MANILA - KZ Tandingan and her music idol, Jessie J, have formed a unique bond since the Kapamilya singer joined China's "Singer 2018," where she is competing against the UK pop star.
A self-confessed "fan girl" of Jessie J, Tandingan was seen in her debut episode instantly in tears upon meeting the "Price Tag" hitmaker in person. To regularly get to talk and get tips from her idol is understandably still "overwhelming" for Tandingan.
In a press conference Tuesday about her "Singer 2018" stint, Tandingan, 25, revealed that Jessie J, 29, has been a source of encouragement throughout an admittedly doubt-filled journey.
That started even prior to Tandingan's applauded "Rolling in the Deep" cover, which earned the top ranking in her debut episode, ahead of second-placed Jessie J.
The Star Music artist recalled: "Sa performance ko that night, grabe 'yung naitulong niya sa akin, kasi grabe 'yung pag-encourage niya sa akin. Sabi niya sa akin, 'I know you're very scared, this is something na ang laki, nakakalula, pero imagine na out of the many singers they could have chosen to be part of this show, kasama ko doon sa seven. Be proud of yourself. Don't let the results define you. Just do your best, sing your heart out.'"
Billed as the No. 1 show in China, with more than 200 million viewers tuning in to its second episode this season, "Singer 2018" has eight superstar performers taking the stage weekly. Public voting determines the rankings and who gets eliminated. Aside from Tandingan and Jessie J, the rest of the past and present contenders this season are from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
In the competition's February 9 episode, Tandingan was seen shocked at the announcement of the rankings, having earned a spot ahead of Jessie J. The British singer, who swept the first three weeks as first-placer and ranked second on the fourth week, approached Tandingan to give her a reassuring hug.
"No more tears. I know you must have been scared, you coming into it unknown. You're really great," she told Tandingan, who replied, "I'm so sorry I cried again."
What wasn't shown on TV was the Filipina telling Jessie J, "Rank one ka dapat, e!" The latter's reply: "You deserve it! The people voted for you."
"Meron na siyang mga moments na napagsasabihan niya ako, gano'n," Tandingan said during the press conference, when asked to describe her relationship with the "Flashlight" singer.
One such time, Tandingan shared, was after her winning performance, when Jessie J gave her advice on "owning" the stage after she noticed that Tandingan appeared lacking in confidence.
She narrated: "Pagkatapos ng announcement, biglang may yumakap sa akin from the back. 'Sino 'to?' May naririnig akong Essex accent! 'I need to talk to you.' Naisip ko, 'Si Jessie 'to!' Kinausap niya ako, sabi niya sa akin, 'You know what, every time I see you I feel like you don't know that you're good. You're so good.'"
Translating to Filipino what Jessie J had told her, Tandingan continued: "'Alam ko kinakabahan ka, natatakot ka, but once you're on stage, pag kinakabahan ka o takot ka, pretend like you're confident until it's true.' Sabi niya, 'Own it! Hindi lahat ng singers nakakakuha ng ganitong opportunity, so 'pag tumapak ka sa stage, don't be apologetic, do it, do whatever your heart tells you to do.'"
A second time Jessie J boosted her spirits, with a stern tone, was during the taping of an upcoming episode of "Singer 2018." Tandingan was inside a holding room when Jessie J knocked to ask her which slot in the order of performances she got.
"Sabi ko, 'Pang ganito ako.' 'Ah, ako mauuna ko sa 'yo.' Ta's sabi ko, 'Hala, paano kita susundan!' In English 'to, ah. Sabi niya, 'O, ano sabi ko sa 'yo kahapon? 'Di ba nag-usap tayo?' 'OK po,'" she narrated.
In the Philippines, where she is dubbed the music scene's "Soul Supreme," Tandingan has no shortage of supporters who validate her experimental sound and adventurous renditions, much like her idol from Britain. Pointing out the self-contained social media of China, Tandingan did not immediately hear of reactions to her "Singer 2018" performance. Headlines highlighting her triumph over Jessie J, who has performed twice in Manila, flooded local news feeds -- a fact Tandingan is still processing.
"'Yung makasama lang siya sa headline, 'yung pangalan ko madikit sa pangalan niya, sobrang overwhelming iyon. Pero 'yung 'KZ beats Jessie J', siguro sa ranking ako lang ang No. 1 sa episode na 'yon, nag-rank two siya, pero it doesn't make her any less of an artist. It doesn't mean na I'm better than her," she said.
Tandingan added: "I'm just really thankful na I even got the chance to be in one show with Jessie J. Hindi ibig sabihin na mas magaling ako kay Jessie J, or mas magaling si Jessie J sa akin. It's just that during that episode, iyon 'yung hinahanap na feeling ng audience."