On the surface, The Voice of the Philippines (#VoicePHBlinds), carries the themes are meritocracy and justice. The Philippine franchise’s website states:
“Issues like gender, age, economic status or life story do not contribute to how artists are recruited to each team; rather, their voice and their performance will matter. Thus, the show’s slogan, ‘Pangarap ang Puhunan, Boses ang Labanan’.”
The coaches of the musical reality show have harped enough on their bias for “soul”. That’s a good bias to have. The best musical artists are storytellers who transport us into two or three-minute vignettes of life, whether as it is or as it can, should be.
Pretty isn’t soul
So I was a bit disappointed that no coach turned around during the 4th cut for a bass-baritone with the potential to carve a swathe through the country’s matronic map.
Had Jaron Liclican reached for the high notes Lea and Bamboo wanted, he would have crashed and burned. He doesn’t have chest tones; it’s a sexy, throaty sound but throaty all the way.
Jaron sang “Feeling Good” — and didn’t break out into even the shortest of struts, not even a lope.
Yet, the implied message, that a non-belter lacks passion, isn’t just untrue; it’s unfair.
Many people — and singers — will never break out ala Broadway. No white water frenzy there. But they can surge like mighty rivers. Their passions build up slowly; people don’t even realize they’re being swept away.
Jaron showed a glimmer of that promise. That it was Apl who expressed remorse for dawdling gives some comfort; I had chosen him for the US-based wannabe. Bamboo is simply too anthemic for Lilican. Apl could have given him some style.
Then all four coaches turned for Michaellen Temporada. At home, everyone went, “whaaaaaaat??!”
Actually, everyone went, “awwwwwww!” with the first few notes of his cover of”Summertime”.
Not that Michael’s a bad singer. He’s very, very good; smooth, with nary a stray note marring his runs. But even with the light and shadow play, he left us cold.
“Summertime” isn’t just a paean to blue skies. It’s not just a lullaby (just as “Ugoy ng Duyan isn’t just a lullaby). It’s a distillation of dreams and the broken glass that litter their wake. It’s from Porgy and Bess, for god’s sake, a musical that initially turned off critics because of its grit and darkness.
There was nothing in Michael’s reading (even with eyes closed) that bared the slightest smidgen of pain, or even a mother’s effort to hide that from her child. There was no sensuality. I have no idea why Bamboo was crowing about ‘soul.’
Maybe it’s just me. But take a look at this clips of Fantasia, Janis Joplin, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sam Cooke and Norah Jones with their takes on the classic. Not that everyone has to lament and caterwaul. Ella, Billie, Sam and Norah don’t.
Michael’s gorgeous voice lacks nuance. It was like painting-by-numbers. Lea could wring something from him. At the very least, she could provide context to songs. But he chose Sarah. So expect the orthodox ballad route.
(I don’t understand all the contestants’ talk about “sincerity”. Not saying Sarah isn’t. But there’s more to being sincere than just wide-eyed ingénue affects. Lea’s theatrics can still grate – ditto apl — but there’s no denying the sincerity there, the empathy for the struggle, the desire to cheer on someone for latent strengths that may be overshadowed by a not-so-good performance.)
Fun, Faith & Abondanza
Morisette Amon, 16, has competed before, getting her break on TV5. She’s done Camp Rock, which suits her perky persona and powerful voice.
Sarah Geronimo, no slouch in comedy and perkiness, can teach her to loosen up and not be too de numero with her movements – and hit those risky notes with precision. Though she did impress Sarah with a particularly nifty pitch shift.
Isabella Fabregas is a reminder that nice girls can have oomph, too.
Bamboo immediately heard the gospel timbre and the inclusiveness in Isa’s voice that made the song resonate, right from the first line: “Sometimes in our lives, we all have pain, we all have sorrow…”
It was a neat balance of music and personality — moonshine, a blend of molasses and fire.
Someone gave a forced smile on hearing Isa’s background – church choir singer. But the young woman’s performance did reflect on what people look for in their churches: Compassion.
Radha Tinsay is well loved and not just for her beautiful face (the photo below doesn’t do her justice). Her old band Kulay was popular. Despite the setback suffered after a tragedy that eventually led to a permanent break, she exudes confidence – mixed with a big dollop of defiance.
There’s that belter’s voice, of course. And the groove. Although the fashion seemed incongruous, I guess anyone of any age and size can ask, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”
She can do definitely do R&B; even torch. But I have a hunch she’ll be even more moving with a quiet, acoustic song.
The moment the women coaches turned, it was a love fest. I’m not sure if Radha’s kinda-famous status will be boon or bane when viewers’ votes count. But Lea’s a perfect match; the right age and with the right experience to draw out joys of abondanza.
So far, this has been a contest among the girls. If Twitter is any gauge, no guy has gotten the level of response the gals now enjoy. Not even the one who got all judges to turn.