(With updates and additional links)
Lea Salonga can be a tad too big (in gestures) for TV, but she does spice up The Voice of the Philippines (#VoicePHBlinds) with terms like libog or whatever bleep-worthy thing she said last night.
There is no better word than libog to describe what we’re all looking for. Lea rammed that home last night with a master class in bringing out chi.
(I failed to post a review of the 4th blind audition last week. Read it here.
Voice isn’t just about range. Voice isn’t just about one’s ability to follow the bouncing videoke ball. Voice isn’t always about vocal acrobatics. We, the audience, need libog – lust, that which quickens the senses, whether the loins, heart or mind, or any combination of these.
The problem with libog is, it’s not a static object. It can’t be all exclamation points. It can’t stop at come-hither whispers. Growls are just the start.
Libog is a journey through a maze and woe to us who lose our way: A roar shakes the arena, brings the audience to their feet; too much of it and you get a headache. A growl or two can be sexy; an unbroken trail says there’s a maniac at your door. A primal scream delivers us to a state of liberation. Plural, it means murder under way.
Libog is theater-in-the-round, a process that passes from artist to audience, crests and wanes and plateaus and then peaks again. Sometimes it doesn’t even have to peak — ask the Tantric masters. (Libog will always trounce… cupcakes.)
The 5th round of blind auditions was a bit sleepy until the end, when a tornado named Mitoy hit the hall.
There was a taxi driver cuter than the guy who delivered a very contrived “surprise” (again). Pity his voice didn’t match his looks. But there’s always soap opera for him.
Angelique Alcantara from the Garden City of Samal shares the same kooky charm that propelled KZ Tandigan to win X-Factor Philippines.
She skirted greatness with Rhianna’s
“Diamond in the Stars.” “Diamonds”. Her deep and high tones had equal clarity. But Angelique’s rhythm dragged a bit and there was just this slice of sensuality and yearning missing from her performance.
Still, that’s a dark horse there, especially with Bamboo around to offer guidance. There’s certainly enough drama in her backstory to tap into.
Moira de la Torre, blessed with girl-next-door looks, has the courage to share a past clouded by anorexia, the disease – often fueled by self-esteem problems – characterized by willful starvation.
Now a voice talent for commercials (McDo, for one), she seems stronger, beyond the pain.
Heads probably snapped up with Moira’s angelic start to Bamboo’s hit, “Hallelujah”. Then it went downhill.
If Lea had a problem with Lee Grane’s “Anak” cover, Bamboo couldn’t connect with Moria’s take on his anthem of rage and disaffection.
The rock star tried to be polite. Stripping that song of the anger that burns bright in all of us was just a bad move. There is little that is pretty in “Hallelujah.” You can do it as blues or punk or even Asin-type folksy. You can’t make a girl-band ditty out of it. Just doesn’t work. Still, apl.de.ap made a last-minute save, hearing the potential despite the Moira’s miscue.
Someone should ask Sarah Geronimo what she means by Pinoy pero tasteful. She mentioned that in reference to Gab Ramos’ play on Julianne’s “Tulak ng Bibig, Kabig ng Dibdib” .
Gab actually almost ruined a perfectly good song loved by youngsters because of its laidback, conversational style. He tried too hard, inserted too many unnecessary notes in the early verses. He should have saved it for that last refrain, which was very good but failed to stand out amid all those curls.
Still, it’s a simpatico voice and face. He and Sarah could make beautiful music together.
It was a sleepy night. Even the studio audience’s reaction was tepid. Bad news for a musical reality show.
And then came Mitoy Yonting. I’ve never imagined a beefy, middle-aged guy singing “Bakit Ako Mahihiya?” — the biggest hit of that tragic songbird, Didith Reyes.
There must have been a collective dropping of jaws there – starting with Lea.
Bamboo couldn’t resist the storm either. Neither needed that amazing last note to be convinced that this was the real deal – voice, character, presence and a sly, wry reading that breathed new life into the old jukebox classic.
It was a stroke of genius to sing that, especially since Mitoy’s band name plumbs a pop staple of national consciousness — jeepney drivers. (His band actually performs in posh Resorts World).
Mitoy is a bigger-than-life version of every Juan, wisecracks and all.
I remember the sign, “Driver, sweet lover,” from the jeepney rides of college and early workdays. All those people they ferry back and forth, all those comic-tragic tales they exchange at end of day.
Even as Mitoy hams it up – and there’s a danger of overdoing that one day – he gives us a glimpse into the hunger that drives him and every artist who needs to sacrifice some dignity just to get ahead in the world.
That was telling, the line about showing his “real” (tunay) voice. It’s heart-breaking to watch those desperate Youtube entreaties to Ellen Degeneres. And you have to respect someone who says, “wala akong pride pag-dating ng trabaho” — as he tells Storyline. He’s taken any job just to be able to continue his singing. It’s a work ethic beyond most of us.
Mitoy always had just one coach in mind. Lea certainly can be his savior. She will push him away – maybe kicking and screaming – from the slapstick that once spelled survival. Mitoy’s subtext, however, says he’ll welcome that change of image on mass media. (His bar fans already know that.)
Hopefully, Lea’s mentoring can get Mitoy to bare the entire alphabet of emotions. He’s that rare singer who defies labeling. Sure, we appreciate the comic bent; I look forward to seeing him perform those old novelty hits. Not every clown can make us weep. The day Mitoy does that, The Voice is his.