It’s been a year for rock shocks – David Bowie’s surprise return at the fag-end of winter, a half-decent album from Beady Eye – but, however seismic, nothing can shake this morning’s news. Kaiser Chiefs frontman Ricky Wilson has agreed to be a judge on talent show The Voice, BBC One’s valiant, doomed attempt to chip away at The X Factor’s dominance. After will.i.am, Sir Tom Jones and fellow newbie Kylie Minogue, Wilson is the final piece of a frankly bizarre jigsaw.
The announcement’s been swamped in scorn, some NME readers on Facebook accusing Wilson of “selling out” (“Oh my god I don’t believe it, I’ve never been this pissed off before”), others vowing never to watch The Voice again, as if Wilson could actually destroy the show where Jessie J and Danny O’Donoghue have failed. Seems a bit harsh. After all, this could be precisely what Ricky Wilson needs (and it’ll do The Voice no harm in the process).
Let’s start with the ‘sell-out’. Things haven’t exactly been rosy for Kaiser Chiefs in some time. Last time we saw them they were putt-putting around the Olympic Stadium, riding pillion on mopeds, not even singing their own song. It looked like a slightly shamefaced celebration of a bygone era (the mid-noughties, you remember), the whimper after the Girl Power bang.
They couldn’t enter in triumph anyway, not after the hopeless sales of greatest hits album ‘Souvenir’ earlier that summer, the brave folly of make-your-own album ‘The Future Is Medieval’ the year before and even the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it success of 2008’s ‘Off With Their Heads’. The Kaisers’ star had been falling for some time, and goodness knows where it is now. Underfoot perhaps. Now that they’ve lost drummer – and, reputedly, chief songwriting impetus – Nick Hodgson, where can they go? To a spinning chair!
So Wilson has nothing left to sell out. There’s bullish talk in today’s statement that the band has “rubber stamped [Wilson’s] temporary loan”, but that’s just keeping the embers alive. Still, he does have something on his side – something to benefit him and the show, and open up his options afterwards. It’s a personality. Warm and engaging, Wilson is a likeable TV presence, the best of the myriad guest presenters tried out on Never Mind The Buzzcocks, and he’s got a bit of wit to boot. This could be the start of a proper TV career – that’ll end with a late-night slot fronting Rude Tube, but who’s counting?
And if he still insists he wants a career in music, The Voice – incredibly – doesn’t appear to be the kiss of death. At least not for the judges. Tom Jones hasn’t squandered his dubious legacy, Jessie J has actually used her fingers-down-a-blackboard demeanour to become a proper industry player, will.i.am has revealed a modicum of charm to go with those awful, awful records, and Danny O’Donoghue – well, O’Donoghue’s proved that even preening about like an H&M Jim Morrison is no barrier to even greater inexplicable success than he enjoyed before.
The more you look at it, the more this choice makes sense for Wilson. And if it’s good enough for Kylie it’s quite enough for a Britpop revivalist on skid row. Now, about that duet with will.i.am…