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.
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.
Syazani – ST12‘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.
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.