Christina Aguilera’s Back To Basics Concert & Anugerah 2007: Semi-Final Reviews…
If not for those bloody idiotic, sorry excuses for ushers at the National Stadium the other night which resulted in yours truly ranting and complaining in the previous entry, I would have included a review of Ms. Aguilera‘s concert as well. I just didn’t see how I should mix my anger with something that soothed my raging soul in the end. Some of you had also been enquiring if I would be commenting on the Anugerah 2007 contestants for quite some time now. I did not see the need to do so, even if I’ve been an avid watcher week in and out, just to see who would be the next big thing in our small industry. So since I have not commented anything about Anugerah 2007 up till now, I guess it would be a good time now to do so. Yes people, the knives are out on the contestants, the supposed cream of the crop. But let’s talk about Christina Aguilera first…
When news of her concert first filled the printed media’s spaces, the first thing I told myself was, “I’m gonna be there!!!“. Yes, it’s surprising to learn that I am a fan of Christina Aguilera. Even Aida was bemused and surprised when I said I wanted to watch her concert cos she thought I only wanted to see Christina in her sexy outfits and raunchy dance moves. Well, I’ve been a closet fan all these while and this was an opportuned time to come out from the closet and declare unashamedly that I’m a fan of her extraordinary vocals. Those sexy outfits and raunchy dance steps are just the added bonuses in the package. Have liked her since she first came out with “Jin Dalam Botol” or “Genie In A Bottle” as we all know it.
And so when news of the selling of her concert tickets was announced some time in mid-May, I waited patiently for the date we could start purchasing them (21st May 2007). It so happened that the date also clashed with the selling of tickets for the World Wrestling Entertainment‘s Smackdown / ECW Tour to be held, also at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on 28th July 2007. Being an avid wrestling fan, I wanted to go to that show as well. So Aida and I burnt a hole in our pockets and paid up for both shows, but only on 22nd May 2007, as the SISTIC website servers were down due to the rush in buying the tickets for both shows. Christina‘s concert was bloody expensive but I cannot complain as I know watching her would be worth it. Luckily we got the elevated seats that faced the stage directly, a tier up behind the sound guys.
Continued from where I left off in the previous entry. When we reached the Indoor Stadium after I was refused entry into the National Stadium via the West Entrance, it was already 8:20pm. There were so many people inside queueing for drinks and refreshments. Tried to look around for familiar faces but couldn’t see any. After wading through a sea of crowd, we found our seats. I was pleased to see the arena being full, with only a few pockets of empty spaces, but generally, it was considered a sold-out right to the upper tiers. I tried to locate my two sisters who also went to the concert at the last moment as my elder sister Farah, had pestered the younger one (Nurul) to go. Saw them after turning left and right scanning the crowd. We waved at each other frantically like long-lost friends when we located one another.
Not long after we sat down, in fact about 5 minutes, the arena’s lights went out signalling the start of the concert. Timecheck was 8:24pm and the tickets stated 8:00pm. Not bad for an international act, cos I heard quite a few shows were about an hour or so later than the exact time stated on the ticket stubs. I had anticipated seeing a local act being thrown in as an opening act but we were actually treated to none of that and Ms. Aguilera came out with that punchy hit single from her latest album, “Ain’t No Other Man“. The roar from the arena was deafening and the crowd lapped it up. You could not have asked for a better introduction to whip up the crowd’s frenzy. It was meant to be a huge party from the word “Go!!!“.
Christina opened the concert with this sassy hit, “Ain’t No Other Man“… (Video courtesy of TheSlayer81)
However, the level of energy dropped slightly for the next half an hour or so, as Christina performed some of her unfamiliar songs from her current album or singing some of her older songs like “Come On Over Baby” and the reggae-inspired “What A Girl Wants” amongst others, in a different tempo and beat from the original versions. For the record, she was accompanied by a live band that played a mish-mash of 50s-60s style of swing, old-school jump blues, acid jazz and big band beats. So as you can see, with the crowd made up of mostly 18-40 years old, the beats needed some getting used to or sounded unfamiliar when you remixed a song like “Come On Over Baby“. Through the numerous sets and various costume changes for almost every song, Christina showed that she has evolved from being a tartlet into a sophisticated performer. The lung-busting vocals were there for almost every song, the crowd whooped, cheered and screamed every time she pulled of the high notes with relative ease. The slick and sometimes teasing (some say raunchy) dance moves were so smooth, coupled with those excellent hard-hitting vocals, that I wondered if she really was pregnant as rumoured in the tabloids.
More than any other mainstream pop artist of her generation, Christina cares a lot about her cultural progenitors which was really evident for all to see — not only music genres such as blues and soul, but also through visual motifs such as the circus and the speak-easy. Yes, the different sets really told a story in their own rights and this was excellently played out by the dancers who acted stupendously as brilliant role-players. From Vegas-style to circus acts down to strip clubs, the transitions between one set and the other were just seamless. Even though reports in the media stated that she had shed her “Dirrty” image, it showed that that aforementioned image will never go away. It just evolved into something subtler but one could still sense the vixen lying in wait in her. This was evident when she began singing some of her older songs like “Dirtty” and “Can’t Hold Us Down“.
The best performance of the night: “Candyman“… (Video courtesy of TheSlayer81)
The crowd simply turned into a frenzy when the best performance of the night “Candyman” began with the male dancers dancing to the staccato beats and singing the lines “Tarzan and Jane were swingin’ on a vine, sippin’ from a bottle of vodka double wine“. And Christina did not disappoint as the crowd truly began to party and danced along. Even those who were seated around me stood up to dance. I felt like joining them but I was more concerned about not blocking the view of the people behind me so I remained seated and just shook my shoulders from left to right. Hits after hits ensued like “Lady Marmalade” (another one of my favourites that night), “Hurt” & the concert ended with “Fighter” and a burst of confetti. She began with a bang and she ended it with a bang as well. Truly a world-class performer, able to whip the crowd and maintain that level of excitement right till the end, even though there were instances in between that the crowd’s energy levels dropped.
And may I add, the ushers were of an absolutely different class than their counterparts across the road??? Faced by many people who were filming and recording the concert via their cameras and handphones, me included, they still maintained their level of calmness and patience and never raised their voices when they went round telling us to stop recording. Now that to me deserves so much respect, even if at that point of time, I was peeved for not being able to record clips of the concert. This is how customer service should be like and those ushers across the road could learn a thing or two, in fact they could learn a hell lot from these guys on how to go about approaching the people who enter the arena.
The whole stadium really went wild with this number… (Video courtesy of TheSlayer81)
The people who came to watch the concert were a mixture of nationalities and races. People from around the region also took time to come here just to watch the concert. From photos spread all over the Net and news from people who bumped into famous personalities, celebrities like Ning Baizura, Nikki, Yanie, Anuar Zain, Dina (Malaysian Idol), Siti Nordiana, Fara Fauzana, Erwin and daughter Gita Gutawa were seen enjoying the concert. I’m sure there were local celebrities amongst the crowd as well. Funny that I never bumped into any of them. Maybe it was because I was more interested in waiting for the fireworks to appear to signal the closing of the National Stadium just across the road. After a 20-minute wait, my two sisters who had joined us by then, Aida and I caught a glimpse of it. Looked kinda laclustre ending without the normal flourish we’ve grown accustomed to see every year at the Fireworks Festival. Anyway, if you wanna read a better review of Christina‘s concert, do visit Vernon‘s blog…
Hahahaha… Time to unleash my knives out now. But first I need to include a disclaimer. Ok for all you supporters of a particular Anugerah 2007 contestant, please read my review with not a pinch, but spoonfuls of salt. Cos I’m not going to mince my words when it comes to judging them after watching the programme since the audition rounds. As it was the semi-final rounds, a certain amount of standard should have been met and reached but sorely lacking in most of the contestants. Call me an extremely strict judge to please, but if we want to see our local talents flourish and of the same standards as those in Malaysia and Indonesia, we’ll have to stop giving them veiled comments, saying they are good, telegenic, marketable but not delivering as expected when crunch time came.
I was quite pissed off hearing the judges’ comments, being too nice with them. You don’t get these kind of comments across the Causeway in similarly-related talent shows. You call a spade, a spade when you see one. It’s like as though the judges have been told to keep it sweet and sugary for these wannabes. Or fear of another public backlash on being too harsh, which might result in a drop in ratings. Really, our community is too sensitive when it comes to being criticised. They’ll always play the “jangan-jatuhkan-maruah-orang” (don’t degrade one’s pride) card if we were to bring up the topic on criticising. We need to open up and receive criticisms to better ourselves, be it negative or harsh. Only then can we succeed as far as possible. I’m sure this blog of mine will not be approved by the older generation if they were to read my thoughts. Ok, enough of ranting, let’s go to the reviewing proper:
(M1) Kassreeal Alfi – How this guy got into the Top 10 is beyond me. I have a feeling he has a solid fanbase that has been keeping him in, even if the judges do not think so. He has this “Look, I’m cool” expression on his face which bothers on arrogance and over-confidence. But for all that macho-ness exuded, he always looks unsure when facing the camera, preferring instead to look down. He had the responsibility of raising the bar that night being the first contestant to sing, but his rendition of Merah‘s “Cintaku” was lacklustre to say the least. He only picked up during the chorus but by then, the damage was done. His low notes were flat and showed as though he could not be bothered. No punch, no energy for a song which could have made him but instead it broke him. But there’s always the fans to count on eh??? *snigger*
(F1) Maiya Rahman – A very consistent and polished performer. In fact the best performer of the night. Her only downside is her size especially since the industry over here prefers looks sometimes over talents. A very sincere performer I may add. One can detect the sincerity and warmth whenever she smiles. Singing “Tak Sanggup” was a challenge in itself and she managed to pull it off, even if one could detect the nervousness in her voice.
(M2) Wan Mohd Arshad – Another contestant I feel is only up there because of his looks and fanbase. I still cringe when I remember how he destroyed one of my favourite songs in the earlier rounds, Zubir Abdullah‘s “Teman“. His introduction to Once‘s “Dealova” was a total disaster and he had no feel at all to the song, preferring instead to lap the audience’s adulation rather than concentrate on his own singing.
(F2) Nur Shakillah – I personally thought she sang “Setia Ku Korbankan” better than the original singer (Fauziah Latiff). But there’s something about the way she executed it which did not reach my pleasing senses. A lack of aura and feel perhaps??? Or mayhaps my mood was dampened by Arshad‘s insipid performance before her. Overall I feel she still lacks that presence to wow the audience the moment she steps onto the stage. She seems to be judge Eddy Ali‘s personal favourite though.
(M3) Aliff Aziz – For someone who has managed to impress me even before he joined the competition, he undid all that with the latter-half of his performance. The choice of song picked (Anuar Zain‘s “Mungkin“) was so wrong. Not many singers could hold a candle to Anuar and reach those high notes without losing their breath and voice. Aliff tried to do it in falsetto but it destroyed the essence of the song even though he did well with the first part. But I still love this boy and prefer him to win the competition as he has been so consistent, more than any of the other guys left. No, I’m not related to him and neither does he know me. So in case anyone says I’m biased, I’m not cos this boy is genuinely good. He just needs to polish up, work on his breathing techniques as well as have better voice projection and he’ll be there. He has time on his side based on his age. Even if he loses out on the winning contract, I know of a prominent songwriter who would not hesitate to take him in as his recording artiste. This boy’s future in the industry is more or less secured, even if he is booted out.
(F3) Siti Hanah Ibrahim – I personally call this girl “Queen of Impersonations“. Besides looking like a dead-ringer of Warna 94.2FM‘s Azlin Ali, she sings and even speaks like Siti Nurhaliza. We all know what happened to all those Siti wannabes in the past like Intan Sarafina and Elly Mazlein. They ended up fading into the sunset. If she wants to succeed, Hanah needs to run away from singing like Siti, even if her voice sounds like her, which of course we cannot fight against God‘s will. Singing “Andai Aku Bersuara” was meant for her to run away from that perception but she still played it safe and prompted Rahimah Rahim to reprimand her about the likeness to Siti. Besides going flat in a few lines, she also did not pull of the chorus well enough as the key was probably too high for her. Could see she was out of breath. Wrong choice of song, no doubt.
(M4) Hairi Yusoff – I like this boy for the fact he’s easy-going and he has a decent voice, based on the earlier rounds. But he must shed his laid-back attitude if he is serious about winning the competition. It already affected his performance even before he started to sing Radja‘s “Takkan Melupakanmu“, when he went off-key for the “Oh yeah!!!” and “Uhuh!!!” parts during the introduction of the song. And what’s with the squinting and blinking of his eyes??? It affected his focus, feel and concentration. This was evident when he ended up forgetting his lyrics. His mind was clearly not there and looked as though he had other things to worry about than his own performance.
(F4) Nurun Nuwwarah – This gal is lucky to be in the Top 10, in the expense of Liza Sanat. Even though she did not deserved to get booted out and then re-entering again via the Wildcard, she was not that good during that said round as she sounded as though she was shivering, but the judges still picked her to go through. And she was a bundle of nerves during the semi-finals. If you guys noticed, her voice cracked twice during the chorus of Liza Hanim‘s “Gelisah Mimpi“. That song was a bit too high for her to pull off and one can sense the tiredness in her voice after so many practices. If you ask me, I think she’s starting to be a bit complacent and believing the hype that she’s good. She still has to improve her pitching if she wants to win this competition badly.
(M5) Roslan Mohamad – He had the credentials and right vocals to sing this song. It had the right pitching and everything was perfect. Somehow he was a bundle of nerves, seemed unsure, definitely lacking the feel and tried to play it safe. A disappointing performance by his standards. If you ask me, if there’s any guy who could give Aliff a run for his money, he’s the one. But after Tuesday night, I have doubts, but only because the teenyboppers and the females love the first two guys so much. Talk about tone deaf fans. We seem to have a lot of them.
(F5) Sabarina Abdullah – Dare I say she’s the next Kuriati – Pretty with not a matching enough talent to boot??? It was her worst performance to date and she should not be making these kind of mistakes in a crucial round as the semi-finals. Her pitching was horrible, she went off-key right from the start and there was no substance to it. She should thank her fans if she gets to the Final.
On a whole, this was the most disappointing edition of Anugerah 2007. Most of them were horrible to say the least. Was it because they were overawed by the occasion??? Was the pressure to earn the $10,000 and a recording contract with Sony-BMG getting to them??? I tell you, if our regional counterparts were to watch, they’ll be laughing at us with what we have to offer to replace the senior singers in time to come. I find it odd that their standard of performance dropped so much as compared to previous rounds. Most of them lacked focus and were playing to the crowd. After weeks of performing in front of a live audience and meeting fans during the weekends, they should have at least gotten themselves accustomed to the pressure and expectations. Concentration and focus were key factors in their mostly insipid performances.
Somehow I feel they are not intelligent enough to answer questions put forth to them. They always give cliched answers or agree with the person who answered before them. And more often than not, they fail to deliver where they promised. Being a singer or entertainer is not just about singing or performing. You should be smart enough to vary your answers and if possible, don’t give cliched answers or those that the audience would already know would come out from your mouths.
The judges too should stop being sugary and nice. We are entering the most important stage and that is to crown the newest, DESERVING winner, based on talents first and looks second. If they do not receive criticisms now, how are they to face the media, especially the ones abroad who are known to kill your resolve with their questions??? Reality checks should be given not only behind the camera but in front. Stop using the “don’t-want-to-embarrass-the-person-publicly” card. They are only giving these young upstarts the wrong signals and lulling them into complacency.
Anugerah 2005 gave rise to 4 stars with varying degrees of success and staying power. At least they have the aura to capture one’s imagination through various individual characteristics. I have yet to see any of these in the current season’s contestants and we’re only two episodes away from crowning the winners. Normally at this stage, we would already know who are the ones with the greatest potential and having that X-factor to win. But we’re not getting any substance from the current crop at the moment. So who should we blame??? I for one think the fans need to be blamed for their blind faith. I just hope Singapore votes wisely and let the 4 truly deserving finalists be there come 18th July and they themselves should prove why they deserve to be there with polished performances, just like the Anugerah Boyz in 2005. Oh and before I end, I just hope they stop doing cheesy music videos for the sake of doing it. Adam‘s “Joget Lambak” a few weeks ago was the most cringe-worthy video I’ve watched thus far…