Saturday, February 11, 2012


I have this thing about Sunday afternoon musical extravaganzas on television.  

You either love them ... or you hate them.  After all, regardless of network, they are usually one and the same template.  Lots of fancy camerawork resembling the sensation one gets from thrill rides from Enchanted Kingdom, lots of pyrotechnics and lights enough to wipe out your cataract ... and acrobatic dance steps rendered by lead performers and their back-up dancers dressed in apparels that range from impressive to embarrassing but most of all a showdown of singing enough to burst lungs or snap vocal chords.

I have nothing against this kind of entertainment. This makes very good Sunday afternoon post-lunch fare.  It does not require much brains to appreciate good production numbers ... but it certainly demands very little level of taste to know when you are being given a show or taken for a really bad ride. No, let me rephrase that: it is not only a bad ride, it is a bad trip.

So Filipinos love to sing. There is no doubt about that. As a matter of fact, every other Filipino thinks he can sing. Does it surprise the world that second only to be the texting capital of the Universe that the Filipinos are the biggest fans of karaokes and videokes?  Every other street corner ... not to mention three out of five households ... have karaoke machines complete with playlists enough to challenge any season of American Idol? Hasn't the world experienced enough of the Pinoy's love for musicality so much so that in the middle of political upheavals and revolutions out there in the streets that news cameras find our kababayans singing and dancing and simulating production numbers worthy of Sir Carol Reed's film version of Oliver!?

This says more than a mouthful about our happy disposition or even our survival instincts.  We are such a music-loving people that we cannot live without it.  The sad part is that we also tend to abuse and misuse it. Just because you can afford a Magic Mic does not mean that you have the right to sing beyond the ear range of friends or people who should be patient enough to listen to the sounds produced from your throat and lungs.  

Let's get real here: there is a substantial difference between a rendition of Saving All My Love For You (as a tribute to the late Whitney) inside a private room in a videoke bar ... or on a makeshift stage in a garage while the rest of the company are half-drunk with bottles of Red Horse beer ... and performing on worldwide television, broadcast via satellite on a Sunday afternoon during or after lunch and in preparation for siesta.  

OK, let me put it another way.  There is such a thing as great singing: that is Gary Valenciano, Martin Nievera, Sara Geronimo, Jed Madela, Jaya, Ogie Alcasid, Janno Gibbs, Rachel Ann Go and company ... and there is such a thing as simply singing ... as there is also such a curse as impersonating the act of singing.  There are people capable of great song (and that's why they make careers out of singing), there are others who get by with so-so tune-carrying (that's why they will never be great) and there are others who should never be handed a microphone. Period.

After being tormented by the total desecration of songs, one asks:"Whose fault is this any way?"  When you are subjected to the rendition of a song that is unequivocally being desecrated under the name of entertainment, you have two immediate options. The first is to grab the remote control and switch channels to ... say, National Geographic or The Animal Planet ... where you can find more sonorous sounds from mating calls of baboons than really bad singing. The second option is to grab the nearest object and hurl it at the tv set, cursing whoever is responsible for that production number to even occupy any space on the airwaves. Like ... what were they thinking? 

There are two kinds of bad singers, you see.

There are singers who know they are bad and never take themselves seriously.  They are people who know that any attempt at song is an invitation to disaster ... so they walk the grounds with all the caution of playing hopscotch on a minefield.  Now they either make it know that they are bad singers singing ... or they are just having fun.

I know of such singers who are extremely successful at mediocre singing compensated by the fact that they are so unforgivably popular that they can recite Oh Captain, My Captain and still pass this off as singing.  How they get away with is ... well, sheer guts and a lot of entertainment value. Sure, sure, sure ... these performers may not exactly be threats to the real hard core vocalists who can shake the Smart Araneta Coliseum down to its foundations but --- whether we like to admit it or not --- they can fill that venue with such enthusiastic fans who couldn't care less if they go off-key, out of tune or replace musicality with visual overload.

Now is that bad or good? There is no definite answer to that.  I am more forgiving (or understanding) of so-so singers who work their asses off trying to compensate for their shortcomings with a lot of attitude and chutzpah.  I tell myself that ... at least ...there is sincere effort and hard work put in to create entertainment.  What you lack in vocal chops you compensate with a lot of attitude and hard work.

So I guess what really pisses me off the stratosphere is not bad or mediocre singing per se but the laziness that some entertainers exhibit during their performances.  Is it not bad enough that you have no right to sing (napilitan lang po kami) but then not to exert effort in at least trying to be good is a much bigger sin?  

OK, time to turn the tables:  everyone has his or her own limitations, right? Some of our best actors and actresses look back at their careers and laugh at the times when they actually did musical recordings as part of their salad years. But the fact that you know that you cannot sing your way out of a brown paper bag should be reason enough for you not to sing at all ... not unless this is in the ultra-privacy of your bedroom/bathroom/jail cell or in the company of someone who will tolerate whatever you do out of sheer fanaticism, obsession or other perverted versions of love.  

The bigger problem is who forced these people to sing in the first place?  Yes, performers have no choice but to follow instructions, to abide by the rules ... not unless they have reached that impressive star stature when they can look at a producer and tell him to go fly a kite. But as upstarts ... or as cooperative soldiers of a network ... you do what you are told to do.  If you are asked to do cartwheels while wearing seven inch heels, you ask no questions ... just pray and hurl yourself to the ground.  If they ask you to dance like there is no tomorrow and you have three left feet ... you ask no questions ... just pray and ...take the risk of either breaking your ankle or making a major fool of yourself in front of kazillions.

Now if they ask you to sing and you are quite aware that you have the singing voice of a nightingale in labor, will you dare go to your executive producer and say, "M'am, baka po magalit ang tao pag kumanta ako."  Uhm, dear upstart talent, you know for a fact that pag nagalit si Executive producer, wala ka nang trabaho.  So you do what you are told ... you go onstage ... you sing what you deem as singing ... and you ruin people's lives or faith in mankind.

The problem here lies not only the violation of the eardrums of the passive viewer who merely wants to be entertained on a Sunday afternoon.  The curse is the belief that this can pass as singing whereas anybody in his right mind ... and with minimal taste will agree that this is the farthest thing from credible performances.  And please, do not give us an excuse that this is some form of training for stars-in-the-making. Even if this is free tv, on-the-job training should happen behind the camera ... and not for consumption of the television viewing audience.

There is a moral lesson here somewhere.  It has got something to do with standards.

Lea Salonga, Regine Velasquez, Sara Geronimo and Bituin Ecalante are singers. So are Jed Madela, Gary Valenciano, Martin Nievera, Christian Bautista.  Rayver Cruz is a terrific dancer.  So are Maja Salvador and Shaina Magdayao.  Gerald Anderson also hits the dance floor with gusto. So does Mark Herras and Rocco Nacino. There are so many others with them who are as good. They do what they do best. And there are others who will eventually be as good if not better.  Because they can.

But there are those who will just be ... uh, there.

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