Thank God for the long holiday weekend that I am able to post this up much earlier than usual. This past Tuesday 24 January 2017, saw the debut of another eight contestants of the new season of Anugerah, this time under the banner of Group B. Continuing from the previous week where the contestants sang a song of their own personal choice, the eight contestants had the opportunity to upstage their Group A counterparts, having had an extra week to prepare and study their performances during the first episode. Looking at the make-up of the eight contestants this week, there are several who have had experiences performing in various competitions before this and even before listening to them, I more or less expected them to progress, bar any hiccups via the SMS votes by the audience in the studio or at home. So without further ado, let’s start off with the first contestant.
Elza Rahim kicked off the night’s competition by singing Wany Hasrita‘s “Menahan Rindu“. Truth be told, I have not heard this song being played on our local airwaves before and had to rely on a friend to inform me on the identity of the original singer and listened to it again afterwards. But the first time I watched Elza‘s performance at the studio, I noted that she has a very rich and classical tone of voice. However that tone and style of singing also tend to sound like a certain top notch Dato’ across the Causeway. Elza has to be mindful not to sound like Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza, as many singers before her who tended to go this route, ended up being forgotten as quickly as they appeared. She already has a nice voice to begin with, she should hone it in such a way that she does not become another clone or copycat. A very composed performance which was slightly let down by one part where she went flat. Though I thought it was a decent start to the night, I also agreed with judges Taufik Batisah and Indra Shahrir that it was at best, an average performance, with Elza being more in her comfort zone.
Zul Nor should be applauded for his bravery in singing Sufi Rashid‘s “Kisah Dua Muka“, a song which is not easy to sing to begin with. However that is as far as I can go to rate his performance. It was a bit too dramatic for my liking with all his hand gestures and movements, it felt more like watching a musical theatre performance than an actual singing one. I thought I was alone in thinking he was trying too much to channel Sufi‘s style of singing into his performance, but this was also brought up by judge Indra, who noted that he was seeing two different personalities in the song, one of Zul Nor and the other being Sufi‘s. Najip Ali also brought up a pertinent point in that a song of such varying dynamics should also have a certain softness injected into it. Upon reflection and watching the performance again, I realised that Zul Nor pressed more on the intense and rage associated with the song.
I last watched Syakirah Noble performed live at the launch of Fiza O’s Ritabella collection five years ago at Joo Chiat Complex. She was only 12 then but it was easy to see that this girl, with the right attitude, practice and application, can go far. She is one of those I had mentioned earlier who loves to enter singing competitions and I am glad to see that she has made it this far. Syakirah sang Agnes Monica‘s “Rindu“, another tough song to sing with all the varying notes and the challenging high ones. I was afraid she might buckle under pressure, but there was nothing of that sort, as she gave an accomplished performance, which bothered a bit on overconfidence and this was cautioned by Najip Ali. Personally I felt it was a bit too much of Agnes Monica‘s soul and style being put into the song. I wanted to see more of Syakirah‘s. I think this is where she can work on, to infuse her own identity into the songs she sings. Take nothing away however, I had goosebumps listening to her, my personal indicator on how much I loved her performance.
Other than knowing Raja Zul‘s background as quite the model student in school, being in the Top 5-10% cohort, I did not know that this relative from my missus’ side, actually has a talent for singing and playing the guitar. When I chatted with him after the first episode ended, he said that he was going to perform Jaz Hayat‘s “Dari Mata” in his own style and adding new lyrics of his own into the song. I thought then that it was a good, yet risky move since he said he wanted to portray his personality to the audience. While I cannot fault his showmanship on Tuesday night, his singing was everywhere. He sounded quite nervous and pitchy at the start and there were times during the short pauses in the song where he could be seen strategically catching his breath. The judges loved his falsetto though and like Najip, I too liked that he chose a song which was concurrent with the times, even if Taufik had said the song was not quite suited for a competition.
Abby Nabila is another one who has had experience in a reality competition, and hers has been a very fruitful one when she entered the first season of Indonesia‘s reality Dangdut singing competition D’Academy Asia in late 2015, under the stage name Abby Tinara. Even though she was eliminated early, her learning experience and rubbing shoulders with some very good performers as well getting valuable mentorship, put her in good stead on how to be an accomplished performer and own the stage. So it was no surprise that Abby put in a performance befitting of her experience on Tuesday night, challenging herself to sing a male song, Hazama‘s “Ku Relakan Jiwa“. Her performance, like Zul Nor‘s, was filled with theatrics and hand gestures, but hers felt like they had more of an impact because she knew which parts were suitable to include them. Off-stage, she is quite the bubbly personality, just that sometimes she needs to curb her exuberance and dramatics, so as not to rub others the wrong way. Someone with her personality, you will either love her or feel she’s overacting. In a reality competition where viewers votes matter as well, it would be best to find that middle ground to win over the doubters or haters.
I think even without saying it here, if you had watched both episodes of Anugerah since its return on our television screens, or if you had caught the clips via the Mediacorp Suria Facebook page, you will agree with me that Nor Shafiq is the best male contestant so far with his soulful voice and measured performance. I could not detect a single flaw when I watched him sang Hafiz Suip‘s “Ku Akui” live, but when I watched his performance again, there was one minor part when he went slightly off as he was hitting the high notes. But it did not matter much. Shafiq immediately installed himself as one of the favourites in this competition with that performance, another one that made my hairs stood. 376 shares of his performance clip on Facebook to date, is a good indicator that he has made his presence felt.
Nadia Nadhirah was up next with her own rendition of Dayang Nurfaizah‘s “Di Pintu Syurga“. For someone who is majoring in music at LaSalle College of the Arts, her standard of performance was to be expected as it comes with the territory and expectation. Just like how I was expecting last year’s Anugerah Skrin winner, Syaiful Ariffin, a theatre undergraduate then, to perform much better than his competition rivals. Though I would not categorise her performance amongst the Top 3 on Tuesday night, there is a certain strength in Nadia‘s voice that sets her apart from the rest. Not many can sing low notes in measured degrees and in control without going flat. However she did give away her uncertainty at various points sounding as though she was unsure how to end off her lines. I also felt the performance was empty and lacking emotions needed for a song of this magnitude. I remember how much it moved others when the original singer herself performed this song at Anugerah Juara Lagu two years ago. The judges might have said they loved it, but I did not quite like it.
Sharizal Suwandi rounded off the night with The Sally‘s “Jauh“. For some reason only known to the audience, the whole studio erupted and were in raptures when he came onstage. It felt as though he had everyone on his side, even though the audience was also made up of supporters of the other seven contestants. There was a certain unexplained appeal and likeability factor about the oldest contestant in the competition. However he needs to translate that into a performance worthy of the support he was given in the coming weeks ahead. His performance was at best, average, flat and pitchy in many parts, but one thing I cannot fault was the feel-good factor he gave everyone who watched him in the studio. Even his fellow contestants were seen swaying and clapping along to his singing. But feel-good factors usually do not last long and as the competition wilts down, standards and expectations are raised even higher. He was placed at eighth position right after his performance had ended and I felt it was a fair position.
A dejected-looking Raja Zul smiled as the reality of his elimination sunk in…
However, there was a twist right after the final commercial break, as upon doing their final consultations and counsel with one another, the judges decided to play musical chairs once again and switched the positions of Raja Zul and Sharizal. I dunno if the judges “feared” the possibility of the audience baying for their blood had they eliminated Sharizal, but it certainly felt that way. No I am saying this not because of my relation ties with Raja Zul, but I initially agreed that their original positions were more than justified according to the performances they gave and in comparison with all the other contestants that night. Maybe the judges also took into account the support that Sharizal had and how he connected with the audience, which was probably why they decided to give him a second chance to prove himself the next time out. If I was the judge for the night, I would have had Abby Nabila at second position, followed by Syakirah Noble, Elza Rahim, Nadia Nadhirah, Zul Nor, Raja Zul and Sharizal Suwandi as my final ranking positions.
Zul Nor became the fourth contestant in total to be eliminated from the competition…
As for the second elimination of the night by virtue of the least number of votes, Zul Nor who was ranked sixth by the judges, was the one who made way and exited the competition. What struck me the most when his name was announced and just before he made his way off the stage, was his polite unwillingness to shake the hands of his fellow female counterparts and kept his arms to his chest and bowed at them. A rare sight in the entertainment scene that earned him my respect. Was his elimination to be expected??? I would say yes and no. Yes because it was a toss-up between him, Raja Zul and Sharizal had it been solely the judges’ decision to eliminate two out of three. No, because throughout the night we were informed from time to time that Abby Nabila, Syakirah Noble and Raja Zul had the least number of votes, so it could have been just about anyone who could have been eliminated in that respect.
The six who progressed from Group B (from left): Sharizal Suwandi, Syakirah Noble, Elza Rahim, Abby Nabila, Nadia Nadhirah and Nor Shafiq…
So far even with an equal amount of gender elimination on the opening first two weeks, I observed that the female contestants are technically more astute than their male counterparts and will not be surprised if eventually there will be a lop-sidedness to the competition, much like the last one in 2011. This coming Tuesday 31st January 2017 sees the return of Group A on our television screens. We were told before the night ended that the coming fortnight’s theme for both groups would be the Rock genre. This would be right up the alleys of the likes of Hakim Halim and Abby Nabila, who have shown that they are able to carry the genre, even if a lot can still be improved in terms of their delivery, execution, style and showmanship. Who knows, others might just up their game and prove that they are also no pushovers??? We shall see when Anugerah returns on our television screens this Tuesday at 8:30pm…