Can Boy George and Paloma Faith save The Voice?

The two newcomers should bring enough wit, guts and star-quality eccentricity to give the BBC’s singing contest the edge over The X Factor

The Voice is back for a fifth series this weekend, which isn’t the sort of news that has the nation on the edge of its sofa wondering who will be the new Stevie McCrorie.

Who? Exactly. But forget last year’s winner. (Oh, you already have.) In fact, forget everything you have ever learned about The Voice, because Boy George and Paloma Faith are here to save its singing skin.

This latest series comes so soon after the death of X Factor that it’s already starting 2016 from a vantage point. Technically, Simon Cowell’s former ratings juggernaut will limp on with another series, but when Craig David making a surprise appearance to sing “You know, you know, Reggie ’n’ Bollie do it like that” is the highlight of the whole year, you can be sure that show’s in trouble. Now is the time for The Voice to become top dog.

Watch the trailer for The Voice

Every year sees some kind of shake-up on The Voice judging panel, but there hasn’t been so much excitement about the change of coaches since Kylie Minogue minxed across the stage for the first time. Joining affable Ricky Wilson and entertaining talent-bot, Boy George and Paloma Faith bring with them a pair of filthy laughs and bucketloads of charisma, charm and guts.

“If you go with me, I’ll make you so famous drag queens will impersonate you,” George tells one singer in a trailer. He has been there and done that (and, indeed, that), so he approaches the show with a more knowing attitude than that bloke out of The Script who once occupied his spinning chair. Of course, having the best one-liners in the business helps, too.

The main problem with The Voice in previous years was that the celebrities were pitched as “coaches” rather than judges. They were too kind. But someone needs to tell it like it is, with wit and soul. And Boy George has promised not to hold back.

Why should he? He has led the perfect pop-star life, complete with ups and downs. Viewers of a certain age will remember the playground debate they had after Culture Club’s first appearance on Top of the Pops. (Yes, despite the clue being in his name, people still weren’t sure if he was a boy or a girl.) Whoever gets mentored by Boy George will learn how to launch their career with a bang.

Calmer chameleon? Boy George on The Voice.
Calmer chameleon? Boy George on The Voice. Photograph: Ray Burmiston/BBC / Wall to Wall

Tom Jones was vocal about his disappointment over not being invited back to this year’s panel and Rita Ora defected to The X Factor. The two newcomers won’t give them the chance to be missed. Both are younger than Jones, but they bring a grown-up energy to the mix. While Jones has a magical ability to ruin every song he comes into contact with, George is a true pop genius. Culture Club’s classic album Colour by Numbers may be the same age as Olly Murs, but it’s packed with the kind of songs that he would sell his granny to have a go on.

Faith is only three albums into her career, but she’s an old soul and will ride on to the show on her imaginary glitter unicorn, acting like she owns the place. She’s just the right side of bonkers, and, like Boy George, she’s the kind of big character The Voice is crying out for. Together, these two will be sparring partners, swapping the kind of one-liners that Simon Cowell and Cheryl Fernandez-Versini wish they could buy.

Finally, The Voice is getting the coaches it deserves. One of the criticisms in previous years has been that it’s boring, but you only have to look at the US version, where Gwen Stefani rubs shoulders with Pharrell Williams, to see that it’s the celebrities who can make or break it. Even if you don’t care about the singers, who can resist a Saturday night on the sofa with Boy George?


Hannah Verdier

The GuardianTramp

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