Bread. 16 December 2007
Hady did Singapore proud
With the smallest population among the six countries with contestants in
the Asian Idol contest, Singapore's entry, Hady Mirza is as likely to win
as snow falling on Orchard Road. Imagine the torrent of sms votes coming
from India and Indonesia in support of their boys. What chance will poor Hady
That said, he gave a very worthy performance, and I don't think I'm being biased. By my rating, he comes in as second best, just pipped by Indonesia's Mike Mohede.
It's all subjective of course and at this point, I think I should declare my preferences in music and singing. What was I looking for?
Firstly, musicality, which is a hard concept to explain. It's a combination of melodiousness, rhythm, surprise in thematic development and colour in the sound. Knowing when to start a phrase, when to hold back. Some people just have a talent for musicality, and it shows in the way they interpret a song.
Secondly, the balance between singing a song straight and embellishment. Singing it straight can get boring, but it can also be very demanding technically. It's harder to hide your flaws. Embellishing the voice line must be done judiciously or else the momentum is lost through the confusion, so getting that balance right is very tricky. Furthermore, it must sound spontaneous and totally natural even when planned and rehearsed – and that's really hard.
Thirdly, pacing. A performance song must have the right pace to hold the audience's interest, and the right pace for the voice. In other words a song can have different pacing for different singers/interpretations. Tied in with pacing is volume control. There's a lot of judgment involved in when to begin the climb to the climax and how fast to climb.
Fourthly, inventiveness. It's a thrill to see a performer sing a song in a whole new way. Needless to say, it's a rare thrill.
Normally, I would include diction as one of the measures, but in a cross-national contest, it is not appropriate.
My personal dislikes include dance-type songs – they tend to be boring after the first 30 seconds – and what I call the full-blast foghorn songs, the type many female singers like. In my opinion, going full blast is just the opposite of control and musicality.
My habit is to close my eyes during parts of the song. How does he sound if he was not on stage but on a CD? It makes a lot of difference with the eyes closed.
* * * * *
Abhijeet Sawant's first song was too well known and therefore very hard to excel in. Worse, it was an over-careful, pedestrian performance with moments of inexact pitching. He seemed nervous, as if trying hard to remember the words. His second song saw him in his element, but the song took a while before it began to rise, and in the waiting it came very close to sagging. Towards the end, however, all that was forgotten when his voice took flight with beautiful runs, effortless breath control and the ethereal way he let his voice just float in the air.
YouTube video. First song 3; second song 8; total 11
Mike Mohede has a beautiful, silky voice. He chose a safe first song, delivered it straight, letting the melody carry his voice. His intonation was sure, his volume control just right. He then let the second song show his originality with a little beat shifting and runs. Indeed it was the perfect song for his voice and the delivery was flawless. I would have given him a 10 except that he had very little stagework.
YouTube video. First song 6; second song 9; total 15
Jaclyn Victor's two songs were delivered in similar ways -- that of a club singer, which she is. She tends to open up to full blast quite early in a song, and thereafter stays up there unable to do much more. She injected a nasal quality to her second, Malay song, and sang it in a kind of childlike voice. Unfortunately, unless one knew what the song was about, one couldn't tell if that was the appropriate interpretation. She ended by screaming.
YouTube video. First song 5; second song 4; total 9
Mau Marcelo too has bellows for voice. She hid it from view in her first song, choosing a Pilipino song that almost sounded like a narrative at parts with too many words. She might have ended up over-emoting. The result felt overwrought. Her second song allowed her power free rein, but the problem was that she ended up sounding like so many other big-voice singers one hears on American shows. Also, as judge Ken Lim noted, she embellished it too much.
YouTube video. First song 4; second song 6; total 10
Hady Mirza probably had the least promising voice. It doesn't sound like a singer's voice. Yet despite this handicap, he was the most polished performer, giving two contrasting styles in his two songs. His first was lyrical, delivered with heart-melting tenderness. His second was from the rock genre but delivered in a quite unique subdued way (kind of like sensitive new age guy, rather than aggressively) that suited his voice quite well. It was pretty original, I thought. He also demonstrated good voice control, and tied with Phuong Vy for stage presence.
YouTube video. First song 6; second song 8; total 14
Phuong Vy has a surprisingly characterful voice that her looks did not prepare me for, and she knows to use it. Unfortunately, her first song was a poor choice. It was boring, not particularly melodic, and gave her few opportunities to do much with it. But she still managed to show her ability to inflect her voice to effect. Her second song was captivating. I believe it was about a young girl excited to be in love for the first time, and she delivered it very believably. The Filipina judge didn't like the song, but I put it down to national taste. I thought it suited Vy very well, and she did a good job of it.
YouTube video. First song 4; second song 8; total 12
* * * * *
Best singer: Mike Mohede
Technically most polished singer: Hady Mirza
Best-looking male singer: Abhijeet Sawat
Best-looking female singer: Phuong Vy
Best stage presence: Hady Mirza and Phuong Vy (tied)
Asian Idol was held in Jakarta on Saturday, 15 December with results announced on the evening of 16 December. Unlike other Idol contests, Asian Idol had no elimination rounds, and viewers when voting by sms had to submit two choices, not one.
© Yawning Bread
Hady Mirza won. See follow-up essay Hady did Singapore proud, part 2