The Voice review – it’s the judges, not the singers, who I’m passing judgment on

Rita and are good value, but Tom and Ricky really need to up their game

I’m afraid that I didn’t download the new app that allows you to play along to The Voice (BBC1, Saturday). Presumably once installed, you point your smartphone downwards and a red spinning throne rises up from your living-room floor, so you can sit and press the button and sing and spin along too. But I’m just watching the old-fashioned way, on the sofa.

Here are the judges, then. We’re introduced twice – Sir Tom,, Thingy from the Kaiser Chiefs and newby Rita Ora. They sing a song – Ready to Go by Republica – not very well and my sofa ain’t spinning nowhere. And here are Emma Willis and Marvin, too, kinda presenters but also kinda pointless – they haven’t really sorted out that role on The Voice, in the way Ant’n’Dec have on BGT. They’re not owning it (it’s important to own things on The Voice, like the stage and the song etc).

Right, first up Letitia from Coventry, doing Stay With Me by Sam Smith. Not bad, a bit out of tune on the high bits (would anyone have spun if they’d waited for them?), but she gets three spins. How’s Letitia going to choose then? She has a question for her spinners: if they were to go out for some chicken, what spice would they have on it? Curry chicken, hot, says Tom. Really spicy, says Rita. Ricky (Ricky!) would have whatever she was having, so they could split it …

What! These are bad answers. For a start, none of them is saying what kind of spice. And Ricky, if you’re sharing dishes, you want them to be different, not the same. More seriously, WTF is going on? Is this a singing competition or Blind Date, circa 1989? Later on, too, with Stevie the hot Scottish fireman: “If we were to be together, coaching-wise,” says Rita, barely able to control the urge to run up and ravage him there and then, “we would set fire to the stage and you wouldn’t need to put it out.” Stevie the fireman, clearly terrified, goes with Ricky. As does Chicken Lickin’ Letitia. Most of them do. Rita looks like good news though – matey and honest and genuine, possibly less polished than Kylie, probably more interesting. She needs to be. Will, with his baffling metaphors, is amusing and has the best joke of the night: “I tell you, I’m black” (as opposed to red, or white, which is what Rita thinks he is). But Tom and Ricky bring very little to the table, in terms of television drama.

Another little moan about the judges: stop doing the I-should’ve-pressed-the-button thing. Ricky tells Lucy the opera singer he didn’t turn because he’s a bit of an idiot. “Why didn’t I turn around?” says Rita to Howard, who’s originally from the Midlands but now lives in Greater Manchester (whoops from the audience – why do they do that, applaud people from where they live? That annoys me too). Will’s soggy about not turning, “soggy meaning, you know, when you’re eating breakfast and like somebody calls you and your cereal gets all soggy …” I think he means soggy as in sorry, then, will.i.should’ve. “This part sucks pretty much, having to tell an awesome singer why you didn’t turn,” Will tells Matt, and then doesn’t tell him why he didn’t turn. Ricky regrets not turning for Matt, too, again.

And they all regret not turning for young Stephen, who sounds like a much less young Stephanie. “We’re the idiots,” says Ricky, again (the more he says it, the harder it is to disagree). Rita, practically in tears, is really, really sorry (soggy?) and really hates the fact that she didn’t turn around. Tom says maybe if he’d known it was a 16-year-old boy, not a mature female singer, he would’ve turned. will.i.should’ve.turned says he should’ve turned, too …

Well, I’m sorry, judges. I’m the judge of the judges and that’s just not good enough. Not only do you need to be decisive, make good decisions and be accountable, but also if you’re saying you would have turned if you’d been able to see who Stephen was, doesn’t that make a mockery of the whole concept of The Voice? Is is possible that it isn’t just about the voice after all?

Anyway, don’t worry Stephen, doing well on here doesn’t seem to translate into doing well in the industry. If you actually want to sell a few singles then get yourself over to the other side. Yes, Cowell, I’m afraid, and The X Factor.


Sam Wollaston

The GuardianTramp

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