Lost in transmission: The Voice (Philippines) coaches

By Inday Espina-Varona

Posted at Jun 16 2013 01:36 PM | Updated as of Jun 20 2013 07:14 PM

"The Voice of the Philippines" got off to a slow start. Yeah, despite the Twitter buzz. It had four of the biggest Filipino musical talents rockin’ out in the pilot night’s opening number and then things went downhill.

Their cover of The Script’s “Hall of Fame” wasn’t that memorable either. They could have chosen a tune with power chords and driving rhythm that spur the audience into dance. Though I can appreciate the difficulty of finding THE song that does justice to all four coaches: international musical theater star Lea Salonga, apl.de.ap of Black-Eyed Peas fame, rocker Bamboo Manalac and Sarah Geronimo, the pop princess who rose to fame by winning a reality singing show

“The Voice of the Philippines” — the name itself doesn’t lend much to excitement. It sounds like an oratorical contest. Plus, the Twitter hashtag #TheVoiceofthePhilippines takes too much space. Just ditch those two little words, please.

(In a country where every little barangay sing-along has a diva or two, a title like "The Voice of the Philippines" sounds a tad pretentious, too. I haven’t head anyone been described as The Voice of America — probably a copyright affront on the US government-owned radio station — or The Voice of Britain; it’s always, “winner of The Voice”… USA, Britain, or wherever they come from.)

It could have been the old-model TV in sister’s bedroom. Watching the first episode of "The Voice," I couldn’t reconcile the euphoric reactions of the judges to the sights and sounds on the small screen.

Thor Dulay was the best of a mediocre lot. The self-proclaimed “Master of Soul” has been around for a while. A Facebook friend turns out to be a fan of the singer who sees himself an R&B artist — which is probably why he chose Apl over Lea.

But did the Ateneo de Davao graduate, who’s already sung for David Foster, really merit all four judges turning? While Thor hit some high notes, his voice tightened at the upper register and lacked timbre at the lower range. And no charisma either.

It’s a clean voice; he sings the right notes and evades flats and sharps. But we’re not looking for good voices, are we? We’re looking for good voices of star material. He didn’t look or sound like any soul master, more like a middling balladeer. I’m not sure that singing backup for Vice Ganda is a good indicator of potential. Does anyone remember being wowed or bowled over by the comedian’s musical numbers?

I didn’t catch Daryll Shy, the folk singer from Baguio who got the votes of Apl and Lea and chose the latter. No doubt that the Filipino star of West End and Broadway is a superb technician, so there may be some hope there.

The pretty Deb Victa got Bamboo by default. You’ve probably seen Deb’s twinkling eyes and dimples on TV — as Lea Salonga noted in a divine example of back-handed compliment. (Which aspiring artist/commercial model wants to be reminded she’s not that memorable a face?) That Bamboo was the only one who turned — and he sure looked pleased by her looks — is very good news for her. Lea and Sarah, even at their kindest, would reduce her to jelly. Bamboo’s a stylist; he could free her from that hotel lounge singing, infuse some swag and strut and ooomph. Who knows? Her Facebook page hints at gray matter behind the ingenue image.

A balut vendor who wants to sing for his family’s survival is a good backstory. And, hell, we’re all suckers for a rags-to-riches tale (see Nora Aunor or, lately, Jovit Baldovino). But there was nothing in Romel Colao to separate him from the millions of karaoke-loving Filipinos. His singing failed to move any of the judges.

His balut did, however, prodding an impressive display of kalye-eating style from Sarah Geronimo. (That was a genius PR move, really.) Calao also got a belt from Apl.

Two other guys, including one who gave a cheesy effort to curry favor with Sarah, got tepid platitudes.

The youngest judge proved the sternest taskmaster. Her comments, on the emotive connections or lack thereof, were on spot.

Sarah, who is usually saccharine in those TV variety and talk shows, backpedalled on tweetums affectations. She might just be finally hitting maturity. About time, too.

Lea, on the other hand, gasped and squealed over Cherry Mae “Chien Berbana of Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay. She must have heard something that didn’t quite sail through the airwaves. From where we sat, Chien’s voice had power but overdosed on rasps and growls. Lea can teach her subtlety – maybe.

She can also try to teach Chien vocal exercises to loosen up the throat and chest muscles on the high notes. I get that Chien was trying for an Aegis-vavavoom-rocker persona, but the hit duo slides effortlessly from alto to hallelujah-belting without the brassy grate.

Lea’s TV projection helps explains her frustration at not being able to win over Filipino showbiz patrons. Lea’s wrong in saying Pinoys don’t appreciate her voice. But what can stun a theater audience comes out a tad too loud and OA on the boob tube. Something’s just lost in the transmission. Everyone loves Lea’s voice — when they get to hear it. How many Filipinos can afford theater, especially back when she was performing for Repertory Philippines? And while we’re talking musicals, I’m wondering what she isn’t playing the Celeste part in Katy? And maybe have the Cultural Center of the Philippines take a pared-down version around the country?

"The Voice" may liven up and lighten up tonight (Sunday). The sneak preview showed a lot of gorgeous faces and a number of good voices. Already, there’s buzz around Abby Assistio, the winsome lass with no hair.

Anyway, I’m happy there’s one talent show in town that doesn’t feature acrobats, sand artists, magicians, dancers and fire eaters. So I’ll stick around a bit for "The Voice."

Did you think any of last night’s contestants will make it to the final round? Who? And why? Will the forced, wooden “wit” of the judges improve tomorrow?

Whadcha think?

This article first appeared in the author's blog "scaRRedcat.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.