Six weeks in and the four judges have comfortably settled into their roles now. Will is still grinning like he just grew a second dick, Kylie has extended her flirting to inanimate objects (and it appears to be working), Tom still looks as confused as a camel trying to understand shortwave radio frequencies, and Ricky’s wondering why he didn’t try clear mascara sooner. “This is the hardest bit for me,” moans Tom, but he could be trying to unscrew the lid off a jar of pickled cabbage.
Tonight’s first young hopeful is Emily Adams, whose family run one of those hotels in Blackpool that looks like the smoking lounge on a P&O ferry. “There’s a lot of pressure for people my age to get their A-levels and go off to uni. That’s not really what I want to do.” She’d rather pin her hopes and dreams on an ineffective TV talent show instead – someone’s careers advisor won’t be getting a Christmas card this year. She’s singing this year’s go-to standard: I’d Rather Go Blind, and it’s a strong, if rather mannered vocal performance. Ricky gets his first team-member of the night, and Will finds a nice way of telling Emily she sounds like a fat old woman. He also thinks that she needs to go to church, but given the severity of her perm, I’d be calling into a hairdresser’s first.
Keen to “put his favourite musical style on the map,” John Rafferty is a shapeless pile of man who used to impersonate Garth Brooks when he was skinnier. Poor syntax means it’s hard to tell whether he means when he was slim, or when Garth himself was more svelte. To be honest, they’d both struggle to squeeze onto the Nemesis at Alton Towers. He ambles out onto the stage as if he knows there’s a sniper in the audience, and proceeds to perform a woefully pedestrian John Denver cover. It’s a little better at the end, but in terms of star quality, he made Andrea Begley sound like Whitney Houston. No-one turns, because they didn’t think he lived the lyric. Then again, I’m not paying too much attention – I’m too distracted by the tattoo in his arm that’s the size of a crop circle.
Continuing the country theme, here’s Talia Smith, who looks like Liz Jones without the aging effects of misanthropy. She’s singing Hell on High Heels, which is also a fairly apt description of the performance; the high notes are rough and the low notes are worse. Ricky didn’t like the fact she sang in an accent, whereas I’m more put off by the fact that she sang at all.
Having dispensed with the country theme, we’re now in Family Hour, as we see a bunch of genetically linked pairings. Buheiji are a brother and sister duo, who mangle Dog Days Are Over and disappear almost as quickly as they appeared. Leanne and Natalie are a pair of sisters who look like they were booked for Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents, but wandered into the wrong production office. We only see about ten seconds of their performance, but it’s enough to know why no-one turned. Their Dad’s a big Tom Jones fan, so they drag him all the way to the green room as the audience sit and twiddle their fingers.
The next family affair is Shenton and Bizzi Dixon. Bizzi had a record contract, but “it didn’t go as well as we all hoped,” he explains diplomatically. Shenton, on the other hand, does a load of terrible impressions, none of which look or sound like the person he’s supposed to be. They’re not performing as a pair; they’ll be going up as individuals. Helping to facilitate peaceful family relations, Mum says “May the best son win.” Shenton is up first and sounds like the kind of tribute act you’ll see at a million company Christmas dos. You know the sort - throwing down a couple of half-decent Kool and the Gang covers, before parking himself by the vodka luge and making a move on the interns.
Shenton is upbeat and implores Bizzi to do what he always does. But since the only thing we know he’s able to do is fail, that doesn’t sound like total encouragement. He’s going to close his eyes and give it his best shot, not realising that the term ‘blind audition’ is supposed to refer to the judges being unable to see. His version of Use Somebody is rougher than his brother’s performance, but Kylie and Tom turn anyway. Tom wants to hear what else he can do, hoping that he’s saving ‘singing in tune’ for the duels.
Nathan Amzi can do the splits and has the least convincing moustache since Baldrick befriended a slug. The vocal is under par, but Ricky’s got four spaces to fill so hits his button anyway. Kiki deVille is a burlesque performer. She shows off her nipple tassels to a bemused Marvin, who asks “Where do they go?” She offers an inconsequential version of Paloma Faith’s Stone Cold Sober, with some very weird pronunciation and a dress that looks like Joshua Allen Harris’ bin-bag sculptures. With the judges playing it hard to get, she screams the last note to win Will’s support.
Callum Crowley is described by him mother as “very theatrical,” and we all know what that means. Having rolled his eyes and pursed his lips, he comes out in a beanie and a pair of ridiculous glasses that would make Joe 90 think twice. His voice is a nasal falsetto and the song is unlistenably shrill. Nonetheless, three judges turn, leaving Tom gurning like he’s forgotten how the button works. “You know all about sexy,” Callum says to Kylie, unconvincingly. Will wants to fine-tune his areas, and Ricky hopes he’s a Kaiser Chiefs fan. To be honest, he’s more likely to pick Ricky for the volumised eyelashes. “I’m all about the commercialised pop music,” he admits, then throws a curve ball by picking Will instead of Kylie. “We’ve waited so long for this,” says his mum, as if she’s talking about finally getting the spare room back.
The next pair are a couple of stage school graduates, who are whinging about the fact that they studied alongside Pixie Lott, Adele and Katy B. Marc William performs Whole Lotta Love in an outfit that makes me want to turn my back to the TV. The shirt’s bad enough, but sandals, in February? Bitch, please. Tom tells him he has an incredible voice, and Will implores him to sing as if he was planning an outfit. On the strength of tonight’s ensemble, that’s the worst possible advice. Paul Raj is a nice looking lad, with strange Irn Bru-coloured hair. He’s got too much of an echo effect on his microphone, and his vocal is a tuneless falsetto. Still, at least he’s answered his own question about why his classmates hit the big-time instead of him.
Amrick Channa was raised as a Sikh, but loves “going out clubbing with friends and blinging it up.” Looking a little like Boy George, before he lost all that weight on the vegan diet, he says “Yes I’m an Indian guy in a turban but don’t stereotype me.” I guess this means he’d prefer us to think of him as a brash, vulgar prick. The less said about his version of Pride (A Deeper Love), the better, although now I’ve got the nickname Urethra Franklin stuck in my head. “Don’t worry son,” shouts his emotionless mum when none of the judges turn.
Jazz Bates Chambers loves nail varnish, and has one of those mums that tries to convince people they’re sisters. She also has a fringe so severe that it probably needed planning permission. Jazz is a pretty girl, although she’s wearing an unflattering powder blue outfit that’s too high on the waist and too short on the leg. The vocal is good, but way too affected, and bears no resemblance whatsoever to her speaking voice. Her phrasing and diction is awful; it’s like listening to Fran Drescher throw up into a milk bottle. Even so, Ricky turns because, well, time’s running out.
Amelia O’Connell has some fetching Scouse brows and is the daughter of a Tom Jones tribute act. There’s lots of talk about the surgery she had when she was seven, none of which has anything to do with anything. And that, in a nutshell, is what’s wrong with The Voice. It may talk the talk about being fresh and different, but it’s quite willing to play all the same derivative, exploitative games as its fellow TV talent shows. As for Amelia – her version of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face is far too melismatic, but three of the four judges turn anyway. Maybe it sounded better through a well padded leather headrest. Tom tells her to focus on her education and being on his team, while he’s busy focusing on counting out his blood pressure pills.