The Voice: Knockout round (part 2)

Nerves, questionable song choices - and two stand-out performances

With Team Ricky and Team Will performing tonight, The Voice completed its line-up of 12 contestants who will sing live for the public vote next week. But do you agree with the coaches’ choices?

Team Ricky

With four of Ricky’s seven-strong team still teenagers, it was perhaps inevitable that nerves would characterise several of their performances with the prospect of progression to the live stages so tantalisingly close.

Certainly that was the case with Beth McCarthy, the youngest remaining contestant who wowed the audience in her blind audition with her rendition of Sexy and I Know It. Despite displaying unquestionable artistry, she was let down by some pitchy moments on her acoustic version of Wheatus’ Teenage Dirtbag.

Judo player Max Murphy, who was lucky to scrape through the battle round, took the safe route with Gabrielle Aplin’s Home, but he too struggled withpitch problems. Emily Adams left Ricky unimpressed with her choice of Stooshe’s Slip, although her on-stage performance was strong.

And the fourth teen, Jazz Bates-Chambers, looked terrified and beaten before she had even started. Her version of Work It Out was actually okay, but could have been so much better if only her confidence hadn’t already been shot.

At least Jazz had an understandable reason to be fearful, as she had the misfortune to perform after Christina Marie, who took on one of the hardest songs possible in Mariah Carey’s Vision of Love and knocked it straight out of the park. She was so good that she even earned an approving nod from Tom, who had whispered beforehand that she would be one to watch. And Tom knows a thing or two about good singers. (He’s duetted with enough of them!)

Circling back to the first two acts of the evening, Ricky’s steal Jessica Steele opened the show with a changed-up arrangement of Naughty Boy’s La La La which veered at times towards reggae. It was a big departure from what she had done previously, and it didn’t really work. And Chris Royal made an equally brave choice with Over the Rainbow – very good technically, but not a performance I found myself warming to.

Ricky, who is visibly starting to resemble David Brent more with every passing week, had little hesitation in putting Chris and Christina forward, but required a conference with his fellow coaches before making Emily his final choice. Personally I much preferred Beth, but her inability to control her nerves and therefore her pitch cost her dear.

Team Will

Will’s seven remaining singers were generally agreed to be the most diverse, but the quality of their performances varied widely too.

Least impressive of all was Callum Crowley, who inexplicably opted for Girls Aloud’s Sound of the Underground and then compounded his error with some dodgy on-stage moves which compromised his tuning and resulted in the kind of car crash performance you normally only see late at night in karaoke bars.

Nomakhosi wasn’t much better. She’s a performer who seemed to be quite highly regarded who I just didn’t get at all, and Bruno Mars’ Runaway Baby proved to be an equally unwise choice.

Harpist Anna McLuckie played it safe with a song she knew well, Autumn by Paolo Nutini, which Will chose to layer heavy production over. It isn’t the most interesting of tracks, but I’m not sure Will’s input helped. She didn’t seem completely comfortable and her performance lacked the radiance of her earlier efforts.

If those three were easy to dismiss, picking three from the remaining four proved a trickier decision.

The effeminate James Byron chose well. Love Hurts by Nazareth showcased his power, tone and ability to impart emotion.

Iesher Haughton‘s selection of a relatively unknown Whitney Houston song, Try it on My Own, was canny. Her performance was good but not her best, and certainly a couple of notches below Christina Marie’s. Similarly, early bookies’ favourite Sophie May Williams opted for a ballad, but her version of Moon River fell a little flat for me.

By comparison, Jermain Jackman had the deck loaded in his favour. For starters, choosing your coach’s mother’s favourite song – Luther Vandross’ A House is not a Home – is going to go down well. And then to go out and rip the covers off such an R&B classic was spectacular. Jermain’s high notes are crystal clear, but it’s his velvety baritone which marks him out as a serious contender. And he seems to be ever such a nice lad too.

It was the least surprising choice of the round when Will elected to put him through, alongside Iesher and Sophie. That was tough on James, who was significantly stronger and more interesting than some of the quarter-finalists on the other teams. But that’s the game.

Looking forward

As it stands, I think we saw the two strongest contestants overall in tonight’s show. You’d be hard pressed to fit a cigarette paper between Jermain and Christina Marie, with Georgia Harrup being positioned for a strong run too. As for Team Kylie, I think she will regret not putting Femi through. I thought she had the strongest seven overall, and yet I don’t see the one outstanding individual from her remaining three (Lee, Jamie and Rachael) who screams ‘winner’ at me.

Of course, we still have three weeks to go and a lot can change in that time as we the public finally get to have our say. But with no real makeweights in the final 12, the margin for error has become vanishingly thin. How our remaining dozen cope with the pressure will count just as much as talent, personality and song selection now.

The Voice season 3

Has Kylie Minogue turned The Voice into an X Factor beater?

Ten to watch in the battle rounds

Battle round (part 1)

Battle round (part 2)

7 things we learned from the battle rounds

Knockout round (part 1)

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