We started the battle rounds with 48 aspiring superstars, but by the end of tonight’s episode we’re now down to the 28 who will contest next week’s knockout round. Here’s how things turned out in the second set of head-to-head battles.
A mixed bag
Whereas last week’s opening set of battles was fairly consistent both in terms of quality and pitching boy versus boy and girl versus girl (all but the final battle last week were same-sex), the final 12 sing-offs were more variable in both respects, with much of the tension revolving around exactly when Kylie would employ the final coach’s steal, and Will stealing the show with his own brand of antics.
In fact, a number of the battles had more than a whiff of car-crash about them, starting with the opening contest between Chris Royal and Jamie Lovatt. There was nothing wrong with Ricky’s selection of Adele’s Rolling in the Deep, but the boys’ attempts to outdo each other vocally – Chris employing a wavering falsetto and Jamie channelling his best rock growl – made their combined performance excruciatingly unlistenable.
Imagine a duet between Bon Jovi and the Bee Gees. But worse. Sadly, the best part of this opening segment (which Chris won) was Will comparing spaghetti to ramen noodles, followed by a so-bad-it’s-good pun about miso.
This wasn’t the only misfire, however. Kylie put Jamie Johnson and Joe Keegan together on the toe-tapping Counting Stars – which should have suited Irish dancer Joe – but the pair’s performance was flat-footed and beset by weak harmonies. Jamie was adjudged the less bad of the pair.
Tom had a couple of duds too. First he pitched Amy Winehouse-alike Melissa Gill against Danny-from-Busted’s sister Vicky Jones. After a disastrous attempt at You Keep Me Hangin’ On, they changed to Pink’s Just Give Me a Reason but this nevertheless descended into a painful shouting match which had even their coach pulling faces. (Winner: Melissa.)
Then he put mother-of-four Leverne Scott-Roberts against Ugly Betty lookalike Georgia Harrup. Being asked to perform Taylor Swift’s 22 didn’t do either any favours, but Georgia won through, which means that we’ll be reminded that her cousin is Adele yet again next week.
It wasn’t all bad, by any means. The highlight for me came from the least promising battle of all – early favourite Sophie May Williams and Cherri Prince, the last (and, for me, the weakest) of the 48 auditionees selected. However, Will’s choice of a slinky jazz version of The Cure’s The Lovecats proved inspired, bringing out the best in Cherri and allowing Sophie (who won, but not by much) to display a talent for scat.
As ever, we had a few battles clearly designed to resolve either/or situations between similar performers. Ricky paired off two guitarists, judo champion Max Murphy and Sting lookalike Myles Evans. Max exuded confidence on Eleanor Rigby while the inexperienced Myles struggled. An easy win for Max.
In the battle of the confusingly similarly named 16-year-olds, Rachael O’Connor outduelled Amelia O’Connell on Jay-Z’s Holy Grail.
And Will’s pairing of his two most left-field team members – burlesque singer Kiki de Ville and the effeminate James Byron – produced another of my favourite performances of the night on the Patti Smith classic Because the Night. James won, but not until Will had delayed his decision to take a toilet break.
Close matches and mismatches
The remaining four battles were a combination of closely fought contests and clear mismatches. Pint-sized Jade Mayjean Peters‘ big voice overpowered the discordant harmonies of twins Gemyni, who could pass for Leona Lewis’ sisters but proved less able to cope with Baby One More Time. And Tom rightly opted for Gary Poole over Elesha Paul Moses on their version of Usher’s Caught Up.
There was heartbreak and then jubilation for the formerly homeless Femi Santiago, who lost a close battle with the impressive Iesher Haughton after the two performed the Stylistics’ Stop, Look, Listen (to Your Heart) – another impeccable song choice by Will. Femi then serenaded Kylie in what looked like a suspiciously orchestrated piece of spontaneity. Whatever – it worked. Kylie used her steal to keep Femi in the competition. It was a good choice.
The final battle of the night was also too close to call. 16-year-old Essex girl Luciee Marie Closier and Jazz Bates-Chambers, a year her elder, tore the covers off Bruno Mars’ Grenade in a rare instance of two contestants showing genuine flashes of dislike for each other. A confident Luicee tried every trick in the book, both in rehearsals and on stage, but a genuinely torn Ricky – knowing there was no steal remaining – picked Jazz.
It was the one battle whose outcome I disagreed with all evening. Luciee’s voice grated on me, but her overall performance was vastly superior. As Katy Perry might have said, the one that got away.
Next time …
Next week it’s the knockout round, which will be screened over Saturday and Sunday. Each coach will be able to fast-track one of their seven-strong team, while the other six must compete against each other for two places to leave a total of 12 contestants to move forward into the following week’s live round.
The competition is about to get really serious.