Dudley powerhouse, Blessing Annatoria talks winning The Voice, recording an album and keeping her identity
Last year’s winner of The Voice, Blessing Annatoria has been singing for as long as she can remember. Born in Zimbabwe she says music was just part of the culture: “Without instruments we would just use our hands and voices.” Blessing’s family moved to Dudley when she was six-years-old and while it might be very different culturally, the singing never stopped.
Both of Blessing’s parents are pastors, so church has always been a big part of family life and her new album, Count My Blessings which is out now is packed with feel-good gospel vibes. The first single, I Smile is an optimistic and joyful interpretation of the Kirk Franklin original and everything we need right now.
Blessing’s plan was never to enter The Voice. The producers contacted her and encouraged her to go for it having spotted her potential on social media. She remembers the first audition: “It was the scariest thing ever. I just had that one time to make it perfect.” Blessing dealt with the nerves by focusing on her family. “Each time I felt nervous I would look at my family and realise I had no reason to be.”
While judges Meghan Trainor, Will.i.am and Sir Tom Jones hovered above their big red buttons, canny Olly Murs took the plunge. Blessing may have preferred Meghan as a mentor if asked before the show, but she says Olly was incredibly supportive and when the series ground to a halt due to Covid-19, he was still available, checking in with her regularly.
A seven-month break in filming left Blessing wondering whether the show would ever restart. She explains: “People would ask me in the street when the show would be back and I just didn’t know.” Thankfully the show did resume and in November 2020 after a storming final performance, Blessing was crowned winner and actually the break meant that she was able to gradually come to terms with the limelight. Although, it sounds like Blessing’s parents do a fantastic job keeping her grounded. “They help me and guide me and make sure I don’t lose my identity.”
After the show, Blessing set about writing and recording her debut album remotely with award-winning producer and songwriter Rupert Christie, who has worked with Jessie J, U2, Coldplay and Lou Reed among many others. The result, Count My Blessings is a mixture of 14 songs, including some Blessing performed on The Voice reimagined as well as original material. The Voice fans will enjoy the beautiful version of Blessing’s winning song Angels by Robbie Williams, an emotional rendition of Westlife’s Flying Without Wings as well as Mariah Carey’s Without You, the track which secured Blessing her place in the final. Blessing co-wrote the rich soulful title track, Count My Blessings which encourages the listener to spread kindness and help one another.
There are three hymns on the album that have been given a contemporary twist reflecting Blessing’s upbringing singing in church. How Great Thou Art which Blessing describes as her family’s song is particularly uplifting. She says: “During this time of hardship and struggle, I wanted to release an album of encouragement and joy. I want people to feel uplifted and I really hope the songs and hymns will give people strength to pick themselves up and be happy again.”
Blessing was back on The Voice stage performing her new single I Smile on her nineteenth birthday at this year’s final looking and sounding every inch the star. The track features a remotely recorded choir led by Kingdom Choir’s Wayne Hernandez who is best known for performing at the wedding of Harry and Meghan and who has worked with stars such as Jay Z.
When we caught up with Blessing we were still in lockdown, but she’s planning to get back to performing live and spreading her infectious joy and optimism as soon as she can.