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…
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.
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.
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…