just how unequivocally heterosexual they are, Will has surprised viewers with a far more cuddly and accessible persona than anyone was expecting. Perched in his high chair, with his legs barely making it to the studio floor, he's more like the Bo' Selecta bear, but without any of that unsavoury tail business. Over the course of the last few weeks, he's also revealed an uncanny knack for humour, although the jukebox jury's still out with regards to how much of it is intentional. Either way, comments like "Wowsers, those are some pretty dope trousers," and "You got soul in a bowl, you got soul on a pole" are still a lot more interesting than the tedious platitudes and half-hearted compliments that the other mentors manage to muster. Even if it does sometimes sound as though he's channeling the spirit of Dr Zeuss. Whether he's commending contestants on improving a "katrillion per cent" or flirting with a Glaswegian granny by telling her that he was "on the edge of [his] seat like melted chocolate" - there's no denying that Will's the real star of the show. That ridiculous Go Hard Or Go Home jacket might make him look like the Jetsons' microwave, but it's all part of his quirky appeal.
So who cares if he spends half his time Tweeting, when he's supposed to be watching the performances? Once my ears start ringing, I tune out too. Or perhaps he's just as underwhelmed as the rest of us by Reggie Yates' meaningless bulletins from the Twitter wall in the green room. He understands that it's not enough to flash a hashtag on screen and assume that'll engage the fans. He's taking part, adding to the conversation and connecting with the viewers. Which has to be more fun than sitting through the performances. So I salute you will.i.am. I don't care if you could give Shania Twain lessons in unnecessary punctuation. And I'll never grow tired of your incessant 'whoop whoop whoop' noises. Because as long as the camera's on you, I'm spared another shot of Danny's rock-n-roll duckface, Tom's occasional lapses into bewilderment or Jessie's constant spotlight seeking. And don't worry about the haters - they're so two thousand and late.
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