The Divine Ms Lee: Voice of the Philippines 3rd night (Blinds)

Let’s start at the very beginning… Thank you, Twitter admins of The Voice of the Philippines for changing to #VoicePHBlinds  and halting the advance of some folks’ carpal tunnel syndrome.

Producers of The Voice (PH) served up backstories of heavy family drama for the third night of blind auditions. I didn’t even know the musical reality show had themes. It’s a little bit artificial and also raises the question — how do they choose the contestants? Notices delivered for the first phase of competition state, “you are invited…” 

UPDATE: Here’s what the official website says:

“Here in the Voice of the Philippines, artists are handpicked by world-class Filipino performers based solely from their voice: Rock Superstar- Bamboo, The Broadway Diva- Ms.Leah Salonga, Popstar Princess- Sarah Geronimo and the International Hiphop Sensation Black Eyed Peas’- APL DE AP.

“Invited Kapamilya artists will undergo several phases of the competition starting off with THE BLIND AUDITIONS.”

So, are you enlightened? Because I still don’t know who decides and on what criteria, or how they spot for contestants. But let’s not quibble tonight.  Family Round gave double the number of interesting moments than the first two nights combined – and rolled out the first real gem of the season.

The Cougar and The Pussycat

The show opened with a mother and daughter going up against each other.

Monique delos Santos, photo from www.thesyleCebu
Monique delos Santos, photo from http://www.thesyleCebu

It’s a good thing Monique de los Santos seems a genuine fan of Mommy Eva, otherwise we’d all be pondering the psychological cost of being called, in so many words, a poor copycat of the woman who birthed you. (Judging from Lea Salonga’s reaction, they didn’t know of the relationship — the voice over narrative wasn’t done till much later.)

Monique did try for rasp and growl and managed a few fine ones. But it was like a pussycat trying to be Madame Cougar or a baby tottering around in mom’s stilettos.

Lea was right; there was disconnect between the singer and the song and you didn’t have to see her cute face to sense it. Monique’s too much of the ingénue . This isn’t a bad thing per se, except her performance was on the level of, well, a young girl singing “One Night Only.” (And the kid in Britain’s Got Talent showed more spunk, too.)

It’s not just a matter of timbre  — though Monique’s is all wrong for good ‘ol rock and roll, much less the blues, which also demands a certain level of immersion in the school of hard knocks. Song choice can make or break a contestant and Monique’s was a puzzle. She could have picked a light ballad or something breezy, in the vein of her Nescafe commercial (This tidbit is courtesy of Bayan Patroller John Tiu, who says Mommy Eva is an aunt.)

Sarah, apparently determined to prove she’s not an intellectual lightweight, talked about vocal dynamics and nuance. Apl – impressive biceps there – looked for Monique, the young woman, not the girl playing at make-believe. Bamboo was too bored to say anything.

Eva de los Santos tried out for X-Factor Philippines. photo from
Eva de los Santos tried out for X-Factor Philippines. photo from

Mommy Dearest, on the other hand, pounced on “Proud Mary” with the verve of someone who’s making up for all decades spent in shackles.  Interesting how she made “professional housewife” sound like a long prison stint; shoving aside young dreams to raise a family.

Eva’s hungry; the glint in her eyes says it all. She already competed in The X-Factor Philippines. That Cebuano cheek also helps; her brassy voice is powerful but pretty much one-dimensional.

Sarah can polish her technique. But I’m wondering (“sincerity” notwithstanding) how the young, very sheltered singer is going to give Eva her emotional “voice.”  Will she have Eva singing torch songs instead of Tina Turner disco anthems?

Judging from a YouTube clip of a rather overwrought duet with Monique in a Cebu mall, that’s probably where Mommy’s heading for – the vacuum once occupied by feisty, if troubled, women like Didith Reyes, Imelda Papin and Eva Eugenio.

I doubt Eva’s winnability but, hey, there’s a market out there . All those women languishing over Sir Chief will need to belt out their angst now and then. (Plus, as Lea said, we all need hot mamas to inspire us to go one more round with the gym torture machines. Actually, she said we’d be so lucky if we hit 51 looking half as good as Eva. I totally identify, Lea… and only one more year to go.)

She ain’t heavy…

Tweeps seem to know Guji and Grace Lorenzana, veterans of musical theater. That experience went on strike tonight. (So did my memory of any of their theater performances.)

Two lines into the song, the room went “yaaaay!” in a distinctly non-cheering tone. The siblings must have plenty of chemistry — Guji , (identified as Kaye Abad’s boyfriend and an movie actor,  has spent years shielding shy Grace from overly strict parents. I just didn’t see it.

Also, their notes were all over the place. You couldn’t even hum to their song and forgot it ten seconds after the closing note. That’s a pity since Guji, by all accounts, is well liked. He also won a gazillion pogi points by stressing he’s in this to help lil sis along. That’s Grace, who has cheekbones a model would starve for. There’s a bit of KC Conception in her – sexy-clean; yes, that’s no oxymoron.

Sarah and Bamboo lectured on singing. Lea and Apl let their hearts dictate their votes, with the former mentioning brother, Gerard, and the fun they had with joint recordings. (I learned “Happiness,” a song from the musical “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown,” by pushing rewind nth number of times.) 

This time, Sarah and Bamboo got flak for being too serious and droning on about the technical stuff. On Twitter, @VGfau agrees they may have been “too caught up with the technical side of singing.” But, he notes, “that’s what the coaches are there for: to teach!”

That the siblings chose Apl surprised some observers. But maybe they want to get out of the theater cage. Still, I hope they try a theater number next time just to see if today’s bad performance was just a case of jitters.

Angry Lord

It’s pretty hard to take someone named Sir Lord (Lomibao) seriously. And yet, despite a lackluster performance – Lea was pounding on her chair like it was a heart in need of resuscitation – he attracted Apl.

The women coaches said he could have let loose on emotions. Bamboo correctly identified the voice as a bit thin and not really capable of power songs. But we can’t all be divas and there’s something edgy and angry in this acknowledged family black sheep– stemming from a philandering father who sired 24 children by “many” women. Lord should forget all about being a matinee idol and focus on jazzing up some songs and a bit of jiving. (Bruno Mars doesn’t have a particularly strong voice either.)

Divine Lee

And then there was Lee Grane. THE divine Lee. The story’s gripping enough, a young woman forced into “parenthood” to help mom after dad’s death. That’s a common tale anywhere; substitute death with abandonment in Lord’s case. It was saved from mawkish territory by Lee’s understated narrative, delivered in a voice of smoky molasses.

Lee Grane (old, file photo)
Lee Grane (old, file photo)

Dusky and longhaired, she looked every bit a “busker,” as Simon Cowell likes saying with disdain. I thought she’d wail out “Anak.” She broke into a swinging, driving rhythm and brought so many shades of voice into that truncated cover.

Lea thought she took many left turns. Sarah and Bamboo were blown away, to the mortification later of the two other coaches.

Asked if she could also sing in English (?!), Lee replied, “pwede po, pwede po,” then sailed into a flawless rendition of Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel”.

Lee’s voice glided up, dropped to a soft caress, rose to a near-wail and then gentled again, a slow drip, drip, drip of yearning. I wanted to throttle the coaches for talking through THAT. But sometimes excitement just bubbles through protocol; that lapse, propelled by admiration and awe, was understandable.

Lea and Sarah fought to control tears. Bamboo let them flow. Sarah pleaded, “I Need You” and belted out “Kailangan Kita.” Bamboo spoke of how he’s never been so moved before. He ended with a choked “thank you.”

No contest; despite the commercial break, no suspense really given the kind of musician Lee is and her very strong sense of self. Within two hours of The Voice, she was trending on Twitter worldwide. And all of us were mooning to her soundcloud recordings.  The Voice of the Philippines has found its maverick wonder. You go, gurl!

Hey, just thought about it… are we seeing an audience giving up cookie-cutter divas in favor of the offbeat gals? Aiza, Yeng, Kz, Charice and Lee — can you imagine it? What a jam that would be!

4 thoughts on “The Divine Ms Lee: Voice of the Philippines 3rd night (Blinds)

  1. Wonderful review as always. 🙂

    Lee is making a good impression so far. I like that she didn’t seem bothered with all the theatrics the judges are making during her 2nd song… eyes closed, and totally immersed in her soul makes her truly something special. Her musicality simply calms.

    I’m glad she’s with Bamboo’s team. They’re a perfect match.


    • Indeed! Lesser singers would have gotten rattled at all the caterwauling 😦 But “getting lost” in a song could become a problem as the contest goes along (I remember Andrew Llloyd Webber’s advice to the young David A. But maybe the coaches won’t be that hyper anymore — so Lee can open her eyes and connect more with the audience, esp us across the TV screen 🙂 Thanks for dropping by!


  2. Hello, just read your TVOP reviews and I really liked your writing! Will this be a regular thing? Cause I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the future contestants!


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