Where should I begin with this entry??? A lot has been said and observed on social media the past few days with regards to this past week’s Anugerah 2017 episode featuring the Group A contestants. I had wanted to post this a day or two after the episode was aired, but it felt like it was going to be a knee-jerk reaction to all the negative comments I saw in the aftermath of Hakim Halim and Azhar Aziz‘s respective eliminations from the competition. From Twitter to Facebook, you could see the uproar and vile words being thrown towards Mediacorp Suria for letting them be ousted over other more deserving contestants. Before I continue further, let’s just recap the performances of each contestant and how they fared on the night where the theme was of the Rock genre.
The night began with Azhar Aziz performing Akim & The Majistrate‘s “Mewangi“. From watching some of his past performances on social media, I noted that Rock is not one of Azhar‘s forte and it showed in this performance. This fact was also brought up by music arranger and mentor Syawal Kassim in the preceding video clip before his performance and echoed by judge Indra Shahrir afterwards. His low notes were a bit suspect and his voice came close to cracking after he had screamed his lungs out at the point where he was supposed to hit the highest part of the song. However, where he lacked in feel and emotions, he made up for it in determination and gumption. He was initially placed at number two, but I would have preferred to put him at number three. No doubt he has the package – the looks, height, voice and quite the well-mannered boy, but the genre didn’t do justice to his strengths. Still it was an admirable performance and he answered the challenge as best he could.
I found the way Mohammad Shahfiq entered the stage area and strutting slowly like that of an old man a bit queer for a young guy. Not sure if it was him getting into the mood of the song or just following the opening beats. When he sang Lovehunters‘ “Sambutlah Kasih“, I observed there were two phases to his performance, the first part where he went really low with his notes and was almost slightly off key before redeeming himself for the chorus and end. If I were to compare his performance and his earlier one in the first episode where he looked unsure and all at sea, this was a markedly improved and definitely more confident display from him. I would not have hesitated to put him at number two at that point of time as he showed more verve than Azhar.
The first episode’s champion, Liwani Izzati, was up next singing her own rendition of Search‘s haunting hit, “Fantasia Bulan Madu“. The day before her performance, I tuned in to their interview on RIA 89.7FM where she revealed that her version of the song was different than the one we have been used to listen to. I must say it was a risk worth taking, even though the traditionalists on social media have cried foul. Her take on the song that night if my interpretation is right, was an opera rock version, arranged by herself and her undisclosed personal vocal coach. I thought it was a breath of fresh air from the melancholic versions I’ve heard before this from other singers. Liwani though she made one glaring mistake when her voice cracked, should be applauded for willing to plunge into uncharted waters. This astute move in trying to be different sets her apart from her fellow group competitors. Though I would have ranked her second behind Shahfiq, I think overall her confidence and assured performance, complete with theatrics and drama, won the judges over, who eventually placed her at top spot once again.
Before the show I had high hopes that Hakim Halim would at least get one of the top two or three spots in the night’s competition. Listening to his radio interview the night before, he did say he was going to sing his killer song, May‘s “Cintamu Mekar Di Hati“, which has brought him a lot of luck in other external singing competitions prior. The judges felt that his performance was an overconfident one which I felt was slightly harsh on him, as his demeanour and body language did not show that he was. However, I felt his overall output was a complacent one, in that he knew he was in his comfort zone and when he tried perhaps to do something out of the ordinary whilst hitting his high notes, he could have overstrained his vocal chords, resulting in him squeaking twice. As the competition dwindles down, small technical issues like that could scupper their chances and it was to be detrimental for him when the night ended.
Shalyza Rosly was up next, singing SLAM‘s “Tak Mungkin Berpaling“, which is one of my all-time favourite songs. If I have to sound critical with her rendition of the song, her start and end were imbalanced and her notes were pitchy. Plus she needs to get out of her singing style which is reminiscent to Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza. I will not add on my take on this as I had already brought it up when I commented on Elza Rahim in the previous entry. There were not many faults to her performance, however there were also not many positives I could derive as she was, in the words of the judges, still in her comfort zone. Shalyza needs to push herself further and sing songs which could challenge her vocal range. Her fellow competitors, not only in Group A, but Group B as well, are more adventurous and willing to take risks. I’ve also seen her perform outside with so much confidence but I have yet to see that level of confidence in this competition. She would do well to learn from her previous foray in the competition and do things slightly differently from now on and build on it.
Shafie Syed was the last to appear onstage, and he performed Sweet Charity‘s evergreen hit “Kamelia“. The one with the strongest band of supporters should have staged a performance that reflected the support given to him. His was a performance which was bland and quite a letdown even though his voice did not crack nor squeaked like Liwani and Hakim. Watching him perform that night was like watching David Arumugam (Alleycats) sing, which prompted some netizens to comment on his articulation. A song of this stature needed someone to understand the meaning and emotions associated with the song. Shafie failed in that respect to capture the essence of the song and was initially placed last, which personally I felt was a justified ranking for him. Even he admitted post-show that his singing was a disappointment that night.
Hakim Halim hugged Shafie Syed upon learning of his elimination…
We now come to the final results of the night. In what was quite a shocking move by the judges, Hakim who was at fifth place was asked to switch with Shafie who we knew was initially placed last, signalling the end of his journey in this competition. But the one that created an even bigger uproar with the netizens on social media was the ousting of Azhar Aziz who got the least number of votes, even though he was ranked second by the judges. I did say last week, in a reality competition like this where audience votes matter, no one is considered safe, except the one who is ranked first and enjoys immunity. The uproar has been going on for days now, questioning the legitimacy of the judges and their decisions, blaming the television station for in-house politics and basically saying the competition is a farce in every aspect.
Azhar Aziz gave his respects to the audience when he exited the stage and competition…
Somehow, this is like a bad record that goes on and on whenever such competitions take place. The voting mechanics are not new. It has been there since Anugerah 2005, down to Anugerah Skrin, Anugerah Band, Anugerah V, heck even the three seasons of Singapore Idol and two seasons of The Final One. Twelve bloody years!!! And still people have not learned their lessons and keep blaming the television station for what they perceived as trying to milk as much money from the voters. From my conversation with trusted sources working behind the scenes, the ones that stand to benefit are the telecommunications company who administer the voting system. You know damn well the name of the game is to vote for those whom you feel deserved to go through, why didn’t you exercise your God-damn right to do so??? If there are fingers to point at, it is the blind and deaf voters themselves who deserved every bit of flak for being irresponsible, just because their favourites are good looking or they have some relations or ties with them.
Our esteemed judges – Indra Shahrir, Taufik Batisah and Najip Ali…
To blame the television station is rich, to undermine the three judges is another serious allegation altogether as seen by some of the vile comments, some going as far as to say they had been bribed. I thought I will say this in much later entries but I guess my hands are forced on this one. I will go as far as to say the three judges this year are the best the competition has had in years. No matter how much Indra Shahrir sounds like a wet blanket and dampener to some, or Taufik is probably there as a token presence and tends to latch on to the other judges’ comments, all of them actually have valid reasons to have given their thoughts as truthfully as they could. Don’t get me started how I am a big fan of Najip Ali and his excellent command of the Malay language. All of us should take positives and learn from their perspectives, rather than comment and rant unnecessarily. There are substantial and valid reasons why these three are up there in the local music industry and icons in the community, whereas armchair critics out there are not. The decision to oust Hakim Halim was there for all to hear, he made two glaring technical mistakes as opposed to Shafie Syed, who was bland. Between blandness and technical errors, I guess the latter proved the deciding factor. As for Liwani‘s error compared to Azhar or Shahfiq, her overall performance and bravery in risk-taking won the judges over. Deal with it!!!
Hosts Suzairhe Sumari and Huda Ali…
Too many allegations going round these past few days online, most of them unsubstantiated and just empty rants for the sake of ranting. Most of those who ranted I doubt cast their votes and just followed the crowd in venting their frustrations. These are the same people who keep on blaming Mediacorp Suria for what they perceive as airing boring programmes / content, but still continue watching because their lives are equally empty. Or those who do not watch, yet still have the cheek to pass off comments as though they have stakes and shares in the station. In times like these, the dirty and irrational sides of the community rear its ugly head. I question sometimes the rationale and sanity of these people. Some even claimed they heard from so-and-so in the industry about the ongoing politics behind-the-scenes. Hearsays and rumours are all fine and dandy when it’s one-sided and what your ears would like to hear. Why don’t you start by asking the right questions with the people who actually work inside, rather than those on the periphery and then jump to conclusions???
There are even those who questioned the presence of the two mentors or buddies to the contestants (Hyrul Anuar and Syawal Kassim), and how they are not helping them much behind-the-scenes. Excuse me, did you actually sit with them in their sessions to know what basically went on to comment like that??? All I can say is their time and what they are able to share with the contestants are limited and are meant to guide them on general aspects of the competition, not spoonfeed them. The rest is still up to the contestants to do their respective homework, research and preparations. Some of these contestants have their own personal vocal coaches. They should be working closely with them instead to up their performances for the upcoming episodes, not just rely on their buddies or mentors to lay the foundations for them or do the dirty work for them.
Congratulations to Shalyza Rosly, Liwani Izzati, Mohammad Shahfiq and Shafie Syed on their progress to the next round…
It is not the end of the road for those already eliminated in the competition. Many before them have gone on to have singles and chart-toppers in the local radio charts. Some of the comments made by their ardent supporters, or even armchair critics, sometimes can be overboard and too defensive, when we all know that winning a reality competition is not the express ticket to stardom nor sustainability in the long run. Will there be a Wildcard Round as asked by many online??? I certainly hope so as nothing has been mentioned nor confirmed. This Tuesday 7 February 2017, sees the return of Group B on our television screens. We have seen the last time they appeared on our television screens how volatile the SMS voting system could be. I seek and appeal to voters to be responsible, not only to the competition but in helping to raise the standards of our local music industry. There are some very good talents left in this competition. I hope the voters will play a part, even those that did not before this, but passed excessive comments as though they spent hundreds or thousands voting. You know what to do. The ball is in your court…