Anugerah 2017 Grand Finals Miscellaneous Snapshots…

Mohammad Shahfiq was instantly mobbed by his fellow competitors when the cameras stopped rolling, but as this shot was being taken, I could hear him tell them in Malay, “Hold on for awhile, I would like to meet my parents first…” Just look at where his eyes were looking at and you will realise the humility, gratitude and class that he possess. The judges truly crowned a deserving winner…

As the title above suggests, I am not doing any reviews at all for this particular entry, as I still have 4000-odd photographs that I still need to edit from last Tuesday‘s penultimate episode. In case anyone is waiting for me to speak about the final results or summarise the competition as a whole, well you just have to wait a wee bit longer as the fourteenth instalment of Pesta Perdana, happening this coming Friday, takes precedence. This entry is more of a filler to bridge the empty void between last week’s Grand Finals and Pesta Perdana. Here are some miscellaneous photos from the night whereby Mohammad Shahfiq became the latest winner of the Anugerah competition.  These shots were taken pre-show, during the commercial breaks, post-show as well as the dinner reception afterwards. Enjoy!!!

Anugerah 2017 Semi-Finals Recap…

For the past ten weeks, I believe this entry is the one that is the most late that I have published, even though I had two weeks to type this out since the semi-finals episode two weeks ago (7th March 2017). Thank God for the extra week away from having to attend a live episode as my life suddenly went a little crazier than anticipated. Thank God too for this flu that I am currently nursing as I finally have time to sit down and type this entry out. As I am typing this entry right now, we are only less than five hours away before the Grand Finals beckoned. How fast has the past ten weeks go by??? Seems like yesterday that I got acquainted with Groups A and B during the very first episode of Anugerah 2017. Since I am again pressed for time to post this up, I will avoid doing any individual analysis and just summarise collectively.

Hosts Suzairhe Sumari and Huda Ali welcomed us to the show…

We have all known by now who are the four finalists who make up tonight’s penultimate episode. In case you have been living on another planet over the past fortnight, the four are Liwani Izzati, Nor Shafiq Ridzwan, Mohammad Shahfiq and Syakirah Noble. I dare say three of the four finalists have been quite consistent throughout the weeks of competition and their respective spots were justified. In fact even before the semi-final episode began, I more or less expected Liwani, Syakirah and Shahfiq to progress. The surprise finalist for me was Nor Shafiq Ridzwan. For those who had watched the semi-final episode, we would have noted that the final spot was between him and Elza Rahim, who wowed the audience with a different side to her capabilities as a performer from the usual play-safe performances that she dished out week in and out previously.

The judges had a thankless and difficult task that night and throughout the competition. We might disagree with their final decisions but I believe they had considered and deliberated before making them, no matter how painful…

I have to say it was a very tough decision for the judges to decide that night. On one hand, they had a contestant who suddenly transformed and became a performer no one anticipated nor expected she was capable of doing before this. On the other hand, there was a contestant who has been consistent with his performances but still remaining quite relaxed in his comfort zone. When I was watching it live, I remembered how disappointed I felt for Elza when she was eventually eliminated, because even if her efforts were too late to save her, she has shown throughout the competition her willingness to learn and to steer away from being compared to Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza, in terms of her voice and singing style. She even took risks to show another aspect to her performance. In the end, the one aspect that brought her down was vocal technicality issues.

Elza Rahim was extremely unlucky to be eliminated that night. Given the right guidance and having the positive attitude to learn, she will hopefully be a better performer after this…

Don’t get me wrong, I like Nor Shafiq‘s soothing voice and control. Given the way he had better control of his pitching, I finally agreed in the end why the judges felt he was a better choice for the Grand Finals over Elza. However I feel that his vocal range is somewhat limited and he is only strong in the ballads department. I remember the judges said before that they were on the lookout for someone who is willing to take risks, to go out of their comfort zones and do something out of the ordinary. For Nor Shafiq to ace tonight’s Grand Finals, he has to push himself further because the other three contestants, the two young ladies especially, are more accomplished and experienced performers having performed on big stages like the annual Child Aid Concert and other external competitions or showcases.

Nadia Nadhirah and Azhar Aziz exited the competition having gave their all but it was not to be…

On a night where almost everyone performed above their usual capabilities, small issues and details separated them from progressing and getting eliminated. My only grouse was Azhar Aziz let the expectations of progressing weighed heavily on him and that he looked as though he was fearful of everything that were on his shoulders. I thought Nadia Nadhirah gave her best performance of the competition initially when I watched it live, but when I got home and watched her performance again via the Mediacorp Suria‘s Facebook page, her low notes were still a bit suspect and there were no emotions displayed when she sang Sufi Rashid‘s “Aku Sanggup“. I think for Nadhirah, she needs to work on having a certain bond with the lyrics she sings, to understand the emotions, to portray it, so that the audience will feel the resonance as well. It was a good performance overall, but in terms of connecting with the audience, the performance felt a bit empty.

For the first time in the competition, the contestants performed with an accompanying live band, led by Syawal Kassim (left)…

I have nothing more to add about the other three finalists. They have shown admirable consistency week in and out. The two young ladies, Liwani and Syakirah, are streets ahead in terms of showmanship and vocal prowess. One thing that they also have is fearlessness, both of them. Either one would be a deserving champion given how well they have performed throughout the competition. However they need to be mindful of overconfidence or be bogged down by expectations from people around them or even themselves. There is a dark horse in Mohammad Shahfiq, who was the semi-final stage’s outright winner and walked away with $800 that night. If he replicates his semi-final showing, we’re gonna have a hard time deciding who deserves to be champion tonight. I will not even discount Nor Shafiq Ridzwan, as evident with the 2007 and 2011 editions, Wildcard Round contestants could also win the competition if they perform above expectations. The little to no pressure on him could also work to his favour.

Down to the final four – Syakirah Noble, Nor Shafiq Ridzwan, Mohammad Shahfiq and Liwani Izzati

So it is anyone’s guess who will be the newly-crowned winner tonight and the one walking away with the $20,000 grand prize, even if many are not looking beyond Liwani or Syakirah. Of course the smart money is on them, but I am sure the other two gentlemen will not hand the title to any of the two young ladies on a silver platter. Anugerah 2017 will finally draw its curtains tonight and we are anticipating a thrilling fight to the finish. Tonight’s penultimate episode will also feature Sufi Rashid, Maiya Rahman, Eiss (Iskandar Ismail) and Aisyah Aziz who will perform with the contestants in a special duet segment. The newly-minted Anugerah Juara Lagu winner, Dayang Nurfaizah, will also be performing as the guest performer of the night. It is the last episode for this year’s competition. Expect sparks and fireworks as I believe the four finalists will put on their best performances tonight. It’s going live from Studio One at the Mediacorp Campus at 8:30pm and you can catch it on Mediacorp Suria

Snapshots of Anugerah 2017 Semi-Finals

 

Anugerah 2017 Wildcard Round

Hosts Suzairhe Sumari and Huda Ali explaining what was to be expected at the start of the show…

Gosh I am pressed for time to complete this entry. This past week has been so busy, I only managed to complete editing photographs I snapped of last week’s episode of Anugerah 2017 at the stroke of midnight. Since I am on a bit of a rush, I’ll just keep this entry short and sweet and do away with the usual individual analysis of the contestants’ respective performances. As we all know, last week’s special Wildcard Round episode saw the return of five earlier eliminated contestants for a chance at redemption and entering the competition back again proper for the semi-final round (or is it rounds???), which will begin later tonight. Last week’s episode was also the first and probably only time in this year’s competition that the judges had full autonomy over the contestants’ progress with voting by viewers suspended till the semi-finals begin.

Nadia Nadhirah justified her top spot position that night with Dayang Nurfaizah‘s “Langit Cinta“…

We were told at the start of the show that only two contestants would advance to the next round and the songs that they performed were those that they had sung earlier during their audition rounds, so it was more like a repeat performance but with a wider audience this time round. Somehow I had my doubts before the show that only two would advance, just like how they had announced the number of contestants entering the Wildcard Round (four initially, which eventually became five) the week before last. To cut the story short, by the end of the show and after some apparent acting by our esteemed resident judges, the night ended with three contestants progressing to the next round. I personally felt the acting was deliberated just to keep the suspense going and probably to kill some time as the show was under-runned. I was chuckling to myself seeing them trying to keep a straight face amidst the audience cajoling them on to make a prompt decision.

Sharizal Suwandi‘s performance was not enough to keep him in the competition…

So were the eventual results justified??? I would think so, though I personally felt it was slightly harsh on Sharizal Suwandi. He actually gave a good account of himself that night singing Merah‘s “Cintaku“. This song is quite a hot favourite with Anugerah contestants over the years. In fact since 2007, this song has been sung at every Anugerah competition. I remember Kassreeal Alfi (2007), Kamsani Jumahat / Sunny Jackson (2009) and Syazani Rahim (2011) singing this popular song during their competition years. If I were to make a comparison of Sharizal‘s performance with the others before him over the past decade, I would rank his just behind Syazani‘s. I do not quite agree that this song is not a competition song as pointed out by Najip Ali, because this song was supposed to bring out the zest and energy of the contestant, which is still sorely lacking in some of the performances by the others I’ve seen this year. Credit to Sharizal for at least wanting to enjoy himself onstage and putting some moves as he grooved along to the music.

I noted a slight improvement by Abby Nabila but sadly, it was not enough for her…

As for Abby Nabila‘s elimination, it was more or less expected given we have seen the same mistakes being repeated on an almost weekly basis. I have to give her credit for her performance this past week though, in that her usual errors which I had pointed out in previous weeks were minimised to some extent, even if it was not enough to keep her on the show, with others doing much better. I was a bit disappointed that Abby did not build on the momentum of her first week’s performance. Back then she showed that she was a very strong contender for at least a semi-final spot. Somehow the performances in the weeks that ensued just went off the rails. Like I pointed out before, there was only a certain limit of goodwill dished out by the judges. I remember 2011‘s eventual winner Rahayu Ridwan singing the same song, Adira‘s “Aku Ada Kamu“, also in the Wildcard Round back then. Unlike Rahayu, Abby did not get the same rub of green to progress to the next round.

The judges killed some time over making their final decisions by putting up a suspense show for the viewers and audience…

As for the three who advanced to the next round, Nadia Nadhirah, Azhar Aziz and Nor Shafiq Ridzwan, you would have expected any two of them to progress had the initial schematics of the competition been applied. But Taufik Batisah let slipped the most crucial comment that Azhar was needed in the competition. That was where I knew there and then that eventually three would progress. Forget the fact that the judges made a last minute decision to switch Azhar and Nor Shafiq‘s eventual positions. That was merely for show. The fact was the initial final standings that night before that last switch was already justified based on each of their respective performances. My complaint for the two young gentlemen would be fear and nervousness creeping into their minds and selves and translated henceforth into their performances as witnessed last Tuesday. They only have the semi-finals and Grand Finals to give their all. They need to come out of their shells or risked being outperformed by the other five competitors in this crucial semi-final stage.

The semi-finalists (from left): Syakirah Noble, Nadia Nadhirah, Liwani Izzati, Elza Rahim, Mohammad Shahfiq, Azhar Aziz and Nor Shafiq Ridzwan…

I am not sure if the semi-finals will be split into two episodes or just one with next week being a rest week for the finalists to prepare properly for the Grand Finals. If it is a two-legged semi-final round, tomorrow and next week will either see two eliminations or they will forgo elimination for this week and do a mass culling the next. Speaking of the Grand Finals, till today, I have not been told if it will be graced by three or four contestants. I guess like the Wildcard Round, it all depends on the judges’ to make a decision on the night itself. Tonight sees the contestants performing with a live band for the first time in the competition. I understand there is a difference in feel between performing with an accompanying band and singing with a minus one track, so hopefully the contestants will up their game tonight. You know the drill, the show’s going live on Mediacorp Suria at 8:30pm from Studio One at the new Mediacorp Campus

Snapshots of Anugerah 2017 Wildcard Round

Anugerah 2017 Week 6 Recap…

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Hosts Suzairhe Sumari and Huda Ali welcomed us to the show…

We kicked off the second half of the Anugerah 2017 competition last Tuesday, 21st February 2017, with the Top 6 vying for a place in the Grand Finals come 21st March 2017. Another two were set to be eliminated from the competition which would then leave us with just four contestants. Usually, the Grand Finals will be graced by the Top 4 or just three based on 2011‘s edition, so it made no sense to have a semi-final round this early unless the Wildcard Round was introduced. More on that later. I initially thought this was the first semi-final round, but they touted the show as a quarter-final instead. A bit odd when usually, a quarter-final round is made up of eight individuals or teams.

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The judges taking time to discuss over their decisions during one of the commercial breaks…

This past week, the theme for the competition was songs nominated in Anugerah Planet Muzik. So far, Liwani Izzati has been the standout performer, sweeping three Top Spot awards over the three weeks that she performed onstage and running away with the $500 weekly prize money, which now stands at $1500 in total. I was beginning to think if she were to continue winning consistently, the competition might as well come to an abrupt end. Even several people said so on social media. Anyway I did not do any individual analysis last week, so this week, I will be making one and perhaps alluding to their previous performances which I did not get to do then, where space and circumstances permit.

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Liwani Izzati

When Liwani opened the night’s competition singing Ayda Jebat‘s “Pencuri Hati“, it was no surprise to see her challenged herself singing and dancing to the song cabaret-style. Every week, she tries to come up with something different, be it in song arrangement or showmanship. She is one of those who have the benefit of having a personal vocal coach and maximising whatever knowledge and guidance she has been receiving. Her consistent performances are testimony to what a good coach can do to help her, allied with her own personal will and determination to succeed in this competition. Being the first contestant, she had the unenviable task of setting the night’s standards and she did not disappoint overall. However, for the first time, I detected some notes going a bit off but that was to be expected when she not only had to sing, but danced and moved all over the stage. The swing-jazz music arrangement and cabaret-styled performance was much different from the alternative Techno-Dangdut version which Ayda Jebat performed at last year’s APM2016 and meant for the Indonesian market, but still giving the song a certain freshness. At this point, it was easy to predict, bar any unfortunate twist of fate via viewers’ votes, that she will be one of the four finalists on 21st March 2017.

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Abby Nabila

Next up was Abby Nabila, who performed Kotak‘s “Kecuali Kamu“. When she did not perform well in Episodes 4 and 5, I could at least point to the fact that she had been feeling under the weather. However at this stage of the competition, a certain amount of competitiveness had to be present and this was sorely lacking, not only in Abby‘s performance, but also a few of her fellow contestants. I’ve seen many netizens up in arms over the past weeks, questioning her continued involvement in the competition but they could perhaps be forgiven for not knowing her health conditions then. I noticed the judges also tend to give her the benefit of doubt too because they know that she is one of the few contestants who is brave enough to try something out of the ordinary, like singing a male song or a song out of her own comfort zone. But as the competition wilts down, luck can only be with her for so long. Her performance last Tuesday was filled with many errors. For the third time in the course of the past six episodes, I detected that she has difficulties in hitting high notes or making the transitions between low and high. Such errors at this stage of the competition are considered criminal.

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Mohammad Shahfiq

The only male constestant left, you can say that he somehow is the bastion of hope for his fellow males who still have any vested interest in the competition. I was a bit surprised when judge Indra Shahrir claimed that this was Shahfiq‘s best performance so far, but I found it odd that a “best performance” included flat notes and dodgy pitching issues. I personally feel that Shahfiq performed much better during Episode 3 than this latest offering where he sang Hafiz Suip‘s “Noktah Cinta“. My sentiments echoed that of Taufik Batisah‘s. He looked quite uncomfortable from the start, a little unsure with his stage movements and had a lot of problems with his low notes. The only positive mark I could give Shahfiq was his willingness to come out of his comfort zone and singing a more upbeat number to challenge himself. Self-confidence issues I believe, has been a mainstay since I watched Shahfiq from the first week. He needs to show that he is enjoying himself performing in front of others alone when all these while, he has been used to performing in his school’s choir group.

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Shalyza Rosly

Another enigma in this year’s competition has been Shalyza Rosly. I expected a lot from her, given she had gone through the same competition in 2011. The experience she had then, should have given her the necessary tools to develop her performing style and have the edge over most contestants, just like Fauzie Laily had done when he entered Anugerah 2003 and 2005. The weekly complaints I have been hearing and seeing online about Shalyza has been her vocal similarities with Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza and I believe she is also sick of hearing it already. It has not helped her cause that she has been singing melancholic songs all these while. So when she performed Faizal Tahir‘s “Assalamualaikum“, I thought perhaps finally we would be listening to something out of the ordinary from her. However, the theme still remained the same with her sticking to her comfort zone of singing songs which are not of an upbeat tempo. I dunno why she chose this music arrangement over the original version, which as we all know is catchy and upbeat. I was also not sure what style Shalyza tried to inject into the song, but from the start, I was alarmed when she was consistently off-key. She tried to add gestures and movements into her performance but I thought they were a bit too incessant. When Shalyza did her 360 degree turn towards the end of her performance, I somehow knew her fate for the night was sealed.

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Elza Rahim

While Shalyza‘s performances have stagnated somewhat, the performances of Elza Rahim, another fellow contestant with shades of Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza, has thankfully not digressed that much, at least from what I have been observing so far. I note that she has been trying hard to change her style of singing so that it would not sound too obvious to her beloved idol. But people will always compare, moreso when she chose to sing Dato’ Siti‘s “Lebih Indah” last Tuesday. It felt like a risky move, even the judges and her admitted that. One could however, see the effort she made in trying to sound different. My only complaint about Elza‘s performance, and this has been a running theme throughout the competition and not solely exclusive to her alone, is that most of them are so afraid of hitting the high notes or if they do, they tend to come up short. I dunno if a lack of practice, self-confidence, nervousness or preferring to still play it safe are combining factors for them not to challenge themselves further. I know it is not easy to hit the high notes. I cannot do it for the life of me, but I am not a singer to begin with, even though I used to have aspirations. But they are in this competition to win and show their mettle. They should give and want more.

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Speaking of giving and wanting more, I noticed that Syakirah Noble has always been at the fringes of winning the weekly top spot, no matter if she had been placed as lowly as fifth before this in Episode 2 (I personally felt she deserved higher then). In fact she almost did in Week 5, before she was unceremoniously shunted to second spot by Liwani. Don’t be fooled by her girly personality when she speaks. Here is a fiesty and determined individual not content in letting her good friend sweep the top spot on a weekly basis. I will be brave enough to say Syakirah‘s performance this past week was the best so far in this competition. She performed Roze Kasmani‘s “Harum” with an almost identical music arrangement to that of Liwani‘s. But the similarities end there. Had former Anugerah resident judge Eddy Ali been at the hot seat, I can bet he would have said that Syakirah‘s performance had all the right “menjeng” (sultry) ingredients that were required to sing this number. This was a different facet to Syakirah‘s onstage personality, a pleasant surprise for those who watched. I saw a professional singer performed that night and not for the first time in the competition, Syakirah managed to make me have goosebumps watching her. Truly she deserved her top spot position by the night’s end.

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Shalyza Rosly bade farewell to the competition

As mentioned earlier and a continued weekly routine, two contestants had to be eliminated by the end of the night, one by the judges’ ranking decisions, the other by viewers’ votes. Shalyza Rosly who was eventually placed at sixth position once Elza Rahim had taken her spot at third, did not see her position changed right after the last commercial break of the night. I won’t say it was a difficult decision to make because at this stage of the competition, little things like flaws in technicalities and showmanship are quite easy to detect or could be the difference. Going off-key almost throughout her performance, I think the judges did not have to pull their hair out nor think too much about making an informed decision. For me, it was either Shalyza or Abby Nabila. Both were ranked the two lowest positions by the judges.

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Abby Nabila was the next one to say goodbye to the competition, albeit temporarily…

After Shalyza had left the stage, it was the turn for the contestant with the least number of votes to make way. Abby Nabila found her luck had run out shortly afterwards. It came as a bit of a shock because right up till the last commercial break at least, Syakirah was the one with the least number of votes. Fortunately she was placed at the top, which granted her immunity for the week. For the first time, Liwani Izzati enjoyed getting the most number of votes by viewers. I had expected Elza Rahim‘s generous supporters to put her in a safe position yet again, but it was not to be. Finally we are seeing some dynamics changing in terms of viewers’ votes. Maybe viewers are starting to wise up and keep the deserving ones in the competition. Will this remain or will we revert back to the usual once the semi-final round kicks off next week??? We will only know properly then…

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Wildcard Round contestants (from left): Sharizal Suwandi, Nor Shafiq, Nadia Nadhirah, Abby Nabila and Azhar Aziz…

Just before the show ended, we were finally informed of the Wildcard Round, which will be held tomorrow 28th February 2017. Out of the eight contestants who have been eliminated between Episodes 3-6, five were selected to fight it out once again for a final redemption back into the competition. I had earlier expected Azhar Aziz, Nadia Nadhirah, Sharizal Suwandi and Nor Shafiq to be reinstated because I personally felt they deserved to based on their performances during the weeks they were eliminated. The fifth spot, however, was anyone’s guess. As it is, the judges decided to give Abby Nabila a reprieve. This was where social media was again up in arms. Personally I would have given it to Hakim Halim, but upon reflection, Hakim Halim and Shalyza Rosly are quite one-dimensional and similar, in that their strengths and forte are more towards Rock and Ballad respectively. As mentioned before, Abby gets into the judges’ good books for her bravery in wanting to try something different, even if sometimes the end product does not come out as satisfactorily as planned. Will she prove her doubters wrong??? We will only know tomorrow…

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The Top 4 who progressed into the semi-finals – Liwani Izzati, Elza Rahim, Syakirah Noble and Mohammad Shahfiq

For the Top 4 who progressed this past week, they must have heaved a sigh of relief upon knowing they were able to put their feet up and enjoy the week off. However, it will not be any easy, as anyone from the five chosen to be in the Wildcard Round are able to upset the apple cart once the semi-finals beckoned. So how many from the Wildcard Round will progress this coming week? Will it be two or three out of the five? We will only find out when the competition resumes tomorrow live from Studio One at Mediacorp Campus at 8:30pm. For those watching from the comfort of home, I don’t have to remind you which channel the live telecast will be aired…

Snapshots of Anugerah 2017 Week 6

Anugerah 2017 Week 5 Recap…

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Hosts Huda Ali and Suzairhe Sumari welcomed us to the show…

We have reached the halfway point of Anugerah 2017. How quickly time flies. Due to a couple of factors like a hectic work schedule this past week and for the fact that Facebook videos were taking a long time to load over the weekend thus hampering me from viewing their performances again, I will not be doing my regular individual analysis of the contestants for this week and probably the upcoming week, depending on my own commitments. Partly why I am not doing individual analysis for this week is also because I would like the contestants to have a reprieve because they have been slammed left, right and centre by the netizens for apparently bringing down the standards of this year’s competition. It is only fair that I allow them a breather and let them concentrate on their upcoming episode. By the way, the theme for last week’s episode were songs produced during their birth years.

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By the end of the night, we saw the elimination of Shafie Syed and Nadia Nadhirah, the former being the lowest-ranked by the judges and the latter by virtue of getting the least number of votes by viewers and studio audience. Do I think it was justified? I believe in the case of Shafie, it probably was. He has been quite fortunate enough to have a very good support base to have kept him in the competition for so long while putting in what I considered as safe performances. Actually his performance last week was ok, just that visually it looked a bit off and comical, with him singing a song with traditional nuances, but wearing a modern outfit. He actually got his “Lenggok Melayu” on point though. In the case of Nadia Nadhirah, she didn’t do too badly, in fact I thought she did better than the previous weeks I observed her. She was just unlucky that her votes were not enough to save her. Ironically the two bottom-placed contestants by the judges were the ones with the highest votes. There is only so long that they can remain that way before the judges place them at the dreaded last position.

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The judges enjoying a bit of banter with the two hosts…

However, to be fair, quite a number of the contestants were recovering from a bad virus over the past fortnight. This was something the people watching from the comfort of home did not know, which affected their performances somewhat. I saw the amount of abuse directed at the contestants for bringing down the standards of the competition as mentioned earlier, some went as far as saying that this is the worst batch. I disagree with most of these dissenters because I can say that most of them have very short memories. If I were to compare with the 2011 batch, with all due respect to them, I personally feel this current batch is better in terms of vocal technique and execution. I was actually appalled at seeing someone from my list of friends on social media, questioning the standards when as a former reality television contestant himself, I expected a more compassionate and understanding approach having gone through the motions when he entered more than a decade ago.

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The final ranked positions by the judges by the end of the night…

People tend to forget these young upstarts are still raw and most do not have the benefit of having vocal coaches outside to guide them, what more have the knowledge of music / melody arrangement to make a difference in their performances. As I had mentioned before in previous entries, the buddies in the competition have limited time with them and can only share up to a certain point as instructed by the producers. The rest is up to the contestants to find ways to stand out from one another. People still complain to this day why the show pales to that of the likes of Mentor and Akademi Fantasia. The reason is simple. The concepts and mechanics of the competitions are different, sponsors do not pump as much money as that across the Causeway and with a population that is ten to fifteen times lesser than our next door neighbours, how do we expect to find such good or perhaps, exceptional talents???

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Shafie and Nadhirah gamely accepted their elimination and posed for the camera with buddy Hyrul Anuar

Our community only makes up about 15% of the population. From this 15%, the 16-29 years of age group probably make up about 2% or 3%. When we break down even further, how many from this age group actually have the talent to sing or want to sing in a reality television competition??? With talents now able to make music and sharing on social media, there is probably also another factor whereby they do not see that need to be known or to test themselves, knowing there are other avenues for them to be heard. People talk, complain and rant on a weekly basis, but they never stop to think of the bigger picture. Too many empty vessels making a lot of noise, yet they do not contribute substantially to the progress of the local music or entertainment industry and expect the people inside to create magic.

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The Top 6 semi-finalists… Will some of the eliminated contestants be given another chance to join them???

So far, there is still no news yet of any possibility of a Wildcard round in this year’s competition. However, I have a sneaky feeling that it will be done either this week or the next, because it seems odd that the quarter-final episode was on Week 5 and then you have another five weeks of competition. Take away the possibility of a two-legged semi-final episode, we’re left with three weeks, one of which is of course the Grand Finals. Well, that’s me being analytical and drawing upon my experience covering Anugerah competitions over the past decade. I could still be wrong. But till then, we will just have to wait and see as the Top 6 from last week’s episode is scheduled to fight it out once again tomorrow, live from Studio One at the new Mediacorp Campus at 8:30pm.

Anugerah 2017 Week One Recap…

16107292_10154430648167893_1427882804843526248_o(Graphics poster courtesy of Mediacorp Suria)

My goodness, how long has it been??? Three months I reckon since my last post and I have still yet to edit those 3000-odd photographs I snapped during Anugerah Planet Muzik 2016. Not only that, but some other events I attended in between like RIA 89.7FM‘s 26th anniversary bash or the radio station’s search for The Owesome Voice, not to mention the Anugerah 2017 auditions held at Kallang Wave Mall, amongst others. Been undergoing some busy schedules and commitments on the personal end that I simply lost the verve to do up entries on this domain. Now that the new year is in its infancy stage, it is a good time to start afresh and what better way to start than to speak about the return of the Anugerah singing competition, back after a six-year hiatus. Oh in the case of my long-awaited APM2016 entry, we need to revisit that another time. Or perhaps not at all??? We’ll see, I don’t want to make empty promises again…

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Huda Ali and Suzairhe Sumari are tasked to helm the reality competition this year…

Part of the reason there was a distinct gap in the years of competition (six), was because the competition became a bit saturated at one point of time. It doesn’t help that our market and local entertainment industry is small with the same faces coming for auditions, even if their journey became shortlived before they actually began. In between the years, we’ve had reality competitions like Anugerah Skrin and Anugerah V, catering to a different niche or skill set, and the memorable TeRaSeh programme that spanned for two years and pitted radio and television personalities against each other, to raise funds for their selected charity organisations. I will not talk about the audition rounds of Anugerah 2017 till a latter date and just focus on what transpired on our television screens this past Tuesday 17th January 2017.

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Resident judges: Indra Shahrir, Taufik Batisah and Najip Ali

For starters, Anugerah 2017 comes with a fresh new concept. Not only a fresh concept in terms of competition mechanics, but hosting and judging line-up, save for Huda Ali, who was the host back in 2011 along with Fauzie Laily and Nity Baizura. Even the premise (Studio One in the spanking new Mediacorp campus situated at Stars Avenue) where the live telecast is held weekly, is new. Those who had caught the first episode would have noted that there is now a ranking system where the judges will rate the contestants’ performances and rank them from 1-8. The lowest unfortunately will be eliminated and that is not all. The viewers also play a part in determining who advances to the next round and who gets eliminated via the traditional SMS voting system, so there is not only one elimination per week, but possibly two.

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Anugerah alumnus Fauzie Laily, Rahayu Ridwan, Hyrul Anuar and Hariani Hassan Bakri opened the show…

I am unsure of the actual numbers of votes cast, but I think it might be better if the voting system is tweaked in such a way that more people are able to participate and vote without having to pay a certain amount of money. I mean, there are online polls and voting via other means which are free out there. Putting a price tag would turn would-be voters off or those with a younger support base not able to vote in without prior adult consent. We have since moved with the times and through technological advances on social media. Even radio stations are now reading dedications or granting song requests off their Facebook pages and no longer relying on the age-old SMS system. But I do note that this is possibly basic commercial revenue which the television station stand to gain. I might be wrong on this aspect, but the revenue will probably help to cover costs along the way, hence maybe the need to retain these mechanics.

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All 16 contestants were introduced to the watching audience in the studio and at home…

Being the inaugural episode, it was a special two-hour programme last Tuesday, beginning with a first half-hour slot dedicated to featuring what transpired during the audition rounds down to the announcement of the Top 16. The episode also included footages from the masterclasses the contestants had to attend to prepare themselves before appearing on stage as well as filming their short video montages and having their photoshoots, all that happening over a period of five weeks leading up to the actual competition proper. Rather than the usual rushed one hour show we’ve had in the past, it was a 90-minute affair afterwards where the first eight contestants who formed Group A, duked it out. This year’s competition is hosted by Suzairhe Sumari and Huda Ali and the resident judges are Najip Ali, Indra Shahrir and Taufik Batisah.

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This will be a familiar sight in the weeks to come, the judges observing intently on the contestants’ singing, stage presence and showmanship…

Before the contestants in Group A took centrestage, four of the Anugerah alumnus which included 2005 and 2011 winners, Hyrul Anuar and Rahayu Ridwan, opened the show with this year’s theme song “Mengejar Impian“, composed by Reyza Hamizan. The other two who performed the song were Fauzie Laily and Hariani Hassan Bakri, both incidentally coming in 3rd in their respective Anugerah competition years, 2005 and 2002 respectively. I saw self-styled online critics wondering about the identity of Hariani or even the likes of Kalysa Aziz, whose brother, Azhar, is in this year’s competition. Maybe a little bit of homework or immersing one’s self in the local music scene would stand some way in answering those questions. Kalysa by the way, has had her collaboration single “Bila Kau Tiada” with Ryan Sufiyan and Lefttool topping the local music charts over the past year. Start listening to more local songs on radio to know and get to know our local talents through their songs and interviews on air, or follow them on their social media accounts.

anugerah-2017-episode-1-002Reyza Hamizan (left) with Anugerah 2009 alumnus Hydir Idris, seated amongst the audience that night…

I also noted people lamenting on social media about the standard of singing by the four Anugerah alumnus, most notably our 2011 winner, Rahayu. To be fair to her, she has not been actively singing for the past two or three years due to family commitments. Like many who have not been active, taking baby steps to get back into the groove and scheme of things, expect teething problems like lack of vocal stamina and rustiness to set in. Even during the popular Gegar Vaganza competition done by our next door neighbour, if you had watched and noticed, you see experienced singers struggling to find their rhythm and needing weeks to get back into their stride. That too if they were afforded the chance to progress by the judges. Granted as a winner, she should be setting a good example to the new generation, but weighing in the circumstances and possible reasons, I think we should not be too harsh on her. The focus is afterall still on the new batch.

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Fatihah Izyan

Speaking of new batch, Fatihah Izyan had the unenviable task of kicking off this year’s competition. She sang 3 Suara‘s “Beribu Sesalan” much to the discomfort of my listening ears and probably the judges as well. It is not easy to sing a song with three different vocal tones and ranges intertwined into one. While her bravery should be applauded, her naivety in picking the wrong song to perform did not help her case. The strength of the original singers is the injection of their souls into the song giving it much life and exuding so much emotions. However, there was no feel whatsoever when Fatihah sang. Personally, I felt it wasn’t fair also to put the youngest contestant in the competition as the first, as it put unnecessary pressure on her young shoulders. She was a bundle of nerves based on her facial expressions and it showed.

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Shafie Syed

Shafie Syed was up next and he sang Imran Ajmain‘s “Seribu Tahun“, a song which was also co-written by resident judge, Taufik Batisah. It is clear to see that Shafie has a passing resemblance to the guy on the judging panel and on certain parts it looked as if it was Taufik himself singing the song. Even the man himself jokingly admitted their resemblance to one another when it was his turn to comment on Shafie‘s performance. This is where Shafie needs to strike and build his own identity, and not to be seen as a Taufik Batisah clone. As for his performance, I’ve seen comments saying he sang better than the original singer. I disagree because judge Indra Shahrir brought up a relevant point about his falsetto, which I also felt was inconsistent and certain parts where he went a bit off. But he looks like one of the safest bets to progress further in the competition due to his strong support base.

anugerah-2017-episode-1-380Liwani Izzati

Long time readers of this blog or even my own social media accounts will note that I usually don’t have much nice things to say when someone sings a Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza‘s song as they usually tend to copy her style or fail to live up to her lofty standards. So it was a nice surprise when I heard Liwani Izzati performed “Dialah Di Hati” with such maturity that belied her young age (she’s only 17!!!). During the introductory clip, music director Syawal Kassim had said he was surprised that someone her age could understand and distinguish technicalities and switch keys with ease. Those who watched her that night would have had no qualms with her final standings by the end of the night. When she sang, my hairs stood. That itself is a benchmark and one that won me over. She will easily be a shoo-in for the Grand Finals if she can keep this up and challenge herself further.

anugerah-2017-episode-1-406Mohammad Shahfiq

19-year old Mohammad Shahfiq continues a family legacy with his involvement in this year’s competition. As a trivia, his aunt, Liza Sanat, was a contestant ten years ago in the competition that introduced us to the likes of Aliff Aziz, Maiya Rahman and Nurun Nuwarrah. If my memory still serves me right, her journey ended at the quarter-final stage. It remains to be seen how Shahfiq, who sang Cakra Khan‘s “Harus Terpisah“, will progress in this competition. He was a bundle of nerves, uncertain with his movements and his darting eyes gave away his discomfort. Something was absolutely bothering him that night. For him to progress, he has to quickly learn to overcome his fears and gain some much-needed confidence.

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Shalyza Rosly

Some of you who watched Anugerah 2011 would probably remember Shalyza Rosly, then a raw 17-year old contestant. I certainly remember her as she was my favourite contestant back then. She had bags of potential and only her lack of confidence and maturity on stage hampered her progress further. Fast forward six years later, expectations have naturally increased as she is now a more confident performer having had experiences performing at showcases, private functions and expo events. Along with Liwani, she was amongst the night’s two best performers. I felt she was more composed than Liwani when she sang Agnes Monica‘s “Tanpa Kekasihku“, but her performance lacked the challenge to sing higher notes and play around with the song dynamics like Liwani did. She was more in her comfort zone and this was touched upon by the judges. She would do well to heed their advice to choose a song that will raise her levels further.

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Hakim Halim

Hakim Halim is another repeat contestant with his previous foray in the competition in 2011 ending with a first round elimination. Back then he sang a rock ballad, Fiq‘s “Tiga Malam Tanpa Bintang“. This time he stayed loyal with the genre, singing Kristal‘s “Memburu Impian“. I find him a unique contestant in that he is the only one so far, with a rockish voice and best suited to the genre. He certainly knows where his vocal strengths are but in this kind of competition they need to show that they can sing a variety of songs, from the slow to the catchy, the melancholic to the high energy. He also needs to shed his inhibitions and let loose a bit on stage. Having a voice is one thing, having stage presence and showmanship is another. I’m hoping this time round his luck would be much better than in 2011. He needs to work harder on his showmanship and own the stage.

anugerah-2017-episode-1-560Roziana Cindy

The downside to having a sibling who is already established in the scene is that people will have high expectations of them and expect them to be as equally accomplished as their brother or sister. Undue and unnecessary pressure naturally will work its way through somehow. This is probably true in the case of Roziana Cindy, who is the younger sister of singer / songwriter, Didicazli. For a start, I personally feel that she has the physical package to be a prolonged contestant – the height, the sweet-saccharine looks, the ability to play a musical instrument. Unfortunately her voice brought her performance down. Though her performance singing Sherina‘s “Pergilah Kau” was not entirely bad, she could have done better by picking a song that required her to vary her vocal range. I dunno if the lack of playing the guitar might have hampered her performance, but her voice tone itself sounds like those already established female singers who perform with guitars, like Najwa Latif, Nanasheme and Ainan Tasneem, just to think of three. Too ordinary and did not captivate the judges and yours truly.

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Azhar Aziz

Rounding of the night’s competition was Azhar Aziz. Followers of the recent Final One reality song competition on Channel 5 will definitely remember him for his soulful voice and boyish good looks, as would judge Taufik Batisah, who was also on the judging panel in that competition. A different language medium than the previous one, but he is equally at ease singing in English or Malay. Not many in the audience and at home knew, but he was very ill that night, but he gave off his best. I felt his performance, singing Afgan‘s “Bukan Cinta Biasa” was worthy of Top 3 or 4 at least. For the guys, I feel that he has the package to rival Shafie Syed and the one that girls will have no problems voting for with his voice and dreamy looks. Let’s see how he will kick on when his health is much better in the coming weeks.

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Roziana Cindy could still afford a big smile when she learned of her elimination…

The night ended with two eliminations, Roziana saying goodbye due to her being the lowest-ranking contestant by the judges and Fatihah by virtue of getting the least votes. Roziana took her ousting in her stride and was all smiles afterwards but the experience was a bit too hard for the young Fatihah to digest. I was actually partly surprised that the judges would let Roziana exit the competition so early, given past competitions have showed how the judges and voters, knowing or unknowingly, tended to hold on to the good-lookers slightly longer for viewership sake. Not this time. Finally I feel it’s time we are brave enough to put talents over looks. Also with a 100% power given to the judges, you can rest assured that talent will no doubt be at the forefront of their judging criteria. Anyway I do not believe we have seen the last of Roziana if her brother’s Instagram post afterwards can be interpreted correctly. In fact I think he should compose a song for her and bring out her strengths for us to appreciate better. One failed TV outing perhaps didn’t do her talent justice.

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Though she was smiling as she exited the stage, Fatihah broke down and had to be consoled by the other contestants afterwards…

For Fatihah, though I had expected her to exit the competition just by observing her performance, I was expecting her elimination to be more via judging decisions, than based on SMS votes. I said in one of the earlier paragraphs that the voting system could be a disadvantage to some of the contestants and this was possibly true for Fatihah. I observed her supporters in the audience were no more than 16 years old, and would definitely have needed their parents’ consent to vote for her. She was at a disadvantage right from the start. Reality competitions can be a bit harsh when you do not have a strong support base and those with deep pockets. Anyway she is still young, she can learn from Shalyza‘s previous experience in the competition and work on her singing, confidence and showmanship. Who knows you might see a confident and more polished contestant in future editions? You’ll never know.

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The Top 6 from Group A who advanced to the next round…

This season’s competition is already shaping up to be much better than the previous edition in that they did away with the hosting segment and concentrate on just the singing aspect. Which should be the way. Other than Shikin Imran, the previous competition’s runner-up who was given a hosting role in an info-ed show in the past five years, I struggle to think back which of the other Anugerah 2011 contestants who were fortunate enough to co-anchor or host a programme. The rubrics for this year’s competition look a bit haphazard with the contestants playing musical chairs with the rankings throughout the show, but I like it already as it keeps them all on their toes to do well. The $500 incentive and immunity from being eliminated via viewers’ votes, or lack thereof, that come with being placed first for the week should give them that motivation. Tonight, it is the turn for Group B to take centrestage. I cannot wait to see what the next eight contestants have in store for us. Can they perform better than Group A did last week??? We shall see…

Snapshots of Anugerah 2017 Week One