I've been a fan of The Voice UK since the first series. I stuck with it past the blind auditions when many didn't. I wasn't phased by the fact the chairs no longer turned halfway through the series.
But this year, I wasn't alone. The show has been rating consistently well, even when up against Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway.
What's changed? Not a lot really. The format's the same, the only difference that you might be able to attribute to the rise in ratings, is the arrival of Rita Ora as a coach, which in my opinion has really done the show, and her, a lot of favours.
This weekend I was invited along to the first live show of the series, which was actually the Quarter-Finals. It's beyond me why they only dedicate three weeks to live shows. Three weeks simply isn't enough time to get to know the singers or see them grow. Before you can really get into the show and pick your favourites, the show is over (and sadly, so is the career of the winner).
For the Quarter Finals, each team took to the stage first, and once all three acts had performed, it was up to their coach to send one of them straight through to next week's semi finals, with what's called a Fast Pass, whilst the remaining two contestants would be facing the public vote.
In a change to previous years, the elimination followed The X Factor's suit, in that no longer was it one act from each team going home. Instead the remaining eight contestants were all on an even level meaning that one coach could lose two acts, whilst another could not lose any!
Kicking off the live shows was Team Ricky, who are Emmanuel Nwamadi, Stevie McCrorie and Autumn Sharif. First up to sing, and opening the entire show was Autumn, who sang a very modern song, Hold Back The River by James Bay. At first I wasn't sure about the song choice or the way she was performing it but then in the second half of the song she pulled out those awesome vocals we knew she had, and set the standard pretty high for the rest of the contestants.
Next up was the deep-voiced, and very soulful Emmanuel, who sang Another Day In Paradise. Again, the same as Autumn, it took him until the second half of the song to really get going and I have no doubt that he bowled everyone over when he hit that incredible falsetto note at the end.
And last to sing from Team Ricky was Stevie McCrorie, who sang All Through The Night. I wasn't a fan of Stevie's during the auditions rounds, and unfortunately I wasn't a fan of his live performance either. If I'm honest it was boring, and felt like it had been done a million times before. I certainly wasn't watching a star of the future perform, put it that way.
After the usual nice comments from the coaches, and the clichéd "This is such a tough decision" Ricky decided to pick Stevie as his Fast Pass, probably because he could see that the public might not pick up the phone to vote for him, so at least this way he was safe. Was it the right decision in my opinion? Of course not. He was the weakest singer out of the three but I can see why Ricky did it. This meant that Emmanuel and Autumn were left facing the first public vote of the series.
Next up was Team Tom; Lara Lee, Howard Rose and Sasha Simone. Kicking things off was Lara Lee who from start to finish sang the HELL out of Coldplay's God Put A Smile Upon Her Face and put her own twist on it by including a spoken word bit towards the end. What I really liked about her performance, and why it was my favourite performance of the night at that point, was the fact the she delivered from start to finish. Whether she was singing or rapping she delivered. She felt fresh, different, and I was already looking forward to watching her performance again when I got home.
Then Howard took to the stage to perform Read My Mind. Again, much like Stevie, I felt like I'd seen many Howard's before... and neither of them very exciting. You can tell a lot about what makes a good performance and what doesn't, by the audience's reaction in the studio. And compared to Lara Lee, not that many people were feeling Howard. Me included.
And then, Sasha Simone took the stage. Up until hearing her sing Lost & Found last week, I thought she was average at best. I used to feel uneasy watching her perform, but not tonight. Tonight she commanded that stage like no one else and treated us to an INCREDIBLE performance of Sail. From the vocals right through to the performance and the visuals, everything about this performance was first class.
It might sound cliche to say, but it didn't feel like a performance by a contestant on The Voice UK. Instead it seemed as if she was performing her smash hit single on a stage as prestigious as the Grammy's, she was that controlled, that polished, and that amazing.
Will.i.am summed Tom's team up perfectly and said "Tom's team is supreme." Couldn't have put it better myself Will.
Tom then had a tough decision to make. Who would he take straight through to next week's semi final? After much deliberately he chose Sasha, which in my opinion was absolutely the right decision. I'm sure the public would have voted her through anyway, but why would you risk losing such a talent? You simply wouldn't. This left Lara Lee and Howard facing the public vote.
Next it was time for the new girl with Team Rita. Last week we saw Rita choose to take Clark Carmody, Karis Thomas and Joe Woolford through to the live shows. Going into the lives shows, the only person from her team that I really remember from the blind auditions is Karis, and tonight she was first up and gave a very confident performance of Riptide. If you're trying to picture Karis but can't she's the 17-year-old single mother from Wales who lived on her own since she was 15. She's got a great voice, the right look and with the right song choices could be a bright young star.
Singing second was Clark singing a song we've heard a million times, not leas on talent shows, Ain't No Sunshine. So whilst I went into his performance not really knowing who he is and not being keen on the song choice, I came away from his performance more than impressed. He was cool, original and I loved the way he mashed up Ain't No Sunshine with Blackstreet's No Diggity. He just looked so natural on that stage, like he belonged.
And finally, from Team Rita was Joe Woolford, a young guy Rita calls her "Teen Dream" - basically he has the potential of driving girls up and down the country mad. He's a young good-looking guy and whilst that type of person on rival show The X Factor, can't usually sing that well, Joe can. I'm not his biggest fan, perhaps because I'm not a teenage girl and I wasn't keen on the song choice, Chris Brown's Don't Wake Me Up... but actually. Something about it worked. He's by far the most commercial singer taking part this year, but if commercial translates into having a successful career, then there's nothing wrong with that at all.
Rita chose Karis as her Fast Pass and sent her straight through to next week because she can see the potential in her. Again, similarly to Joe, Karis is fairly commercial. With the right songs, she could have a great career.
And last but not least it was Team Will's turn to take to the stage; Sheena McHugh, Vikesh Champaneri and Lucy O'Byrne.
First up was Sheena who it's fair to say is a vocal powerhouse. With elements of Christina Aguilera about her voice, she absolutely belted out Glow by Ella Henderson and mixed it nicely with Coldplay and Rihanna's Princess Of China. Watching it in the studio I had goosebumps. And to quote Will.i.am she brought the "FIYAH" tonight. Pure fiyah. And yes, the spelling is deliberate.
Next up was Lucy, a theatre Usher who sings opera. I've never been a fan of opera, so lucy was never going to be my favourite. And if I'm honest, I could feel my eyes closing during her performance of When You Wish Upon a Star. Either that or the heat in the studio was starting to get to me. I can appreciate that she's a good opera singer, but she's not my cup of tea. Unfortunately, I can see Lucy winning the show.
It's called The Voice, and for many she has a fantastic voice so why wouldn't a BBC audience vote for her? It's not like the show is really about picking a winner with longevity and a real chance at a successful career. Good luck to Lucy. She seems nice enough, but it really wasn't for me.
And last but by no means least, it was time for Vikesh to take to the stage. For me, Vikesh is one of the strongest vocalists ever to appear on The Voice, and it wasn't really until the knockout stage of the competition last week that I began to take notice of him, when he blew me away with his performance of It's A Man's, Man's, Man's World. I love how genuinely happy Vikesh always looks to be there and for someone who has never, yes never, performed a gig in his life, he is doing incredibly well.
As soon as I found out he was singing Get The Party Started I was a little worried. Surely he deserves a big ballad that he can wow us with. The odd song choice together with the way the stage was set up with a circus theme and the fact he ended his performance raised up in the sky sat on a hula hoop, I'm concerned he's being turned into a bit of a joke act. Luckily he has the vocals to back up all the theatricality but I wish he would just stand there and deliver those amazing vocals we all know are inside him
After what felt like half an hour, Will.i.am finally came to a decision of who to send through to next week's show. He had asked Twitter, he got us in the audience to cheer the loudest for the act we wanted it see through... and although the biggest cheer in the studio was for Sheena, Will decided to save Lucy. Shame.
As always, the show was held together brilliantly by Emma Willis, who remains one of my favourite TV presenters. Once again, Marvin was resigned back to his V Room, where he gets to speak to the contestants and the coaches as well as read out some of the comments left by the people at home.
Same as last year, any of the performances are pre-recorded before the main show so as soon as we were ushered into the studio at 5pm we were treated to a group performance of Unbelievable by the four coaches.
Then Olly Murs took to the stage to perform his very catchy new single Seasons... and the way he spoke to the warm-up guy and the audience proved that he really is the nicest man in pop. Think he might have annoyed one or two people though when he had to stop performing due to a technical fault and made the very tongue-in-cheek comment that "...this would never happen on The X Factor." Ouch.
The argument that The Voice UK is yet to find a star is in many respects a valid one. None of the previous winners have been able to carve a successful career. Leanne Mitchell who won the first series only managed to peak at 134 on the album charts with her debut but series 2 winner Andrea Begley did somehow manage to reach number 7 in the album charts with her debut album, but she hasn't been heard of since.
Series 3 winner Jermain Jackman releases his debut album on Monday, so only time will tell how well that does, but perhaps he has the best chance at success because tonight he was invited back on to perform on the show, a tradition that rival show The X Factor started and proved to work out well for the winners.
Jermain performed his debut single How Will I Know, a song I'd not heard before and sadly I'm not sure I can sing it now. It's not the best song, but one thing's for sure... his vocals are still great, and he reminded us about that towards the end of the performance when he held a note for longer than I'd ever imagined possible. He seems like a nice guy, so good luck to him, but I'm not sure a number one is on the cards.
Arguably, as with many talent shows on telly, it's often better not to win. A prime example of that would be Becky Hill who made it through to the final 8 on the first series of The Voice UK, and has gone on to achieve a hit number 1 single with Oliver Heldens, Gecko (Overdrive) as well as a top 10 single with Wilkinson, Afterglow. Her debut album is one of this year's hotly anticipated albums so whilst the winners may have amounted to nothing, it seems Becky Hill has a bright future ahead of her
So now... time for the results. As I mentioned earlier, it doesn't matter which team you belong, each of the 8 contestants that faced the public vote were on an even playing field. One judge could lose two of their acts, whilst another could not lose any. And that's exactly what happened!
First through, thanks to the public vote was Sheena from Team Will, followed by Emmanuel from Team Ricky and Joe from Team Rita, which meant that Will, Ricky and Rita all had at least two contestants through to the semi finals.
The fourth act through to next week was the lovely Vikesh from Team Will and it was a real joy to see the excitement on his face when he got through. This meant that sadly Lara Lee (who should have DEFINITELY gone through!), Autumn, Howard and Clark were leaving the competition for good. Leaving Tom Jones with just one contestant in the competition.
Tom looked visibility shocked and upset by the result, but don't be down for too long Tom, because you've been left with the mighty Sasha Simone who stands a really great chance of winning.
Having been to the Quarter Finals last year, and again this year, I think it's safe to say the talent is much stronger. The night didn't seem as long, which I'm putting down to the fact that I enjoyed the performances a lot more, and I went away wanting to re-watch a lot more of them than I did last year. I think there are several potential winners and I could really see a few of the contestants having a great career, if given the right songs and marketed well. Shame they've only got a maximum of two weeks left on the show to prove themselves. But there you go!
I also think it's worth saying that this current line-up of coaches is particularly strong, and I wouldn't want to see any of them leave. I think it's probably taken four series to get the dynamics right but Ricky, Tom, Rita and Will.i.am make an awesome foursome.
One thing I would love to see though, is more critic. It all seems a bit too nice this series. Surely not every singer is amazing. If you didn't turn your chair around, there must have been a reason... they can't all be mistakes! As much as it is a TV show, the contestants go onto this show to learn how to be better singers/performers so a little constructive criticism every now and then I'm sure would be welcome.
Although I can understand why the coaches might have been a bit worried tonight of saying anything negative, in the wake of the Natalia Kills debacle from The X Factor New Zealand!