After what felt like months of promotions, The Voice UK returned for a third series on Saturday night with a new line-up of coaches, an earlier premiere and new presenters.
The pressure on the singing show has been immense ever since the BBC won the rights to the format for a whopping £22 million over rivals ITV in 2011. Although the first series was the most successful debut season for a UK reality TV show ever (it averaged 8.5 million across the series), viewing figures have tended to dwindle after the popular Blind Audition and Battle Round stages of the competition. Once its defining format is removed, it tends to become just like any other singing contest.
One of the problems with The Voice is that it has failed to find a memorable winner: Leanne Mitchell (Series 1) and Andrea Begley (Series 2) both had good voices but didn’t have that star quality to achieve worldwide (or even national) success.
This could be a problem with the format itself as versions of the show around the world, with their own superstar line-ups, have struggled to endorse sustainable winners.
Trying to stand out
So with all of this in mind, it might’ve been surprising to hear that the show had been commissioned for a third series. The producers knew that changes needed to be made, however, so with the departure of Jessie J and Danny O’Donoghue, pop princess, Kylie Minogue and Kaiser Chiefs front man, Ricky Wilson, were drafted in to give the show some new life alongside returners Sir Tom Jones and will.i.am.
Hot-property and presenter-of-the-moment, Emma Willis and former JLS member, Marvin Humes, take on Holly Willoughby and Reggie Yates’ roles. The airing of the series was also pushed back to avoid a clash with ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent in March, instead facing a non-battle with Splash!
On paper, Kylie had all the makings of a popular, likeable coach, and let’s not forget her aptly-titled hit ‘Spinning Around’ which is sure to be overly-used. In fact, a lot of critics are crediting the ‘wonder from down under’ for the show’s giant opening ratings on Saturday: the show averaged 8.4 million viewers (peak 10 million) which was bigger than any episode last series.
She provided many of the memorable moments of the first episode, including hiding behind her chair because she couldn’t compose herself in front of former The Streets singer, Leo. How can anyone dislike someone who’s so petite that they need an extra step to get onto those giant Voice chairs?
Fellow new arrival, Ricky Wilson, was in danger of receiving the same ‘who?’ treatment as Danny but he too proved himself. He seemed to be the one who genuinely cared about certain acts, willing to fight for them and showed genuine disappointment when he lost out.
There are early signs of a Ricky vs Will rivalry which is sure to spice up the coaches’ dynamic. His hit ‘I Predict a Riot,’ which was mashed with Kylie’s ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head,’ was the judges’ collaboration to open the series and I honestly thought it was so good it should be released as a single.
Is it the same old song?
The slow-motion effects during their opening number showed signs of a much sleeker production but at times the general editing of the auditions themselves was quite poor. It felt like too much time was dedicated to unsuccessful auditions and overly long introductory VT’s. The concept of the show prioritises vocal ability and to some extent, the viewers should be made to appreciate this too by getting as little back-story as possible.
One the contestants’ daughters was allowed to meet the judges and it seemed like the show became all about her for a full 15 minutes. Some of the coaches’ less inspiring comments could’ve been cut from the show too and their attempts at winning over singers are a bit cringe-worthy at times.
But the show would be nothing without talented vocalists and of that there were many. Some stand-out performances included Lee’s haunting version of Kylie’s ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ and Anna’s beautiful, harp-assisted version of ‘Get Lucky.’
It seems like songs in their original arrangement need to be sung exceptionally to get a reaction—ideally they need to be reinterpreted to really inspire and show signs of a credible musical talent.
The novelty with The Voice is its most humanising element and what differentiates it from other shows. Although this series opener completed the checklist of different types of wannabe singer (the one that got away, sob stories, pushy parents), this feels less like a brutal conveyor belt.
The format of the show will continue to give the show the edge but it’s the easiness between the judges, the presenters and the contestants that is sure to make this series the most successful yet.
So it seems like The Voice has got its mojo back. The real test will be maintaining these colossal viewing figures to the end of the series and finding a star that we can’t get out of our heads.
What do you think? Can The Voice become successful this series? Have your say in the comment section below.