The Voice Kids episode 1 was filled with aww-some moments – but why was it on past most kids' bedtimes?

Natasha, who performed with her choir at the One Love concert in Manchester, ended up on Team Will - ITV Picture Desk
Natasha, who performed with her choir at the One Love concert in Manchester, ended up on Team Will - ITV Picture Desk

The pint-sized, shrunk-in-the-wash version of the spinny-chaired singing contest returned – with a scheduling twist. 

This second series of the search for Britain’s best young singer will be stripped across eight consecutive nights, making it a week-long TV event. Or a relentless ordeal, whichever you prefer.

Youngsters between the ages of seven and 14 can enter. Up for grabs is a £30,000 bursary towards the winner's musical education, plus a family holiday to Disneyland Paris. Who said this was a Mickey Mouse show?

Football’s not coming home but waistcoats are 

Mere days after England’s World Cup semi-final heartbreak and hot on the heels of their third-place play-off, one contestant seemed to be paying sartorial tribute to manager Gareth Southgate. Shaney Lee from “just by Bristol airport” sported in a dapper waistcoat – although I don’t think it was a £60 M&S one. 

Shaney Lee - Credit: ITV
Shaney Lee wore a Gareth Southgate-style waistcoat Credit: ITV

His mother described Shaney as an “old man in a little person’s body” and there can’t be many seven-year-olds who love country & western and attend Kenny Rogers gigs. Shane's rendition of Take Me Home, Country Roads sounded distinctly like Alvin & The Chipmunks covering John Denver but proved downright irresistible. 

He even arrived on a Shetland pony called, oddly, Bobby Brown. Let’s hope he doesn’t end up like his R&B namesake: stalked by tragedy and in horsey rehab for addiction issues. Why the long face?

Judges vowed to be harsher but didn’t deliver

There was plenty of pre-series hype that the judges would be more critical this year, now that they know the level of talent to expect. It was an uneasy yet intriguing prospect: three millionaire pop stars, perched upon grandiose thrones, casually puncturing the dreams of wide-eyed, weepy children.

However, it didn’t come to pass. Popstrel Pixie Lott, McFly’s Danny Jones and “super-producer™” proceeded to wave through eight of the 10 hopefuls during this opener. Even the two who didn’t make it were showered in praise and told it had all been a terrible mistake. 

Judge - Credit: ITV
Judge Credit: ITV

Sure, since its worthy BBC days, The Voice has always been the “nice” crooning contest. A wholesome antidote to The X Factor in which the judges are relentlessly supportive, the contestants are non-freakish and nobody gets humiliated for our entertainment. Not even Louis Walsh. 

Yet if there’s no jeopardy and the judges pull their punches, it all risks becoming boringly bland – especially next week when the contest moves onto the Battle rounds. A flaw in the format, perhaps, with grown-ups reluctant to publicly pass judgement on kids.

High and low voices both wowed

They came from opposite ends of the vocal spectrum but two misfits found a place to shine on The Voice Kids stage. Velvet-jacketed Jacob, a 14-year-old crooner from Essex, took everyone by surprise when he launched into Puttin' On the Ritz in a rich, deep timbre. He had jazzy swing and plenty of stage presence. It just remains to be seen how versatile he is. 

Jacob picks Team Danny  - Credit: ITV
Jacob picks Team Danny Credit: ITV

At the other end of the scale? from Pontypridd, also 14, who had a soulful soprano voice, pure tone and impressive falsetto on “Seasons of Love” from the musical Rent. Endearingly geeky Daniel’s performance was all the more plucky because it was the first time he’d sung in public – except for the elderly at his local care home. was less annoying than usual

His hyperactive ways and self-conscious kookiness can grate on the grown-up series but was a natural with the youngsters. He was cheerleader-in-chief (“When you’re a kid, anything is possible” was how he started the show. “They may be little but they’re doing it big”), bonded with stories from his own youth and was boundlessly enthusiastic, like a children’s party entertainer in a daft hat., Pixie Lott and Danny Jones - Credit: ITV, Pixie Lott and Danny Jones Credit: ITV

Yet he also reined in the wacky stuff at times, understanding when it was time to let the kids shine. He even ended the episode by bumping into the camera for the lolz. If Pixie was the princessy one and Danny the charming one, played court clown. We can just picture him in a jingling jester’s hat. 

Pushy showbiz dads were no help 

Don't put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Worthington. Or indeed your son. It was noteworthy – and whisper it, faintly pleasing – that the two wannabes with parents in “the biz” were both sent home. 

Suffolk schoolboy Isaac regularly performs with his musician father, Mark Anthony. The duo were reminiscent of Tim and Jack Goodacre from this spring’s Britain’s Got Talent, with novelty hats, try-hard bow ties and over-styled hipsterdom. Isaac warbled well enough but adopted an annoying mid-Atlantic accent during his rendition of Aston Merrygold’s Get Stupid. Style over substance. 

The Voice UK: where are they now?
The Voice UK: where are they now?

It was a similar story for another 13-year-old, Lucia – daughter of former Coronation Street actor Nicholas Cochrane, who played Andy “twin brother of Steve” McDonald during the Nineties. Lucia oversang Fallin' by Alicia Keys to such a degree that she sounded honking and mannered. Nepotism? Not on The Voice, mate.

Pixie boasted a Lott

Did Pixie Lott’s team win the contest last year? She really should have mentioned it. Except she did, several dozen times, and it looks like becoming a recurring theme over the next few nights. She even a wore gold sparkly outfit to hammer home her champion status.

Judges, Pixie Lott and Danny Jones - Credit: ITV, Pixie Lott and Danny Jones Credit: ITV

Winner Jess Folley hasn’t exactly set the world alight and become a global megastar, though, so perhaps Pixie should pipe down a bit.

Some promising talent was showcased

Buried in the middle of the show were three potential gems. We had 13-year-old “Jude the dude”, who wasn’t just a gifted dancer but sang an emotional rendition of “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars. 

Even younger was 10-year-old Lilya from Swindon, who reminded Danny Jones of “a little Sia”. We can even overlook her blatantly bribing the judges with her granny’s cupcakes. “Gluten -free for Will”, naturally. Well, he is from Los Angeles.

Jude chooses Team after showing the coaches some of his dance moves - Credit: ITV
Jude chooses Team Will after showing the coaches some of his dance moves Credit: ITV

Most original of all, though, was 14-year-old Thai boxing champion Drew from Bolton. She had a cool rocky look, with blue lipstick and denim dungarees. Her song choice – This is Gospel by Panic! at the Disco – was even more refreshing. This trio could go far.

Danny’s baby cranked up the cute factor

The show began with an cutesy judges-as-kids montage and the shameless “aww”-inducement continued when Danny Jones brought in his one-week-old son Cooper. 

I’m sure this was in no way related to the fact that his wife Georgia is documenting their life as first-time parents on her YouTube channel and needs the publicity. Ahem. 

Sob stories were saved until last

Every talent contest needs an emotional crescendo and here we got a double dose of heartstring-tugging. First came 13-year-old Natasha, whose school choir performed with Ariana Grande at last summer’s One Love benefit concert for victims of the Manchester Arena bombing. 

Black-Eyed Peas were also on the bill that day and Natasha even spoke to via satellite on Good Morning Britain – a neat bit of ITV cross-promotion. At least they didn’t have Piers Morgan shouting over them. Thankfully, Natasha duly delivered a powerhouse performance of Demi Lovato’s Sorry No Sorry that saw dub her “Little Miss Sassy”. 

She was followed by self-conscious 14-year-old Sienna Lee, who has a stutter and shyness issues. What she lacked in confidence, Sienna more than made up for in talent, unleashing a huge gospel-soul voice. 

Her powerful yet controlled version of I Know Where I've Been from the musical Hairspray even had shades of Whitney Houston. Predictable but effective. Cue group hugs and roll credits. 

Week-long series risks overkill

Last year’s debut run was, according to ITV, “the most successful entertainment launch of the summer, pulling in an average 4m viewers”. So why change a winning formula and fiddle with its scheduling?

Stripping the contest across eight consecutive nights was presumably a gimmick designed to squeeze in the series after the World Cup and coincide with the start of the school summer holidays – in which case it should surely be scheduled an hour earlier. 

Most of this week’s episodes won’t finish until 9.30pm – after the watershed and past bedtime for many potential viewers. Baffling.