I did not realise how fast the weeks have gone by till I looked at the number of episodes this series has gone on. Take away the first two which was televised on the same night, and we would have had seven weeks of competition already. Last Tuesday night, the Top 6 semi-finalists continued their respective journeys in this competition to see who amongst them, would be clinching the three final slots come 28th June 2011. With some of the apparently more deserving ones already eliminated, it was up to the remaining six to prove that they were worthy of their spots in this round. This week, the contestants were required to sing whilst being accompanied by the strains from the piano played by Syawal Kassim, who is also the husband of local singer Norazela Rosli. Not only that, they had to sing as a duet pairing in the last quarter of the show and having to face the panel of media representatives in a separate recorded session last Friday as their designated challenge for the week.
I did point out the fact that they had more or less lent some credibility to their current standings in my last entry on last Saturday‘s Anugerah 2011 Roadshow at Nex Shopping Mall, but that was in a relaxed and non-competitive setting. As such all gloves came off and what I observed were performances which had the contestants smiling instead of looking tensed. This past Tuesday night, it was up to them to prove why they deserved to be on stage with all the pressures and expectations weighing down on their shoulders once again. One thing has to be said, they certainly looked more refined, more presentable, a bit more matured and outstanding in physical appearances after going through an image makeover over the past week, as shown from the video montage at the beginning of the show.
Shikin – She was first off with Agnes Monica‘s “Teruskanlah“. I thought Shikin did not do much wrong other than the fact that she shut her eyes a bit too much for my liking and that she could have expressed more through her gestures and facial expressions. Her voice control was impeccable but it lacked feel. The gentleman seated to my left had his hairs standing listening to her, but I did not experience that for the fact that I did not feel her soul in it. Judge Eddy Ali was right, she could and should have done better as we all know she is capable of.
Ace – The wife had remarked earlier that Ace‘s voice is suited to sing a Jamal Abdillah song and she was proven right when he performed “Seroja“, which Jamal had covered in recent years and gave the song a fresh outlook. Ace also gave, what I felt was his best performance throughout the competition. He made the song his own by delivering it with his own style, even if one can detect his tendency to sound like a Tok Juara in a Dikir Barat performance. But alas, just like Shikin, he did not inject a bit more emotions to go along with his vocal execution. That would have been absolutely perfect.
Erlina – She was another one who sang an Agnes Monica song, “Matahariku“. I was not entirely impressed with her performance as she was pitchy almost throughout. The transition into the chorus was also not smooth as I could detect her going slightly off-key. This performance showed that Erlina‘s high notes are very much suspect as what I had feared all along, when she attempted songs of such nature and I had commented how I feared for her voice breaking in my previous entries. She took the easy route this time and did not hit the high notes towards the end of the song, opting instead to keep it low. Not good enough at this stage of the competition.
Baby Sulastri – I felt this week’s theme was chicken feed for a power balladeer like her. And I was proven right when she sailed through seamlessly, giving an excellent performance in delivery and control. Add a bit of emotions and what we got was another flawless performance to erase the memory of last week’s debacle, at least from my own personal perspective. Just that when Baby Sulastri sang Filianti Vlee‘s “Bila Cinta“, taken off the Lagenda Budak Setan official soundtrack, and when she knelt down, memories of Sarah Aqilah‘s dramatic performance singing Rossa‘s “Hati Yang Kau Sakiti” in the Grand Finals in 2009, flashed across my head. A bit of originality could have been better.
Epul – I can’t help but agree with host Huda Ali (from our conversation afterwards) that Epul looks more suave after he went for his makeover. How I wish I could say that his performance, singing Republik‘s “Hanya Ingin Kau Tahu” was equally suave but it was not. He looked as though he was in a daze, his voice tone was monotonous, and when he was about to break into chorus, he was caught out sounding flat. But to cut him some slack, the second half of his performance was much better and what I felt was an example of how to put one’s emotions into a song. I heard he shed a tear as well though I could not see it from where I sat.
Rahayu Ridwan – I feel that as the weeks go by, Rahayu seems to slowly gain in confidence and more focus in portraying her emotions. Singing Kris Dayanti‘s “Aku Wanita Biasa“, the song has its up and down moments which I felt Rahayu did not quite exploit to its fullest. Her low notes are still suspect and her voice during the chorus gave away her feeling of nervousness. But I have to say that her singing style, especially when she pronounces the letter “S“, reminds me of Indonesian singers. She can sing as was pointed out by judge Sheikh Haikel, but at this stage of the competition, a lot more is expected from each contestant and she should be pushing herself more to sing even more challenging songs. I personally felt the song was a bit too comfortable for her.
Shikin & Ace: The song that they were supposed to sing, Iskandar Ismail & Eka Mairina‘s “Cinta Abadi“, required them to harmonise and strike the perfect balance when they hit the high notes. Definitely not an easy task given the original singers are vocal powerhouses. But I thought they did alright vocal-wise, not to the level of the original singers, but sufficient enough to do justice to the song. My only grouse was their lack of chemistry together, they should have brought out the essence of the song even more by singing closer to each other, look into the others’ eyes a bit longer etc. I am still wondering what the surprise was when they mentioned in the video montage prior to their performance as obviously I did not see any.
Erlina & Baby Sulastri: Continuing where she left off, Baby Sulastri was a picture of confidence and in this performance singing Kris Dayanti and Melly Goeslaw‘s “Cinta“, it definitely showed. Erlina on the other hand improved on her earlier performance which brings me to say, this girl is more at ease performing if another person is by her side or if she performs in a group. As the judges had pointed out, they had it easy without the need to harmonise till the very end. I still feel very much uncomfortable watching Baby Sulastri speak to the cameras as proven by the video montage before their performance. While her singing is flawless, there is a lot that she needs to work on in terms of her oratorical skills and the way she speaks cos it does come across as fake. One just needs to remember how she fared during the hosting segment a few weeks ago to get a good gauge. However, time is on her side for her to brush up on her shortcomings.
Epul & Rahayu Ridwan: Epul seemed more composed this time as compared to his earlier performance and this confidence rubbed on his duet partner Rahayu. A much better chemistry displayed between the two as compared to the first pairing of Ace and Shikin, though I still feel they stood quite far from one another at the start of Raffi Ahmad & Ayushita‘s “Jangan Bilang Tidak“. I understood where judge Sheikh Haikel was coming from when he said he was giving the higher marks to Epul as he allowed his partner be the standout voice during the chorus. Rahayu again showed her discomfort at the low notes and I wonder if this could set her back in the long run cos so far she has shown this consistency throughout the competition. A note of caution to Epul who said he has not heard of this song before during the video montage and to all contestants. Start tuning in to your local Malay radio stations to know what are the latest songs being aired. You are afterall aiming to achieve something in the industry. You need to do your homework and not come across as ignorant.
Media Challenge Comments
I will not discuss the media challenge at length as I was not there to witness the interview session between the contestants and the media panel which was made up of Mr. Hassan Salleh, Senior Programme Director for RIA 89.7FM, Ms. Hanim Mohd Saleh, Entertainment Correspondent for Berita Harian, Ms. Ruslina Affandi, Head Editor of Manja Magazine and Mr. Daud Yusof, Producer / Presenter & Broadcast Journalist with Mediacorp News. I will just recap what Mr. Hassan Salleh had said that night when he appeared in the last five to ten minutes of the show summarising what the judging panel had on each individual contestant.
Shikin – The judging panel unanimously agreed that she was the best during the interview session. Her answers were matured and they had a lot of substance. Her words were also well-crafted. Certainly her day job as a nurse, communicating with different types of people paid off, in terms of her interacting skills.
Ace – He was a picture of calmness, confident and also had substance in his replies. But he was cautioned for being a bit too direct and insensitive with his replies and to mind his answers in future, so as not to hurt himself and others.
Erlina – She admitted to being shy and showed that quality during the session. However, Mr. Hassan encouraged her to come out from her shell as she is afterall a singer who performs in front of a wide audience. As such, she needs to shed her inhibitions and open up a bit more.
Baby Sulastri – Her experience as a child talent in the past, more or less helped her to open up during the session. However she was told that she was too honest with some of the things she said and this could backfire on her in the long run. She needs to be more calculative and think of any possible repercussions or backlash that might befall on her through her honesty.
Epul – He came across as quite a relaxed person, too relaxed for the panel’s liking. He needs to be mindful not to fall into the trap of not being taken seriously by the media and ultimately the fans in his quest to achieve stardom or standing in the industry.
Rahayu Ridwan – The judging panel felt at ease talking to her, giving them a sense of tranquility, to the point that they likened her to Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza when she first came into the music scene, but the difference between Rahayu and Dato’ Siti was, the former is too long-winded in some of her replies and needs to cut down on that.
Like the previous week, I do not have much to say except that to the watching audience at the TV Theatre, I hope you guys have some decency and decorum when attending the live recording of the show. No matter how much you disagree with some of the comments made by the judges, you do not have to voice your displeasure in the middle of their comments. It’s plain and downright rude. Yes, I am referring to some of Ace‘s supporters who cut off Ann Hussein twice when she commented on his solo performance. It’s a pity that for such a good and I must say, a humble contestant, his supporters left much to be desired. The same can also be said with Erlina‘s group of supporters who have been quite boisterous on an almost weekly basis. Please do not jeopardise your respective favourites’ reputation by your unruly, uncouth and uncivilised behaviour. It does not reflect well on your personality, what more your upbringing.
And so the voting public have until 6pm on 14 June 2011 to vote for their favourite contestants. For the sake of the competition, I really do hope the three deserving ones get to grace the Grand Finals on 28th June 2011. Again I have to say I have no particular favourites though some might speculate I like so-and-so, but I do hope the ones who performed well or have been doing so on a regular basis, would progress as we do not want our local industry to be a laughing stock when we compare it with our regional counterparts. This programme has produced Anugerah Planet Muzik nominees as well as an AnugeraHitz.SG winner in Sarah Aqilah. The level of quality produced should be maintained and the contestants who would go on to create a career out of this path must also sustain that level and improve as they go along. For more information on how to vote, do drop by Anugerah’s Official Facebook page.