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 4 Recap…

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Another episode of Anugerah 2017 has passed, and again with a little bit of uproar afterwards on social media, which I will touch on much later. Group B returned to our television screens and continued the Rock genre which their Group A counterparts had gone through the week before. From observing the first two episodes, it was generally perceived and I noted that Group B had the better performers over Group A. That is normal and was to be expected when you take into account first time jitters during the first episode. Group B in the meantime had the advantage of observing what was expected of them and applying what they learned a week later. Naturally you would also expect them to do better for the second time, having had the opportunity to watch their counterparts go through the Rock genre a week before them. So how did they fare last Tuesday???

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Syakirah Noble

I personally like Syakirah Noble‘s confidence on stage. Even though she is only seventeen, she is not easily fazed or looked daunted when she was made to be the first contestant to go up. This comes with the experience of entering external singing competitions and she has bags of experience already in that respect. However experience alone was not enough to ensure she gave a performance as good as her previous one. For one, Syakirah‘s low notes were a bit suspect when she performed Akim & The Majistrate‘s “Potret“. She also needs to work on her diction and pronunciation of words, in turn reducing her English accent, so as not to turn off our ever-critical viewers who are always out to find the slightest faults and vent it on social media afterwards. Another flaw I noticed was the lack of emotions injected into the song, which only became evident when she broke into chorus. When we put in emotions and feel, our viewers and listeners will equally share them with us. Not the same virtuoso performance that she did on the second week, probably because the Rock genre was her first attempt at it. In that respect, I disagree slightly with judges Taufik Batisah and Najip Ali that it was a good performance by her, because I’ve seen Syakirah performed much better before this.

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Nor Shafiq

He was the winner of the $500 prize given to the best performer of the week the last time out and enjoyed immunity from elimination. Naturally, another stellar performance was anticipated when Nor Shafiq came onstage to sing “Untukmu Sayang“, which was originally sung by 80s rock group, Febians, and then much later by Amuk. I do not deny Shafiq has this mesmerising tone of voice which could leave the ladies out there weak in the knees and wished as though he was singing specially to them. If we take away the genre of the night and treat it like a normal performance, he would have aced it again. However, he was too relaxed, too lackadaisical, too complacent. Perhaps he was overconfident??? Probably. If I were to be extremely critical of his performance, it resembled that of someone who was performing in karaoke rooms or at wedding functions where their voices alone would ensure accolades from those around them. This time I agree with the judges that his performance lacked bite and the rock factor.

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Sharizal Suwandi

I was quite critical of Sharizal Suwandi‘s last outing and even said that he should have been eliminated by the judges. Not this time. I felt he redeemed himself well on Tuesday night when he performed Rahim Maarof‘s “Cinta Kristal“. When I compared his performance with the two before him, I personally believe till today that he should have been at least placed second by the judges. He was very much in control of his delivery, was a picture of calmness and determination, probably buoyed at the fact that he is now a first-time daddy. Hope it’s not too late to congratulate Sharizal and his missus, Hawa, on the birth of Nur Shafira Haifa. Even if overall the performance still lacked a bit of rockish attitude, watching Sharizal performed that night actually dispelled whatever remaining misgivings I might have about his presence in the competition and hoped for his sake that he would progress. I really felt that he was much better than the first two, but apparently it wasn’t enough for judge Indra Shahrir, who was left disappointed. It seems that it is very difficult to win over Indra, prompting Najip to chide him for not being “rock” enough. Too often Indra has been throwing spanner into the works of good performances in the competition.

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Nadia Nadhirah

Before I comment further on Nadia Nadhirah‘s performance, I would like to put on record that I have an issue with the categorisation of Judika‘s “Bukan Dia Tapi Aku” in the Rock category. I would not even consider it a Rock Ballad even if the original singer injected some rock elements into the song by virtue of the nature of his husky vocals. I thought I was alone in having these thoughts, but a quick scan on my social media timeline after I got home from Mediacorp, showed a number of Rock enthusiasts up in arms as well. There were no other elements of Rock as well in the performance, quite a disappointment given the fact that judge Najip Ali had talked up her credentials as a technical singer a fortnight ago. I also observed that Nadhirah tends to sing her songs low. Not that it’s a bad thing, but there were parts where she was in danger of going flat and off-key. I also feel that Nadhirah is still singing in her comfort zone. She needs to challenge herself and pick songs that will test her vocal range. She already has that basic technical foundation. She should be finding ways to set herself apart from the rest still left in the competition. I disagree with her final ranked position, but thought she also did not deserve to be in the bottom three had the judges placed her there.

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Abby Nabila

I have a nickname for Abby Nabila after watching her two performances in Anugerah 2017 so far, and some of her previous ones on Youtube and that is, “The Storyteller“. She has this innate ability to express the story of the song she is singing through her eyes, facial expressions and hand gestures. I’ve seen her sing songs which are fast-paced, it made me want to get up and dance with her. I’ve also seen her performed songs like this past Tuesday where she sang the late Nike Ardila‘s “Ku Tak Akan Bersuara“, and also felt the sad emotions that she exuded. However, it was an error-strewn performance by Abby, with her going off-key on several occasions, especially when she tried to hit the high notes. For some reason, I detected that she was not her usual self and she confirmed later on that she was not feeling particularly well that night. By the end of her performance, I feared that she was in danger of elimination and only a miracle would have saved her.

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Elza Rahim

Elza Rahim ended the night’s competition with Mayang Sari‘s “Tiada Lagi“, another song which I thought was not rock-ish enough to be considered as one. From her live radio interview this past Monday night on RIA 89.7FM, Elza understood that she tends to sound like her idols when she sings, amongst them Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza, but vowed to sing in her own style henceforth to avoid future comparisons. She delivered her promise in that respect and she was very much in control of her overall performance. I personally liked her performance and thought she was a shoo-in for top spot. But if I were to be a bit more critical of her performance, like Nadhirah, Syakirah, Shalyza Rosly and even Nor Shahfiq before her, Elza seems to be mired in her comfort zone. These contestants need to show that they are also able to deliver songs that are not ballads by nature. Which was probably why this genre was supposed to challenge them in the first place.

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Nor Shafiq exited the competition by virtue of being the lowest-ranked by the judges. He would have still been eliminated as he was also the one with the least number of votes for the night.

The night ended with another uproar on social media. Many were up in arms over Nor Shafiq‘s elimination when they thought that Abby Nabila should have been placed last. I had also expected Abby to exit the competition and even when I spoke to her afterwards, she said that she had mentally prepared herself to go given her less-than-convincing performance. It was definitely a spectacular fall from grace as he was the best performer the last time out. I tried to analyse and put myself in the judges’ shoes to understand their reasoning in switching Abby and Nor Shafiq‘s inital positions by watching their performances again via Mediacorp Suria‘s Facebook page. Perhaps what saved Abby that night was the fact that her performance was more angsty and suited for a rock ballad as compared to Nor Shafiq, who remained in his zone and did not exude much emotions nor gave the impression that the week’s genre was Rock. The key to winning the judges over could also be found in their comments after Abby‘s performance. They said they felt her emotions and I think that edged it for her. Just.

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Sharizal‘s voters did not vote enough to keep him in the competition…

Another bone of contention for the next elimination via viewers’ votes could also be found on Mediacorp Suria‘s Facebook page. As a form of transparency, the television station had displayed the final vote percentages in a bar graph format and rounded off the figures to the nearest whole numbers. As it stands, the displayed figures had three contestants, Syakirah, Abby and Sharizal with a 15% vote percentage each but Sharizal was eventually eliminated as being the contestant with the least number of votes after Nor Shafiq, who only had 12% of the votes. In any case, Nor Shafiq would still have been eliminated, even if he had not been placed last by the judges. As for the disputed figures, the actual numbers actually showed that Sharizal had 14.55% of votes, followed by Syakirah with 15.02% and Abby with 15.31%. I think the television station did not anticipate this uproar so soon after the show ended with viewers questioning why Sharizal was the unlucky one. I believe in such questionable circumstances, the station could have immediately displayed the actual percentage figures along with the graph chart to avoid any dissenting voices from crying murder. The viewers and online community are ever so eager to come down hard on the station, I find it galling at times.

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As the credits were rolling on our television screens, our two eliminated contestants were still in high spirits as seen here with their buddy, Hyrul Anuar

Even after explaining the situation and releasing the final figures, the dissenting voices were still up in arms and venting their anger, blaming the station for lack of transparency and being dishonest. I’ve noticed for the longest time, Mediacorp Suria has always been at the receiving end of unsatisfied viewers and complaint kings and queens. They always have bones to pick over nitty-gritty things, trivial stuff and absolutely love making comparisons with television stations or programmes across the Causeway. Far too often they threatened to not want to watch anymore, yet the following week they are back again commenting and voicing out their displeasure. I have no kinder words to describe such people other than call them “Suckers”. I have never understood this extreme fixation for programmes that are produced abroad and expecting our people to replicate. If we were to really do that, then people will say we’re only being copycats. We really cannot please these people nor understand the rationale behind some of their thinking and rants. They speak like they know it all but provide few viable solutions and expect the station to create magic when in fact a lot of the programmes that are aired are not produced by them.

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When our television station does not do that, they question why the competition does not include proper trainings for these contestants, why do they not attend bootcamps and vocal classes, grooming sessions or media preparation etc. I think the television station could do that, but it will require the contestants to be cooped up and away from their work, their social and family time. These online commenters can argue that social and family time can be sacrificed or compromised, but what about work??? Living in this country where productivity and results are very-much benchmarks of our daily performances at work, which employer would be kind enough to release their employees for a certain long period of time??? And who is going to pay these contestants when they take their time off work??? At the end of the day, it boils down to sponsorship. Not many are willing to come forward and pump in sponsorship fees like that of those across the Causeway. Unless we have a Dato’ Seri Vida or Dato’ Aliff Shukri in our ranks, we can forget about having that kind of competitions on our shores. Money still talks so we have to manage our own expectations of what can or can’t be done. Period.

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The chemistry and banter between Suzairhe Sumari and Huda Ali grows as each week passes by…

Some of these online comments are also just downright stupid and highlights the stupidity of the person/s who commented just for the sake of it. Just yesterday I saw someone commenting on Mediacorp Suria‘s Facebook page criticising the station for having Siti Sarah Raisuddin performed at the weekend’s “Mahligai Manja” event at One KM Mall apparently during Maghrib prayers. The person had commented at 8:10pm but the Facebook Live clip was uploaded at 5:29pm, hardly during Maghrib, unless of course if the event had been done or the person himself was at a different time zone location. This is just one fine example of people commenting and ranting just because they have nothing better to do but pick on the station for what they perceived as insensitive or not being in tune with the needs of the masses. Some of you reading this might think I am defending the station or that I am a paid backroom staff. I’m sorry to disappoint you but I am no way contracted to Mediacorp nor am paid to defend them. I comment based on what I see with my own eyes and if I have niggling questions to ask, I will direct them to the people working inside rather than jump to unnecessary conclusions nor rely on hearsay from people working on the periphery.

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Anyway, back to the competition. Najip Ali was happy at the end of the programme and voiced his relief, glee and pleasure that the genre had finally ended, which did not sit down too well with some of those who are hardcore supporters of it. I think to give him benefit of doubt, I agreed that over the past two weeks, the contestants’ performances as a whole, were either sub-par or totally disappointing, a definite source of frustration not only to the judges, but also those working behind-the-scenes. Most of them failed to grasp the essence of the genre. Like what local singer Nana Karia said afterwards in her Facebook post and I quote, “Rock is not just another genre. It’s a lifestyle, an attitude. To pull off the rock genre, you have to BE a rocker.” Which I can say all of them, Hakim Halim included, did not rise to the occasion and showed the audience and viewers that they are into it. Some might say that with constant training, they could have given more polished performances. I disagree slightly because it should come from within themselves, the interest, the soul, the understanding of the genre. When they are unable to grasp all that, the performances come up short and insincere. But some of them did try their utmost best and that has to be applauded and accepted.

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Our hosts with the four who advanced to the next round – Nadia Nadhirah, Elza Rahim, Abby Nabila and Syakirah Noble

I do not blame the contestants as all of them were born and grew up in an era where rock had evolved somewhat from the types we were used to listen to. “Rock will never die” as the saying goes, but not many from this current generation seem to show an interest in them nor understand the meaning of being a rocker. I personally feel till this very day that the genre should not have been put to the test for the Anugerah contestants. It’s like forcing something out of them and seeing it backfire when things did not turn out as planned. I brought this up with some of the people working behind the scenes. They said that they were given the impression that the genre was still relevant since some of the contestants had sung these songs during the audition rounds. Speaking of relevance, quite a number of songs sung so far during the competition are not concurrent with the times, regardless of genre. I think it is ok to sing songs from the past, but it has to be given a fresh arrangement and approach by the contestants themselves, just like what Liwani Izzati did the previous week and was brave enough when she sang Search‘s “Fantasia Bulan Madu“. The genre in general, eventually turned into a Ballad one and none were brave enough to sing a more upbeat and edgy number.

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Final shot of the night with some of the eliminated contestants as well as those still in it from both groups…

As mentioned in one of my previous entries, there was a possibility the competition would look a bit lop-sided with the female contestants performing better than their male counterparts. This is proving to be true so far with only Mohammad Shahfiq and Shafie Syed left in the competition. This coming Tuesday, we will see the contestants singing songs that were produced during their birth years, another throwback genre. For the first time, both Group A and B will come together and fight it out in a single episode, with another two eliminations in store via the judges’ decisions and the viewers’ dreaded voting system. With the semi-finals looming, there is every possibility that the gender representation might look even more imbalanced if either one or even both of the remaining two male contestants get eliminated. Unless of course if there is a Wildcard Round, which till today has not been confirmed nor made known. There is only one way to find out and that is to tune in to Mediacorp Suria this Tuesday at 8:30pm.

Snapshots of Anugerah 2017 Week 4

Anugerah 2017 Week 3 Recap…

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Where should I begin with this entry??? A lot has been said and observed on social media the past few days with regards to this past week’s Anugerah 2017 episode featuring the Group A contestants. I had wanted to post this a day or two after the episode was aired, but it felt like it was going to be a knee-jerk reaction to all the negative comments I saw in the aftermath of Hakim Halim and Azhar Aziz‘s respective eliminations from the competition. From Twitter to Facebook, you could see the uproar and vile words being thrown towards Mediacorp Suria for letting them be ousted over other more deserving contestants. Before I continue further, let’s just recap the performances of each contestant and how they fared on the night where the theme was of the Rock genre.

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Azhar Aziz

The night began with Azhar Aziz performing Akim & The Majistrate‘s “Mewangi“. From watching some of his past performances on social media, I noted that Rock is not one of Azhar‘s forte and it showed in this performance. This fact was also brought up by music arranger and mentor Syawal Kassim in the preceding video clip before his performance and echoed by judge Indra Shahrir afterwards. His low notes were a bit suspect and his voice came close to cracking after he had screamed his lungs out at the point where he was supposed to hit the highest part of the song. However, where he lacked in feel and emotions, he made up for it in determination and gumption. He was initially placed at number two, but I would have preferred to put him at number three. No doubt he has the package – the looks, height, voice and quite the well-mannered boy, but the genre didn’t do justice to his strengths. Still it was an admirable performance and he answered the challenge as best he could.

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Mohammad Shahfiq

I found the way Mohammad Shahfiq entered the stage area and strutting slowly like that of an old man a bit queer for a young guy. Not sure if it was him getting into the mood of the song or just following the opening beats. When he sang Lovehunters‘ “Sambutlah Kasih“, I observed there were two phases to his performance, the first part where he went really low with his notes and was almost slightly off key before redeeming himself for the chorus and end. If I were to compare his performance and his earlier one in the first episode where he looked unsure and all at sea, this was a markedly improved and definitely more confident display from him. I would not have hesitated to put him at number two at that point of time as he showed more verve than Azhar.

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Liwani Izzati

The first episode’s champion, Liwani Izzati, was up next singing her own rendition of Search‘s haunting hit, “Fantasia Bulan Madu“. The day before her performance, I tuned in to their interview on RIA 89.7FM where she revealed that her version of the song was different than the one we have been used to listen to. I must say it was a risk worth taking, even though the traditionalists on social media have cried foul. Her take on the song that night if my interpretation is right, was an opera rock version, arranged by herself and her undisclosed personal vocal coach. I thought it was a breath of fresh air from the melancholic versions I’ve heard before this from other singers. Liwani though she made one glaring mistake when her voice cracked, should be applauded for willing to plunge into uncharted waters. This astute move in trying to be different sets her apart from her fellow group competitors. Though I would have ranked her second behind Shahfiq, I think overall her confidence and assured performance, complete with theatrics and drama, won the judges over, who eventually placed her at top spot once again.

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Hakim Halim

Before the show I had high hopes that Hakim Halim would at least get one of the top two or three spots in the night’s competition. Listening to his radio interview the night before, he did say he was going to sing his killer song, May‘s “Cintamu Mekar Di Hati“, which has brought him a lot of luck in other external singing competitions prior. The judges felt that his performance was an overconfident one which I felt was slightly harsh on him, as his demeanour and body language did not show that he was. However, I felt his overall output was a complacent one, in that he knew he was in his comfort zone and when he tried perhaps to do something out of the ordinary whilst hitting his high notes, he could have overstrained his vocal chords, resulting in him squeaking twice. As the competition dwindles down, small technical issues like that could scupper their chances and it was to be detrimental for him when the night ended.

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Shalyza Rosly

Shalyza Rosly was up next, singing SLAM‘s “Tak Mungkin Berpaling“, which is one of my all-time favourite songs. If I have to sound critical with her rendition of the song, her start and end were imbalanced and her notes were pitchy. Plus she needs to get out of her singing style which is reminiscent to Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza. I will not add on my take on this as I had already brought it up when I commented on Elza Rahim in the previous entry. There were not many faults to her performance, however there were also not many positives I could derive as she was, in the words of the judges, still in her comfort zone. Shalyza needs to push herself further and sing songs which could challenge her vocal range. Her fellow competitors, not only in Group A, but Group B as well, are more adventurous and willing to take risks. I’ve also seen her perform outside with so much confidence but I have yet to see that level of confidence in this competition. She would do well to learn from her previous foray in the competition and do things slightly differently from now on and build on it.

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Shafie Syed

Shafie Syed was the last to appear onstage, and he performed Sweet Charity‘s evergreen hit “Kamelia“. The one with the strongest band of supporters should have staged a performance that reflected the support given to him. His was a performance which was bland and quite a letdown even though his voice did not crack nor squeaked like Liwani and Hakim. Watching him perform that night was like watching David Arumugam (Alleycats) sing, which prompted some netizens to comment on his articulation. A song of this stature needed someone to understand the meaning and emotions associated with the song. Shafie failed in that respect to capture the essence of the song and was initially placed last, which personally I felt was a justified ranking for him. Even he admitted post-show that his singing was a disappointment that night.

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Hakim Halim hugged Shafie Syed upon learning of his elimination

We now come to the final results of the night. In what was quite a shocking move by the judges, Hakim who was at fifth place was asked to switch with Shafie who we knew was initially placed last, signalling the end of his journey in this competition. But the one that created an even bigger uproar with the netizens on social media was the ousting of Azhar Aziz who got the least number of votes, even though he was ranked second by the judges. I did say last week, in a reality competition like this where audience votes matter, no one is considered safe, except the one who is ranked first and enjoys immunity. The uproar has been going on for days now, questioning the legitimacy of the judges and their decisions, blaming the television station for in-house politics and basically saying the competition is a farce in every aspect.

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Azhar Aziz gave his respects to the audience when he exited the stage and competition…

Somehow, this is like a bad record that goes on and on whenever such competitions take place. The voting mechanics are not new. It has been there since Anugerah 2005, down to Anugerah Skrin, Anugerah Band, Anugerah V, heck even the three seasons of Singapore Idol and two seasons of The Final One. Twelve bloody years!!! And still people have not learned their lessons and keep blaming the television station for what they perceived as trying to milk as much money from the voters. From my conversation with trusted sources working behind the scenes, the ones that stand to benefit are the telecommunications company who administer the voting system. You know damn well the name of the game is to vote for those whom you feel deserved to go through, why didn’t you exercise your God-damn right to do so??? If there are fingers to point at, it is the blind and deaf voters themselves who deserved every bit of flak for being irresponsible, just because their favourites are good looking or they have some relations or ties with them.

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Our esteemed judges – Indra Shahrir, Taufik Batisah and Najip Ali

To blame the television station is rich, to undermine the three judges is another serious allegation altogether as seen by some of the vile comments, some going as far as to say they had been bribed. I thought I will say this in much later entries but I guess my hands are forced on this one. I will go as far as to say the three judges this year are the best the competition has had in years. No matter how much Indra Shahrir sounds like a wet blanket and dampener to some, or Taufik is probably there as a token presence and tends to latch on to the other judges’ comments, all of them actually have valid reasons to have given their thoughts as truthfully as they could. Don’t get me started how I am a big fan of Najip Ali and his excellent command of the Malay language. All of us should take positives and learn from their perspectives, rather than comment and rant unnecessarily. There are substantial and valid reasons why these three are up there in the local music industry and icons in the community, whereas armchair critics out there are not. The decision to oust Hakim Halim was there for all to hear, he made two glaring technical mistakes as opposed to Shafie Syed, who was bland. Between blandness and technical errors, I guess the latter proved the deciding factor. As for Liwani‘s error compared to Azhar or Shahfiq, her overall performance and bravery in risk-taking won the judges over. Deal with it!!!

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Hosts Suzairhe Sumari and Huda Ali…

Too many allegations going round these past few days online, most of them unsubstantiated and just empty rants for the sake of ranting. Most of those who ranted I doubt cast their votes and just followed the crowd in venting their frustrations. These are the same people who keep on blaming Mediacorp Suria for what they perceive as airing boring programmes / content, but still continue watching because their lives are equally empty. Or those who do not watch, yet still have the cheek to pass off comments as though they have stakes and shares in the station. In times like these, the dirty and irrational sides of the community rear its ugly head. I question sometimes the rationale and sanity of these people. Some even claimed they heard from so-and-so in the industry about the ongoing politics behind-the-scenes. Hearsays and rumours are all fine and dandy when it’s one-sided and what your ears would like to hear. Why don’t you start by asking the right questions with the people who actually work inside, rather than those on the periphery and then jump to conclusions???

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There are even those who questioned the presence of the two mentors or buddies to the contestants (Hyrul Anuar and Syawal Kassim), and how they are not helping them much behind-the-scenes. Excuse me, did you actually sit with them in their sessions to know what basically went on to comment like that??? All I can say is their time and what they are able to share with the contestants are limited and are meant to guide them on general aspects of the competition, not spoonfeed them. The rest is still up to the contestants to do their respective homework, research and preparations. Some of these contestants have their own personal vocal coaches. They should be working closely with them instead to up their performances for the upcoming episodes, not just rely on their buddies or mentors to lay the foundations for them or do the dirty work for them.

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Congratulations to Shalyza Rosly, Liwani Izzati, Mohammad Shahfiq and Shafie Syed on their progress to the next round…

It is not the end of the road for those already eliminated in the competition. Many before them have gone on to have singles and chart-toppers in the local radio charts. Some of the comments made by their ardent supporters, or even armchair critics, sometimes can be overboard and too defensive, when we all know that winning a reality competition is not the express ticket to stardom nor sustainability in the long run. Will there be a Wildcard Round as asked by many online??? I certainly hope so as nothing has been mentioned nor confirmed. This Tuesday 7 February 2017, sees the return of Group B on our television screens. We have seen the last time they appeared on our television screens how volatile the SMS voting system could be. I seek and appeal to voters to be responsible, not only to the competition but in helping to raise the standards of our local music industry. There are some very good talents left in this competition. I hope the voters will play a part, even those that did not before this, but passed excessive comments as though they spent hundreds or thousands voting. You know what to do. The ball is in your court…

Snapshots of Anugerah 2017 Week 3

Anugerah 2017 Week 2 Recap…

16179817_10154451086077893_1654552168712082867_o(Graphics poster courtesy of Mediacorp Suria)

Thank God for the long holiday weekend that I am able to post this up much earlier than usual. This past Tuesday 24 January 2017, saw the debut of another eight contestants of the new season of Anugerah, this time under the banner of Group B. Continuing from the previous week where the contestants sang a song of their own personal choice, the eight contestants had the opportunity to upstage their Group A counterparts, having had an extra week to prepare and study their performances during the first episode. Looking at the make-up of the eight contestants this week, there are several who have had experiences performing in various competitions before this and even before listening to them, I more or less expected them to progress, bar any hiccups via the SMS votes by the audience in the studio or at home. So without further ado, let’s start off with the first contestant.

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Elza Rahim

Elza Rahim kicked off the night’s competition by singing Wany Hasrita‘s “Menahan Rindu“. Truth be told, I have not heard this song being played on our local airwaves before and had to rely on a friend to inform me on the identity of the original singer and listened to it again afterwards. But the first time I watched Elza‘s performance at the studio, I noted that she has a very rich and classical tone of voice. However that tone and style of singing also tend to sound like a certain top notch Dato’ across the Causeway. Elza has to be mindful not to sound like Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza, as many singers before her who tended to go this route, ended up being forgotten as quickly as they appeared. She already has a nice voice to begin with, she should hone it in such a way that she does not become another clone or copycat. A very composed performance which was slightly let down by one part where she went flat. Though I thought it was a decent start to the night, I also agreed with judges Taufik Batisah and Indra Shahrir that it was at best, an average performance, with Elza being more in her comfort zone.

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Zul Nor

Zul Nor should be applauded for his bravery in singing Sufi Rashid‘s “Kisah Dua Muka“, a song which is not easy to sing to begin with. However that is as far as I can go to rate his performance. It was a bit too dramatic for my liking with all his hand gestures and movements, it felt more like watching a musical theatre performance than an actual singing one. I thought I was alone in thinking he was trying too much to channel Sufi‘s style of singing into his performance, but this was also brought up by judge Indra, who noted that he was seeing two different personalities in the song, one of Zul Nor and the other being Sufi‘s. Najip Ali also brought up a pertinent point in that a song of such varying dynamics should also have a certain softness injected into it. Upon reflection and watching the performance again, I realised that Zul Nor pressed more on the intense and rage associated with the song.

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Syakirah Noble

I last watched Syakirah Noble performed live at the launch of Fiza O’s Ritabella collection five years ago at Joo Chiat Complex. She was only 12 then but it was easy to see that this girl, with the right attitude, practice and application, can go far. She is one of those I had mentioned earlier who loves to enter singing competitions and I am glad to see that she has made it this far. Syakirah sang Agnes Monica‘s “Rindu“, another tough song to sing with all the varying notes and the challenging high ones. I was afraid she might buckle under pressure, but there was nothing of that sort, as she gave an accomplished performance, which bothered a bit on overconfidence and this was cautioned by Najip Ali. Personally I felt it was a bit too much of Agnes Monica‘s soul and style being put into the song. I wanted to see more of Syakirah‘s. I think this is where she can work on, to infuse her own identity into the songs she sings. Take nothing away however, I had goosebumps listening to her, my personal indicator on how much I loved her performance.

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Raja Zul

Other than knowing Raja Zul‘s background as quite the model student in school, being in the Top 5-10% cohort, I did not know that this relative from my missus’ side, actually has a talent for singing and playing the guitar. When I chatted with him after the first episode ended, he said that he was going to perform Jaz Hayat‘s “Dari Mata” in his own style and adding new lyrics of his own into the song. I thought then that it was a good, yet risky move since he said he wanted to portray his personality to the audience. While I cannot fault his showmanship on Tuesday night, his singing was everywhere. He sounded quite nervous and pitchy at the start and there were times during the short pauses in the song where he could be seen strategically catching his breath. The judges loved his falsetto though and like Najip, I too liked that he chose a song which was concurrent with the times, even if Taufik had said the song was not quite suited for a competition.

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Abby Nabila

Abby Nabila is another one who has had experience in a reality competition, and hers has been a very fruitful one when she entered the first season of Indonesia‘s reality Dangdut singing competition D’Academy Asia in late 2015, under the stage name Abby Tinara. Even though she was eliminated early, her learning experience and rubbing shoulders with some very good performers as well getting valuable mentorship, put her in good stead on how to be an accomplished performer and own the stage. So it was no surprise that Abby put in a performance befitting of her experience on Tuesday night, challenging herself to sing a male song, Hazama‘s “Ku Relakan Jiwa“. Her performance, like Zul Nor‘s, was filled with theatrics and hand gestures, but hers felt like they had more of an impact because she knew which parts were suitable to include them. Off-stage, she is quite the bubbly personality, just that sometimes she needs to curb her exuberance and dramatics, so as not to rub others the wrong way. Someone with her personality, you will either love her or feel she’s overacting. In a reality competition where viewers votes matter as well, it would be best to find that middle ground to win over the doubters or haters.

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Nor Shafiq

I think even without saying it here, if you had watched both episodes of Anugerah since its return on our television screens, or if you had caught the clips via the Mediacorp Suria Facebook page, you will agree with me that Nor Shafiq is the best male contestant so far with his soulful voice and measured performance. I could not detect a single flaw when I watched him sang Hafiz Suip‘s “Ku Akui” live, but when I watched his performance again, there was one minor part when he went slightly off as he was hitting the high notes. But it did not matter much. Shafiq immediately installed himself as one of the favourites in this competition with that performance, another one that made my hairs stood. 376 shares of his performance clip on Facebook to date, is a good indicator that he has made his presence felt.

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Nadia Nadhirah

Nadia Nadhirah was up next with her own rendition of Dayang Nurfaizah‘s “Di Pintu Syurga“. For someone who is majoring in music at LaSalle College of the Arts, her standard of performance was to be expected as it comes with the territory and expectation. Just like how I was expecting last year’s Anugerah Skrin winner, Syaiful Ariffin, a theatre undergraduate then, to perform much better than his competition rivals. Though I would not categorise her performance amongst the Top 3 on Tuesday night, there is a certain strength in Nadia‘s voice that sets her apart from the rest. Not many can sing low notes in measured degrees and in control without going flat. However she did give away her uncertainty at various points sounding as though she was unsure how to end off her lines. I also felt the performance was empty and lacking emotions needed for a song of this magnitude. I remember how much it moved others when the original singer herself performed this song at Anugerah Juara Lagu two years ago. The judges might have said they loved it, but I did not quite like it.

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Sharizal Suwandi

Sharizal Suwandi rounded off the night with The Sally‘s “Jauh“. For some reason only known to the audience, the whole studio erupted and were in raptures when he came onstage. It felt as though he had everyone on his side, even though the audience was also made up of supporters of the other seven contestants. There was a certain unexplained appeal and likeability factor about the oldest contestant in the competition. However he needs to translate that into a performance worthy of the support he was given in the coming weeks ahead. His performance was at best, average, flat and pitchy in many parts, but one thing I cannot fault was the feel-good factor he gave everyone who watched him in the studio. Even his fellow contestants were seen swaying and clapping along to his singing. But feel-good factors usually do not last long and as the competition wilts down, standards and expectations are raised even higher. He was placed at eighth position right after his performance had ended and I felt it was a fair position.

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A dejected-looking Raja Zul smiled as the reality of his elimination sunk in…

However, there was a twist right after the final commercial break, as upon doing their final consultations and counsel with one another, the judges decided to play musical chairs once again and switched the positions of Raja Zul and Sharizal. I dunno if the judges “feared” the possibility of the audience baying for their blood had they eliminated Sharizal, but it certainly felt that way. No I am saying this not because of my relation ties with Raja Zul, but I initially agreed that their original positions were more than justified according to the performances they gave and in comparison with all the other contestants that night. Maybe the judges also took into account the support that Sharizal had and how he connected with the audience, which was probably why they decided to give him a second chance to prove himself the next time out. If I was the judge for the night, I would have had Abby Nabila at second position, followed by Syakirah Noble, Elza Rahim, Nadia Nadhirah, Zul Nor, Raja Zul and Sharizal Suwandi as my final ranking positions.

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Zul Nor became the fourth contestant in total to be eliminated from the competition…

As for the second elimination of the night by virtue of the least number of votes, Zul Nor who was ranked sixth by the judges, was the one who made way and exited the competition. What struck me the most when his name was announced and just before he made his way off the stage, was his polite unwillingness to shake the hands of his fellow female counterparts and kept his arms to his chest and bowed at them. A rare sight in the entertainment scene that earned him my respect. Was his elimination to be expected??? I would say yes and no. Yes because it was a toss-up between him, Raja Zul and Sharizal had it been solely the judges’ decision to eliminate two out of three. No, because throughout the night we were informed from time to time that Abby Nabila, Syakirah Noble and Raja Zul had the least number of votes, so it could have been just about anyone who could have been eliminated in that respect.

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The six who progressed from Group B (from left): Sharizal Suwandi, Syakirah Noble, Elza Rahim, Abby Nabila, Nadia Nadhirah and Nor Shafiq

So far even with an equal amount of gender elimination on the opening first two weeks, I observed that the female contestants are technically more astute than their male counterparts and will not be surprised if eventually there will be a lop-sidedness to the competition, much like the last one in 2011. This coming Tuesday 31st January 2017 sees the return of Group A on our television screens. We were told before the night ended that the coming fortnight’s theme for both groups would be the Rock genre. This would be right up the alleys of the likes of Hakim Halim and Abby Nabila, who have shown that they are able to carry the genre, even if a lot can still be improved in terms of their delivery, execution, style and showmanship. Who knows, others might just up their game and prove that they are also no pushovers??? We shall see when Anugerah returns on our television screens this Tuesday at 8:30pm