Another solid week

I was really tickled pink by the video greeting from Simon Cowell that opened last Saturday’s Pinoy Boyband Superstar episode. Most of what I know about critiquing contestants on shows like this, I learned from years of watching Simon.

Anyone who has watched Simon on TV for as long as I have knows he normally gets it right. He was right when he said that not only would Carrie Underwood win American Idol season four, but she would also go on to sell more albums than any of the show’s previous winners. He also turned out to be right when he said Filipinos would love Pinoy Boyband Superstar, as evidenced by the pilot week’s ratings.

Congratulations to the Pinoy Boyband Superstar team on a strong debut!
About last week, I still think Niel Murillo was the strongest singer of that group, with Ford Valencia coming in second. Allen Cecilio, Keanno dela Cruz and Markus Paterson need to step up their game. As for the twins, they’re talented, but they may not be right for the boyband this show is aiming to form. Bjorn and Jayvee Mendoza are too different—which isn’t a bad thing per se, but that may make fitting in as part of a five-piece hard for them. I would prefer seeing them strike out on their own, as a duo. They’re certainly entertaining enough to do so.

I went into this week hoping to see a contestant as entertaining as the aforementioned would-be boybanders. The first one to take the stage last Saturday definitely fit the bill.

Joao Constancia, 19, “Grow Old With You”

He reminds me of Ryan Potter, the voice actor of Hiro Hamada in Big Hero 6. If I had to compare him to anyone in the local showbiz scene, I’d say Joao reminds me of Alex Diaz. Furthermore, Joao strikes me as someone who loves a good opportunity to cut loose, but knows when to get down to business. The girls in the live audience found Joao striking, period, because they sent him on to the judges with 94%.

He’s very charming and handsome, which is great because I didn’t find his vocals super impressive. I think he needs to learn proper voice placement. When you know how to place your voice properly, you’ll have an easier time opening up what they call your vocal cavities—and than in turn will help you amplify your voice more efficiently. It sounded to me like he was singing from his throat too much, which not only limits how far Joao can go and what he can do vocally, but it could also hurt him in the long run. A few singing lessons would do him a world of good.

That said, I agreed with Pinoy Boyband Superstar judge Yeng Constantino. A boyband is like a pie chart. Joao isn’t the strongest singer, but he has oodles of charisma. I’m happy they gave him four yeses. Not just because I like his lip ring, but because he seems like a good guy who’s willing to work hard to improve.

Gabriel Umali, 16, “Torn”

When Gabriel hit the stage, he came across as shy, but my gosh, he transformed when he danced. Unfortunately, Gabriel didn’t seem so confident when he sang. That’s understandable, because he’s had more experience as a dancer. I do love his voice, though. In fact, I got goosebumps when he hit the pre-chorus of Natalie Imbruglia’s biggest hit. It was then that he opened up vocally—however slightly—and showed everyone how his voice can soar. He sings well; he just needs help working through his issues.

During his audition, Gabriel’s face was a stiff mask, which I think hampered his singing. For a singer, relaxing the muscles in one’s cheeks, forehead and jaw will go a long way towards helping him or her develop a beautiful and powerful voice. Gabriel stiffened up because he was so nervous. It’s adorable that he doesn’t seem to know how good he really is, but he needs to believe in himself more if he wants to go far in this competition. Aside from relaxing his facial muscles, I’d say he needs to become as confident a singer as he is a dancer. That said, he’s an early favorite of mine.

Mike Villamor, 19, “Gusto Kita”

Mike’s rendition of this OPM classic was quite pitchy. But the real problem with Mike is that as a performer, he’s good but not great. He’s average. He’s charming and talented, but whatever charm he had couldn’t make up for what he lacked vocally, unlike Joao. So although I liked his smile and the fact that he’s a rakitero, I understand why the judges turned Mike down.

That said, my ears perked up when he talked about his father who does construction and plumbing work. I’ve been looking for someone to fix things at my house. Can someone please put me in touch with Mike’s father? I want to hire him. Seriously! I identified with Mike’s desire to help his parents, so if I can help him do that by paying his father to do some work for me, I will.

Rollo Espinos, 23

I liked the look of this professional chef-turned-commercial model from Bacolod. Unfortunately, the girls in the live audience found Rollo wanting and gave him only 73%. What a shame. He could’ve served up some tasty vocals pa naman.

Kokoy de Santos, 18

This guy should be a familiar face to Jane Oineza and Janella Salvador fans. Kokoy did a Maalaala Mo Kaya episode with the former last year and he was in Oh My G with the latter. I know he can sing well, which is why I was disappointed when the girls gave him the boot with only 73%. I bet Kokoy would’ve impressed the judges had he been able to sing for them.

What happened to Kokoy in particular illustrates that letting the girls decide who gets to sing for the judges can be dangerous. Good singers could end up slipping through the cracks if the girls don’t see fit to put them through. Luckily, the guy who went onstage after Kokoy was able to charm the girls into putting him through so he could show everyone how good he is vocally.

Wilbert Rosalyn, 19, “Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You”

I can so identify with his wanting to make good to show his father that he missed out on something special when he walked away. Good thing the girls gave Wilbert 95% and the opportunity to stick it to his father.

I like his voice. It’s powerful without being overwhelming. I liked the little runs he put in. He does have a slight tendency to mumble—which I heard in the verses—so he should improve his diction because sayang yung ganda ng tone niya if he doesn’t. I agree with Vice Ganda; Wilbert is cute, but his isn’t the kind of cuteness that will make you take a second look. Sakto lang, kumbaga. That said, he’s one of the better singers in this competition, so I’m glad he got through.

Host Billy Crawford promised “heartwarming family stories” in the next episode, so I braced myself before I watched it. Mababaw ang luha ko sa mga ganyan ngayon, eh.

Jay Kim, 20, “Fire” and “Ikaw”

I don’t find him as handsome as some of the previous contestants, but there’s something about him I find vaguely charming. I had a big smile on my face while watching him talk to Sandara in Korean. I’m not a fan of his voice, but I’ll give him props for having enough guts to sing songs by Sandara and Yeng in front of them. I’ve watched a lot of reality shows, and I haven’t seen many contestants brave enough to do that. But while I commend his bravery, I don’t think he’s strong enough vocally to be in a boyband. He has major pitch and timing issues.

Sean Cruz, 18

His backstory made me cry. When Sean was four, he lost his father in a car accident. That tragedy greatly affected his mother, so Sean had to step up and be the breadwinner of his family, which is something I can relate to. I was disappointed when the girls didn’t put him through. Aga Muhlach was right when he said this show can be heartbreaking. I felt really bad for Sean.

I’m starting to realize that my taste in guys—as far as looks go, anyway—is vastly different from that of the girls in the live audience. I liked Sean’s eyes and smile. I would buy a condo from him any day. Hehe.

James Ryan Cesena, 18, “Boyfriend”

I love that he’s a songwriter. He wants to write songs that give people hope, which I think is nice. I’m always on the lookout for new people to write with, so I hope to be able to collaborate with James sometime. But I digress.

James’ take on this Justin Bieber track reminded me of American Idol season eight champion Kris Allen’s own reworking of “Heartless.” James is the first guy who impressed me vocally since Gabriel Umali. I get Vice’s concern about James potentially holding the final five back because of his inability to speak Filipino, but that’s what Tagalog lessons are for. In the meantime, someone can help James understand the meaning of a Filipino song by going over it with him line by line if need be. Honestly, that doesn’t seem like too much of an inconvenience to me.

Some of the guys the judges have put through aren’t up to snuff vocally, so I honestly think they should have gone a little easier on James, who’s one of the best singers Pinoy Boyband Superstar has found thus far. Kudos to Yeng for seeing his determination and welcoming him to the show.

Miko Juarez, 20, “Ngiti”

Vice compared him to James Reid, but with respect to him, I disagree. I actually think Miko looks like a cross between Ahron Villena and Paulo Avelino. Miko’s voice is good but not remarkable pero sige na nga, pweds na rin.

Mark Oblea, 21, “So Far Away”

Ang gwapo niya. I loved his earring and leather jacket. But he became so much more appealing—to me, at least—when he professed his love for his mother on national TV. Naka-relate ako sa kanya. Like Mark, I wasn’t always a good son. I made plenty of mistakes, but now I want to make up for that however I can. But I digress.

This episode saved the best for last. I flove Mark’s voice. There’s something about him that reminds me vocally of Dalton Rapattoni from American Idol season 15. (Incidentally, Dalton used to be in a boyband called IM5.) Dalton is one of my favorite singers of all time, so coming from me, that’s pretty high praise right there. There’s a slight rasp in Mark’s voice that comes out when he pushes himself, which is great, in my opinion. I think he’s a real star. Like Aga, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mark in the final five.

Even my mother liked Mark. When I went to visit her on Monday night, we streamed this episode on iWant TV. Check this out:

Mom and I bonded over the show. She didn't like Mark's pick-up line, but she loved his voice.
Overall, I think Pinoy Boyband Superstar had another solid week. Gusto ko yung timpla ng palabas na ito. The contestants’ sob stories are given just enough airtime to make viewers root for them, but not enough for all their tales of broken families and reversals of fortune to overshadow their talent—or lack thereof. Kudos to the show’s team for striking the right balance between backstory and talent!

First two photos and videos courtesy of Pinoy Boyband Superstar.


The old Julian can't come to the phone right now.

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