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The Voice returns

The Voice is back to reclaim its ratings crown, with a little help from new 'coach' Ricky Martin.

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There's always a big question over how one year's biggest TV hit is going to fare when it returns for a second season.

The thought of television's runaway locomotive, the ratings juggernaut The Voice, thundering through the program schedule is as tantalising as it is terrifying.

2012's biggest TV show was always going to return, but how, and with whom, and can it ever really be as good the second time around?

Ricky Martin, The Voice

Ricky Martin replaces Keith Urban in season two of The Voice.

From its first frame, the second season of The Voice subscribes to its own interpretation of the Survivor mantra: out-sing, out-pace, out-shine. And outshine it does.

The dynamics of any television show evolve when the line-up shifts, and The Voice season two bids farewell to master artisan Keith Urban and replaces him with the smooth Latin stylings of Ricky Martin.

There is a baton change, but it's gone in a moment - quite literally - and the cracking pace of The Voice is such that Urban is gone, if not forgotten, within minutes.

Any sentimentality about losing a brother is soon replaced with a palpable sense of competition. For a moment it feels like the audience is sweating less about which contestants are getting through, and more about which of the show's star coaches is securing talent.

Dynamic shift

As you expect with an evolutionary step, there is a shift in the stage dynamics. Urban was articulate, and focused brilliantly on musical artistry. And Martin, perhaps somewhat unexpectedly, does not quickly step into Urban's shoes.

Instead, Martin is all Latin charm, and he uses it like a nuclear weapon. And the contestants are spellbound, alternately gushing and nervously giggling. One contestant, who does not get through, seems so entirely thrilled to have simply met Martin, she leaves the stage beaming.

Seal is Seal. Smooth, sharp and hypnotic. And beautifully consistent.

And Delta is a tougher, somehow taller proposition in season two. It's fair to say in season one she took some time to find her feet and perhaps even her competitive confidence.

Here she is engaged from the opening frame, and playing the game hard. So hard it looks, for a moment, like she might surge to the lead in securing the best singers the show has to offer.

Surprise packet

The real surprise is Joel Madden. With an impish smile and a unique sense of organised chaos, he is poised to be the dark horse of season two.

Madden's confidence seems cemented, his articulation comes to the fore to fill the breach left by Urban and he is, at times, simply unable to contain his passion, or his enthusiasm.

The second season of any television show is a strange crossroads. There is a necessary pause and sometimes more daring aspects of a program can be unlocked, almost given permission by success to be a little bolder, a little louder and to push the boundaries a little more confidently.

In that sense, The Voice's second season gets off to a cracking start.

The show, and its coaches, play a little looser and faster with the structure. Their confidence almost opens the door to a sleeker, tougher game. The show hits its marks a little harder. And bats up those TV "moments" with sharper emotional accuracy.

It seems almost absurd to say given the giddy heights of the first season, but second time around The Voice has, in a sense, found its high note.