Gary Flockhart: New voice for a tired old format

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NOT content with being one of UK pop’s biggest-selling acts, Jessie J is about to step into her new role as a vocal coach on BBC1’s talent show The Voice, which screens for the first time on Saturday at 7pm.

Back in October, ahead of her gig at the Usher Hall, the Price Tag star told me that she was “too excited” about joining A-listers Sir Tom Jones, Will.i.am and... er, Danny “there’s three famous judges – and me” O’Donoghue, adding that she loves “the idea of being a coach and mentor”.

But while she always comes across as a likeable, down to earth young woman, don’t expect the 23-year-old to be a soft touch. Indeed, as The Voice viewers will discover, Jessie is more in the Simon Cowell mould when it comes to dishing out advice.

“I may be young but I’m not scared of being critical,” she told me. “I’ve always admired Simon for the way he says exactly what he thinks - whether people like it or not.”

As someone who thinks that X Factor is past its sell-by date, I’m looking forward to The Voice, which is marketed as an antidote to the highly-stylised X Factor with a focus on talent over image.

On the face of it, it’s similar to X Factor in that a singer will have one and a half minutes to sing their heart out and make the stars want to mentor them to success in a live TV competition voted for by viewers.

But the twist is that the judges will sit with their backs turned to the stage - so they can’t judge the contestants on the way they look, only on the sound of their voice.

It’s a really neat concept, and it will be interesting to see how it all pans out.