“Glee” | Since confirming speculations about her being cast in the Emmy-awarded Glee series in June this year, and up until the recent airing of its second season premiere in which she appeared, Charice was once again attacked from all fronts by Filipinos even as young as 13 on the Internet.
By this time, Facebook and Twitter had taken over the lives of billions and it was easy to use the cloak of anonymity to vent out ire on someone they did not know personally, had not experienced or seen perform live and hadn't done them direct harm.
For the teens, it may be a case of envy because someone like Charice whom they thought they had the right to verbally bully online looked like one of them. They disliked her because they thought she was cocky, which, really, sometimes Charice may unconsciously, unintentionally come across on stage as being.
Maybe she even looks like their arch-nemesis in school for Charice could put on all expressions on her face when singing and this looked weirdly funny it piqued them. Her movements annoyed them, her songs were old-fashioned. Worse, she sang their parents' cheesy, monumental songs like a grown-up.
At 18, Charice hadn’t grown any taller and developed into a svelte enough young lady since she lost in that singing contest to even come physically close to their preferred local or foreign idols.
A local male DJ and gossip show host known for his sweet but curt jabs at people, in a rare, polite moment on TV just a few days ago, voiced out preference for another Filipina (female) singer to be on Glee in Charice’s stead but did not state why. It sounded like a reflection of an industry that sat out through most of Charice's accomplishments in silent envy, a victim of its self-imposed sanctimony.
Perhaps the DJ's preference might have impressed him as more deserving because she had sex appeal that excited him besides her having certified box-office hits to her name. It didn’t matter how his choice sang, or, to many, how Charice could outsing most every one else with ease. In fact, it didn’t occur to many of Charice’s detractors what Glee’s co-creator was looking out for in the first place.
Their role was to get into the kind of prejudice they knew of that has existed in the consciousness of Filipinos for generations. Meanwhile, most everyone else with little or no access to news about Charice, save for mentions on local gossip shows and magazines, rendered quick judgment on her and they judged superficially they failed to even see the unique nuances of her versions of songs of others.
A well-managed lung power | Thank god for authoritative Hollywood godmothers and godfathers, Charice was taken seriously as a singer.
She was given a manager she shares with Andrea Bocceli and her acknowledged mentor, David Foster. She was taken in by the influential publicist Liz Rosenberg who has spoken for and defended Madonna and other high-profile celebrity clients through public statements, and who, while accompanying Charice to the offices of US magazines in July of this year, was said to have mentioned of her as meriting a “slot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 25 years.” A big, meaningful prediction that is if Rosenberg would own it.
They also put her under the guidance of an industry-accredited professional vocal coach named Eric Vetro as added support to David Foster in helping her not only preserve her voice for the long haul, hopefully, but further refine her talent and free her from mannerist tendencies acquired from singing on town plaza stages in years past.
And they, her American management team, seemed to have freed her from the local network Charice practically grew up in so she could promote her album everywhere. In response, other networks, particularly the acknowledged rival of Charice’s erstwhile home network, took her in with open arms.
Left: Charice and GMA 7 News' Jessica Soho in her first long interview on Soho's Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho (May 2010) [Image from Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho] | Right: Video grab of her debut on Eat Bulaga (June 2010)
A different kind of soprano | And Charice was given a vocal category, too, by many music enthusiasts abroad; somewhere, some say, between a mezzo soprano and that of a dark or dramatic soprano ("budding", if I may add). This was nearly unheard of while she was an occasional singer in the Philippines.
Charice is not in Lea Salonga's league, as Charice herself admitted, simply because their backgrounds and training, their genres, are different. Charice is certainly no nightingale the likes of Regine Velasquez and it is but correct for Regine to bestow her "pop diva" title to the younger Sarah Geronimo or Rachel Ann Go simply to end fans' debate on who her bona fide successor is because they sound like they are at least in the same vocal range.
I have to agree with the fans of these singers that Charice isn't "the next Regine" because Charice's voice is different. I actually have to submit that, thus far, she is no successor to anyone's title because it looks like she has started making her own.
At her age, Charice’s voice is thicker, deeper and more dense; it always had a higher register, in my opinion, and is more colorful, something I'd describe, even in its early and yet unpolished current vocal quality, as multi-dimensional and engaging. Her lung capacity is stronger even when jumping literally to the crowd and back up on stage again in the middle of a song, while sustaining a note or sliding from one musical bar to another.
Lea Salonga, in a session with young artists in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in May of this year, said of Charice,
"...If you look at her versus other 17, 18, 19-year old so-called singers in the United Sates... [who] fit the Disney mold...she's different...she's tiny and petite but what sets her apart is that she's just so insanely talented.
Celine Dion said her voice "could blow the roof off of Madison Square Garden in New York." Americans call her bearing “the pipes,” but where those came from or were it was located was itself a wonder. Charice might just have developed a diaphragm as deep as her emotions and painful experiences.
If Charice, who never had classical voice training and whose early mentoring can be said to be a product of radio and show bands, truly belongs to the mezzo-to-dark soprano range as some claim—which probably explains why she has a voice so powerful it soared above full-piece orchestras and roars of applause—it’s no wonder that she seems to scathe the typical Filipino listener’s ears used to lilting shrills, a type of singing she herself had once fallen into.
There may even be truth to what some, upon hearing Charice hit the power ballads for the first time, say of her voice: mabigat (heavy), for even in the classical sense, it takes a different kind of timbre and voice character to fit demanding roles of sopranos that tackle the more difficult, heavy works of Rossini or Wagner.
|2010 Tours: Bangkok, Thailand (carlodelarosa.wordpress.com);|
Inset Japan, New York, Canada (isbertophoto.com)
And unlike the hit-and-miss chances of many Filipino entertainers trying their luck for years at cracking into the American market, all Charice had to do was show up at countless radio promos and tours across America, Canada, Europe and Asia when her US self-titled debut album came out in May 2010. With the proper guidance and careful planning her U.S. management team seems to have laid out for her, I believe Charice is poised to continue doing all that in the coming years.
Deserving | It’s admirable that Charice, who says would still ask herself how she could have had this much success so fast and so early, is able stay level-headed with handling luck, fame and fortune.
In contrast, a recent talk about a very talented child actor the industry was in danger of losing after he fell ill with a life-threatening infection, purported that his condition was nearly unattended by his single mother who concerned herself more with splurging his earnings on small-time gambling. Only the timely intervention and financial help of a popular TV actress saved his life.
It is praiseworthy that Charice could travel from one American state to the next, crossing timezones and oceans, even likening the airplane to a hotel in the past two years alone, while she took off-campus classes as a college student, send her brother to school, ably managing her time between trans-atlantic shores.
She does all these while choosing not to give up her Filipino citizenship for convenience which is something of a deal for it is a matter among Filipinos that invites distrust and various levels of misgivings on successful compatriots who make it abroad.
Her American management team will have to put up with her coming home at least twice or thrice to catch up with her life back in the Philippines.
Charice's current status puts her in the jet-set level of what she was once was: a traveling child singer, on foot or in hired vehicles, in search of and catching the next town fiesta stage on which to perform. In fact, her story as a student of international veterans and mentors and of the world's stages has just begun.
Without doubt, it takes fortitude to handle fame and fortune sensibly when it does come, especially when dreams do immediately turn to reality. Where all these will take Charice will be the true measure of her success or failure.
So, what’s not to like? | Charice will probably be best remembered by a majority as suddenly having undergone Botox much too early in preparation for her Glee appearances and many will choose to get stuck with that idea for as long as they don't get past what is skin-deep.
Given all the acknowledgment and admiration she has already received from powerful personalities abroad, her acceptance by more Filipinos from all walks of life probably lies not in her singing, voice quality or efforless performances but in our perceptions of what is good — or “great” — and “okay” based on influences.
It’s trickier with Charice because she is in the pop genre, where “pop” means “popular” and where being a celebrity is a result of continuous publicity, whether this be good or bad, and acquiring referent power on commodities and causes.
She is not in the fussy theatre or classical genre which is generally what Filipinos consider to be a measure of excellence as it means a sure shot at a legitimate singing career abroad. Yet even genuine accomplishments of our very own talents in these genres, more often than not, are nevertheless unheard of.
Too bad, fewer than few among the population can actually name a successful soprano or theater personality besides top-of-mind Tony Awardee Lea Salonga for both categories and that is because Lea still enjoys the benefit of being seen on local TV. However, Lea’s true status in theatre and contributions to the local entertainment industry has largely been relegated to trivia by the masses whose only memories of her long TV exposure is in the 80s teen show That’s Entertainment and not her strict theater tutelage and professionalism.
|With Lea Salonga, "Heal the World" number, ASAP Michael Jackson tribute, 2009|
And even if Charice is now living out her dream all so suddenly, the very same dream millions of Filipinos would want for themselves one day, she is often misconstrued as just another threat to other pop singers or someone extremely lucky to have made it America and elsewhere because of her popularity on the Internet. To quote Billboard.com,
“...thousands of unknown musicians drop their music on the internet, praying to get discovered. Not all of them wind up cracking the Billboard Top 20 three years later...” ~Billboard.com
and Charice happens to be the only local-grown solo musician to have put the Philippines on the U.S. Billboard charts thus far in just under three years since being introduced to the tough international market. She is listed No. 4 and the only solo Asian in its "21 Under 21" 2010 article from where the quote above was lifted. Not a mean feat.
Well, in fact, Charice must be doing something right on top of all that. Her achievements, after all, are not because she has not run out of luck, cheated her way to success or stepped on someone’s reputation for her own gain. As far as her public life story is concerned, she didn’t have the influence to command the holders of strings attached to the rich and mighty for these to be pulled to help her get to where she is now. She simply can be seen holding a microphone and letting out a song.
On hindsight, Jim Paredes might be right after all when he wrote: “That’s showbiz!” If Charice had won the local TV contest five years ago, she’d be in another place right here and now and not giving many Filipinos, especially those eking out a living abroad, a sense of pride.
It's also the wheel of life, something everybody from all types of calling, from all walks of life will have to recognize, accept and make the most out of in a positive, forward-thinking way; something more tangible and with impact, beneficial not just to the an industry in the Philippines that wields so much power, but to all.
PART 1, p3 | [< p1 ] [< Previous p2 ]
Go to [Next: PART II ] | [ PART III POSTSCRIPT: It's not just all about "Glee" ]
Go to [Next: PART II ] | [ PART III POSTSCRIPT: It's not just all about "Glee" ]
Some references to PART I:
> Ten Thousand Things, Jim Paredes' blog, 2010
> SNN Online interview with Boy Abunda;   2009 (8-part YouTube video upload)
> Headstart with Karen davila (ANC Channel) 2010, complete 5-part upload via YouTube user/tmgtworld; also on YouTube video
> Lea Salonga Session with Artists at the Borneo Rainforest Cafe, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, May 2010 videos
> Billboard.com, "21 Under 21" 2010
> Oprah.com Teen Singing Sensation
> Freddie Aguilar Statement references on p. 1: Pep.ph, Spot.ph
> PARI, The Recording Industry at a Glance
> PCIJ The Business of Making Music, 17 April 2008
> State of Piracy in the Philippines, 24 October 2007
> Philippine Daily Inquirer, Charice's Botox Apocalypse, 22 July 2010
> Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho 2-part translated and subtitled videos c/o YouTube user/tmtgw