The Voice recap: emotional manipulation?

Phone set to absolute silence?

Check.

Snacks set to maximum saltiness?

Check.

Self set to baste in rich marinade of wasteful shame for two hours?

Check. Check. AND WELCOME TO GRAND FINAL (PART ONE) OF THE VOICE.

It doesn't really matter how often host Darren McMullen tells us his name, I always forget it in the commercial breaks and wonder how Delta feels about working so closely with that chap from Westlife. Then, he tells us his name again and I am reminded that this fellow - who offers bon mots of reliable quality such as last night's "don't step away from the television unless you need to go to the toilet" - is not, in fact, Brian McFadden but host, Darren McMullen. Phew.

I think we all have questions for Delta's stylist. Chief among them: who are you and why have you broken the knob on the spray-tan-hose so it is stuck on the "Jack-o-Lantern" setting? And, what inspired you to dress your charge like the Madam of an I Dream of Jeannie themed brothel on tonight of all nights? Finally: did you chop off one of Delta's hair extensions, dab it in a bit of rooting hormone and bury it in soil until you struck a little mini Delta called Rachael Leahcar?

Yes. Last night, it seemed, the cloning was near complete. When 18-year-old Leahcar swung in to view, she seemed so chromosomally Goodrem that just a few years and a few bad fashion choices separated the two women. The metamorphosis was fascinating and I, for one, could not wait to see if Rachael would join the cast of Neighbours as a schoolgirl-with-stars-in-her-eyes by 9pm.

But, we'd have to wait as the first performance was to be from dependably average teen, Sarah De Bono.

Throughout the season, the star of Team Joel has been described by her mentor, variously, as "rockin'", "hard rockin'" and a "rocker". Now, while it is true the lass can hold a tune and convincingly strangle a microphone, it is not true that she is possessed of any more rock than, say, a jam doughnut. It is my personal belief that Madden, who had the words "I <3 You" sprayed on to his skull last night, is so enamoured of colourful fashion that he confuses red hair for rock. As De Bono had teamed her scarlet mane with trousers that looked as though Ken Done had bludgeoned the corpse of Ed Hardy, Joel was UTTERLY convinced anew of his novice's "rock".

"Sarah De YOLO", said Madden, proving his fluency in this month's stupid Internet speak. "She's going to ROCK," he foretold. And then, Sarah sang a Tina Arena song. I have to say, when I think of authentic ROCK steeped in sweat and untrammelled by niceties, I don't necessarily think of the song If I Didn’t Love You.

However, Sarah's hair continued to rock. While De Bono sang an Adult Contemporary ballad, her hair was singing Welcome to the Jungle in a parallel universe.

It was then the turn of bookie favourite, Karise Eden, to shine.

There is really no doubt that this young woman has the lungs of Adele and the heart of a racehorse. Sadly, last night, she produced the lyrics of a Hallmark card.

It was a confusing move last night to showcase original compositions from finalists who had entered what was, after all, a singing competition. Perhaps in an effort to market its stars as distinct from those in other talent shows, producers demanded originals. Although we are all moved by Eden's history, it was difficult to be moved by a song that described it. I Was Your Girl might have been inspired by heart-wrenching sadness but equally heart-wrenching, I think, is an unfair demand placed on very young artists to perform deeply personal, deeply amateur material at the beginning of their careers.

But, emotion remains the most hotly traded currency at The Voice and Eden's references to her trying life won her acclaim from all the judges. "To sing the blues you have to pay your dues," said Seal, approvingly. "You touch people and you tell stories," said Joel, predictably. "Expressing yourself is the best thing you could possibly do," said Delta.

Maybe this was the advice Delta gave her stylist?

In a night when pathos seemed to be hot, hot, hot, Leahcar amped up the Little Match Girl look for an unremarkable, breathy stab at the standard, Smile. She and Goodrem bonded over their ability to smile, even though their hearts were breaking, and all judges delivered appropriately bland congratulations a la "thank you for the gift" and/or "we are so grateful for this magical unicorn journey" or something. I don't know. I wasn't listening because AT SOME POINT a girl just gets jack of emotional manipulation and HELLO, is Seal wearing shorts?

Perhaps I am predisposed to embrace Mr Percival as he and I are nearly the same age. But, perhaps, our midlife boy had an advantage that existed outside of my imagination too. That Darren's original composition Damage Down was not awful may have had something to do with his years of song-writing practice. It was a creditable number that sounded just like the male menopause and did not make me want to hurt myself with my bowl of salsa. Unlike Sarah.

De Bono's original song effort, Beautiful, was the unsurprising and slightly gut-curdling work of a teenage girl. These lyrics really deserved to remain in her diary or her Live Journal or wherever it is teenage girls store their thoughts about being Beautiful On The Inside these days. It was awful. I mean, I was bullied for six long years at high school, too. However, I had the decency never to publicly perform the poetry I wrote about it.

A night rich in suffering was briefly redeemed by Karise who seemed to take her fist, shove it down her throat and offer us her insides in belting out soul standard Stay with Me (Baby).

Then, Sarah spoilt it all.

Finally, Mr Percival took a tumble with Stevie Wonder. And revealed he had a daughter named Willow. Which I found confusing, because I thought they'd made naming one's children after trees illegal.

Oh. And Lionel Richie performed the tune Easy with his son-in-law Madden and everybody born after 1970 agreed that they liked the Faith No More original much, much better.

No. I don't really know why Lionel was there, either. Perhaps Nine got a family discount.

Perhaps they'll pay up big for the Special Guest Star on this evening's Grand Final Part Deux. Rumour has it that Gaga will show.

Then again, Rumour had it that we'd be over watching reality shows by 2012 and it seems we are as fixated as ever. For tonight, I will paint myself in shame again as surely as Delta will paint herself in Jack-o-Lantern orange. And, if I were a betting man, I'd put a dollar on Karise for the win by a nose and an exotic side on Mr P. FLY PELICAN FLY.

And I'd put a month of wages on one sure thing. I'll be watching this joyous crap again next season.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/was-the-voice-a-simple-case-of-emotional-manipulation-20120618-20iwu.html#ixzz1y6GBuMbJ

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