‘The Voice’ of pop culture?

Bert B. Sulat Jr.

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More than a singing contest, "TVOTP" has become an ice breaker on a national scale

THEY HAVE THE MILIEU. Apl.de.ap, Lea, Sarah, Bamboo. Photo from the show's Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines—It may not be a Philippine original, but the local edition of “The Voice” is as Pinoy a show as any on TV today.

Six weeks since its debut on June 15 and “TVOTP” has become a widely discussed hit for ABS-CBN. 

The show’s Blind Audition round – where the four coach/team heads, with their rotating chairs turned away from the aspirants, take their pick solely on each hopeful’s singing talent – is finally winding down. Next weekend’s episodes close this first stage, then it’s the Battle round.

Even if the burst of audience impact has tapered off a bit since the show’s June premiere, TVOTP remains much talked about, even among complete strangers who have the show as a heady common denominator.

And thanks to social media, the show is generating more buzz – over the diverse talent among the contestants as well as the show’s extraneous details. The commentary traffic altogether makes for as much “viewing” pleasure as the program itself. 

Chief among the marginal concerns are the outfits of coaches Apl.de.ap, Lea Salonga, Sarah Geronimo, and Bamboo Mañalac –or why their clothes have looked almost the same for the dozen episodes aired so far.

This has prompted some viewers to snicker on Facebook that they could be reeking by now. 

Fans familiar with the show’s dynamics from its US counterpart have pointed out that the Blind Auditions were supposedly filmed on the same day. This same-clothes-different-day “mishap” could have been remedied with a few costume changes, yet the fact that people are nitpicking fulfills the producers’ aim to keep the show on the audience’s radar.

Two different people

There has also been much talk about how Salonga is being “OA” or overacting in the show, as when she gets far-from-subdued in her raving of some contestants.

Yet it’s quite hard to imagine the show without her exuberance, and it’s hard to imagine the accomplished singer playing down her enthusiasm.

And, fellas, the Lea Salonga of “Miss Saigon” and Lea Salonga today are two different people. The “Miss Saigon” Lea was out to conquer the world; the present, 40-plus Lea is more relaxed and kikay.

If there’s one thing about the show that deserves jeering, it’s the pretty interminable commercial breaks, which are verily as long as the show segments themselves — thus stretching what should be an hourlong show into 90 minutes, which, to be sure, is more than enough time to do the dishes then grab a beer in the fridge. 

But such peripheral factors hardly detract from TVOTP’s main attraction – the judges, the instant camaraderie, the contestants. Ranging from competent to exceptional, maybe 16 or way older, these guys are no prank aspirants like those who populate the “American Idol” auditions.

And to entice the Pinoy viewer’s liking for tearjerkers, the aspirants come in with their back stories, in spades. 

Toni Gonzaga does a good job in narrating their stories, and she’s a really capable host. Efficient, charming, non-distracting. Lends a happy bubble to the show.

Let’s check out some highlights of TVOTP on July 20.

One is Jessica Corpuz’s rendition of the Sharon Cuneta signature, “Sana’y Wala Nang Wakas” (by the great Willy Cruz), which prompted some insightful mentorship from the judges – particularly Sarah G – and Apl.de.ap’s “generosity.”

Here’s a video of Jessica Corpuz:

Klarisse De Guzman was the soulful showstopper on July 20. You have to see (and hear) this to believe. 

Watch Klarisse De Guzman’s performance:

At least three swell contestants made the July 21 episode memorable, though not all on a positive note.

One of them was the high-pitched Kim Mainit of Bohol, who rendered the Jessie J rouser “Nobody’s Perfect,” prompting Lea who picked the teener to exclaim “Merry Christmas!”

Watch Kim Mainit’s performance:

The surprise contestant on July 21 was Aia De Leon, already an accomplished recording and touring artist as lead singer-guitarist of Imago. 

De Leon, 35, deemed her “Voice” excursion as a way of stepping out of her 15-year “comfort zone” as a band member. But in rendering Jacko’s “The Way You Make Me Feel,” she rather got drowned out by the in-house band.

Show rules—or perhaps a desire now for anonymity?—might have prevented De Leon from dishing out Imago ditties like “Akap” or “Sundo.” She ended up poorly served by her song choice. None of the coaches picked her, then they expressed regret upon seeing later that it was an otherwise respected colleague (in Bamboo’s case) or admired player (in the case of Salonga and Geronimo) who was singing.

Here’s Aia De Leon’s live audition:

As the Blind Audition phase is nearly over, expect a lot of high drama in the Battle Round. But here’s hoping that whoever emerges as TVOTP’s ultimate winner would have greater success and recall than the top, hardly memorable winners of  America’s “The Voice.” – with Carla Camille L. Mendoza/Rappler.com

The Voice of the Philippines airs Saturdays at 9 pm and Sundays at 8:15 p.m. on ABS-CBN.

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