ARTS AND FEATURES — 27 February 2014

Andrea Begley is proclaimed winner of The Voice 2013

By David Hennessy

The current series of BBC’s The Voice has just moved past the blind audition stage and Danny O’Donoghue may have departed along with Jessie J but new judges pop princess Kylie Minogue and Ricky Wilson of The Kaiser Chiefs have given the show a whole new lease of life alongside Tom Jones and Will.I.Am. Several Irish contestants are set to battle it out on the teams of Kylie and Tom. Will one of these go all the way to give us another Irish winner, following in the footsteps of last years’s Andrea Begley from Tyrone?

Jai McConnell, 24, Belfast

Jai sang Never Forget You by Noisettes in such a unique way that Ricky Wilson and Will.I.Am had turned their chairs after only the first few lines with the two remaining judges quickly following suit. All judges complimented Jai on her “unique” singing voice with Will and Ricky seeming especially keen but in the end, it was Kylie who tempted her after opening her handbag, saying: “What can I give you?” A single mother, Jai told the judges that auditioning for The Voice got her “out of the house”.

Rachael O’Connor, 17, Derry

After saying she could not imagine herself doing anything other than singing, Derry teenager Rachael’s powerful rendition of Clown by Emeli Sande moved Ricky, Tom and Kylie to all turn their chairs and give a standing ovation with Will quick to say “I’m a fool” and “I should have turned”. Although she said she couldn’t “believe people turned around”, Rachael had a tough decision to make, eventually plumping for Kylie.

Mairead Conlon, 31, Celbridge, Co Kildare

A speechless Mairead had to choose between Ricky, Tom and Kylie when her powerful version of Purple Rain, although she joked why Will  didn’t think it was “mega dope”. Mairead has previously appeared on the Irish version of the show and fearing another heartbreak, said a coach promising not to knock her out, would influence her decision. But told there was “guarantees”, Mairead went with Tom who reminded her of her father as well as being “Mega talented”.

Amelia O’Connell, 17, Liverpool

Fans of London Irish Rugby Club may already be familiar with Amelia as she sang at the Madejski Stadium for the charity Over the Wall in 2011. Amelia’s performance of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face moved Tom, Kylie and Ricky to turn. The crowd laughed when she told the man himself that her father is the UK’s number one Tom Jones tribute act. Although he commended her for going to college, Tom Jones told her she was a “born singer”. Ricky admitted her singing was so amazing, it was only halfway through her performance that he remembered “he had a job to do”. Amelia certainly had a tough choice to make and although Tom used the “don’t upset your dad whatever you do” line, she had to go with Kylie who the crowd were vocally supporting.

Joe Keegan, 16, Bolton

Kylie was first to turn around for Joe’s rendition of Keep Your Head Up by Ben Howard although she was joined by Ricky even though he left it late. But it was Kylie that Joe went with in the end.

Will jokingly asked if the music student who plays five instruments got extra credit for auditioning. A champion Irish dancer, Joe impressed the judges with his performance history, even demonstrating a few steps for Will.I.Am who, under Joe’s guidance, showed some great dancing promise for a beginner.

Joe was the winner of the 2012 Manchester Irish Festival Songwriter of the Year award and has previously auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent.

The Voice continues on Saturdays on BBC1,also available on BBC iPlayer.

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