Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Ignore the jibes Andrea, you're a worthy winner of The Voice

Angelic voice: Andrea Begley
Angelic voice: Andrea Begley

Well done Andrea Begley. She went and won The Voice fair and square.

Disappointingly, cynics could hardly wait for the show's credits to scroll up the screen before scampering online to carp and sneer that the 27-year-old's victory was due to a sympathy vote.

It's a particularly toxic jibe based on the fact Andrea is visually impaired, with only 10% of her sight remaining.

Her critics' main gripe seems to be that she can't move around the stage much.

Of course, the clue is in the show's title – The Voice. The whole point of the series was to strip away flim-flam and concentrate on talent – pure talent.

The truth is Andrea was brilliant on the night and those apparently stunned at her win forget the public normally draws away at the last minute from sentiment and gives the nod on who they think is the best act – witness Will Young's triumph over the heavily tipped Gareth Gates, whose stammer had been a national talking point for weeks. And Susan Boyle, for all the headlines about her difficulties, lost out to dance act Diversity in Britain's Got Talent.

I'm sure it was hard for Northern Ireland's other highly talented finalist Leah McFall – who will surely enjoy recording success – but Begley's renditions of Evanescence's My Immortal, The Script's Hall of Fame and Sarah McLachlan's Angel showed a singer hitting all the right notes – metaphorically, literally, in fact every which way you care to think about it.

And the young woman from Pomeroy also had one not so secret weapon in her armoury –her aunt Philomena Begley. The very name conjures up the soundtrack to many people's childhoods here – Blanket On The Ground, Once Around the Dancefloor and the wonderful Queen Of The Silver Dollar.

Philomena is the nearest we have to music royalty.

And Andrea showed that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Like Philomena, she oozed class, vocal brilliance and – rarer by far – an ability to engage with her audience.

Her win had nothing to do with her disability but had everything to do with the fact that people just like her. And that, plus talent, equals success.

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