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…