Sunday, June 29, 2008

Vicious, vacuous

(logos courtesy of their respective websites)
Okay, many among the handful of readers who have stuck with this blog all this time despite the fact that this blog has become most often than not simply a reservoir of my columns rather than what it used to be (i.e., more free-wheeling and relaxed) are aware that I like watching local talent contests on television.

Some habits are hard to break, I guess. See, I grew up with a yaya who was a into the stuff and she would physically drag me to all the amateur singing contests staged in our hometown. My parents were quite happy to let her go provided she would lug me around as well. My yaya was also a die-hard-Noranian-to-the-very-core, by the way. The connection? Well, Nora did catapult to fame courtesy of Tawag ng Tanghalan, right?

Anyway (or as Bryanboy would say, anyhoooooo). I've been watching Pinoy Dream Academy as often as I could, which unfortunately is not as often really. But I do try to catch their Saturday gala performance nights.

I also try to watch Pinoy Idol, although, to be really brutally honest about it, doing so is extreme torture. Really. Honest. It's like sitting through a horrible massacre. At times, it is almost unbearable to watch the contestants doing self-annihilation as they valiantly showcase whatever supposed talent they have and end up mutilating their very potentials. The judges (Ogie Alcasid, Jolina Magdangal, Wyngard Tracy) offer generous help - in the massacre. They argue, debate, pass what they think is criticism - and end up tripping all over themselves in pointless verbiage.

For the most part, it is verbal diarrhea. A simple case of not engaging the mind before opening the mouth. And the contestants end up not being any better. How could they given such advice as "you are not even pang Master Showman, or "bagay sa yo ang kanta," "I can't pinpoint what is wrong with you, perhaps it is your age." Go figure.

I don't see the point of inflicting juvenile angst on the viewers either, which is what PDA does everyday. The logic of the show is that all that personal growing up stuff supposedly helps the singers become better - and the audience more appreciative of what goes into each performance. The logic doesnt quite fly because everyone has his or her own growing up mess to deal with - it is not something that happens uniquely to 16 people inside a house with cameras. Christian Bautista has great singing voice and we appreciate it without having to understand what pain in his personal life made him abbreviate Lupang Hinirang in one of his performances.

But that's the format of the show and we all have to struggle with a few inconveniences to watch some talent unfolding.

Which brings me to the gala performances of PDA last night. I think that in general, the quality of talent in PDA comes across as several notches above those in Pinoy Idol mainly because the technicals in PDA are just better. And I think there is something that can be said about how mentoring from experts does improve one's performance even if it's the placebo effect - you know, all that stuff about confidence, self-esteem, and self-efficacy. I am sure the efforts of all those vocal trainers from the UP School of Music and from Mr. C himself, and the performing tips from Direk Joey are doing wonders because some of the contestants did show much-improved performances yesterday.

A revelation, for example, was the performances of that girl Laarni (Sultan Kudarat) and that of "girlfriend" Bea (she can't sing - period, but she at least showed some semblance of a vocal performance yesterday). Even Christian (he with a growth deficiency) came off with a performance that somehow made us set aside for the moment reservations about the possible limitations of his talent.

But what got me really thinking hard were not the performances. It was the quality of the judging. Yesterday's judges were Louie Ocampo (again), Isay Alvarez, and Gerard Salonga.

The judges came across as knowledgeable (the Pinoy Idol judges are perhaps knowledgeable in their own right, but the problem is they dont come across as such). They dished out insightful comments all right, pointing out, for instance, the difference between a flat note and a sharp note (many presume singers only do wrong by going flat).

But for crying out loud, did they have to be verrrrrrrrry verrrrrrrrrrrry vicious? It looked like they were out for blood and they wanted to prove that they knew their stuff. So what happened was that listening to them didnt turn out to be a pleasant or educational experience either as they seemed to be in a very foul mood. It looked like they didnt like what they were doing.

Gerard Salonga was probably the harshest of them all. That side comment "ang malas ko naman" was really uncalled for as he came across as unappreciative of his role as judge. I am willing to grant that his comments were definitely more intelligent than those of Simon Cowell - for example, that comment about a female contestant having "marginal talent and getting through with just smokes and mirrors" was dead on, but did he have to say it that way?

I'm probably just letting my inherent "Pinoy sensitivity" come to the fore. But really, intelligent and insightful does not have to be vicious.

And that, folks, was how I spent the weekend.

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