Anugerah 2011 Grand Finals Review…

(Graphics poster courtesy of Mediacorp Suria)

Anugerah 2011 came to an end this past Tuesday night, amidst feelings of general discontent with the competition as a whole and its direction, from the masses. We have heard and we have read how the public had commented about the performance levels, lacklustre displays, potentials or lack thereof of each contestant and the overall quality of the competition on various online platforms notably Facebook and Twitter. Myself, not withstanding, had also voiced my thoughts and what I have been feeling on a weekly basis, culminating in those comments I made in Berita Minggu, two Sundays ago. Truth be told, if vocal abilities were the only prerequisites and being the traditionalist that I am, discounting physical appearances and marketability factors, then Shalyza Rosly (Shalyza), Baby Sulastri and Siti Norulhuda (Norul) would have been my personal top picks who should have graced the Grand Finals.

Guest-of-honour Mr. S Iswaran enjoying the night’s proceedings…

For the first time in Anugerah’s history, we saw an all-female affair in the Grand Finals, a fair reflection of how the competition this year had progressed with the male contestants sorely lagging in many aspects, though it has to be said that I would not mind seeing Ace get his shot at stardom had he progressed till the end, by virtue of his gradual improvements weekly. The two-hour grand finale this year was graced by Mr S Iswaran, Minister from the Prime Minister’s Office, 2nd Minister for Home Affairs and 2nd Minister for Trade and Industry, a welcomed return after also gracing the 2007 Grand Finals edition.  All the three finalists walked away with MediaCorp Artiste Management contracts, recording contracts with Luncai Emas, R Records & Putrivision Empire, as well as holiday packages with Prestige Tours and Travel.

Some of the guest artistes and eliminated contestants of Anugerah 2011 

The champion also walked away with $10,000 cash and the opportunity to work with the legendary and highly respected singer-songwriter-composer-producer and Managing Director of Luncai Emas Sdn Bhd, Dato’ M Nasir, who was also one of the three guest judges of the night. Reshmonu, another one of the guest judges, is a singer-songwriter from Malaysia and the founder of record label, R Records. He will be producing the single for the 1st runner up, while the 2nd runner-up will be releasing her single with Putrivision Empire.  The night saw Reshmonu performed his hit single “Oh Anok Anok“, with Anugerah 2007 and 2009 Champions Aliff Aziz and Sarah Aqilah. There were also subsidiary awards for challenges in choreography (won by Epul), hosting (Norul), media (Shikin) and lyrics-writing (Rahayu Ridwan) throughout the course of the competition. These are challenges that the top 12 contestants had participated in. Winners of each challenge received a trophy.

Our resident hosts welcoming us to the show for a final time this season…

Observing the semi-final round, my personal picks who should have graced the Grand Finals would have been Shikin, Ace and Baby Sulastri by virtue of who performed better during that round. But of course that is not the name of the game, as general voters had their say to go along with the judges’ judging criterias. What the judging criterias are till this day, are still a mystery to me, but I believe looks and marketability factors are part of them, like it or not, for those who have a vested interest in these kind of competitions. Though traditionalists like myself would frown upon the looks above talents factor, on the flipside of it, you cannot deny that you need a looker to keep your interest on the google box going if you’re watching a particular programme. Or for the fact that looks sell in the industry, be it in endorsement deals or clinching coveted roles. Harsh as it may sound, but that’s the reality of the entertainment world. Just look at what’s happening in the West or in Korea where artistes are clamouring to look better by going under the knife, for popularity’s sake.

I thought the girls looked stunning in their outfit…

I know I have been harsh with my comments and reviews throughout the eleven weeks of competition. But I still approached the Grand Finals with a clear mind and starting everything on a clean slate. Well that has always been my approach in every episode. If I did not adopt it, I would not have attended the penultimate episode and just watched it from the comfort of home. Deep down, I still held on to the belief that one, if not all three finalists, would justify their rightful places and make it a truly grand final. My hopes were slightly raised when I saw encouraging words on Facebook by people who have been working closely with the finalists, to give them their opportunity to shine and let them do their thing on the night for they have been working hard for the past fortnight. Though I did not expect to be floored, my only hope was that the night would not end up as a total disappointment or an anti-climax. This is the grand finals afterall and that certain standards need to be met, since these are supposed to be the creme de la creme of the competition.

The show began with all three finalists singing the theme song “Anugerahku Gemilang” along with 2009 winner Sarah Aqilah. While I have to applaud all three of them for a rousing start, I only liked the first and the last part of their performance. They started off well but perhaps due to jitters and the pressure weighing upon them, all three seemed to have gone off-key in between. I did not exactly get to hear them going off-key clearly that night, as their voices were drowned by the cacophony of noise by the audience. Listening to them a second time at home brought out the negative part of their performance clearly. I felt the highest note in the song need not have to be done as none of them have showed their prowess in that particular aspect so far in the competition. They should have just stuck to their comfort zones as they were not judged on that performance. Still I thought they did quite ok overall and felt their positive energies, leading to a feeling of confidence that the rest of the night would not be so much of a disappointment as I had initially expected it to be, such is the pessimist that I am.

Round One – Finalist’s Song Choice

By virtue of being code number “1”, Shikin kick started things off with Jaclyn Victor‘s “Tiada Lagi Indah“, a song that needed her to control her vocals well and hit the high notes at the right moments. I agreed with judge Eddy Ali when he said she started off slowly but finished the song quite well. She sounded a bit bland in the beginning and went off-key slightly as she entered the chorus. But I simply loved her ending, so much so that for the first time in the competition, my hairs finally stood. Regular readers of this blog would note that I always use that as a gauge on whether a singer would impress me or not. By the end of the song, my goosebumps were clearly seen. For that I have to thank Shikin for making me forget momentarily of how disappointing and poor the standard of competition had been so far.

Erlina was up next performing “Takkan Pisah“, a song made famous by Eren of Kangen Band. While the song is beautiful, I could not help but feel that it was a wrong song choice, for the fact that the song was not challenging enough and not testing Erlina‘s vocals to the maximum. Still when she had it quite easy, Erlina did not quite performed to expectations. As had been the norm in the competition, her low notes were found wanting and she sounded as though she was shivering from the experience of gracing the final stage. She was pitchy almost throughout the song and it bothered yours truly so much that I thought, one of the earlier eliminated contestants would have done much better had they progressed and had their voters supported them well enough.

Rahayu Ridwan was next and she was another who had something to prove to the audience and viewers at home that she deserved to be in the Grand Finals over someone as vocally-accomplished as Baby Sulastri. Though she was not as bad as Erlina‘s earlier performance, it was not as controlled as Shikin‘s. I detected quite a few loose notes and parts that were pitchy when she performed Salma of Mentor 5 fame’s “Aku Permata“. However, to her credit, there was a degree of maturity in Rahayu‘s performance, in that she seemed to have slowly mastered the art of understanding the song that she sang and expressing all her emotions into it. Still, I was not entirely convinced even though I know and I heard that she was the favourite to win that night. The first round to me was won by Shikin.

Round Two – Group Performance

This was supposed to be the performance that should have salvaged Erlina from the brink of obscurity from this competition and also for the fact that she seems to be more at ease whenever she performs in a group. Somehow this performance was remembered more for their nifty footwork than their vocal prowess and this was very much reflected from the comments made by judges Ann Hussein and Reshmonu. I dunno if it was the song choice, or jitters, or having to balance their dance steps and singing, but it did not quite work out for me. Of course credit should be given for their dance moves but the basis of this competition is singing afterall. It was ordinary by standards and I was surprised that at this stage, Shikin who is considered more accomplished vocally as compared to the other two, could make the cardinal mistake of going off-key. In terms of showmanship, Rahayu won this segment hands down but like what Ann Hussein and Reshmonu had said, they would prefer to hear her sing, diplomatic but yet cryptic in their assessments.

Round Three – Lyrics Writing Challenge

This whole competition saw the contestants being put under extra pressure having to go through various challenges like hosting, choreography and facing the media. The most daunting task was saved for the Grand FinalsLyrics Writing. The three finalists were given only three hours during the recorded boot camp programme to come up with the lyrics to the melody composed by local musician Mansor Mohd. Being novices in the industry and raw to such a challenge, I did not expect much from them as I personally felt it was not fair to burden them with this sort of obstacle, without going through the basic foundations beforehand. There is only so much they can learn within those precious minutes during the boot camp and having to listen to the melody and putting them into words. But I’m sure the experience of learning from respected lyricist and guest judge Hartinah Ahmad was one that the finalists savoured and would put to good use in future.

As I was not expecting much from this segment, what I was looking out for was who would give a better account of themselves in terms of expressing their feelings into the song and how the lyrics would connect with the audience. Whilst Shikin (“Indahnya Kisah Kita“) and Erlina (“Perasaanku“) chose a more upbeat approach with the themes of “friendship” and “teenage love” respectively, Rahayu (“Pesan Rindu Buat Ibu“) stuck to a more sombre mood with “mother” as her inspiration. I dunno about you, but I felt that the lyrics to Shikin and Erlina‘s songs seemed like they were left hanging in the air with no proper continuity and in judge Sheikh Haikel‘s words, “phrasing”, which were left wanting. I also did not feel as though their songs were telling the audience a story.

Rahayu on the other hand, I thought came to the fore this time and made me forget her performances in the previous two rounds. Something special about her song was that the tempo and melody were slightly different and downbeat as compared to Shikin and Erlina‘s. I didn’t know they could change the tempo of the song, as I thought that everyone was given a standard template to sing from. Though Rahayu‘s low notes were still suspect, credit should be given to her for her attempt at lyrics writing. Not only did I feel a certain connection to her song, I felt the genuine sincerity that she put into her effort and that translated into her giving off an emotional performance. This was the start of her redemption for the night.

Round Four – Singing With Mentor

This particular segment has been quite a mainstay in recent years. The last edition in 2009 had the finalists singing with established singers like Nana, Iskandar Ismail (Eiss), Maman (Teacher’s Pet) and Azyza, whereas this year, the finalists were required to team up with those who have extensive backgrounds and experiences in music composition as well as in album production. The mentors this year were singer / producer Jaliboy, Razak (Ajaq) Bajuri who was a bassist with the uber-popular 90s group, SLAM, and Mayuni Omar, no stranger to local music lovers for his hit compositions, most notably Hazrul Nizam‘s “Kaulah Segalanya” and Nurun Nuwarrah‘s “Kau Ingin Ku Miliki“. The finalists were tasked to sing with or being accompanied by their respective mentors.

Shikin got things underway with Jaliboy when they performed “Kalau Berpacaran“, one of the current hits on our local airwaves and Anugerah Planet Muzik 2011 nominee for Best Vocal (New Duo / Group) and Best Malaysian Song. Though I love the original version immensely, this new arrangement did not go down too well with my tastebuds. It was rearranged to make it into a rockish song but there was nothing rockish about the performance other than the melody. Shikin I felt was playing second fiddle to Jaliboy instead of the other way around. I dunno what happened to Shikin, but this song certainly did not suit her at all judging by the fact that her voice cracked on quite a few instances during the song, especially when she tried hitting the high notes.

Erlina was up next with Rossa‘s “Ku Tetap Menunggu“, accompanied by Ajaq. I finally got to see the positive aspect of Erlina‘s performance in this round, but it was a little too late to have any bearings in the minds of the judges. Though she did not do much wrong and gave her best performance of the night, she still kept to her comfort zone and sang a song which did not challenge her vocals at all. I believe this kind of song is not competition-material and only retained a certain degree of feel-good factor to those who listened to it. It was too safe, when at this stage, you are supposed to wow the judges and audience watching. I thought at this point, Erlina‘s spot as the one in third place was finally sealed and it did not help when earlier we saw how the public votes were not enough for her to mount a serious challenge.

I said that the earlier round for Rahayu was the start of her redemption for the night. If that was her redemption, this performance, singing Radja‘s “Takkan Melupakanmu” accompanied by Mayuni Omar was more or less the signal that showed she was about to walk away as the champion in this year’s competition. Rahayu maintained her consistency at understanding what she was singing and putting all her emotions into it. She was also consistent at maintaining eye contact with her accompanying mentor on the piano even when she was drifting away from him. I felt that of the three finalists, Rahayu was the most fortunate to have Mayuni Omar as her mentor, as his strictness would have done wonders to her composure, showmanship and performance as a whole and it certainly showed. Finally saw the aura of a star in her, even though her singing still did not resonate in my head.

Round 5 – Jury / Producer’s Choice

I was inclined to switch off by the time this round came about, as I felt anything they do henceforth would not hold much bearing on the results. Scheming through my Twitter timeline, as well as taking in the atmosphere at the Mediacorp TV Theatre, it was clear in the air that Rahayu was about to be crowned champion. This was more or less confirmed when I saw the latest public vote standings, as at this point, Rahayu was merely lagging Shikin behind by about 4%. Taking in the judges’ assessments of the finalists so far, and what we would get would still be a win, unless Shikin‘s supporters worked harder by voting more for her. Still, I went through the motions and observed what the three girls had in store for the audience and viewers at home.

Shikin performed a classic hit “Cahaya” (anyone out there knows the original singer??? Is it Khatijah Ibrahim???) with a cabaret-styled arrangement. Deep down I was hoping for her to up her performance as the only one that stuck in my head was her very first one. But it was a little too much to ask for. There was nothing special about Shikin‘s performance here as surprisingly her low notes were found wanting. The dancer in her at least made up for it and saved this segment for her, but I was pretty convinced that Shikin would be the first runner-up.

The first thought that flashed across my mind when host Fauzie Laily announced that Erlina was about to sing Sherina Munaf‘s “Pergilah Kau” was, another safe song for her. Still I do not understand why when given a safe song, Erlina contrived to make things difficult for herself by not giving off a better performance than the last or at least maintaining that same level. I wondered if she had given up the competition by then and thought that no matter what she did, it would not matter at all. The whole performance was pitchy at best. A pity really as it only enhanced the feeling that she would come in third place.

Melly Goeslaw‘s “Risau” was the jury / producer’s choice for Rahayu to perform. What more can I say about her performance other than the fact that she has somewhat mastered the ability to put forth her emotions into a song and expressing them with such intensity that it momentarily makes one forget that her singing still needs lots of improvement to be worked upon in terms of pitching and other technicalities. Though I know most people who were watching have not heard of the song, yours truly included, at least she made the effort to tell the story of the song through her expressions and emotions. What was telling was her focus and this reminded me of what Ajai said about her performance during the Wildcard Round, that she was focused, she put her emotions into the song and what we had was a singer.

Anugerah 2011 Recap

Rahayu getting emotional when her name was announced the winner of Anugerah 2011

By the fourth round, it was no longer a mystery as to who would walk away as champion of this year’s Anugerah competition. Rahayu might not be the winner in some people’s hearts or the purists for that matter. She is also not the most vocally-accomplished in this year’s cohort, but she did the best out of what she possessed, and that is the ability to inject emotions and sincerity in her delivery, something which was sorely lacking in most of the contestants this year. Based on my observations and my approach to the competition, that is those who performed on the night deserved to go through, I thought Rahayu was the one who displayed more hunger and will to win as compared to the other finalists, even though Shikin was my favourite to win.

Sarah Aqilah was tasked to handover her mantle to the new winner…

The challenge for Rahayu now is to work on her singing and I’m sure a lot of people would agree that she has some way to go when compared to her predecessors who have won before her. No doubt her commercial value is her plus point, but that needs to be substantiated with what she has been introduced into the industry for – singing. My hope for her is that she would not disappear like past winners before 2005. Though I am not entirely impressed by her singing, I certainly do not begrudge her on winning as I personally felt she did better than Shikin and Erlina on the night. The song dedication to her mother was one that tugged the heartstrings and one that brought out the best in her, which throughout the competition, I did not see. I’m not ashamed to say I was slightly moved by her delivery on that song, as I felt the love and sincerity she put into it.

A very pleasant performance by Sarah & Aliff Aziz singing “Kalau Cinta

However looking at the bigger picture, the whole competition was a major disappointment and to readdress what I had mentioned before that this is the worst in its edition. The fault does not lie solely on the contestants and I feel it is extremely unfair for them to shoulder this blame alone or the bulk of it. The fans and supporters who voted relentlessly week in and out should shoulder a major part of it as they were the ones who had the power to vote, or did not do it for the other contestants who were much better than those who had progressed. A case in point was the Wildcard Round. So many of the better ones had to go through the ordeal and mental torture of that round just to prove themselves all over again, that they deserved to progress when their earlier rounds have showed us their true capabilities.

An energetic performance by Reshmonu with his hit “Oh Anok Anok“… 

I read comments from my Twitter timeline that guest judge Dato’ M. Nasir was being haughty and arrogant with his assessments. I beg to differ. I think he was trying to be very diplomatic and not kill the confidence of the finalists. How else can I explain his hemming and hawing during the first round, trying to find the right words to express himself nicely, and when he commented on Erlina‘s singing in the third round saying, “You are here because there is something good about you…“??? I certainly think he was using reverse psychology to express his disappointment and boredom at the quality on display. Just ask any body language teachers out there and they will tell you that when a person speaks with his hands resting on his cheeks and shrugging, it shows his complete boredom on what he’s observing, and can I blame him???

Ace and Baby Sulastri performing the first verse of “Bintang Yang Bersinar“…

Certainly not, since he is the one who is supposed to produce an album for the winner. Definitely he was not impressed with what he had seen and it was only the first round and we all know that first impressions last. Reshmonu was another one who was not impressed entirely but at least he was tactful enough to bring out other positive points in the finalists. As for our resident judges, I can safely say that having been on the journey with the contestants, it was just not right for them to slate the finalists on their grandest stage, as this might affect the public votes swinging against or for them. Any negative comments against them would surely result in sympathetic votes for them. We saw how this year’s competition have shown that the voters are irresponsible and this was what happened when they contributed to such a poor competition for their blind faith on some of their favourite contestants.

They were followed by Epul and Shalyza

Looking at the smses that appeared during the programme as well as comments made online by those who followed the competition, also highlighted and questioned how come the better ones were eliminated. The answer was in the hands of the public who voted. Nothing the producers or the resident judges could do to save the better ones when they are being audited by professional auditors. I also personally feel that it is not fair to Shahridzuan Selamat and Zaharian Osman who had composed the lyrics to the theme song, which till this day is still stuck in my head for its catchiness. The quality of the competition and how it panned out did not lend credence to the lyrics of the song which said, “Anugerahku nan gemilang, Anugerahku nan terbilang…” It felt more like “Anugerah kurang gemilang, Anugerah kurang terbilang…” as was stated by someone on Twitter.

The Top 12 performing “Aku Bukan Superstar“…

Anyway, the competition is over. Whatever negativities that was brought up by the public should be taken into consideration for the next edition, whenever that will be. The system should be set such that we do not allow our good talents to fall by the wayside and this can only be done when the public votes are limited to a certain percentage or scrapped once and for all. Only with that, can we then perhaps hear more truthful comments by the judges and not diplomatic ones. I think the one who was very consistent, upfront, blunt and honest was Rilla Melati. The judges, resident and guests, no matter how much I love some of them, either need to change or should learn to brush up on their usage of the Malay language. We want to produce contestants who speak good Malay, we should also have judges who have that capability as well and not struggle to find the right words to use whenever the cameras start to pan on them.

Rahayu singing “Aku Permata” once again after her coronation…

The various challenges introduced into the competition this year were good and refreshing ones. However, in the search for the all-round entertainer, the competition lost its way and the very basic from which the entertainer should be good at, and that is singing. I also feel that too little time was given to the contestants to work on their lyrics writing skills. It’s what we Malays like to call “Bidan Terjun“, the finalists were heaped added pressure to produce something that they have not done before and somehow it made them looked silly on stage during the Grand Finals, and this I feel is not fair on them on their most memorable night in their lives so far. I think all the contestants should have gone through a workshop right from the start and not confined to just the finalists. Many of them could learn from the experience. Who knows if they are not cut out to be singers, they could at least be good lyricists in future???

With the pressure off, she certainly sang much better than the first round…

No matter how much some of us still feel aggrieved by the elimination of certain contestants or not agreeable to the winner, let’s close ranks and continue supporting the local music industry, Rahayu being the winner, as well as Shikin and Erlina who have gotten themselves the opportunity to record singles with R Records and Putrivision Empire. They are still very young. Given time and ample opportunities, they would want to prove that they are not flashes in the pan. What we saw last Tuesday night could have been much better but the girls gave off everything they got in those two hours, performing seven songs, something which they have not done before during the competition, a test of their stamina and mental resolve. Just that I was surprised the last segment involving the Top 12 contestants was quite an anti-climax with them miming, and certain contestants singing over the lines of others as they were not at the recording.

Introfucing the new winner of AnugerahRahayu Ridwan

Yes there were few hits and many misses in this year’s competition, but there is still hope yet for the vanquished to improve themselves and come back better the next time round. They should look no further than resident host Fauzie Laily who is a stunning example of one who did not give up, and look at how he has progressed since then. Congratulations once again to Rahayu Ridwan!!! It has to be repeated that no one should take that away from her nor begrudge her on winning. I sincerely hope that she would carry our flag high and do a good job when she takes the stage alongside other big names in the industry on the night of Anugerah Planet Muzik 2011 in less than a fortnight away. I already know the segment she will be in but I will not disclose it to you, as it is meant to be a surprise for viewers out there. All I can say is that I am looking forward to that particular segment and so should you. I end this entry with Rahayu thanking her supporters for their votes and undying support for her…

Anugerah 2011 Episode 9 (Semi-Final Results) Recap…

Faith” and “Hope“. These two words kept my interest going in this year’s Anugerah 2011 competition. I had faith that besides our astute and well-respected resident judges, the voting public would contribute to the betterment of our local Malay music scene by voting for someone who could be one we can be proud of, to carry our flag high when they are representing us overseas in future assignments / showcases. I also had hoped that for all the misgivings and shortcomings that the contestants have shown in the early stages of the competition, that they would display marked improvements to justify why they deserved to progress ahead of perhaps more deserving ones who have been eliminated.

Somehow, when the results of the three finalists were announced last night, both sets of beliefs I had seemed to have been thrown out of the window. No, I’m not bitter at the results, even though two out of three of my original picks as finalists were eliminated. I’m just left baffled by how things have worked out right from the start. As early as Episode 3, I wondered if this was the best we could offer from our local pool of talents. However I thought it was unfair to come to such a conclusion at such an early stage given the fact that most of them do not have experiences performing in front of a live audience before. And so I persevered and continued to hold on to a belief that with each passing episode, I would see improvements being made by the contestants.

Yes I observed improvements being made in every remaining contestant, but there was also a consistent tendency for them to take a step forward and two steps back. When they have improved on something, they tend to undo the good by doing something that we do not expect them to do whilst performing or by repeating an old mistake again. A competition of such magnitude demands each contestant to get better and better than their last performance and with each episode, they should be gaining in confidence and stature. Somehow I do not quite understand why this current batch seems to hold back a lot and seldom letting it all out. Even in an episode where there was no pressure on them to perform well like last night, their performances as a group left much to be desired. I was squirming at my seat watching them sing Glenn Fredly & Dewi Persik‘s “Hikayat Cintaku“. Though above average marks could be given to their dance moves, their vocal harmonies were haywire and they went off-key on many instances. This was not what I had expected from semi-finalists and at this stage of the competition.

What left me stumped and gazumped throughout the competition was the way the voting was made by the public. I’m sure people out there will be quick to discredit the resident judges and their respective choices. But this show is audited by a respectable and renowned international auditing company in KPMG Pte Ltd. Any discrepancies will be subjected to legal proceedings. Even when I spoke to judge Eddy Ali after last night’s show, he expressed his disappointment at the choices of the voting public and lamented the fact that they (the judges) are always to be blamed for the better contestants being kicked out and not doing enough to save them from the jaws of elimination. There is only so much they can do to judge and say who performed well on the night. The rest is up to the voting public to dictate who they think deserves to go through. Sadly, the better performing ones do not get enough sms votes to add on to the good marks they received from the judges.

As the competition has shown, the better ones seemed to get knocked out one after the other. There are no conspiracy theories to begin with, they simply did not attract enough votes to keep them in the competition. Coupled with the fact that the lesser performing contestants are blessed with ardent and generous followers, what you get is a competition that is very much skewed and lost its zest in quality. I accept that this is the name of the game and the reality of this sort of competition, but I make no apologies when I say some of these so-called loyal voters are irresponsible and voting on blind faith. Is this the standard you feel is worthy to stand side by side with other artistes from the region??? You are supposed to contribute to the betterment of the local music industry, to help raise our standards in the eyes of the region but what have you done so far??? This year’s competition only proved that we are not yet ready to progress to a system whereby the voting public is given 100% power to choose who progresses and who gets eliminated. Already giving them half the reins to judge and what you get are unexpected results, can you imagine giving them 100% free reins to dictate???

Syed Azmir performing his latest single “Jangan Kau Lupa“. It was understood to be his last television performance but I think we will not see the last of him just yet…

I did rant on Twitter last night that I have lost faith in the system of the competition, most notably this voting mechanism and the power enjoyed by these voters. There is a grudging respect in their undying loyalty towards their respective favourites but at the same time, I have disdain for their apparent tone-deafness. This show of blind faith has contributed in one way or another, and to me at least, the worst Anugerah competition in its history. No disrespect to all three girls who have made it this far, but being finalists, they are expected to perform beyond their comfort zones and prove why they deserve to be in the Final. I still retain a little ounce of hope that they will rise to the occasion given the fact that they have two weeks from now to get their acts right. They need to and they must, as their future employer, a certain Dato’ M. Nasir, will be one of the guest judges. This guy is meticulous and I’m sure he demands a certain standard from his soon-to-be protege. Can the girls do it??? For their sake and for the sake of our local Malay music scene, I really hope they do themselves justice.

Introducing the finalists of Anugerah 2011: Rahayu Ridwan, Shikin & Erlina

History was made last night when we have for the first time, three female finalists. Not quite a surprise really, as the girls in general have shown that they have been the better performers, though it has to be said that Ace and to some extent, Epul, Firdaus Haridan and Syazani have done commendably in proving that the guys have something to show for as well, though their best were still not enough. Somehow I felt last night’s episode was a waste of one hour and should have just lasted for half the time slated. Too many redundant segments were done just to kill time before the announcements of the finalists were made. Even the contestants were lacklustre in their performances and it showed too glaringly. I think the competition needs some serious tweaks beginning with its judging system. I’m all for an absolute judging system whereby the voting public is redundant or only contributing a maximum of 30% of the total marks.

The finalists being interviewed by Diana Amran and sharing their thoughts on the results…

The judges, with all due respect, should also be changed, some if not all. We cannot have judges blatantly showing their favouritism towards certain contestants, just because they used to come over to the judges’ homes when they were younger. That kind of remarks are too personal and somewhat unprofessional in my opinion, and only discredits the judges from being fair towards other contestants, even if their favourites are justifiably good. I also hope that in future, there will be some form of transparency in the announcement of results, like how much the judges had assessed the contestants and how many votes from the public contributed to their total tabulations. This is to avoid feelings of discontent by the masses and questions on whether the results were fixed or was it too good to be true…

The gorgeous newscaster, Hazlina Halim, dropped by after the show to congratulate the finalists. Here they are joined by Mediacorp Suria‘s Promotion Executives Budi Iskandar Sa’ad (left) and Siti Zuraidah Taib (right) as well as Eaglevision‘s Netty Fiona Othman (second from right)

P.S. Can somebody please inform a certain Top 18 contestant not to make an ass out of himself weekly by displaying his childish and boisterous antics, be it at the Mediacorp TV Theatre or at the Mediacorp reception area??? If you want to make a name for yourself in this industry, please learn to behave like a human being and not act like a buffoon shouting at the top of your voice and making a fool of yourself. Oh, and grow up please!!!

Anugerah 2011 Episode 8 (Semi-Final Round) Recap…

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.

Solo Performances

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.

Duet Performances

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 SallehSenior 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.

Personal Thoughts

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.

Anugerah 2011 Roadshow Revisited…

Last Saturday 4 June 2011Anugerah 2011 ventured out from its usual surroundings and gave the semi-finalists the opportunity to acquaint themselves with the public in an outdoor setting. As the event venue (Nex Shopping Mall) is situated about ten minutes away from home via MRT, it was also a chance for my family to watch it live, as normally I would be the only one attending the weekly episodes at the Mediacorp TV Theatre. The show was hosted by the show’s resident host Fauzie Laily and roving host Nity Baizura, who took over the duties of Huda Ali, who is away in Kuala Lumpur due to her work commitments.

The event was further graced by the guest performances of rap duo Komrad (J-Boy & Fariq), Anugerah 2007 1st runner-up Maiya Rahman and Singapore Idol Season 3 alumnus Faizal Isa. Each guest performance was special in their own right. Komrad introduced their new single “Aku Masih Cinta“, Maiya wowed the watching crowd with her rendition of Beyonce Knowles‘ “Listen” and Faizal mesmerised with his take on Bruno Mars‘ “Just The Way You Are“, but with a slight twist. He injected Malay lyrics into the song and named it “Puncak Angkasa“. 

I must say, the song did not sound out of place at all. I imagine it could rise up the local charts if he dares to record it and send it to our local radio stations for airplay. I mean, if you can have the Chinese music market with a host of cover songs from English artistes, it wouldn’t hurt to have them in Malay, provided they do not kill the essence of the songs. We used to have quite a few of them, massive evergreen hits back in the 70s, in case the critics out there are quick to denounce my suggestion.

The event was in every word, a good way to expose the six semi-finalists to the public and also for them to gain the experience of performing outdoors. It was an opportunity for them to live the dream, mingling with their fans and signing autographs as well. They basically sang songs which they had performed during the qualifying rounds as well as the recent quarter-finals. I was interested to see how they would perform in a non-competition atmosphere and I must say if last Saturday was a good gauge of their respective potentials, then every episode should be approached in a non-competitive mindset.

All of them performed much, much better than what you have been watching on television weekly. I was also surprised that they seemed to have all the fears in the world come Tuesdays, yet they shed their inhibitions away on an outdoor event like last Saturday. I hope from this experience, they will go on to enjoy their subsequent performances and not think too much about the competition. As the judges have drummed this into them, they should start thinking as singers and not competitors. I’ll let the photos I took do the talking henceforth…

Anugerah 2011 Roadshow At A Glance

 

Fauzie was every bit a joker, teasing his fellow host, audience, guest performers and the contestants…

Nity did an excellent job covering for Huda

Three lovely ladies – Norhayati Samad, Raudaa Razak & Wati Kasim manning the merchandise booth…

The day’s roving host, Anugerah Skrin 2010 runner-up, Diana Amran

Salut to the guys from KomradFariq & J-Boy

Nity looked on as both Anugerah alumni members Fauzie & Maiya took turns taking the mickey out of the other…

Maiya reminded the audience what a vocal powerhouse she still is…

Faizal Isa looking buffed from his National Service commitments…

Belting out his first hit single “Maafkan Ku Oh Cinta“…

Followed by a cover of Bruno Mars‘ hit “Just The Way You Are“, a mix of English & Malay which was titled “Puncak Angkasa“…

Shikin kicked off the semi-finalists’ segment with Adibah Noor‘s “Terlalu Istimewa“…

Bunkface‘s “Revolusi” was Ace‘s choice of song…

Erlina sang the song which she performed in the quarter-finals, Nurun Nuwarrah‘s “Kau Ingin Ku Miliki“…

Baby Sulastri brought the house down with Ayu‘s “Hanya Di Mercu“…

Epul‘s choice of song was Aizat‘s “Lagu Kita“…

Rahayu Ridwan reprised the song she sang in the quarter-final, Roze Kasmani‘s “Harum“…

One of the lasting images of the day’s event, the semi-finalists mimicking Ace‘s trademark gesture, when he sang Shahir‘s “Kebahagiaan Dalam Perpisahan“…

Another lasting image was of Erlina adding a bit of nifty footwork when she performed Agnes Monica‘s “Tak Ada Logika“…

Getting acquainted with life of being a pop star…

Wifey got to take a shot with Shalyza Rosly who was there with some of the contestants who were eliminated earlier…

My daughters wanted to take a photograph with Shikin

And Baby Sulastri, who is Syahindah‘s favourite contestant

Anugerah 2011 Episode 7 (Results Show & Wildcard Round) Recap…

Last night, Anugerah 2011‘s seventh episode which was also its Wildcard Round, threw up several surprises for the watching audience and to those who have been religiously following its weekly journey. The first four of six semi-finalists were announced in the first quarter of the show, followed by the selection of six who were given a reprieve to redeem themselves and grab the last two remaining slots from the remainder of eight eliminated contestants from the Top 12. The show was given a massive injection of wisdom by the presence of renowned award-winning Malaysian composer, Ajai, who took his place as part of the judging panel. Surely his presence just raised the stakes a little higher and pressure on the Wildcard contestants to perform beyond their comfort zones. Last night was also the only round that the judging was solely based on the esteemed selection of the judging panel.

 

Announcement of Semi-Finalists & Wildcard Round Contestants

The night began with the announcement of the first four who made it to the semi-final rounds. From the combined percentages of the judging panel and the voting public, Epul, Ace, Shikin and Erlina were given the night off. Looking at the way they have been performing over the past few weeks, I think the most deserving of the lot would have to be Shikin. Not to belittle the achievements of the other three who also made it, but they definitely have to show in the weeks to come, a certain level of consistency to justify their places in the semi-final next week, as previous weeks have shown they are gullible of giving good performances one week and not-so-good ones in another week. For the likes of Norul, Baby Sulastri, Syazani and Firdaus Haridan, my own personal picks who should have gone through,  not to have progressed, it served as a damning reminder that for all the good and sometimes flawless performances that they could have produced before this, the public’s votes have a way of swinging against them.

The six who were given a reprieve…

But it was not all doom and gloom as along with Rahayu Ridwan and Shalyza, Norul, Baby Sulastri, Syazani and Firdaus Haridan were selected by the judging panel to be the Wildcard contestants. Now this came as a bit of a surprise to me and perhaps the watching audience, as most of us thought that three male and three female contestants would have been chosen from the possible eight who were initially eliminated. As it is, the selection of more female contestants over their male counterparts was a true reflection of the standard of competition this year, whereby you could see the gulf in class between both sets of genders. My only gripe was, the selection of certain contestants for the Wildcard Round clearly showed who were the personal favourites of the resident judges. We’ve all seen how they have reserved the niceties towards these contestants over the past few weeks and personally selecting them only proved what regular viewers have felt all along. Though I do not disagree with their choices and approved wholeheartedly, they could have made it less blatant so as to avoid unnecessary claims of biasness.

Wildcard Round

Norul – Singing Dayang Nurfaizah‘s “Hilang“, I felt that it was a bit of a step down since Norul gave an energetic performance the last time out. Though it was not spectacular as I had expected of her, Norul still maintained her level of consistency by keeping things under control. Guest judge Ajai praised her for her perfect pitching at the very first note, her understanding of the song and the emotions projected. I tended to observe slightly differently as though something was bothering her, judging by her somewhat disturbed facial expressions. Nonetheless, she still did well as we all have grown accustomed to week in and out.

SyazaniST12‘s “Jangan Pernah Berubah” was his choice of song. Ann Hussein called it his best performance, but I tend to disagree. I felt his previous one which he sang Merah‘s “Cintaku” was much better. He sounded a bit monotonous at the start and when he had to hit the high notes, I felt that he was left wanting. At this point of time, it was evident that the contestants were under a lot of pressure to perform and it seemed to have a heavy burden on their shoulders. I thought I was alone in my observations but Ajai echoed my personal sentiments, advising Syazani that his low and high notes should go hand in hand.

Baby Sulastri – This was the first time that I observed Baby Sulastri cracked under the pressure of expectations when she had been so consistent and flawless throughout the competition. Though she had been advised to steer clear from her comfort zone of ballads, she stuck to her strengths and sang Sharifah Zarina‘s “Langit Ketujuh“. The pressure on her showed when she started the song slightly later and had to chase after the tempo of the song. Her nervousness was also evident judging by how we could hear her taking deep breaths in between the song. If one had noticed, when she broke into the chorus, her voice actually cracked but she managed to compose herself well without missing a beat. And for the first time in the competition, I felt Baby Sulastri was human afterall, and that she is also susceptible to the odd mistake. Not her best performance and perhaps I think she knew it too.

Firdaus Haridan – Amongst the male contestants, his voice has been a standout as it has the most soul and sincere in his delivery and execution. So I had expected him to continue where he left off and wow the judges further with another R&B or ballad number. Instead, he went out of his comfort zone and sang a song with an upbeat tempo, Imran Ajmain‘s “Sudah Tu Sudah“. Though his bravery was applaudable, it was a disaster as a whole, totally killing his own chances of progressing into the semi-finals. He tried to follow Imran‘s style of singing the song and was very pitchy right from the start, even before he broke into the song proper. At times he could be heard being breathless as he chased the tempo of the song. By now, it was safe to remove Firdaus out of the equation for the semi-finals.

Syaliza – I was not pleased  when Syaliza was eliminated a few weeks ago, as I felt she was a dark horse to contend with and could be in the running when the semi-final round beckoned. As it is, she was eliminated early and had to prove herself once again. She did not disappoint and was easily the best performer of the night. Her tone, voice control and pitch were perfect and flawless when she sang Mila‘s “Persis Mutiara“, a song composed by our guest judge, who was seen waving his hands like a music conductor when she was singing on stage. Her only downside was she looked extremely tensed, probably weighed down by pressure to give off her best. At this stage, I felt that if Shalyza, who was last night’s best performer still could not make it into the semi-final rounds, then I fear for the standards and quality left in this year’s competition. I have to admit I almost gave her a standing ovation but stopped myself and instead applauded as loudly as I could.

Rahayu Ridwan – For some reason, Rahayu did not seem focused and looked as though she was in a daze throughout the night. However, when it came down to her performance, I saw a different Rahayu from weeks past. Gone was the contestant who was trying too hard to impress. Gone also was the sex appeal. Instead, what I observed was someone who thought that perhaps she could not make it to the next round, but chose to give off her best so that she could probably bow out in a blaze of glory. If that approach had been the case, then her reverse psychology paid off big time. Rahayu picked a song that most people on these shores had not heard of, Adira‘s “Ku Ada Kamu“, but that did not deter her from giving off her best performance to date, though it has to be said certain notes towards the end were still left wanting. Sheikh Haikel was extremely pleased that both his selections (Rahayu and Shalyza) were rightfully justified.

Wildcard Round Results

Throughout the competition, I have been asked who are my personal favourites. The fact is, in every Anugerah competition I have no favourites whatsoever and I tend to be neutral and it is reflected in my weekly entries. Whoever performed well for that particular night to me deserved to progress further. Likewise for last night, I had my own personal take on who deserved to go through based on their respective performances. I had Norul and Shalyza as the deserving ones to progress. I had also hoped that the judges would spring another surprise and add on another slot in the semi-finals for a third deserving contestant and had that been the case, then by virtue of her performance alone, Rahayu was my choice. But it was not to be and they still stuck with the choices of having just two to progress.

In the end, it was Baby Sulastri and Rahayu Ridwan who were the picks of the judges. I’m sure it was not an easy choice to make for the judges but it sort of left a slightly puzzling thought at the quality of the semi-finalists as a whole, with very few standouts and none at this stage actually looking like future stars. I wondered if there had been any conspiracy theories or reasons as to why the better performing ones did not make it, like perhaps looks and marketability factors for instance. Speaking to credible sources from the back, why most of the good ones are eliminated was because even though they scored well with the judges, their downfall proved to be their lack of votes from the voting public. But I wished the judges could have explained why they chose who they had chosen to progress so as to allay the questions being asked.

The semi-finalists…

Shocking… That’s one word that I could use to describe what happened at Anugerah 2011 last night. Not only was it a shock but I was left feeling stumped by the choices of the voting public as well as the judges. I certainly did not expect the consistently good ones to be looked over in favour of the lesser deserving ones. But then again this is the name of the game in a reality competition and we’ll have to live with the choices of the people who voted. Judging by the way they voted, I guess Singaporean viewers are still a long way away from being responsible enough to contribute to the progress of our local music industry. They would rather choose the people they are closely associated with than looking at things in the bigger picture, even if the people they voted for did not produce the goods as well as they should have.

Based on my observations throughout the past seven episodes and seeing them up close, I have a small problem with the contestants not smiling when they’re standing in a group or when the cameras are not focused at them. Most of the photographs I took, showed them either frowning or in a forlorn state, no matter if they had just survived the ordeal of having to hear their names being announced as progressors or when they are listening to the comments made by the judging panel. This reduces their likeability factor. I hope they will make the effort to smile a bit more, cos when they do not, some of their facial expressions do come across as arrogant. And they would not want this factor to prevent them from getting more votes by the audience or turn any possible voters off.

To the six semi-finalists, my personal hope is that they would maintain their level of consistency for those who have been doing well, and for those who have not, to justify their rightful places. In the 2009 edition of the competition, at this stage, it was extremely difficult to gauge who deserved to grace the four final spots, such was the high level of competitiveness amongst the contestants. Out of those who have made it this far this time round, I can more or less see two who deserved their places and the rest making up the numbers. No disrespect and certainly no offence towards those who have progressed, as they have displayed a good level of performance thus far, but more is expected from them. The challenge now is to see them better their current standards, to continue smoothening the rough edges and eradicate whatever flaws they have. Yes, I do have fears for the standard and quality of the competition based on what I have observed the past few weeks, but I also maintain some belief that through time, these young upstarts could yet improve and show why they could be the future of our local music industry.

Anugerah 2011 Episode 5 Recap…

Huda Ali, Fauzie Laily and Nity Baizura welcoming us to the show…

Anugerah 2011 continued its episodic journey this week, with the first quarter-final rounds getting underway involving the male contestants on Tuesday night. The contestants were required to perform songs sung by local artistes. As a side challenge for this particular round, the contestants are also judged based on their ability to host short segments introducing their fellow contestants alongside the resident hosts, Fauzie Laily and Huda Ali. But before the show began in earnest, it was the matter of culling the competition which had to take precedence. The guest judge for this round is none other than my favourite from last year’s Anugerah Skrin competition, Rilla Melati.

The gals looking extremely tensed before the results were announced…

Up stepped the young ladies to face the firing squad. It was somewhat a surprise to see only five of them standing to accept and receive their respective fates in the competition, when originally there were supposed to be six. Norul was conspicuously absent from the ones who had lined up, with word going round in the audience that she was unwell. This was then confirmed by the hosts. Fortunately for her, she got through along with Rahayu Ridwan, Baby Sulastri, Erlina and Shikin. Here’s hoping that Norul would be well enough by next week to continue her journey in the competition.

Shalyza, the one eliminated this past week…

Based on what we have seen so far, the girls are much better and stronger than the guys and each has her own differing strengths and qualities to advance. I felt Shalyza‘s elimination was harsh, but such is the nature and uncertainty of a reality competition that one needs to point the finger at the supporters for not voting enough. There was a lady sitting at the row behind me who lamented Shalyza‘s elimination, but the fact remains, if you don’t vote enough, your favourites will not progress unless he or she scores perfectly with the judges. Even then, it is not a given that the contestant will sail through to the next round. However, I am confident that Shalyza will be given a reprieve by going into the Wildcard Round.

Surprisingly, the gals who progressed wore forlorn looks rather than happy ones…

Solo Performances & Hosting Segments

 

Faziz (Hosting) – He was given the honour of introducing the first performance of the night by Syazani. Even before he opened his mouth to speak, one could detect his nervousness just by the way he stood, and his body posture giving away his emotions. I dunno if he had properly run through his short script or not, but I found it “sinful” that a simple word like “Janggal” could be mispronounced confidently as “Ganjal” (is there really such a word in our Malay dictionary???), and even insisted on it after Huda had tried to give hints and corrected him.

A word of advice to all contestants: Please jolly well brush up on your command of your own mother tongue as this is the lingua franca and path that you have chosen to make a name for yourself / make a career out of it!!! 

Syazani – Performing the song that he had sung during the first round of auditions, Merah‘s “Cintaku“, it was difficult to detect any wrongdoing to his performance no matter how minute it was, even if judge Eddy Ali had said the first part of his chorus sounded a bit flat. I thought his performance was coolness personified and sounded much better than even the one he gave during the audition rounds. I felt it was a good start to the performances of the night and a good benchmark for the others to follow.

Firdaus Haridan (Hosting) – Like what guest judge Rilla Melati had correctly pointed out, Firdaus has a warm and may I add, a very sincere smile to go along with his gentle giant personality. Though Rilla also observed and commented that his style of hosting is what you would expect at a school concert, I wouldn’t be too harsh on him as I felt he did quite ok, fluent and also being observant as to mimic Ace‘s style of gesturing whenever he performs on stage. That in itself is good homework that he has done to add a bit of colour to his presentation style.

Ace – I finally got to see why Ace was chosen by the judges to advance into the televised rounds of the competition. Granted, Ann Hussein did brought up a credible point about him sounding like the original singer, Aqmal N, when he sang “Warkah Cinta Dunia“. However it was only the first part that I detected the similarities in style and execution. When he broke into the chorus, he was on his own and he ended the song with much aplomb, that the whole auditorium broke into applause. If anyone had noticed, he almost tripped on his lyrics during the chorus, but he managed to compose himself henceforth.

Syazani (Hosting) – It was evident that hosting does not come naturally for this guy, since he took quite a number of short pauses throughout his two minutes to recall what he had to say. His presentation style was also a bit too relaxed, like conversing with a friend, perhaps a fair reflection of his outwardly cool and calm personality. Like what Rilla had mentioned, he has the potential but he definitely needs loads of practice.

Epul – It took a very brave person to sing a song that might not be everyone’s cup of tea, even if our local act, The Sallys, had rearranged the song that Epul sang, “Kopi Dangdut“, to suit their music style. Though his bravery was commendable, I was cringing at my seat seeing him try to gyrate and pointing to the sky as he sang. At times he sounded pitchy, whereas at the start, he also tripped on his lyrics. Watching him perform was like watching a comedian doing his stuff. This genre is guaranteed not his style and should never be repeated, unless Epul has designs on being part of the new generation of local comedians.

Ace (Hosting) – His nervousness or apparent lack of confidence showed through the way he held his microphone. However he eased into his role as he went on. Credits should be given to Ace for complementing Firdaus in kind by pointing out to the audience the latter’s trademark style of performing. Another good point was the part where he brought up the interesting fact on Aliff Aziz‘s song “Nyala” which was used as a theme song for a drama series, an indicator that he bothered to do a bit of research. Non-fans of Aliff Aziz would appreciate that little piece of trivia, no matter how trivial it might sound. 

Firdaus Haridan – He performed Aliff Aziz‘s “Nyala“, a song very much suited to his vocal range and musical tastes. What I observed was a performance that had emotions thrown into the mix, making it an indelible concoction. Soulful, majestic, judge Eddy Ali was right when he said Firdaus delivered the best performance of the night. If he had exuded a wee bit more of those emotions, I believe those watching and who are naturally melancholic, would be dabbing their eyes.

Epul (Hosting) – I dunno if he had sore eyes or if he had put too much powder on his face and eyes, but the constant blinking of his eyes was a source of irritation for me. I also did not understand what he was trying to put across as he sounded as though he was rushing through the segment and just mouthing off like an express train. But it has to be said, Epul has an endearing quality of being a joker without having the intention of being one, precisely highlighted by Rilla.

Faziz – It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a singing competition judge to point out that Faziz was a major disappointment on the night. Performing a song like Diorama‘s “Sanubariku“, should have been comfortable, easy-going and most importantly give the audience in general, a feel-good feeling. He made things difficult for himself, going off-key as he entered the chorus, going out-of-tune and being pitchy throughout. I would be very much surprised if he were to advance to the next round, when the results are announced in a fortnight’s time.

Group Performance

Just by listening to the contestants’ short interviews prior to this performance when they used words like “cuba” (try), wanting to have a husky voice like Man Toyak to be able to sing and having to listen to the song that they were supposed to perform, Cradle‘s “Sementara“, a few times to get its essence and feel, it was clear that the rock genre is not their cup of tea. And it showed in their performance. There was nothing rockish other than their outfits and doing synchronised dance steps are not what you would expect to see from rockers out there. I’m sure true-blue rockers who watched this particular performance were either cringing or laughing their hearts out. There was also too much individuality, with no teamwork and no harmony. Each wanted to be a standout on his own.

The only good point I could derive from this segment or to be more precise, the video clip prior to this performance, was the sound advice dispensed by Man Toyak for the contestants to always maintain their self-discipline. He was also astute in his observations of previous Anugerah contestants who disappeared from the limelight once the competition is over, citing their lack of initiatives to do a bit of research on the music industry and laziness to self-improve on being better all-round performers, lamenting and complaining instead that their management unit are not up to par. Truly he knew what he was talking about and was not shy to be extremely blunt about it.

My Personal Thoughts

Before I end my entry I would just like to suggest the good people at Mediacorp Suria to place artistes / eliminated contestants / non-performing contestants to sit at the front row, which is normally shown when the cameras focus on the judging panel whenever they share their thoughts. For the past two weeks I attended, some seats at the corners were taken up by the general audience. The previous week, those who had sat there were generally well-behaved. The same could not be said from this past Tuesday night’s affair when we had three or four clowns being so hard up about appearing on national television. I’m sure viewers at home were distracted by their incessant hand gestures and cam-whoring poses, so much so that they were told off during the last commercial break.

Another thing I would like to highlight is the unruly, uncouth, uncivilised and uncultured actions displayed by some of the supporters of the male contestants. I understand that cheering and shouting encouragements to your friend/s on stage are the reasons why you are at the auditorium, but there is no need to heckle other sets of supporters / contestants or exchanging vulgarities with one another. There are young children who are also part of the audience. What they see, they will imitate as they believe it is alright to do so, if others can get away with it. You know, this is 2011, yet a certain part of our society still do not know how to display the correct decorum and actions at different events.

This is more embarrassing and made even worse when the audience had to be reminded not to litter the compounds outside the Mediacorp building on their way home. Honestly I hate the sight of these people as I exit the building, cos not only do they hang out in groups, but after lighting up their cigarette butts, they would be throwing them all over. It’s not that the contestants have not been briefed by the producers to inform their sets of supporters to behave themselves, they have, but somehow in the heat of the competition, everything goes out the window. This rowdiness and social irresponsibility has no place in our society and just giving our community a bad name, but do these idiots care???

As I had mentioned earlier, the results for this week’s competition will not be announced this coming Tuesday when the girls return for another round. The announcement of who will be advancing to the semi-final rounds and who will get their reprieve in the Wildcard Round will be made on the episode which will be televised on 31st May 2011. Based on previous editions of the competition, I believe that particular episode will just be a half-hour affair to announce who have made it and who have not, though it has to be said that I might be wrong. Voting for the male contestants can still be made till 6pm this coming Tuesday 24nd May 2011. I end this entry with the usual video instructions on how to vote for your favourite contestants…

Anugerah 2011 Episode 3 Recap…

I’m back with another recap of the recent Anugerah 2011 episode. Caught up with work commitments last Tuesday meant I was not able to attend the event live from Mediacorp TV Theatre. Thanks to the “Catch Up” feature on xinmsn.com, which allows us to watch episodes and shows that we would have missed out on television, I am fortunate enough to be able to watch what I had missed out on Tuesday night. This past week, the six male contestants were judged based on their singing and choreography. Hence I expected a lot of catchy songs to be performed.

Solo Performance

Firdaus HaridanFirdaus was given the honours to kick things off with Anuar Zain‘s “Teman Terulung“. There is a reason why contestants in any singing competition seldom sing songs by Anuar Zain, and normally people would compare their singing to the original. People would also observe if they exude the necessary feel and if their delivery is close to its original style. Firdaus though I have to commend him for trying to do it in his own version, somehow did not deliver it as best as he would have wanted to. It lacked feel, and his notes fell flat at different points.

Didi – By now, I know that this guy loves to sing energetic songs. Based on the video montage prior to his performance, he also has a knack of hyping up the atmosphere and cajoling the people around him to immerse themselves into the beats of the song. Performing Estranged‘s “Yang Pernah“, he was in his element and his showmanship was top notch. Like what judge Ann Hussein had pointed out correctly, he needs to break away from that mould and start to sing ballads to show his versatility and for us to judge his singing better. Oh another thing, he also needs to cut down on shifting his eyes away when someone’s talking to him. He looked a bit lost when he was being spoken to by the judges.

Syazani – I found his introductory video a bit irritating when he used the word “Sebenarnya” in almost every sentence he uttered. Unlike the previous week where I thought he did well, this week, I was not that impressed with his rendition of ST12‘s “Biarkan Aku Jatuh Cinta“. His low notes were a bit suspect and the song did not bring out the best in him, which I know he is capable of doing. Though it wasn’t that bad overall, I think he could have done even better. His facial expressions also showed he was a bit uncomfortable with the low notes.

Ace – After watching him this time and remembering what he did the previous week, I’ve come to a conclusion that the posturing and stretching his hands towards the audience, even if it is a source of discomfort to my eyes, is a feature and trademark of his performance, no matter if it’s a fast or slow number and that I should get used to it. He sang Bunkface‘s “Revolusi” with equal energy as Didi. The difference between both was that Ace overdid his actions and went off-key towards the end.

Faziz – The song he performed, “Hapus Aku” by Nidji, was supposed to bring out the best in him. Somehow, it brought out the worst cos he was pitchy and flat throughout. Even though I know he stuck to his comfort zone by not stretching his vocals when the song called upon him to do so, he still came off flat. A dangerous game to play especially when 50% of his votes are from the judging panel.

Epul – I thought Epul did well without any frills and just sticking to his comfort zone. In fact I think his song choice, Aizat‘s “Lagu Kita“, was too easy and did not require him to expand his vocal range and repertoire. Though the song brought out the good side of him, more is expected in the weeks to come, provided of course, if he gets to advance to the latter rounds.

Group Performance

Firdaus Haridan, Didi & Syazani – The three of them performed Syed Azmir‘s “Kuasa Cintamu” to mixed reactions. Besides Ace with his trademark posturing, I can more or less expect Didi to hype up the crowd with his usual “Come on semua…” line before he starts to sing. The thing about his showmanship is that he tries to be a rock star, but somehow he falls short due to his hesitancy to let loose further and just open up a bit more. Firdaus though I know he is a more nimble dancer as compared to the other two, was a bit too individualistic and wanted to be more of the standout. Syazani finally came into his element, though it has to be said, his dancing was kept to its basics. Collectively there was no teamwork, and no harmony whatsoever as each was trying to outsing the other.

Faziz, Ace & Epul – This was easily the best performance of the night. I didn’t expect a band-boy song like OAG‘s “Generasiku“, which coincidentally was the official soundtrack of the popular “Gol & Gincu” season one series, to be converted into a boyband song and which brought the house down. Though the singing individually could have been better, as a team, they were perfect. It was energetic, their teamwork levels were in tune and like what guest judge Gani Karim had said, their synergy was excellent. Epul in particular was a standout and I felt performed much better than his solo performance earlier.

The voting lines are still open as I speak. And if you’re inclined to vote for your favourite contestants, do bear in mind to vote responsibly and wisely as the onus is on you to pick someone that can bring pride to our local Malay music industry. For more information on how to vote, you can watch this video clip, courtesy of Mediacorp Suria

Anugerah 2011 Episodes One & Two Recap…

Anugerah 2011 has finally kicked off in earnest and what a rousing start it was based on the atmosphere at the Mediacorp TV Theatre last Tuesday night. I had initially planned to go to the auditorium, but late release from camp where I had been undergoing reservist training for the past week and with massive traffic congestion happening everywhere, meant I could only watch it from the comfort of home. But at least I was able to listen to the singing and what the judges had to say clearly, as I know it would have all been drowned out by the cacophony of noise being generated by the live audience.

The show kicked off with the previous three winners of the edition – Hyrul Anuar, Aliff Aziz and Sarah Aqilah performing the theme song, “Anugerahku Gemilang“. For those of you who have seen the video clip of the song, you would note that it was composed by Shahridzuan Selamat of Revalina fame, and written by both Shah himself and Zaharian Osman, no stranger to the local entertainment industry. The three previous winners were joined by the Top 18 contestants  on stage dancing to the song. One thing I like about the song is that it is fresh, but there are traces of K-Pop, a sign of the current times, where the type of music is the rage amongst pop fans out there.

The hosts this year, Fauzie Laily, Huda Ali & Nity Baizura of RIA 89.7FM I felt were quite energetic but a bit too excited at times. That is quite natural as this was the first live episode with fans from the different camps creating a party atmosphere. Naturally the good vibes just bounced off them. Of course there were unwanted glitches, like the one where Huda made a mistake of announcing the wrong group performing towards the end, but such things do happen in a live setting. Thankfully Fauzie saved the day. From his past hosting experiences, he is getting good with the technique of ad-libbing. Nity looked a bit nervous and presented more like how she often does on radio. Give her time, she should shed those inhibitions away and be even better in the weeks to come.

This week, the theme for the contestants were songs that were composed from 2005 onwards. But I am still left wondering why evergreen songs like Orkes Nirwana‘s “Tak Mengapa” and Alleycats‘ “Kisah Kau & Aku” were classified as songs from 2005 onwards, even though their arrangements have been tweaked. The resident jury – Eddy Ali, Ann Hussein, Sheikh Haikel and guest judge, Beyond DDB‘s head honcho, Amin Hussen, had the unenviable task of contributing 50% of the contestants’ marks, with the remainder being handed to the voting audience. As this was only the first episode, I can understand if the comments that were passed down were kinda diplomatic, since most of the contestants were nervous themselves.

So what’s my take on each individual contestant’s performance??? Read on…

Solo Performances

Dewi Sulastri – She sang Agnes Monica‘s “Tanpa Kekasihku“. Listening to her, it was clear that she has a rich, husky voice suited to sing songs of a rockish nature. She was composed throughout but I felt she was a bit too expressive for a song of a balladic nature and moved about on stage a wee bit too much. Being the first contestant, she was clearly nervous just by listening to her voice.

Azhar Raz – It was interesting to see what the experience gained from the last competition would have benefited or improved Azhar‘s performance. Indeed his vocal prowess is quite unmatched and I was wondering at first if he had picked the wrong song – Jinbara‘s “Farhana“. He nailed the song and its high notes, with the only awkward moments being his unnecessary dance moves.

Erlina – Agnes Monica‘s “Dan Tak Mungkin” was her choice of song. Began the song with a tinge of uneasiness which I credited to her being nervous. Her low notes were a bit suspect and the transition between the verse and chorus wasn’t smooth thanks to the rearrangement of the song. Though judge Eddy Ali said she was a standout, I felt otherwise and thought she only came into prominence during the chorus, but the level quickly dropped as the song ended. 

 
Faziz – His song choice was Faizal Tahir‘s “Selamat Malam“. He was pitchy in most parts of the song and when he hit the high notes, I felt he wasn’t singing, but more to shouting. He also lacked the much-needed feel and intensity of the song. Definitely a wrong choice of song.

Rahayu Ridwan – This head-turner who seems to be a dead-ringer of Indonesian VJ-turned-singer, Shanty, performed Jaclyn Victor‘s “Bertamu Di Kalbu“. She has looks as her plus factor. What she needs to work on is to smile more to increase her likeability factor and to some extent, minimise the slang when she speaks as it might turn off others who are naturally envious of her package. Her singing did not leave much of an impression on me and I believe she could have done better if she had chosen another song. This song is challenging in certain parts, but Rahayu preferred to stick to her comfort zone.

Ace – Another contestant who sang a Faizal Tahir number, “Sampai Syurga“. But what I observed was not a performance, but an impersonation of the original singer. From the way he dressed right down to the gloves, to the way he postured and mimicked Faizal‘s moves, I doubt it was something that the judges would want to see being emulated, even as the competition progresses. There is always a danger of being sucked into the trap of impersonating original singers, so contestants need to be mindful of their movements on stage and image. Viewers want to see originality, not clones.

Shikin – She sang Ziana Zain‘s “Dingin” with so much aplomb. Her voice control was excellent and she did not need to follow the original singer’s style. In fact her style on its own is already original enough. At this point of time, I thought she was the best performer so far.

Mujaheed – He’s like the Erwin Shah Dawson of this year’s competition in terms of looks, but his manly voice betrays his youth. The way he sang Hazami‘s “Mungkir Bahagia” reminded me of 80s singer Ibnor Riza. Not that it wasn’t good but he seemed to have teleported himself back to those days. The only part I didn’t quite understand was his tendency to look at the floor as though he had dropped something.

Feena – It’s not easy to sing and dance to a catchy tune, especially one like Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza‘s “Ku Mahu“. Granted Feena went pitchy at certain points but she has to be commended for continuing to dance and sing without missing a heartbeat even when she tripped. The only thing I was uncomfortable with was her dressing and the shoes she wore, cos not only the shoes proved a hazard, her dressing only magnified her figure even more.

Didi – There was something about his performance singing Dewa 19‘s “Sedang Ingin Bercinta” that I felt a bit disturbed about, even though his performance, showmanship and confidence that were displayed, showed all the attributes of a budding rock star. I think it had to do with his smug look which he can tone down a bit in weeks to come. And if you want the audience to clap with you, you can’t signal and do it half-heartedly.

Efa Fatimah – Efa played on the safe side by singing a song (Geisha‘s “Takkan Pernah Ada“) which did not require her to stretch her vocals. At times, it went a bit monotonous. Definitely a wrong choice of song. Efa is capable of singing a more challenging song based on what I’ve seen of her in the past.

Firdaus Haridan – He sang Mawi‘s “Langit Biru” with mixed results. At times he was in complete control but his high notes became suspect when he had to sing the chorus. Is it just me or did his hairstyle make him resemble Hazrul Nizam???

Norul – Another strong performer of the night, Norul sang Elyana‘s “Kalis Rindu“. She had everything in her arsenal – showmanship, technique, rapport with the audience –  all brilliantly executed. Yes granted she should have been more flirty but this was only her first performance so I wasn’t expecting it like judge Eddy Ali.

Kim – For someone who has a geeky image, Kim‘s performance was anything but. I was initially fooled by how decent he looks, but he shed his inhibitions when he sang Fiq‘s “Tiga Malam Tanpa Bintang“. His voice is definitely suited to singing rock songs, just that towards the end, he went a little off-key.

Shalyza – I first saw her potential during the auditions and thought that she had it in her to advance further. Nothing has changed after seeing her performed Sharifah Zarina‘s “Langit Ketujuh“. Not an easy song to sing but she pulled it off.

Epul – I was a bit sceptical when I first heard the title of the song (Alleycats’ “Kisah Kau & Aku“), but its arrangement using big bands ensured the song became slightly catchier. And Epul did not disappoint by making full use of the stage with his performance. The only downside was his singing, which I felt was a bit average.

Baby Sulastri – I remember her as a chubby little girl who loved to perform at expo events. How she has grown and what a flawless performance she gave!!! I dare say she even sang “Hanya Di Mercu” much better than its original singer, Ayu.

Syazani – Besides Kim, there’s a likeability factor attached to this young man. Another one whose voice belies his age, I like the fact that he has coolness to go along with his relaxed outlook. I think it’s fair to say that singing Kerispatih‘s “Mengenangmu” made him connect with the audience via the emotions he exuded.

Group Performances

Mujaheed, Kim & Faziz – They sang “Raja Jatuh Cinta” by Numata. It was clear for all to see that all three looked uncomfortable at dancing and singing, with each and everyone calculating their steps. Mujaheed continued to look at the floor for whatever it was that he seemed to have dropped. There was also no harmony nor teamwork whatsoever.

Shikin, Dewi Sulastri & Erlina – The three gals saved the situation from the previous group performance. Singing Liana Jasmay‘s “Aku Tak Percaya Cinta“, their energies were bouncing off each other and they definitely took the cue from Eddy Ali to inject a bit of flirty-ness into their showmanship. I thought it was an enjoyable performance and how a group performance should be like.

Epul, Syazani & Firdaus – I felt as though I was watching some Sinar Lebaran group performance when these three young men were on stage performing Orkes Nirwana‘s “Tak Mengapa” which had been injected a fresh arrangement. For someone who professes to loving evergreen songs, Epul didn’t do the song justice. Only Firdaus and to some extent, Syazani, did well. Firdaus would do well not to overdo his facial expressions, lest it will turn off the voters.

Rahayu Ridwan, Baby Sulastri & Shalyza – The song did not require them to be too energetic as the earlier one by Erlina, Dewi Sulastri and Shikin, so their dance steps were more calculated. Baby Sulastri continued where she left off and showed that she is possibly a force to be reckoned with in this year’s competition. Shalyza looked a bit uncomfortable since her strength is mostly ballads, likewise Rahayu tried to mask her nervousness but her voice was a giveaway.

Ace, Azhar Raz & Didi – Their dance steps at the start seemed cheesy and only highlighted the fact that they were ill at ease with having to dance and sing as a group. Ace seems to be one-dimensional, singing and stretching his hands towards the audience just like how he did during the solo performance. I think only Azhar Raz did well here with Didi again making me feel uneasy with his antics.  

Norul, Efa Fatimah & Feena – The trio performed Alyah‘s “Tak Mungkin Kerna Sayang“. I thought it was a much better performance by Efa this time around. Norul also continued where she left off, showing that she is very much a versatile performer, able to sing both ballads and catchy tunes at ease. Feena was a slight disappointment as I felt her low notes didn’t do herself justice. Collectively, they were good, on par with the previous girl group performance.

Results 

This first episode seemed to be a very harsh one in terms of culling the competition. Only the Top 12 would advance, with three from each male and female category eliminated. It was somewhat of a surprise to me that people like Kim, Azhar Raz, Efa Fatimah and Dewi Sulastri had to say goodbye as early as this stage as their performances did not warrant it. But I guess it all boils down to votes by the voting audience, or lack thereof. I hope for their sake that they would return during the Wildcard round.

So what do I make of this year’s competition so far??? Well if I were to use consistency in performing well as a gauge and barometer, then I would say that the ladies are streets ahead of the gentlemen. Already from this episode, I could see three possible finalists in Shikin, Norul and Baby Sulastri. I hope by coming out to say this, I will not jinx their chances of progressing further or lull any of their voters into complacency. They still have the weeks ahead to prove themselves further and even the others could improve along the way.

This coming Tuesday 3rd May 2011, the male contestants will fight it out amongst themselves with the females resting for another week. With two strong competitors eliminated last week, I hope the guys would up their ante and improve on their singing techniques and showmanship, not overdoing their stage antics and also hopefully keeping the make-up on their faces as light as possible…