The singing competition with the revolving red chairs returned to BBC One last night, and old faithfuls Ricky Wilson and Will.I.Am are this year sat either side of brand new coaches, pop diva Paloma Faith and 80s icon Boy George.
The show kicked off with a rousing performance by our coaches – led by Will and Ricky who were then joined by newcomers Paloma and, introduced by Will as the ‘legend’, George. They sang a mash-up of Get Up/Whole Lotta Love/You’ve Got The Love and showed exactly why they’re on the show. Boy George was especially impressive – it’s easy to forget after years of him being primarily a DJ that he can sing extremely well.
Then came the singers hoping to change their lives with one turn of a chair. First up was Beth Morris from Maidenhead, who strutted on to the stage looking somewhat of a tribute act to Ms Faith. A skin-tight leopard print catsuit, lashings of red lipstick and messy hair, she stunned with a raucous version of Nutbush City Limits, causing all four coaches to push their buttons. Paloma described her as ‘phenomenal’ and ‘fierce on every level’ and unsurprisingly, Beth chose to take her place as the first member of her team.
22-year-old fishmonger Tom Rickles was up next. He described his rather deep relationship with the fish he sells before he took to the stage so viewers were left a little confused as to whether he would sink or swim before our coaches. His slick Ellie Goulding/Jason Derulo mash-up had echoes of Olly Alexander from Years and Years certainly impressed Ricky, Will and George, who all wanted him. Tom stuck with the fish and went for Pisces Will, who called him ‘fresh’ and ‘dope’.
Brooklyne Richards, the bingo-caller from Birmingham (which I personally think should be her official stage name) was third to try to impress with Cry To Me by Solomon Burke. Strong voice but pitchy throughout. She certainly had sass in abundance and thanks to a massive belting finale, any dodgy vocals were ignored and she was given a spot. ‘I’ll make you so famous, drag queens will impersonate you’, George told her, which Will described as one of the best pitches he had ever heard. It didn’t work however – and Brooklyne joined Team Ricky.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for the contestants, though. Country chanteuse Keri-Ellah failed to impress with Carrie Underwood’s Before He Cheats and Dublin’s John Bonham also missed out on a spot with his heavy metal style. Paloma said he reminded her of Jack Black in School Of Rock – not what you want to hear from your potential mentor. Closer to home for us here at Man About Toon was Reverend John Barron from Gateshead. His impressive, if a little too theatrical, version of This Is The Moment caused the coaches to all join hands but sadly wasn’t their cup of tea and he left without a place.
Dads were well represented last night. Dwaine Haden gave a soulful rendition of Norah Jones’ Don’t Know Why and immediately got reactions from Paloma, who said it was ‘banging’ and George, who said although it was ‘wobbly’ in parts, he loved his tone. The 30-year-old proud dad of one brought on his adorable son Kingsley to help him decide and ultimately went for Paloma. Babyfaced Ryan Willingham surprised everyone with a very grown-up take on Stars from Les Miserables. Singing for his little girl, he sounded phenomenal but as the history of musical theatre on The Voice dictates, didn’t manage to get any interest from the coaches. He was devastated to miss out and I think the coaches missed a trick with him.
Lyrickal, a gothic beat-boxer from East London, was recruited by Team Will after a performance of Virtual Insanity and 16-year-old ‘mummy’s girl’ Aine Carroll, powered through a beautiful rendition of Karmin’s Brokenhearted to join Team Ricky and showbiz entertainer Bernie Clifton hoped art would imitate life as he warbled The Impossible Dream. He, however, didn’t get a place in the next round.
Most unique turn of the night went to final contestant Cody Frost. The 18-year-old punk turned Abba’s Lay All Your Love On Me into an angst-filled torch song that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Lana Del Rey record. Ricky called it ‘one of the most emotional performances we’ve ever had’ and Paloma said she felt her ‘heart’ and that Cody should be ‘massive in the music industry’. Rocking an 80s vibe in tartan trousers and Dr Marten boots, she delighted 80s icon George by becoming his first team member.
So as week one ended, Paloma is leading with two acts on her team. There is still everything to play for, however, with a plethora of acts still looking for a spot. The battle is on.
The Voice is on next Saturday January 17 on BBC One at 19.45