Brian O’Reilly: The Voice week 1 - Judges do their acts a favour by setting the standard low
AND so we begin again – just when we were getting over the drama of the X Factor live shows, The Voice will dominate water cooler talk around Ireland every Monday morning.
This year’s series is improved so much from last year – the judging panel is stronger and more confident, but more importantly the standard of talent has sky rocketed.
The problem with The Voice last year was that many people thought that the contestants wouldn’t be good enough to make it on X Factor – hence being on the Voice.
This year the standard is much higher, to the point that no one could accuse the show of being the ‘second choice’.
So let’s begin with the boring stuff, the production of the show in general.
The judges opening - well if they wanted to set the standard of performance low to make their acts look good, they succeeded. It was like four friends practicing in their garage together.
We then had the pointless exercise of the judges disappearing, only to re-appear again when Kathryn introduced them, which was just odd.
There is also the need for some generic background music when Kathryn is talking, it keeps the pace consistent and would make the transition between herself and Eoghan seem less clunky.
The engine room segment works really well, and could really be a show of its own, perhaps on RTE 2 in the half hour after the main show. It’s the only time we as viewers have the opportunity to get to know the contestants. The integration of social media into the show is also great, and other shows should take note.
It’s a personal qualm of mine, but I can’t stand live bands on TV shows. Yes, I’m sure it sounds great in the hall and is a lot more "credible" and "cool", but for viewers it leaves certain songs sounding quite hollow.
For the more rocky songs the band worked great, but for the more poppy songs the contestants should be allowed use professionally produced backing tracks.
Remember, this competition is decided by viewers at home, not those seeing it live. Their experience is important.
So, down to business – the night’s performances.
It’s always tough to open the show, let alone the very first live show. The pressure was showing during the opening of Roisin’s performance, where she sounded and looked a little lost. However once the dancers kicked in, she clearly began to feed off their energy and began to sound and look a lot more comfortable. She has a really great pop voice and I think this will leave song choices open to her that other female singers won’t have further down the line.
Sophie looked incredibly confident for a first performance. Vocally at times she was a tiny bit harsh, and more vocal control was needed. I am sorry to see her go, she really brought something different to the competition.
He has one of the most interesting voices of the year, however needs to work on stage presence, it came across a little too casual for me. I think the performance needed a mic stand, it would have helped anchor him a tiny bit more. Huge potential though.
The long note which he held before chorus was completely pointless, and detracted from his performance. He did become a tiny bit shouty in the first chorus as well - however he does have a lovely tone to his upper range. He did pull it back and showed some fantastic vocal control on the long notes at the end, which made up for the poor start.
Daryl turned in a solid, if underwhelming performance. Vocally it was actually one of the most solid of the night, however I think the song choice was what let him down, and ultimately sent him home.
Andy Mac Unfraidh
For someone who was joking about One Direction and Westlife in previous weeks, Andy actually has the most “boyband” vocal of everyone this year. The tone in his voice is incredibly sweet, but there is a more dynamic depth to it than the cliché “boyband” vocal. Couple that with the fact he looks nothing like a boyband member, and you’ve got one of the most interesting performers of the year. One of the most solid vocal performances of the night, he completely owned the stage, which is no mean feat on the first night.
What a name, and what a voice to match. Velvin oozed class on stage, he was so comfortable and his vocal was incredibly smooth. He could have offered us something really different every week, however being from LA he was without an obvious voter base, it was clear he would struggle.
Katie Anna Mohan:
This performance was a story of two halves. Vocally, Katie Anna is stunning. There were a few pitching issues at times, however her voice is one of the most unique and emotional female voice in the series. She was incredibly nervous and it showed – which is completely understandable in the first show. She has the talent, she needs to feel more confident in it.
Not for the first time last night, a performer suffered from not having a mic stand to anchor her to the stage. She looked a little lost and lonely on the stage at the start of the performance. The song choice was just dull and really didn’t display what we have heard Shannon do vocally before. However, notwithstanding this, she was pitch perfect. Shannon is an incredibly warm performer on stage, and I think she could really develop into a little star.
It won’t be the first time it will happen in this series, but poor song choice cost a strong vocalist his place. This song, sweet though it is, just doesn’t go anywhere close to allowing a vocalist to show off what they can do. He has a great pop voice, however unfortunately we won’t get to see him develop. A clear warning to the other mentors that song choice is key.
Aoife’s performance cemented the theme of this week – the girls certainly outperformed the boys. The song choice was great, and Aoife’s vocal was stunning. For the first time this week an artist actually communicated the emotion of the song to me. Although it wasn’t the most solid vocal of the week or the most confident, it was my favourite. This girl has buckets of potential, and at this early stage must be one of the favourites to win. When the stage confidence comes, she will be a force to be reckoned with.
This was the performance which had me wishing I was right there, in the front row. It must have taken the house down, and what a closing to the show. A sign of stage confidence is when an act could be the ‘special guest’ performer and not one of the contestants. Completely owned the stage, most acts would hope they have his level of stage confidence by the end of the series, let alone the first week. Fantastic rock vocal and stole the show.