Anugerah 2009 Episode 9 Review (Semi-Finals)

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(Photo courtesy of Mediacorp Suria)

Now that I’ve gotten myself a new handphone, I can finally start on reviewing the semi-final rounds of Anugerah 2009 this past Tuesday 28th July 2009 at the Mediacorp TV Theatre. I guess there’s no point in hoping and dwelling over something you know you don’t have any powers over except for that glimmer of hope that people out there would be kind and responsible enough to return what’s not theirs to the rightful owners. Anyway, this week, the judging panel is joined by popular 80s singer Othman Hamzah as the guest judge for this week’s show.

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The show began with five of the six semi-finalists appearing on stage, with Catty conspicuously missing. As revealed by Catty herself in Wednesday night’s interview on RIA 89.7FM during KC‘s “Klub Kelakar Seram” segment, she suffered a “wardrobe mulfunction”, hence the delay to appear on stage as planned. So take it at face value from the horse’s mouth. At least she made it in time when the moment came for her to perform, which was the most important thing. Everything else was secondary. The “wardrobe mulfunction” could have happened due to the flooding over at the Basement 4 Lift Lobby prior to the show.

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This week, for the first time in the competition’s history, the semi-final rounds required the contestants to sing whilst being accompanied by a live band. It was interesting to see how people like Wawan and Kunjung would perform without having the “power” to “dictate” how the arrangement of the songs were to be done, as was seen from their previous performances in this competition. It was also intriguing to see how they would perform with a live band cos certain singers, especially the newbies, only perform well when they have a minus one accompanying them. Coupled with the cacophony of noise created by the different sets of fans in the auditorium, you know the competition would either push the contestants to their limits or make them succumb to the relentless pressure.

The following are the voting formats for the contestants:

  • SMS to 73388: ANU Contestant Code
  • Telepoll: 1900-112-770_ (Last digit being contestant’s number)

Each vote via SMS or Telepoll costs $0.60 each and those with prepaid cards are not able to cast your votes. Voters who are 18 years and below should seek parental permission. This service is brought to you by MediaCorp Pte Ltd. Tel: 6877 7132.

Voting for contestants appearing in Episode 9 began on Tuesday28 July 2009, 8.30pm till Tuesday, 4 August 2009, 6pm. These are the following codes you should vote for this week, along with my individual reviews of their performances:

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Hydir Idris

SMS to 73388: ANU 1 or by Telepoll: 1900-112-7701

Hydir was surprisingly subdued this week, from my own personal perspective. He sang a song that did not challenge his vocals at all and was too safe for my liking. Yes, he did not make any mistakes singing Taufik and Hady‘s “KepadaNya“, but the casual manner in which he performed the song showed that he might be resting on his laurels a bit. Hydir is capable of doing so much more, even hitting the high notes with nonchalant ease in previous rounds, but this song I felt was a wrong choice as it was too simple. He has to remember that based on the charts from the previous round, he was the lowest standing contestant. He had better hope that the young ladies out there would vote for him in abundance.

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Kunjung Whitaker

SMS to 73388: ANU 2 or by Telepoll: 1900-112-7702

The judges’ favourite contestant sang Kris Dayanti‘s “Cahaya“. Somehow I felt she was holding back something. It wasn’t her usual performance which we have come to love and expect from the competition’s consistently best performer. Her lower registers were very much suspect and for once, we could see that she did not look comfortable on stage. Was it because the key to the music that accompanied her was not constant??? Was it because jitters got to her??? We will never know, but this performance by Kunjung wasn’t the best we’ve seen of her these past few weeks.

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Hydir & Kunjung – Singing “Kau Muzik Di Hatiku” made popular by Jaclyn Victor and Vince, both of them actually reminded me of Anuar Zain & Ellina in their youths. Though there was chemistry and a little more energy from both of them as compared to their earlier individual performances, I felt that it was more of a “sibling” pair performing then a supposed pair of lovebirds. Hydir was pitchy and his voice was nearly “lost” towards the end but I thought Kunjung redeemed herself well and it was much better from her in this particular duet.

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Wawan

SMS to 73388: ANU 3 or by Telepoll: 1900-112-7703

Regulars of this blog would perceive that I sound as though I have an axe to grind whenever I review Wawan‘s performances. Fret not, cos this week I am proud to announce that Wawan actually came alive and blossomed singing Diorama‘s “Sanubariku“. The performance was brilliant, it was intensed at the right moments, the emotions exuded were spot-on and he captured our imaginations so well, that I thought, for the first time, I might be looking at the possible champion. His unique style in itself is his strength and being constantly amongst the top in the weekly charts, I will not be surprised if this boy is to grace the Grand Finals in less than a fortnight. At times he reminded me of Faizal Tahir, but Wawan has the potential to be his own person when the time comes for him to colour our music industry.

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Catty 

SMS to 73388: ANU 4 or by Telepoll: 1900-112-7704

The mark of a professional singer is that they do not let any off-stage happenings affect their performance on stage. For that, Catty deserves every bit of applause for not allowing her apparent “wardrobe mulfunction” get to her. I thought she sang Mila‘s “Persis Mutiara” much better than the original, but there were three instances I detected her making mistakes which is unheard of from her before this, whereby her voice cracked as she was breaking into the chorus of the song, trying to match up to the change in key to the song during the chorus and forgetting the lyrics, but covering it up well towards the end.

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Wawan & Catty – I think this pairing simply rocked. They gave the impression that they were two lovebirds hotly in love with each other. Singing Dafi and Gita Gutawa‘s “Dua Hati Menjadi Satu“, one could see how much they were enjoying themselves and bouncing off each other’s energy. But it has to be said that Wawan was a bit suspect singing the low notes whilst harmonising with Catty, at times resulting in his voice becoming flat. I did not agree at first with Othman Hamzah‘s comments on Wawan going flat what with the audience cheering and drowning his voice, but when I watched their performance again at home, I tend to agree with the veteran singer.

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Chirul 

SMS to 73388: ANU 5 or by Telepoll: 1900-112-7705

A lot has been said about Chirul‘s appearance in the semi-final rounds prior to the show, with most people raising their eyebrows at the results, me included. But I thought this past Tuesday night, he proved once and for all why he deserved to be there with a very matured performance singing ST12‘s “Tak Ada Apa-Apa“. I think this was his best performance to date, dancing when he had to (when previously I did not see the need to in his previous performances), and just enjoying himself by milking away the audience’s energy and turning it into his own. The voice, his voice, is delectably creamy for his age.

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Sarah Aqilah

SMS to 73388: ANU 6 or by Telepoll: 1900-112-7706

Sarah did not get the best of starts when she forgot the lyrics to the first line of one of my current favourite songs “Tak Mungkin Kerna Sayang” by Alyah. But as the performance progressed, so did Sarah and she went on to lend justice to the song. On a night where the ladies were all surprisingly making mistakes here and there, Sarah was the one who got the judges’ vote on being the best female of the night, and may I add, by virtue of making the least mistakes. Sarah would do well to not forget the lyrics since this was not the first time in the competition she succumbed to it.

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Chirul & Sarah  – Before they performed Rossa & Pasha‘s “Terlanjur Cinta“, I was a bit sceptical how this possible “sibling” pairing could upstage the pairing before them. But lo!!! Along with the judges and whoever agrees with me out there, I was blown away by their cool and romantic performance. They might not look into each other’s eyes for long to create some kind of sizzle (and to avoid laughing at themselves as was revealed by Sarah during their radio interview when she said she cannot look at his face for long, lest she would burst out laughing), but their controlled vocal power and harmonising were enough to make most of us swoon and say they were the best two of the night.

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Next Tuesday, the results show will last about half an hour. Two of them will be eliminated and it will be up to the voters now to determine who makes it to the Grand Finals in less than a fortnight.

An Appeal To All…

I’m back from Mediacorp TV Theatre but sadly I don’t have the mood to do my usual reviews and I dunno if I would do one this week. This is because I realised after the show, when I was backstage, that my handphone, a Nokia N96, was missing from my pocket. I remembered taking it out right before the show to ensure that it was in silent mode. After that, I cannot recall whether I had put it in my pocket or I had absent-mindedly dropped it.

I hope whoever that found it, would be kind and responsible enough to contact me through this domain or through my Facebook account. The phone might not be of use to you since I had put a security pin to it, but I have video clips of my young children inside which I cherish and often show them whenever I put them to sleep. You might not realise how important it is now till perhaps you have your own kids later on and understand what I’m talking about.

As such, I am making this heartfelt appeal for you, whoever you are, to be kind enough to return it to me as soon as possible…

P.S. Thank you Raudha and Fadly for helping me Tweet about it just now and to Netty for helping me call the number… 

Anugerah 2009 Episode 8 Review…

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This entry nearly did not make it, simply because I was too lazy and procrastinating whether to do it or not. After such a lengthy entry on the Kuala Lumpur trip, all I wanted was to rest a few days before I start again on the Anugerah 2009 reviews. This past Tuesday, the eighth episode was a resurrected platform for six of the eliminated Anugerettes to stake their claims once again to continue their journey in the competition. It was the last chance saloon so to speak, with regards to winning the hearts of the judging panel. By the way, this past week, there were no votes from viewers so it was purely the judges’ decision as to who would go through to next Tuesday‘s semi-final rounds. Joining the judging panel as the guest judge was Manja‘s Editor Aidli Alin Mosbit.

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I thought the idea of making the six contestants – Ize Suliman, Nora Baharom, Hydir Idris, Sarah Aqilah, Azhar Raz & Asilah Osmera – doing the honours of hyping up the show in the first quarter was a good idea to test their interactive skills with the audience, even though it was just to make an announcement. However, the ones who aced it in my opinion, happened to be the ones who were eliminated much earlier (Ize & Asilah) cos they seemed at ease and confident speaking to the microphones. I was surprised that the extra weeks in the competition did not bring the confidence out on the other four when interacting with the audience. Hydir especially was a bundle of nerves and it showed, especially when he forgot what to say and nobody was there to do a bit of ad-libbing for him. Maybe it was a wrong choice to do this, but at the same time, if they don’t, then they might never start to learn how to address the audience.

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Ize Suliman – With such high stakes in place, he kickstarted the competition with a rousing rendition of Faizal Tahir‘s “Kasih Tercipta“. I believe he did nothing wrong and certainly made the song his own by singing it in his own style. In fact, this was the best performance I’ve witnessed Ize executing throughout his stay in the competition. He actually set the standards for the night and at this point of time, I thought the only way he could be eliminated is if the other two guys were to raise the bar higher with their own respective performances.

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Nora BaharomNora as all of us who follow the show on a weekly basis would know, continues to improve with every performance. However, singing Linda AF2‘s “Aku Cinta Kamu“, she somehow stuck to her comfort zone. Contrary to what the judges had commented about her expressions and emotions, I thought she did ok, but there was still that missing element of breaking out and letting herself go when it came to hitting the high notes. It did not help matters when quizzed by the judges, she mispronounced her words and fumbled on her sentence structure, the jitters probably getting to her.

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Hydir Idris – If Faizal Tahir was following this reality show, he must have been beaming with pride cos Hydir became the second guy to sing one of his songs, “Sampai Syurga“. Hydir performed as how we have come to be accustomed by his performances. However there were no frills, he kept it simple and surprisingly did not execute as much vocal gymnastics as in previous rounds. Though I detected a few minor pitching problems, it still wasn’t enough to deter the judges from singing his praises.

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Sarah Aqilah – In a round where the judges are their only executioners, Sarah was intelligent enough to stick to what she knows best – singing power ballads like Agnes Monica‘s “Tanpa Kekasihku” – rather than experiment with a song that is of a more upbeat tempo. Consistency is also the name of the game and she did herself no harm by keeping it safe. But one can’t help detecting the crack in her voice towards the end of the song. Though the performance was good, I still think the judges over-exaggerated their comments on Sarah being ready for any stage out there. To do that, she MUST get out from her comfort zone and be more versatile. Anugerah is just a basic grounding stage for these wannabes, they need a lot of time and experience to hone their skills to be even better so as to be termed “ready for the world stage”.

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Azhar Raz – His forte since the audition rounds is singing songs sung by female singers and in a round where he needed to showcase his strengths, he picked a song sung by Ayu, the second season winner of Malaysia‘s One In A Million competition, entitled “Hanya Di Mercu“. Though his vocal efforts were flawless as usual, his downside was not to synergise his expressions and emotions along with his interaction with the audience. It was difficult to feel the connection between himself and the audience.

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Asilah Osmera – If I were to be harsh, I would say that the judges made the wrong choice in choosing her to be in the Wildcard Round. But I’ve seen in Episode 4, whereby her performance actually made my hairs stood, so there is some credibility in putting her in this round. I have to agree with Eddy Ali that Asilah chose the wrong song as she was basically struggling throughout her performance. I was cringing on my seat watching her sing and I thought Asilah should have done better by singing another song that would really highlight her strengths. The judges comments on her literally sounded the death knell on her progress in the competition. But to be fair to Asilah, singing Melly Goeslaw and Kris Dayanti‘s “Cinta“, is a challenge on its own. This song is best sung by two singers, not one.

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Syed Azmir was the guest artiste for the night… Excellent performance and showmanship… This guy has added dancing into his repertoire…

And so, from the results, we now know that Hydir Idris and Sarah Aqilah were chosen to progress into the semi-final rounds. However, it has to be said that the judges were “guilty” of announcing the results through their various comments. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know Sarah is going through simply when Gani and Aidli spoke about her being ready for the world stage. It also doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to inform Watson that something was elementary, just by listening to their comments on Hydir being “fresh” and executing “a strong showmanship”, while playing down and being polite with their comments towards the other four contestants.

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Awaiting their fates…

Somehow I personally felt that this round was a mere formality even though all six contestants must be applauded for giving their all and in some cases, their best performance throughout their stay in the competition. Even though it was only the start of the show, Gani already let slip through this comment, “Whatever happens tonight, I hope you two will not stop singing…” Ok some might say it’s just a hypothetical comment, but it proved ominous by the end of the show. I hope in future, to keep the audience in the theatre and at home on the edge of their seats, comments like these could be phrased better so as not to announce the results even before others had gone on stage to perform. It gives the impression that this competition is scripted like watching World Wrestling Entertainment when we know it’s not.

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The 6 semi-finalists…

Next Tuesday, we will see the Top 6 battling it out in the Semi-Final round. Based on information I received, Hydir will kickstart the competition followed by Kunjung, Wawan, Catty, Chirul and Sarah Aqilah. I believe by now you should know the codes to call or sms your votes in. If not, it’s ok cos I will include it in my next review on Anugerah 2009. For those of you reading this before 3pm on Saturday, if you’re free, do come down to East Point Mall to lend your support to the semi-finalists in the Anugerah 2009 roadshow. Guest artistes like Imran Ajmain, The Fabulous Cats, Liana Jasmay, Diana Danielle, Han and Nurul will be there as well. The roadshow will be from 3pm-6pm…

Manchester United @ Kuala Lumpur…

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My goodness, the past weekend has been one of the best 3 days of my life. Words cannot describe all the emotions and feelings I felt seeing my beloved Manchester United team in the flesh. If you were to tell me before I embarked on my trip that I would be able to meet some of the players / backroom staff by chance at the hotel, I would have gladly snapped your arms off just to be in that situation.

But before I move on with this entry, let me just touch a bit on Anugerah Planet Muzik 2009 (APM 2009). I did not catch the show live as in years past, which became a traditional annual event for me since its inception in 2001. So to hope for any bits of information or juicy news by coming into this domain, I’m sorry but you came to the wrong place. Thank you for the jump in statistics though. Though I had taped the show since I did not have access to Astro Ria from the comfort of my hotel room in Kuala Lumpur, I have yet to watch it and won’t be doing so till much later.

My blog too has been a source of verbal joustings of late, between the Indonesian and Malaysian fans of the regional music scene, with each claiming that their industry is better than the other or complaining that APM in general, is unpopular in Indonesia. Interesting comments being made, but most were emotionally charged. Felt the urge to join in but really this is what we Malays call “menegakkan benang yang basah“, so I won’t bother joining in the debate since there is no end to it. You guys can read all the comments by clicking here if you’re interested.

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The view from the hotel room…

Plans for this trip up north was made months ago when they first announced that United were to play their first pre-season on this part of the world since 2001. And based on where they stayed the last time out as well as teams like Chelsea and Newcastle United did when they were there years ago, it was only logical that I began making reservations at the posh Palace of the Golden Horses Hotel. Perhaps it was fortunate that the payment I made did not go through as days later, news came in that the team was to stay at the luxurious 6-star Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which is right smack in the city centre, next to the Petronas Twin Towers. I wasted no time in making the necessary bookings. Somehow I have to thank RIA 89.7FM for this, cos without the money I won in the “La-La-La Sambung” contest, I doubt I would have been able to experience staying at this plush hotel.

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The pool area… Simply beautiful…

We set off on Friday morning at 8am, about an hour later from the time we had planned to embark. Traffic was pretty smooth at the Woodlands Checkpoint and how I wished most times it would be like that. We stopped for a short break at our favourite stopover, the overhead food haven at Ayer Keroh, Melaka. Being the A&W Root Beer Float sucker that I am, that was an absolute must to get. Over at the Al-Ikhwan Sports shop, I saw the new Manchester United jersey for the coming season and wondered if I should get it. But I passed up the chance and said, “Nah… I’ll wait till next season when the shirt sponsors change…” For those not in the know, United will have the words “AON” to replace “AIG” on their shirts next year.

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The view from the other side of my room… That’s the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre on the left, the venue of last year’s APM2008 and where a certain Dato’ got married back in 2006…

It was also over at Ayer Keroh that I received a call from one of my friends, Zul, who asked for my whereabouts. He also updated me what time the players would be checking into the hotel. When he said “1pm”, I looked at the time and saw that it was still 11:20am and that I might be able to reach the hotel just in time to catch them coming in, before heading off for Friday prayers at the mosque adjacent to KLCC. So I sped off like a demon, alternating between driving at a speed of 140-170km/hr. Frankly speaking, I’ve never tried that before on the North-South highway. The most I went was 140km/hr. But it was good driving that fast cos I did not feel sleepy at all. However when I reached the Sungai Besi toll checkpoint, I received a call from my online friend, Malique, who informed me that the team had already arrived. That was about 12:30pm. No thanks to the lunchtime traffic, our journey was slowed down and we only reached the hotel about 1:40pm.

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As we emerged at the hotel lobby from the carpark, we saw a crowd lining up outside one of the ballrooms (Pearl Room). I wondered what was the commotion all about and if there were any players inside. That’s when I saw some Telekom Malaysia (TM) staff selling Manchester United top-up cards and if we were to purchase them (it was RM200 by the way), we would be able to go into the ballroom and meet the players. I thought they had a lot to sell off so I went off to check into the hotel. But by the time I returned, the top-up cards were already sold out!!! Then I met Malique, my online friend, who was queueing along with the crowd. He said the TM staff had said that they would let them in if there are extra spaces inside. So we both ended up in the queue. We also made friends with the people around us. It was there that I learnt of what happened in Jakarta and thanked my lucky stars that I did not go there (to watch both APM2009 & United in action) cos I would have missed out on watching the team, since they cancelled the trip upon hearing the news.

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For the uninitiated (2nd from left): Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick, John O’Shea and Ben Foster

At about 2.45pm, we saw four of the players – Ben Foster, John O’Shea, Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes – being whisked into the ballroom via another entrance. The crowd cheered cos they knew the doors would be opened anytime and opened it did within minutes. Once in, I said my thanks to God for not making me pay RM200 for something I didn’t need and still manage to see the players in the flesh. The affair was a short one which lasted about 15 minutes with the players answering questions from some of the fans and then presenting two of the TM staff with the latest Manchester United jersey with their names emblazoned at the back. The players also took time to personally get off the mini erected stage to take a photograph with little Aiman, a boy suffering from leukemia. When they were answering questions, the players looked a bit deadpan, probably due to jetlag, but the moment when they were asked to take a photograph with the boy, their faces lit up. There was genuine warmth in there and no signs of enforced PR exercise.

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The players greeting little Aiman

Once that session was over, they got off the stage and went to the back. I knew they were going to leave from the direction they came in, so I made a dash out and waited, leaving Malique behind. I lost him in the sea of supporters who were jam-packed in the ballroom. Within seconds, the players walked out. I tried to take a photograph of them walking but they were too fast. They quickly dashed up the staircase along with the hotel security staff. Me and two others also made the dash up but we lost them when we reached the floor above us. It was there I saw another long-line of United-clad supporters queueing up outside the Grand Ballroom and wondered what it was about. The bad thing about not being a local was, you dunno what activities there were in store with the team and fans.

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This was where the press conference was held. The room was actually well-lit as opposed to what you see here from my unprofessional photo-taking skills…

So I nonchalantly entered the Grand Ballroom hoping to find a way into the partitioned section of the room where the autograph signing was held. It was clear that the press conference was held at the Grand Ballroom earlier judging by the huge stage and long table where the important figures like Sir Alex Ferguson and United‘s CEO, Mr David Gill, sat, cos it had their names on it. Thanks to the opening of the partition dividing the ballroom into two, I entered it and saw right smack in front of me were five of the players – Anderson, Wayne Rooney, Jonathan Evans, Zoran Tosic and Fabio Da Silva in that order – seated signing autographs and taking pictures with the fortunate fans who had been queueing outside. I tried to go to the other side but was stopped by the security staff. So I left the room and made small talk with some of those queueing outside. It seems that to get in, you should either be invited or won some contest and to enter, you need to show them your invitational pass. I was like how in the world could I ever do that???

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So I walked back and forth the area outside the ballroom, trying to find a way in. Ever since I was interested in the Malay entertainment scene, and being an ex-groupie, I took great pleasure in sneaking in where most people do not dare to venture. One of my most famous exploits was attending Anugerah Juara Lagu in 2000 without a ticket nor pass, but I ended up sitting with the VIP dignitaries that night just by wearing something formal and walking in without a hint of trespassing. I drew upon my previous experiences for inspiration as I thought this was a golden opportunity not to be missed cos I won’t know whether I would ever bump into them with such tight security around. So I made a silent prayer and hoped for miracle to come. And came it did.

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I met four fans by the lift lobby over at the other side of the ballroom entrance from where I came from. They were all in the same predicament as me. We then saw a big door and wondered where it led to. It was a long way in and from where we were, we could see that it led to the kitchen. The rest were contemplating whether to go in or not. I just said, “What have we got to lose??? The only thing they can do is chase us away…” My words instantly perked them up and we made a quick dash in and ended up in the ballroom along with the rest who were queueing inside. The best part was, the security staff did not see us entering but one of the organising staff recognised one of us and asked him how did we get in. She just smiled and shook her head when the guy told her what we did. Immediately she instructed security to stand at the entrance where we entered but did not chase us away. I was just about to call Malique over but their actions put paid to my plans.

It was damn surreal being up close to the guys you see on television on a weekly basis. There was certainly no airs about them as one of our local scribes love to digress and report. They were tired from a long flight but they never lost their zest in meeting their fans. The most friendly and approachable had to be Wayne Rooney, but the rest (excluding Evans) could be forgiven for their lack of linguistic panache in English. Still they answered with warmth and that too after meeting hundreds of supporters who had entered the room. I was suprised by Anderson‘s English accent when I asked him how he was. He replied with a cheeky smile, “I’m good mate!!!” I was also chuffed to have met the guy who “stole” my number 14 jersey away, Zoran Tosic. For your information, the number 14 jersey had been vacant for quite some time before Tosic joined the team in January. Since it is my favourite number, I took the liberty to print my name on the jersey with the number on it and made believe that I was the missing player in the team. He grinned when I showed him I had his number on my jersey.

All these while, Aida, the kids and my in-laws were in the hotel room resting but since I did not have the room key to access the lift, the wife had to come down and wait for me outside the ballroom once I was done. I left the ballroom feeling satisfied cos I thought if I did not meet any of them again, this memory would have lasted long in my mind till the day I leave this world. But another surprise awaited me. The lift stopped on the second floor and lo!!! In walked United‘s latest signing and the guy who replaced the already departed Cristiano Ronaldo, none other than Michael Owen. I shook his hands as he came into the lift and welcomed him to United. Then I asked if I could take a photograph with him, he smiled and said “Ok, sure thing…” and Aida quickly snapped a photo of us before we reached our floor which was on the 10th floor. Before we left the lift, I managed to wish him all the best for the coming season ahead and he replied with a warm “Thank you…” He smiled when he looked at Syahindah, probably thinking of his daughter Gemma Rose back home in Cheshire, England.Actually there was another session with the players going on concurrently at the KLCC Binjai Park nearby but it was some distance away from the hotel and time was running short before I made my way to Bukit Jalil Stadium for the training session, so I skipped that. For the record, Darren Fletcher, Rio Ferdinand, Nani and Darron Gibson graced that event. After washing up and leaving at about 4:45pm, I met Malique and his family by chance again at the lobby and decided to go with them. I gave away the extra training pass belonging to Aida as she preferred to stay and rest at the hotel room. Managed to see Darren Fletcher and club captain Gary Neville coming out from the lifts and waited to board the coach on the way to the training session but it seemed they went the wrong way. I only got Fletcher to pose for me and snapped another whilst both of them were walking away.

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Darren Fletcher gamely posed for me whilst captain Neville stood in the background…

The trip to Bukit Jalil, via the LRT network, took us approximately an hour, so by the time we reached the place, the training session was about an hour gone. It didn’t help that all of us were more interested in buying memorabilia being sold outside the stadium and that some of us had to finish our food and drinks before they allowed us to go in. I think I only managed to catch the last 10-15 minutes of the training session before leaving the place via LRT again. You might think it was a wasted trip but believe me, it was good to study how their public transport system works, in mind that the next day, the crowd would be about four times more than those who came during the training session. For the record, about 25,000 people watched the training session.

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Left the hotel again at about 8:30pm to have dinner at Linda Onn‘s My Mom’s Chicken Rice shop at Ampang Point. Actually the place was quite near to our hotel but thanks to the traffic, we took about half an hour to get there. The place, though it has not changed from the last we were there two years ago, had revamped its menu sets and added a few new dishes. Still we came all the way just to savour the chicken rice which to me is much better than some of that being sold in Singapore. The soup at least has a rich flavour as compared to those here, which you sometimes feel as though you’re drinking plain water. The owner herself was not around as she had a show that night. It wasn’t an issue cos we were there more for the food. Anything more would have been a bonus.

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When we reached back at the hotel, there was a number of fans waiting at the lobby. I thought the players were having some event or making an unofficial appearance or something but it seemed that the backroom staff along with United legends Sir Bobby Charlton and Paddy Crerand were having drinks at the pub. Sir Bobby was kinda disgruntled that they could not have a private moment what with all the fans clamouring outside, and made his feelings known to the hotel security. It was later on that I found out that he had been cranky the whole day as one of the cameramen had banged into the back of his head earlier. Anyway, the fans were also a bit too much. They should have at least respected the staff’s privacy. Bryan Robson, the original Captain Marvel, himself was mobbed and whisked away by the security staff. I did not stay long cos I was absolutely knackered, so I went up to turn in for the night.

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Sir Bobby Charlton, a living legend for both England and Manchester United

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Bryan Robson being mobbed by the fans…

Day 2

Woke up in the morning with a throbbing head as I woke up on the wrong side of bed. Still I had the energy to walk around the hotel just to see the pool area up close. I was also curious to see how the gym looked like. So I went down around 7:25am. I was surprised to see the same people from the backroom staff who were drinking the night before, working out at the gym. My eyes nearly popped out when I saw the back of someone who is synonymous to Manchester United on the exercise bike. Yes peeps, it was none other than the manager, the godfather of them all, Sir Alex Ferguson himself!!! As I wasn’t expecting to meet anyone when I went down, I did not bring my camera along. I immediately scooted back to my room to grab my camera cos this was definitely a chance of a lifetime to meet the man in person.

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When I reached back downstairs, there were quite a few fans loitering around outside the gym, so as not to be seen with them, I walked along the pool area and saw Sir Alex now doing brisk walking on the treadmill. As he was facing the pool area, I walked into his view, turned and acted a bit surprised to see him and waved. He waved back and gave me a big smile. I decided to wait for him to end and just sat around the pool area. By then, those fans who were seen loitering around the area were chased away by the security staff. I was exempted cos I was a hotel guest. Whilst waiting, I struck up a conversation with the hotel staff stationed there. Malique too joined me for awhile but he had to leave to attend to his family.

At about 8:30am, Sir Alex emerged from the gym alone with one of the security staff. I went up to him, wished him a very good morning and asked if I could take a photograph with him. The anal security guy said no, but Sir Alex turned to him and said it was ok and he did not mind. Once the photograph was taken, I shook his hands and wished him all the best for the coming season ahead. He replied, “Thank you and all the best to you too, son!!!” That was it I felt!!! That was the ultimate moment of my trip, never mind I still had the match to watch in the evening. For him to veto the security guy was already good enough, but for him to reply like that was definitely the highlight of my trip. There were no airs about him and he was full of warmth. Forget stories about him being an authoritarian or a grumpy old so-and-so. It was a definite honour to have finally met him in person even though our encounter lasted less than a minute. He left me a deep impression on what an excellent character he is and no wonder why the players and fellow managers look up to him.

Somehow the encounter with the great man made me forget about breakfast and I felt quite full when I joined up with the family at the restaurant on the ground floor. Normally breakfast at the hotel is what I look forward to whenever I go abroad but not this time. Still I had some Nasi Lemak and scrambled eggs with buns, even tried some Arabian bread with hummus, which I did not fancy but still swallowed all the same. Saw Sir Bobby Charlton again having breakfast but did not dare to go up to him to have a photograph taken, perhaps mindful that he might snap again like the previous night. Anyway breakfast in general was so-so and could have been much better for a six-star hotel standard. I guess the best I’ve tasted so far in Kuala Lumpur was at the old Putra Pan-Pacific Hotel, which is now known as Best Western Premier Seri Pacific (Goodness what a mouthful!!!).

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After breakfast I went up to have a dip in the pool, but not before bumping into John O’Shea in the lift on the way to the pool area. I did not bring my camera along as Aida was holding on to it and was only coming down to the pool a bit later than me. I just smiled and nodded at Sheasy. When I reached the pool area, Malique and his family were already there. Did not spend long as the agenda of the day was to shop at KLCC before heading off to Bukit Jalil Stadium to watch the game. Aida had forgotten to bring the kids’ swimsuits along, so it was kinda sad for them to just sit on the chairs and watched their father swimming. Since they went up earlier than I did, I did not have a camera with me. Which was a pity as when I exited the pool area and made my way to the lift, out walked Michael Owen, Fabio, Michael Carrick, John O’Shea and Paul Scholes who were on their way to the gym for a light stretching session. Even if I had my camera with me, I don’t think I was allowed to take photographs as the security staff had warned me not to take any. He must have been blind since I did not have one with me in the first place!!!

So off I went to KLCC with the family henceforth. By then my throbbing head was getting worse. It always happens when I wake up on the wrong side. So I told the family to go ahead without me while I settled some stuff and then return to the hotel to rest. As much as I had resisted buying the new season’s jersey, the temptations were just too much to withstand seeing a lot of people wearing them and how nice it would be to wear to the stadium later in the evening. And so I went to the NIKE boutique on the 3rd floor and bought one for myself as well as one for Syahindah, her very first United jersey. After buying lunch at the foodcourt upstairs and Panadol over at Watsons, I headed back to the hotel to get some much needed rest. The family only came back about 3pm and it was a mad rush getting ready as the original plan was to leave for the stadium at 3:30pm. At that point in time all of us had not taken lunch, me included, even though I came back at about 1:20pm. But the one hour plus rest did me good as I woke up feeling fresh and the headache was gone!!!

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Aida and I only left the hotel at about 3:50pm (my in-laws stayed behind with the kids) and it was crazy over at the Masjid Jamek station where we had to transfer trains to get to Bukit Jalil. There was a huge crowd queueing to get two-way tickets and as you can guess, a lot of them were decked in Manchester United jerseys. Good sense prevailed when the staff there opened a few more counters, thus easing the movement at the station. We managed to reach the stadium at about 5pm. It was an extremly colourful carnival atmosphere outside the stadium, with hawkers hawking their wares, ranging from football paraphernalia to food. We got in and sat at our seats about five minutes before kick-off. To tell you the truth, I felt cheated by the seating arrangements. Paying RM308 each for our numbered seats, we had expected to sit closer to the field but no, we were on the second tier and closer to the third one. It seems those who paid RM308 in places outside Kuala Lumpur would have been allocated seats on the second tier. Had I known this would happen, I would have asked any one of my friends in KL to buy for me first. Oh well, at least our seats were assured even though we were late.

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I wouldn’t relate the match to you per se, but you can go to YouTube to watch the highlights on how the match went. I was generally impressed by the Malaysian side whose counter-attacking tactics paid dividends, especially against a Manchester United team that was visibly tired due to the heat and lack of acclimatisation. It could have been a rout had the Malaysian goalkeeper not executed two world-class saves in the first half and Rooney missing another in the second. Anderson and Nani, much pilloried last season for being inconsistent and ineffective, showed signs that they were out to atone for last season’s mistakes. The former showed why he was once touted as a future midfield general for the team with his timely tackles and excellent distribution of the ball. One such pass with the outside of his foot left the crowd gasping in delight at how measured it was. The same could not be said of Paul Scholes though. His passes were wayward most of the time and he missed a bulk of the tackles he executed. I for one think, his time is up and he should make way for younger players to blossom in the team.

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Seen in the crowd, four guys impersonating the four Sikhs who are season ticket holders at Old Trafford

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The real McCoys…

But the highlight for the crowd had to be watching the debut of Michael Owen in a United shirt and witnessing his first goal for the team, which proved to be the winner. Seeing the players mobbing him after he scored showed how much they welcomed him to the team. As it was my first time watching a football match in a stadium of that capacity (100,000), I felt as though I was watching a World Cup match cos it certainly felt like that with the sea of red shirts in the stands, screaming, cheering and sounding the airhorns. Speaking of airhorns, whenever they were sounded, nobody followed that up with the usual vulgarity we seem to hear when watching a match in Singapore. But later on in the game, I could hear them being chanted when the airhorns were sounded. I presumed those who did that must be Singaporeans.

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A pivotal moment in the history of Manchester United seeing Michael Owen making his debut for the club…

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Owen was mobbed by his team-mates after scoring the winning goal…

The moment I took a photo of the players celebrating Owen‘s winning goal, my camera switched off on its own as the battery was exhausted. So since I could not take anymore photos, Aida and I left the stadium the moment the final whistle was blown. We literally ran back to the LRT station to beat the crowd but a huge one had already stationed themselves there. It was a pity the battery was exhausted as we missed seeing the players doing their lap of honour around the stadium. In the train along the way back to Masjid Jamek station, we struck up a conversation with a couple from South of Manchester, England. They had reached Kuala Lumpur at 4pm, heard that the team was in town and decided to catch the game. And to think they were not United fans in the first place. Simply amazing!!!

The players returning to the hotel…

Upon reaching KLCC, we went to buy tidbits for our family and colleagues back home over at the Famous Amos outlet. This was then followed by getting dinner over at Manhattan Fish Market. As the waiting time was long, we returned to the hotel just in time to see the players returning from the match. Since the camera was dead, I took this video clip of them arriving via my camera phone. They were all whisked off to a private function room over at the 2nd floor and it was out of bounds to the public. Anyone who tried to go there were promptly chased away. I knew cos I was one of them hahahahah… I ended up going up to the room and returning to KLCC to collect our food along with Aida and the kids, leaving my in-laws to rest. But when we got back, I immediately went down to the pool area to have a dip in it as well as the jacuzzi. It was pure bliss the moment I stepped into the hot pool. A pity the pool closed at 10pm or I could have spent a little longer in there just resting my feet.

After dinner, and when the kids were already asleep, Aida and I went down again, this time to take photographs of the Petronas Twin Towers which look so radiant and a sight to behold at night. We had to be quick as the lights are switched off at the stroke of midnight every night. Bumped into Malique and his family on their way back from dinner and chatted with them for awhile before we turned in for the night.

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Day 3

The last day was relatively the same routine as the previous day, minus the swimming and meeting any players or backroom staff at the gym. I guessed my luck ran out the moment I met Sir Alex as meeting him in person had already been the ultimate moment of the trip. I guess if dreams were to become a reality, I would jump at the chance of serving the team as a backroom staff, never mind not being a player. The opportunity to watch the team on a daily basis and being paid to travel the world is good enough already for me. Trust me, these guys who are paid to play football for a living are freaking lucky. They are paid to be fit, paid to see the world, paid to play in magnificent stadiums. I would kill to have a career like that knowing that I could retire the moment I hang up my boots.

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The gentleman in the centre is Paddy Crerand, another United legend…

We checked out from the hotel at 11:20am and was on our way back to Singapore by noon. I had targeted to reach at 5pm, so that I could return in time for my weekend dosage of football. Some miscommunication happened along the way and we ended up not having enough money to pay the toll once we were to reach Skudai. When we realised that, we were just about to clear the Sungai Besi toll checkpoint. The worse part was every stop we made, there were no money changers nor ATMs along the way. Even the one at Ayer Keroh was spoilt. But as luck would have it, my father-in-law was able to extract money from the ATM machine at Machap so we were fortunate to pay the toll without having to pay in our currency. We reached Singapore slightly before 4pm and taking into account the number of stops we made, the whole journey actually took about three hours, thanks to my speeding along the highway at speeds between 140-180km/hr. A word of caution, please don’t try this as it might damage your car in the long run and I doubt I would do it again myself.

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Syahindah posing with her United jersey…

That ends my past weekend’s experience meeting my beloved team in the flesh. I had uploaded the whole picture album in my Facebook account which is private and meant only for my contacts to view. The ones I’ve included in this entry are considered the best, especially to those who had wanted to make it to the trip but could not. I guess my experiences in meeting the players were inspiring enough, cos I heard my elder sister and cousins who are staunch supporters of that team coming to town this weekend are trying hard to secure a room in the same hotel as the team, in the hope of meeting the players. Good luck to them and try beating the security staff who are much tougher here than in Kuala Lumpur

Anugerah 2009 Episode 7 Review…

Anugerah

(Photo courtesy of Mediacorp Suria)

Week 7 of the current Anugerah 2009 season was a short affair, to announce the semi-finalists as well as those who have earned a reprieve by getting a spot to prove themselves once again in the Wildcard Round next week. Honestly at the start of the show, the excitement got to me, to the point my hands were all cold and clammy. Seeing them on a weekly basis, you just cannot make a definite decision on who you personally want to go through or who would progress based on judges’ comments and the votes that they garner through their loyal fanbase.

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The contestants practising on their harmonising before the show started…

Based on logic through the supporters’ votes as well as the judges’ previous comments, I had initially plumped for Wawan, Hydir Idris, Catty and Nora Baharom to get a shoo-in into the semi-finals. Trust me, it was tough to call especially with regards to the ladies, as you cannot discount the likes of Kunjung and Sarah Aqilah who have also been very consistent in their weekly performances. I omitted Kunjung and Sarah, not because I did not like them nor what they had offered to us through their consistent performances, but simply because of the votes factor and based on their previous standings, the former especially so, as I wasn’t sure that the voting masses would want a non-Singaporean to win the competition.

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The ones eliminated since Episode 1 – 4, from left: Shera, Yanie, Asila, Ain, Izam, Afyq and IzeMel was conspicuously absent. Word has it she was uncontactable…

As the results were announced, it was a relief that Kunjung got through to the semi-finals cos if she had fallen by the wayside and gotten a reprieve to the Wildcard, I’m afraid the other two female contestants who would fill in the other two quotas in the round might probably be there as token representations. Why I say this is not because the competition is weak nor the other girls are not good, but because the judges have always praised Kunjung being in a league of her own week in and out. If she were to enter the Wildcard Round, which will solely be judged by the panel of jury, her spot in the semi-finals would arguably be more or less assured, with all due respect to the judges’ intuition and sound judgment and most definitely not undermining them nor questioning their respective integrities. 

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The only surprise of the four assured semi-finalists would be none other than Chirul. I certainly did not see that coming, nor did most of the people seated in Studio 1, the venue of the night’s episode, a stark difference from the bigger TV Theatre that we’re used to weekly. Hydir‘s surprise omission could have been due to his fanbase being a little complacent with the votes, it could also have been due to his previous performance which judge Eddy Ali had proclaimed as “dull”. Spare a thought too for the ever consistent Azhar Raz whose apparent downfall could have been attributed to a weaker fanbase. No disrespect to Chirul, but he needs to work hard to justify his place in the semi-finals, cos this is one glaring example where fan support could upset the applecart.

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Nonetheless there is still the Wildcard Round and based on my initial predictions, the line-up for the round for me would have been Kunjung, Sarah Aqilah, Azhar Raz, Chirul, Ize Suliman and a toss-up between Yanie, Shera and Nani. Why I chose Yanie was because I felt she was eliminated too early when she actually has one of the nicest tones in the competition. Give her a traditional song and she might actually ace it and it is widely known that those who can carry a traditional tune would have no problems singing songs of other genres. A living example would be a famous Dato’ from across the Causeway. No prizes for guessing who.

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Shera though we only saw her in Episode 1, I felt she deserved to be given a chance as I believe based on what I heard of her in that round, she did not do much wrong other than lost out on supporters’ votes. Also we have to remember that Episode 1 was not a good gauge of the contestants’ abilities as they only sang a few lines, which for viewers to judge, would be difficult to assess the singer as a whole. Nani on the other hand I felt could have been given a reprieve based on the fact that if she were to put her mind into it, like the one she performed with Kunjung and Nora last week, she could actually stand toe to toe with the rest. Well these are just my humble opinions and you’re welcome to digress.

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Awaiting their respective fates…

As it is, the Wildcard Round now reads Azhar Raz, Hydir Idris, Ize Suliman, Sarah Aqilah, Nora Baharom and Asila Osmera. You know, it just gets tougher by the week even in this round, as the playing field is more or less equal and only one male and one female contestant will advance to the semi-finals. As I had mentioned earlier, this round will solely be judged by the judges and no sms votes is needed. As opposed to the past month or so, in this round, the theme will return to square one, which is open, meaning they can sing songs by a Malaysian, Indonesian or Singaporean artiste.

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The six Wildcarders (from left): Sarah Aqilah, Asila Osmera, Nora Baharom, Ize Suliman, Hydir Idris and Azhar Raz…

I thought the night would end quickly since the show was afterall only worth half an hour. But how wrong I was!!! It turned out to be the longest I’ve stayed throughout the competition. This was because about half an hour after the show had ended, the ten contestants who are still in the competition, had to attend a getting-to-know and understanding session with various personalities from the media industry namely Ms. Aidli Alin Mosbit, the editor of Manja magazine, Ms. Hanim Md Salleh, the Entertainment Desk Correspondent for Berita Harian / Berita Minggu, Mr. Daud Yusof representing television’s Malay News & Current Affairs desk, Ms. Isadhora Mohamed, Programme Director of Warna 94.2FM and Mr Noor Azlan Salim, from Mediacorp‘s Corporate Communications who chaired the session.

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I think this session with the media was fruitful for all the contestants. In fact if this was reached out to the others who had been eliminated as well, it would also be beneficial to them to understand how the media works and how they can prepare themselves when facing the media or the public in future. This session was also for the various representatives to observe the contestants and give valuable pointers on what to expect when facing media from different platforms. I think the words “being true to themselves“, “be honest“, “be media-savvy“, “be learned and well prepared” could not have been drummed further into their heads cos these are factors that they should abide by once they are in the public eye.

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Ms. Isadhora Mohamed could not have said it better when she pointed out the fact that when they enter a Malay singing competition, they are automatically expected to increase their knowledge and usage of the language. Another thing I would like to add on is how they could refine certain words so that they do not come across as crude, even though the meaning of the words are similar. An example was given by one of the male contestants (I will not reveal his identity), who during his introductory speech had described his love for animals. The word that he used was “binatang“. Alternatively he could have made it sound a little nicer and more polite by saying “haiwan“. Even if he had wanted to use the word “binatang“, he could have added the word “peliharaan” after that to indicate docile animals we can keep as pets.

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Kunjung introducing herself to the panel…

Yes, they need to increase their vocabulary and be more aware of the words they use to describe their thoughts so as not to come across as crude, knowing or unknowingly. But the guy could be forgiven cos he is afterall a media novice. Likewise the other contestants who peppered the panel of media representatives with innocent questions some of us might regard as trivial or common sense that needed no questioning nor query in the first place. I’m sure through time and experience, under the tutelage and guidance of their manager and the people who work closely with them, the contestants would be more confident and able to hone their skills in conversational speech during interviews or press conferences.

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Azhar doing his own introductions…

Sitting through the session was like a refresher course for me and I was instantly reminded of the entry I did on “Be True To Yourselves” at times, cos some of the points I brought up in that entry were repeated to the contestants. Clear examples of existing local artistes doing stupid things knowing or unknowingly that could jeopardise their career, reputation and personal characters, were highlighted in the hope that these young upstarts would not repeat the same mistakes. 

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Catty doing the honours whilst Nora smiled in anticipation…

The main point that they should always remember is that they are a representation of their family, the community, their record companies, the products they endorse, the artiste management they are under and the list goes on. I think the phrase “With great power comes great responsibility” from the Spiderman movie could not have been more apt. I really applaud such a move to have this session for them to learn how to look after themselves and how to sell themselves via the media.

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To the other contestants who have been eliminated and did not receive any opportunity to redeem yourselves, please do not be disheartened and to use the experience to better yourselves for future endeavours. I know some of you still pine for success in this line. Use the knowledge that you’ve gained to improve on your weaknesses and you will come back stronger than ever. Remember, this competition is not the be all and end all and there are other avenues to pursue your dreams. Work on it and the industry will be more colourful with your presence in time to come. For those who do not wish to pursue your singing aspirations further, enjoy the memories and friendships that you earned throughout the competition. I wish each and every one of you success in your future undertakings.

Anugerah 2009 Episode 6 Review…

Anugerah

(Photo courtesy of Mediacorp Suria)

I’m back again with another review. Throughout the night sitting in the Mediacorp TV Theatre, I was racking my brains trying to find words to describe the show as a whole. And it dawned on me that this entry is not gonna be so lengthy as previous ones, cos I believe a lot has been said in the past, and to repeat some of the points will only make me sound like a broken record. It was interesting to see if the female contestants last night would maintain their high standards a fortnight ago or would they raise the stakes even higher or fall a notch lower due to pressure of the competition.

Anyway, it’s nice to see that there are a few blogs or sites giving their opinions on Anugerah 2009 and its contestants with every episode. I’ve always maintained that all these sites add colour with their different perspectives and approach. Though our opinions might defer, I believe all of us complement each other and I see no form of competition, in the form of ratings or popularity. This is how media should be like. Where one is perceived to lack or come up as short, and I agree my domain has its own shortcomings, the other adds a different value or dimension with their strengths. Respect and salutations are in order to all.

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Last night, Indra Shahrir reprised his role as last week’s guest judge along with the three resident judges. Like the previous week also, the theme for tonight was “Ikon“, of the Singaporean female version. The female contestants paid tribute to two of our living legends, Anita Sarawak and Rahimah Rahim, singing some of the hits that made these respectable divas household names even to this day. Most definitely and as cliche as it may sound, the challenge on the girls last night was to improve from the last round and prove that it was no flash in the pan. The following are the voting formats for the female contestants:

  • SMS to 73388: ANU Contestant Code
  • Telepoll: 1900-112-770_ (Last digit being contestant’s number)

Each vote via SMS or Telepoll costs $0.60 each and those with prepaid cards are not able to cast your votes. Voters who are 18 years and below should seek parental permission. This service is brought to you by MediaCorp Pte Ltd. Tel: 6877 7132.

Voting for contestants appearing in Episode 6 began on Tuesday7 July 2009, 8.30pm till Tuesday, 14 July 2009, 6pm. These are the following codes you should vote for this week, along with my individual reviews of their performances:

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HAFIZAH NASER

SMS to 73388: ANU 1 or by Telepoll: 1900-112-7701

The “Queen of Wigs” or the judges’ “Cili Padi” was given the honour to open the round this time. I had half expected Kunjung to be singing Anita Sarawak‘s “Seksis“, but the impetus was instead taken up by Hafizah to kick start the show. While the energy was good, her vocals did not match her power in showmanship and her nimbleness in dancing. It was another spunky performance as we know that Hafizah is capable of, but it came up short as she was chasing the tempo in certain parts of the song, resulting in her being breathless and at times, flat.

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SARAH AQILAH

SMS to 73388: ANU 2 or by Telepoll: 1900-112-7702

After the highs of the previous round, Sarah Aqilah had earned the tag of “Power Balladeer” by the judges and she followed that up with an almost consistent performance singing Anita Sarawak‘s “Bawalah Daku Pergi“. I used the words “almost consistent” because she sounded a bit suspect on the lower registers, maybe due to jitters, but she was simply perfect on the higher notes. Just that her performance last night did not radiate the same aura that she exuded two weeks ago. I agreed with the judges that she was too comfortable for her own good and needs to diversify to show her versatility.

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CATTY

SMS to 73388: ANU 3 or by Telepoll: 1900-112-7703

Catty should be applauded for heeding the advice of the judges to try singing a song of a more upbeat tempo. She was commendably good as we know what her vocals are made of, but she was a bit hesitant to go all out with the dance moves, perhaps mindful of her vocals going off. Looking at Catty last night actually reminded me of watching Liza Hanim. There was just something about Catty, I dunno if it was the outfit, the moves, the facial expressions, the vocals or even the performance as a whole, which reminded me of the vocal powerhouse from Klang. But Catty should learn to enjoy the performance and not come off as tensed, cos that’s what she was tonight and it showed in her glum expressions at certain points.

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NORA

SMS to 73388: ANU 4 or by Telepoll: 1900-112-7704

Nora continues to impress weekly and I for one am astounded that her vocal techniques seem to improve as she progresses. Like a graphical indicator on a chart that continues to rise.  Ann Hussein told her to open up and express herself more. I dunno how singing a sappy song like Anita‘s “Bisikanlah Cinta” should make her be more expressive but I do notice a certain pose which Nora is fond of doing. If Dayang Nurfaizah is fond of pointing with her index fingers whilst singing, Nora is fond of clenching her fists whilst performing on stage. That’s something which I feel could possibly be a trademark.

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NANI

SMS to 73388: ANU 5 or by Telepoll: 1900-112-7705 

During the introductory video montage prior to her performance, Nani had said that she was to sing Rahimah Rahim‘s “Jika Begini“. That recorded footage was taken last Wednesday. Somehow, there was some technical complications and she only got her confirmation on singing a different song, “Bebas“, only on Saturday. It seemed something was etched at the back of her mind as she came off a little unfocused. Watching her live and then watching the tape when I got home and considering the trouble she had to go through having lesser days to practice on the song, I’d like to think that she actually did ok, but it was patchy at best. I think moving around and having to dance in those high heels also affected her vocals somewhat.

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KUNJUNG

SMS to 73388: ANU 6 or by Telepoll: 1900-112-7706 

The star of the night by a mile. The moment I heard that the theme for tonight would pay a tribute to Anita Sarawak and Rahimah Rahim, I just knew whose song she would perform, knowing what a class act she is. And seeing that she was the last contestant, it was no surprise that she was in a position to blow away the whole competition. Like Wawan, Kunjung loves taking risks in changing the style of the song that she is supposed to sing. One thing Wawan can emulate from Kunjung is to be consistent with his vocals even when he alters a song to suit his tastes. Her rendition reminded me of Farah Asyikin‘s “Di Pangkuan Pilu“, slow on the off and then exploding halfway through. As polished as Kunjung is, again I must say, I am worried for her as I have seen on the Net people clamouring for a Singaporean to win the competition. Personally I feel people should just respect the rules and appreciate genuine talent when they see one. Music should afterall transcend borders and nationalities.

Group Performances:

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For the first group which consisted of Hafizah, Sarah Aqilah and Catty, the standout in terms of showmanship had to be given to the former for her display of exuberance performing Rahimah‘s “Gadis & Bunga“. Hafizah just packs so much energy and nimbleness in that small frame. Sarah and Catty, even though they were good vocally, somehow failed to match Hafizah‘s energy since the song called for them to be a little more outgoing. Sarah and Catty need to be braver at letting themselves go when it comes to a song of a more upbeat tempo.

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The second group??? What can I say about their performance singing Anita‘s “Antara Yang Manis“??? When you have strong vocal exponents in Nora and Kunjung in it, even Nani who was patchy earlier on, stood toe to toe with her group members in terms of showmanship, harmony and individual vocal ability. If Nani had maintained this form earlier on, who is to say she doesn’t deserve a spot in the semi-finals??? This was easily the best group performance throughout the competition so far and only enhanced Nora and Kunjung‘s reputation, while redeeming Nani‘s as well. Another thing that grabbed the attention of the people around me during the performance was Kunjung‘s posture at the end of the item.

Summary

As much as Indra Shahrir tried to neutralise the impact made by the young ladies as compared to the young men and said it was 50-50 to him, I’m sure most of us would agree that the female contestants still maintained their grip as the better performers amongst the genders. Though my hairs did not stand as in the previous round and I always use it to gauge how well I’m blown away by any performance, Kunjung came close to making me experience that in her solo segment. She is definitely in a league of her own and I hope that people would look beyond trivial barriers like nationalities to crown the champion. Remember the onus is on you to choose who is best suited to represent us in future and I don’t mean just by performing in annual Salam Lebarans.

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From the previous weeks’ group performances, there were signs that we were seeing better coordination, synergy and team work between the contestants as the weeks progressed. As harsh as most of us were with regards to their performances as a group, we should all at least try to understand that these young upstarts are no professionals. They are not even at the stage where they can say they are learning to walk. However, in terms of effort and wanting to learn, you can see that they do listen to the judges’ comments and try to apply them in their following performances.

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One thing I’m thankful enough to be given the opportunity to cover the weekly shows is for me to get to know some of the contestants and learn a bit on what they do between one show to another. And learning dance steps, being aware of formations, having to sing and even having to do little skits during their performances in the space of a few days is no easy matter. Which is why there is a difference in the way I review this season’s Anugerah as compared to the previous one, in that I’ve observed and learnt without being too critical as before.

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Next week we will learn which of the top 2 male and female contestants get a shoo-in into the semi-finals. We would also learn which of the six eliminated so far in the Top 20 would get a chance to redeem themselves in the Wildcard Round to be scheduled in a fortnight’s time and earn the last two spots in the semi-finals. Till then, keep those votes coming in for the ladies…

Be True To Yourselves…

Nowadays when I’m very much caught up with the Anugerah 2009 season, the only entry I would make would be my weekly reviews. And then I’m back to my own hibernation mode again before reappearing again the following week. From initially being a personal blog, this domain has slowly evolved into an entertainment one. Which gives you an idea why I seldom update this blog unless I really have something to talk about, review or revisit again.

I like honesty in people, the kind that they are true to themselves. It’s a trait that easily draws me closer to a person, even if honesty can sometimes bring a lot of extra baggage, which can be excruciatingly painful cos the truth would hurt. Likewise honesty draws me closer to an artiste and makes me appreciate him or her as a person and someone who strives hard in their respective crafts. As cliche as it may sound, “Honesty is the best policy“. If you are otherwise, one fine day, the beans will be spilled and perhaps there would be of no use crying over spilt milk.

Which is why I hope that up-and-coming artistes like our new batch of Anugerah contestants as well as those that are already established, would succeed without having any skeletons in the closet or deceive the fans through cunning ability spinning yarns after yarns of crap. One can put up a false front in front of the public, pull the wool over the eyes of the legions of fans, but shit catches up with the bull eventually since the latter needs to defecate afterall. In other words, one can only go so far with bullshit but life has a way of revealing dirty little secrets through time and when one least expects it.

When one is under contract, please jolly well honour it even if unhappiness creeps in, due to creative differences or any other niggly problems. The English dictionary did not give meanings to words like “negotiate”, “discuss”, “sort out” and “compromise” amongst others, to add sugar and spice nor be space fillers in its pages. In fact whatever visions and creative elements that come into play should be put forward before signing on the dotted line. If one cannot come to a decision early on, with regards to the shaping of destiny and vision, then there is no point signing on and tearing the contract up halfway down the road when feeling that the creative juices have been stifled.

Maybe one can lay claim that their visions have altered somewhere along the way or that things are not working out as it should be, but attitude, responsibility and maturity comes into play when there is a problem and facing them head-on. It is most definitely unethical announcing the words “I Quit” without first nipping things in the bud or at the very least air whatever grievances so some compromise could be exercised. By keeping quiet, others would think your wavelengths and theirs run parallel to one another. Plus one just does not walk out on a legal-binding contract thinking it’s a piece of worthless thrash. Mind you, this thrash could land a person in trouble big time and effectively kill whatever dreams they have of making it big. In any industry or working life out there, any breach of contract is liable to some form of penalty and in turn reflecting on one’s responsibility or lack thereof.

As it is our local Malay music industry is a small one, too small for one’s liking. We have different forms of media competing with one another for sales and ratings when they should be complementing with one another. Heck we only have two radio stations of which only one can proudly lay claim to playing the latest hits. The market is small, the consumers are few and most are still generally sceptical on the quality of our artistes. This is the sad fact and reality of our local Malay music industry. Such is the state of the industry, that one should not complain about not getting enough shows and promotions on a regular basis. Be aware of what is going on around us and be realistic over what is happening in our small industry. Too much exposure could be detrimental as well.

A management can only do so much in terms of promotions, interviews, photoshoots, making sure their artistes remain in the higher echelons of the popularity charts and getting shows here. If one is not confident of the market here, discuss with the management about spreading wings and flying elsewhere to try and blossom, building up a tactical strategy with their knowledge on the ground. Be humble and most definitely, be patient. Not expect instant rewards and recognition with every single composition released. Like how Rome wasn’t built in a day, do not expect money to fall from trees with the snap of the fingers. Some take months to succeed, others years while the rest ended up switching careers. There should be a lot of realistic thinking and homework done before diving in.

In any industry or working environment, no management would want their artistes to crash and burn. Neither would they want to milk their subordinates for all they are worth and run away with the loot cos they know they will have to face the legal music if it happens. All decent management out there would want their artistes to succeed and create a name for themselves after much investment. Wouldn’t it reflect badly on their reputation and stand as well if things were to go awry??? Whatever plans the management have, it is definitely done with calculated measures, especially if the management has years of experience in the industry to know what they are doing. Everyone wants to make money but most of them think money can drop from the sky anytime.

If one has 2000-odd members signing up to be a fan in the respective fan pages, do not expect all 2000-odd to come to every show and performance. Do not complain quietly that you only see the same 20-odd faces at every show. Why Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza is a shining beacon to follow is that she never says a bad thing about her loyal legion of fans. The entertainment line is a business, an intricate one but normally not that difficult to understand. Be thankful the same set of followers are still willing to support, scream your name, buy you gifts even, every time you go up on stage. Not everyone is free or have the means to follow their favourite artistes around all the time. Likewise not everyone who clicks to be a fan is a genuine one. Most click on them out of invitational courtesy, some to increase their network, while others just thinks it’s cool to be associated with an artiste. The day the genuine and loyal fans ditch their favourite artistes, would be the saddest day of their lives cos their worth has just become less.

Be thankful that there will always be an ever caring and protective arm around your shoulder, shielding you away from any possible backlash from your own fans or the community, when the paparazzis come a-calling, catching you in the act with your pants down. Cos too many of our local acts think they can get away with misdemeanours done mostly with the opposite sex or through various forms of intoxications. We are afterall, living in a society that is still conservative and sensitive. Being in the public eye, one should know better than to do things that could jeopardise their growing reputation as an established brand in the industry.

This entry, even though it looks as though I’m dissing someone or some people, it has to be said that it is also a reminder I want to share with all local artistes out there because I want to see our small industry succeed, without having to go through nasty episodes, which would eventually lead to a lot of unhappiness and ostracising. Everything that is to be done should be from the heart, laced with integrity and filled with unbridled honesty. That’s how one achieves blessed sustenance in any work or endeavour that we put our will into. I am very sure that most of our local acts are true to themselves and honest in their approach to their craft. For that, I will always continue to support our industry, no matter how much we seem to lack in several areas of professionalism.

Anugerah 2009 Episode 5 Review…

Anugerah

(Photo courtesy of Anugerah 2009’s Official Website)

Finally I get the chance to review the previous day’s episode. Apologies if some of you had entered this domain only to find that I have not updated it with my thought’s on the programme. Before I move on, I would just like to take this opportunity to apologise to the people around me on Tuesday night for not switching off my handphone, cos I totally forgot that it was not on silent mode. It was a bit embarrassing really, especially when you’re seated at the front row. I’ll make sure the same thing won’t happen again the next time.

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The show continued its ode to Singaporean artistes by honouring the likes of Ramli Sarip, Jatt Ali and Othman Hamzah in the “Ikon” theme set for this week and the next, when the young ladies take centrestage again. I think one of the positive aspects of this year’s reality show is that there is that push to include more local songs into the mix and for that I applaud Mediacorp Suria for taking such a stand. By honouring these evergreen songs in these two weeks, it gives the younger generation the opportunity to learn what their parents had listened to back in their heydays.

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The resident jury of Eddy Ali, Ann Hussein and Gani Karim were joined by guest judge Indra Sharir, no stranger at all to our local music scene. I like his commenting style, meticulous and rather serious. Whenever he commented, it felt as though you could hear a pin drop. Such was the silent intensity the auditorium felt whenever he opened his mouth to speak. Surprisingly so far, I have nothing gravely negative to comment about judge Eddy Ali as in years past, cos I tend to agree with most of his comments on the contestants.

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I think the only complaint, or plea for that matter, that I want to make, cos I know they are gonna read this, is for the contestants to inform their sets of supporters to be more cultured when they are in the auditorium. I saw a great improvement from the last time the male contestants took centrestage, whereby their rowdy and boisterous supporters could not keep their mouths shut even when the hosts were talking or when the judges were giving their opinions.

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Yesterday, we did not experience any wisecracks or unwanted comments from them. However, one incident left a sour taste in the mouth. During one of the transmission breaks, some of the female contestants made their way to the washrooms. Some of these heavily-induced testosterone jerks took the opportunity to race down from their seats to the walking gallery and screamed the girls’ names right in front of their faces. Such gentlemanly act, don’t you think??? Idiots!!!

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The ones who qualified to the next round…

The first quarter of the show however had the spotlights on the young ladies who performed last week. It was one that I think most people dreaded to know, me included, cos all of them were great last week and set the bar for the whole competition. I’m sure it would be gut wrenching for the two eliminated cos they certainly do not deserve to go out. But a competition no matter how intense or mild it is, is still a competition. And results sometimes are too ruthless to digest. C’est la vie mademoiselles!!!

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Yanie looked forlorn even before the results were announced…

The first to be eliminated was Yanie. I wasn’t too pleased about it, neither was Ms. Manager who was seated to my right covering for Gumbira.com, cos both of us like Yanie‘s tone and uniqueness in bringing a song in her own original style. However, at the same time, I wasn’t too surprised since the judges did not give her good reviews last week, particularly Ann Hussein, who seemed as though she had an axe to grind with Yanie, if you had watched last week’s episode.

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Asila too looked grim…

As for Asila, when it came down to her or Kunjung, it was no surprise that she would go, since the judges were so into the latter’s performance last week. Also, even though I said Asila did well last week, on hindsight when I watched the repeat telecast last Friday night, she did come across as pitchy in quite a few areas so in that respect it was inevitable. Coupled with the fact that both Asila and Yanie were in the bottom two (consolidated rankings based on judges’ scores and sms votes) when they performed in Episode 1, it was hardly surprising that fanbase also played a part in their elimination.

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Nani was all smiles knowing she emerged first in the rankings…

Before I delve into the gentlemen’s performances, the following are the voting formats for the contestants:

  • SMS to 73388: ANU Contestant Code
  • Telepoll: 1900-112-770_ (Last digit being contestant’s number)

Each vote via SMS or Telepoll costs $0.60 each and those with prepaid cards are not able to cast your votes. Voters who are 18 years and below should seek parental permission. This service is brought to you by MediaCorp Pte Ltd. Tel: 6877 7132.

Voting for contestants appearing in Episode 5 began on Tuesday, 30 June 2009, 8.30pm till Tuesday, 7 July 2009, 6pm. These are the following codes you should vote for this week, along with my individual reviews of their performances:

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Azhar Raz

SMS to 73388: ANU 1 or by Telepoll: 1900-112-7701

Azhar sang Black Dog Bone‘s “Andai” in his own style, which at times reminded me of Anugerah 2001 winner Rudy Djoharnaen, in the way he expressed his emotions while singing the song. Week in and out, Azhar never fails to impress with his immaculate voice control. He has an extremely polished technique that I would definitely loathe not to see him grace the Grand Finals on 11th August 2009. His downside is perhaps his looks, which could be a major factor when it comes to voting by viewers out there who I could see are more into Hydir and Sein. Like Catty, he needs to sing a song of faster tempo to challenge his vocals and performances. Ballads are becoming chicken feed for him.

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Kamsani Jumahat

SMS to 73388: ANU 2 or by Telepoll: 1900-112-7702

During the start of the show when they did the initial introductions on the contestants, there was only one person I was reminded of when I looked at Sani. Yes people, his whole get up reminded me of the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson. The late singer’s wardrobe used to have similar-styled outfits like what Sani wore last night. But if his performance and dance moves to Othman Hamzah‘s “Gadis Melayu” were anything to go by, I am still seeing Hyrul Anuar in Sani, but slightly more hyper. Sani did well to conquer the whole stage, his last performance where the judges commented on him not doing that, was definitely taken to consideration and applied. Though I liked the prancing around and crowd interaction, his vocals suffered as he was left breathless and found wanting. It doesn’t help that at certain points, most notable when he had to reach the high notes, his nasal voice was clear for all to hear.

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Chirul

SMS to 73388: ANU 3 or by Telepoll: 1900-112-7703

Chirul was at best, mediocre in the last round, and it was there for all to see with his lacklustre showing, which did not do justice to Fauzie Laily‘s “Selalu“. But he was a different creature last night, a more confident and cool performance which I know he is capable of. However, it was slightly spoilt when he played to the crowd by breaking into a short dance move ala Taufik Batisah after singing the first few lines. A song like Ramli Sarip‘s “Bukan Kerna Nama” should be more melancholic, but not too stoic. He needs to inject a little bit of seriousness to the kind of songs he sings in future if he wants people to take him seriously. While he did much better than the previous round, he still fell slightly short and sounded too casual at certain points.

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Wawan

SMS to 73388: ANU 4 or by Telepoll: 1900-112-7704

By now, rearranging the songs that he is supposed to sing has become a regular fixture in his repertoire. There are two ways to look at this trait in Wawan. First off, he will be a decent composer in time to come when he has all the time to compose songs. But right now, he has to remember that his vocals are under scrutiny. If in future he composes his own song to his tastes, then so be it. But when he sings somebody else’s compositions, he has to follow the standards set by the original composer, even if he rearranged it to his style and is required to sound more original than the original. He came off a wee bit short on the lower registers. I cannot fault him on the high notes though, as well as the intense facial expressions when singing Jatt‘s “Merpati Putih“, cos he put an incredible amount of emotions into the song.

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Hydir

SMS to 73388: ANU 5 or by Telepoll: 1900-112-7705

The crowd favourite sang Sweet Charity‘s “Teratai” with so much intensity on his face, that I felt at times he seemed to be overdoing it. Even when the judges were speaking to him, he had with him a mixture of confused, “blur” and surprised look, the kind which is becoming a source of irritation for yours truly watching him weekly. Hey, I don’t deny the fact that amongst all the guys, he has the most promise, potential and marketing ability to win this competition, but he would do well to tone it down lest others might think that he’s acting cute, when he already is to the swooning young ladies out there. His vocals I felt were on par as the previous round, a surprise really to hear the judges saying he fell a notch lower this time. He is another one who needs to challenge himself by singing a song of a more upbeat tempo to show his versatility.

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Sein

SMS to 73388: ANU 6 or by Telepoll: 1900-112-7706

Being the last one standing amongst the veterans of this competition, I expected more from Sein, because he impressed me the most in the audition rounds amongst the likes of Ize, Izam and Harman. Right now, he is playing with fire and I for one am thinking he is being extremely gullible to the fact that he has only his looks to bank on and his fans to save him from elimination. Bearing in mind only the top two will progress to the semi-final rounds, he needs a very strong fan support to help him progress cos I’m very sure the judges were not at all pleased with his performance. Other than forgetting his lyrics and doing the unnecessary moves towards the end of singing Sweet Charity‘s “Zakiah” (which was sung in the same arrangement as Jinbara‘s version), there was nothing outstanding about Sein‘s performance other than the word “Elimination” staring right back at him. In such a critical stage like this, the small mistakes are magnified, especially when the rest have set a certain amount of standard to follow.

Group Performance:

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Group 1 consisting of Azhar, Kamsani and Chirul sang Black Dog Bone‘s “Anekaragam“. Their performance showed how they were enjoying themselves on stage. Azhar impressed as usual with his vocals, Chirul with his theatrics and Sani with his dance moves. Harmony-wise I thought they were better than the second group. Watching the three of them reminded me of P. Ramlee, S. Samsudin and Aziz Sattar in Bujang Lapok. They had the crowd in stitches with their antics.

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Wawan, Hydir and Sein in Group 2 sang Sweet Charity‘s “Jangan Lama-Lama“. Surprisingly, Sein was a standout, atoning his previous debacle in the solo segment. He should have been at this level much earlier. Hydir was the most hyper of the three while Wawan was finding it difficult to keep up with his colleagues both in steps and vocals. Harmony was patchy at best with Sein‘s voice the one that I could hear because he was the one with the highest key of the three. Not a good gauge of their performance as a whole in my opinion.

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After the euphoria and hair-raising experience I felt last week with the female contestants, this week’s episode left me somewhat a notch disappointed even though I know the difference in standards between the guys and the ladies is a bit too glaring and should not be compared. So far, only Azhar and Hydir have shown us that they are capable of carrying the flag for the males, but the rest need to buck up a hell lot if they want to progress further. Something new happened in this episode and with the number of contestants dwindling down to just six, they were given the opportunity to speak to the audience prior to singing. Which is good, cos it would give them a good grounding when they appear in public in future to interact with the audience.

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The ladies finalising their songs for next week…

Also, after a month of watching them performing in groups, I tend to agree with my friend IzaRR from Izone.sg that the segment seems to be more a filler and source of entertainment, rather than being in a competition. Cos to repeat what he had pointed out in his own Anugerah 2009 review, most of the performances so far have been amateurish, with little teamwork and harmony, with everyone vying to be the most dominant voice, perhaps to impress the judges and voters at home. Perhaps retaining just the solo segments with the contestants singing the whole song, would give us a fairer amount of opportunity to judge their respective potential cos afterall Suria is gonna crown a solo winner and not a boyband or girlgroup.

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Thank you all once again for the beautifully recorded piece…

It was a pleasure meeting the contestants after the show ended and I really felt honoured for the fact that they were all game enough to record that short clip I put up in the previous entry, even though it was clear on their faces that they had had a long day. For that I thank them and to Netty for helping me initiate the gesture. Also to Zuraidah for being a very gracious host. Till the next week…