A partially-sighted singer, crowned the surprise winner of the Voice UK talent show, faces a challenge to convince the music industry that she can become a global star after Will.i.am described her victory as “unexplainable”.
Andrea Begley, 27, from County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, a civil servant who has 10 per cent vision, was named the winner of the BBC1 series after a public vote on Saturday night.
Begley’s triumph over the favourite, Leah McFall, was watched by 8.7 million viewers, one of The Voice’s highest audience figures.
The figure was well below the 13 million who watched the final of ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent earlier this month.
Begley, who lost her vision after suffering glaucoma as a child, said she hoped that her victory would inspire other partially-sighted performers.
However series coach Will.i.am said The Voice, which cost the BBC £22 million to acquire, was “pointless” unless it produced a major star.
The BBC has already committed to a third series, despite inconsistent ratings and the subsequent failure of last year’s winner Leanne Mitchell, whose debut album failed to make the top 100.
The Black Eyed Peas frontman, who backed McFall to win, was unimpressed by the viewer verdict. “You should feel the audiences vibration in the room tonight after the public’s vote... its unexplainable... so sad... perplexed,” he tweeted.
The musician added that Andrea was “amazing... but we know who has the incredible voice.”
Begley’s prospects have already been written off by some. “The thought of plunging her into the music business strikes me as bordering on cruel,” wrote critic Jim Shelley on Mailonline. “She gave a pretty weak performance. With only 10% vision, her stage presence is understandably limited.”
Begley, who won a record deal with music giant Universal, said: “The only pressure I feel is the pressure I put on myself. I’ve been given an opportunity. I will do what I can with it and put my best into it, and hopefully my best is good enough. I’m willing to put in the work.”
The singer, who memorised the lyrics to her song choices because she cannot read them off a monitor during the show, admitted that she would need a top musical team around her to succeed.
Her pure-toned voice favours ballads rather than the R&B which dominates the charts. She said: “Everyone has their own market and their own audience, and I think there's potential for everybody to be successful with the right work and the right people behind them.”
When The Voice UK launched last year, the novelty of its “revolving chairs” format attracted 10 million viewers. But figures slumped and despite an overhaul, ratings for the second series failed to match the highs of the first. The figures plummeted to a series low of 5.7 million this month before picking up as the programme reached its climax.
The series is set for a further shake-up next year, with Will.i.am indicating that he may not return.
Begley said she understood the star’s disappointment. “Will spoke to me and he wishes me well, but obviously everybody wants their act to win,” she said. “But at the end of the day the audience voted me, so that’s it.”
Mike Ward, 23, the singer mentored by Sir Tom Jones, who came third, has written his own music and now hopes to shine as a country music star. Will.i.am said he would rush McFall, who also has penned her own material, into a studio to capitalise on her exposure during the series.