❚ “I DIDN’T KNOW I WAS GOING to turn round and see this rock god dude!” said Kylie Monogue on The Voice UK on Saturday night. The dude in question had delivered his own steady but highly emotional and emphatically rock reinterpretation of Rozalla’s acid house smash Everybody’s Free to his own twangy Rickenbacker guitar. By his hollering climax the studio audience were on their feet and two of The Voice’s four celebrity coaches had spun their chairs in hopes of recruiting him: superstar Kylie Minogue and Ricky Wilson (“the bloke from Kaiser Chiefs”). Within minutes the dude had opted to join Ricky’s team as its final member, before the BBC TV talent contest’s real battles begin next week.
An hour after transmission he posted on Facebook: “Who saw me then eh? SURPRISE.” Jamie Lovatt, cocky 24-year-old face about Shoreditch where he runs a bar, was back. The frontman for the once glam-goth band Romance, since restyled as tribal “cabaret rockers”, had definitely stolen the show, even though the acts auditioning blind on Saturday were a cut above previous weeks, because most proved to be seasoned performers with terrific voices. This dude also looked like nobody else within miles – an eyeful of androgynous 80s glam, Jamie sported long blond hippy hair and eyeliner, a gold crocheted clingy top, snakeskin trousers and cowboy boots. His style is a fusion of Prince, Billy Idol and the 80s postpunk shamanists Death Cult, though the TV audience was spared his usual stage gambit of performing shirtless.
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For those of us who’ve known Jamie since he deejayed in London’s fashionable Neo Romantic clubs, the fierce TV act was a surprise metamorphosis from the once shy teenager (off-stage!), through the frenetic vocalist onstage with Romance, to this assured showcase cover version bursting with intense feeling which Kylie and the other coaches sensed immediately. Almost 90 seconds into the number, Ricky hit the voting button and six seconds later Kylie followed.
She was full of admiration: “I liked the emotion in your voice. I don’t know if you always sing like that but the fact that you have the ability to sing like that is very moving.”
What set Jamie’s interview apart was the sadness that brimmed within him as he told how Romance’s first lineup had been torpedoed by ill health and their four-album record deal was cancelled when the label dropped the band in 2011. “I lost management, I lost everything.” But not his faith to carry on.
The coaches rallied. Will-i-am said: “As far as getting dropped, guess what? They lost.” And the audience cheered. Tom Jones paid a couple of quiet complements that were evidently heartfelt. Ricky had been there himself: “I know what you’ve been through. I’m in a band… and we lost a record deal.” Lucky Jamie was able to pick which team to join and as he stepped from the stage it was noticeable how all four coaches crowded in for a piece of him. He’d been dignified, determined and, incredibly, said “Thank you” more times than you’d expect from a self-declared “lone wolf” rocker.
Some think a shiny-floor TV talent show might undermine a rock singer’s credibility, but Jamie is a 21st-century man and believes it’s the only way to crack the industry these days. He told The Sun: “People don’t think of someone like Jagger or Jim Morrison going on these shows but if you were to take them at the age they were discovered and have them living now, would that happen?”
Today was spent doing the rounds of the media as a hot TV property. What’s the question they were all asking? Answer: “How did it feel?” Jamie told Shapersofthe80s: “All I can say is it was surreal then, and from all the support I have received, it’s even more surreal now! Absolutely overwhelming, humbling and shocking. I can’t thank everyone enough… Didn’t think this would happen at all. I’m really moved!”
EVERYBODY’S FREE: BRIEF CLIP FROM THE VOICE