Belfast Telegraph

The Voice: Rachael O'Connor hopes for all-Northern Ireland final with Jai McConnell

By John McGurk

Victorious Voice UK contestant Rachael O’Connor is daring to dream of a Final Countdown with her friend — Belfast talent Jai McConnell.

The lovely County Londonderry teenager won her Battles round against Liverpool lass Amelia O’Connell last night — singing Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake’s hip hop ballad Holy Grail.

Her superstar celebrity coach Kylie Minogue admitted: “It was really hard. But Rachael’s voice just has that something that spoke to me.”

Fellow coach reaffirmed Rachael’s place as a front runner in the BBC telly talent show, saying afterwards: “That was the right choice.”

But speaking to Sunday Life, Rachael revealed that the run-up to last night’s Battles round had not been all plain sailing.

“I didn’t know the song and I was a bit scared because Amelia did know it.

“All I really heard when Kylie told us the song was the name Jay-Z and I thought ‘oh no, I can’t do rap’!

“I was panicking a bit. But when we listened to it at the rehearsal, I didn’t think it was too bad.

“I thought there was no point in holding back. If you make a mistake, you make a mistake.”

Rachael’s result last night means that there are now two terrific talents from Northern Ireland progressing into the Knockout rounds next weekend.

And the Limavady Grammar School pupil is praying that history may repeat itself after two of the finalists in The Voice UK 2013 were from Northern Ireland — winner Andrea Begley and runner-up Leah McFall.

Said Rachael of her fellow Kylie team mate — Belfast woman Jai McConnell: “Hopefully, that could happen. It would be unbelievable for both of us and Northern Ireland.


“To be in the final with Jai would be so much fun and it would also be class to get to fly back and forth to England with her for all of that time together.

“It is always great craic with her. On days off, because we are staying in hotels, we get to hang out together.”

And Rachael, who lives in the village of Drumsurn, also has another very special new friend — her music superstar coach Kylie Minogue

The Aussie music star who has scored seven UK Number One hit singles famously did a rain dance of delight when Rachael selected her to be her coach after her stunning Blind Audition.

And for Rachael, the feeling of admiration is mutual.

“Kylie is perfect as a role model for me. She has done singing and acting — and that is what I want to do too.

“I always pictured Kylie being lovely, sweet and down to earth and really caring and that is exactly what she is.

Added Rachael: “I think what surprised me was just how much she seemed to like me — like at my Blind Audition how excited she seemed to be.”

Currently studying Music, Art and Design and English, Rachael described her life in school one day and on The Voice UK the next day as “surreal!”.

“Life is a bit surreal at the minute. One day, I was at the rehearsal studio singing in front of Kylie Minogue and Jake Shears (Scissor Sisters star).

“The next day I was back in school sitting in my English class telling my friends about it!”


She laughed when reminded that she is the 5/1 favourite with the bookies to win the show.

“I think my family are betting away on me — but just pounds. They haven’t put the house on me yet!”

Right now, Rachael has her sights set on next weekend’s Knockout rounds this Saturday and Sunday.

And the girl whose spine tingling version of Emeli Sande’s beautiful ballad Clown had all four coaches vying for her is aiming to show a different side to her talent in the future.

“I want to show that I am young and bright and not do a ‘ballady’ type of thing. I do love singing ballads. But I think I want to show that I can do more in the Knockouts.”


Further reading:

The Voice battles on in ratings

The moment Derry schoolgirl Rachael O'Connor left The Voice coach Kylie Minogue in a spin

The Voice: Kylie Minogue impressed by Northern Ireland's Rachael O'Connor and Jai McConnell

Leah McFall releases first music video on YouTube 

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