April 16, 2009

Talent is so much more magical when it’s unexpected

Posted in Television tagged , , , , , , , at 9:20 pm by myrlinn

So this week, I was reading the message boards, and I came across this:

Susan Boyle – Britain’s Got Talent 2009 (Audition)


It’s so lovely when we stumble across something unexpected like this… when magic comes out from someone who looks as ordinary-looking at her. What a doll she is in terms of personality too.

One commentator wrote that it’s kinda like when we saw Clay Aiken on American Idol. And that’s true – it’s something special to see someone succeed when we don’t expect from them.

Clay Aiken – American Idol 2 (Audition)


Looking at these performances actually gave me some insight into why I find this year’s American Idol especially unappealing – this year, there’s no unlikely idol in sight. I actually felt relieved this week to see Anoop Desai doing well with Everything I Do.


It does the heart good to see someone who’s had quite a rough time of it finally get everything together. He looked really comfortable up there, and I thought that his voice was really nice at that key.

And since I’m posting, I guess I might as well mention my thoughts on the other idols this year:

* Adam Lambert is being way over-praised — he’s coming across too theatrical, too practised. Amazing range, though I’m not that into the tone of his voice.

* Ditto for Danny Gokey. He’s good, but as good as the judges make out? I don’t think so.

* Poor Lil and Matt, especially Lil. Trying too hard to please the judges, and twisting themselves in knots as a result.

* Allison Iraheta. I personally don’t enjoy the timbre of her voice that much, but I can see that she’s talented. I’m so glad she’s survived this far.

* Kris Allen. I’m neutral on his voice, it’s nice, not amazing. But he’s there doing his thing week after week, and he seems to be so himself. I’d like to see him find his niche in the recording industry post-Idol.

Great Read: Robert J. Sawyer’s Mindscan

Posted in Books tagged , , , , , , at 8:17 pm by myrlinn

Robert J. Sawyer has been on my radar ever since I read Hominids, a scifi novel about a neanderthal parallel world. Didn’t quite enjoy the sequels, but I LOVED Hominids.

So, when I saw another Robert J. Sawyer at the library, I had to check it out. And I really, really enjoyed this one: Mindscan.

It’s a story set in the near future, where a new technology has allowed people to have their minds copied into an android body. The original (biological) version of the person is sent into retirement ‘paradise’ on the moon, while the copied version stays behind to carry on the person’s life. Which all led to the issue of whether the ‘copy’ is the same person as the ‘original’, with many of the dimensions explored within the setting of a court case. And that’s where the strength of this book lies — the debates as the lawyers on both sides argue the case for the “personhood” of the copied version are certainly thought-provoking, and provocative.

April 6, 2009

inSingapore: Matthew and the Mandarins enthralled audience at Esplanade (6 April 2009)

Posted in Music tagged , , , , , , at 9:14 pm by myrlinn

It’s fantastic when you rediscover old faves, as my mum found this morning when we went to see Matthew and the Mandarins, a popular country-and-western band some decades ago. She used to go see them way back then whenever she was in Singapore, and she had never forgotten them. So, when we saw that they were performing in the Coffee Morning series at the Esplanade, we bought tickets straight away! And we weren’t disappointed. Underlines again what a treat it is to listen to singers from an era when singers can SANG!!!

Matthew started off the show with a “Good Evening”!!?!! When the audience reacted with “morning”, he told us that this was the first time he’d ever performed in the morning in all his years with the band!

My first thought was: can he sing that early in the morning? I know some singers need to have their voice warmed up. But he was absolutely FINE – such a warm, smooth tone to his voice. The band has a very straightforward performing style, it’s all about the song and the music for them. You know when you watch American Idol, and how during country theme weeks, how the mentors always emphasise to the contestants the importance of ‘telling the story’ through song? Matthew does that well.

Lots of great song choices in their set as well. Full of familiar tunes, mostly from the 60s and 70s, I think, since they all sound like I heard them back in the 1970s (in the days before the walkman and personal players, when the music you listened to were the songs your parents played, often loudly, on the living room hifi system!). And they did SEVENTEEN songs, fifteen within the hour-long performance slot, and a couple of encores.

The sound system and acoustics at the Esplanade Recital Studio was fantastic as well. I hadn’t been there before, I think, and I like the intimacy of the space.

Matthew (lead singer, Matthew and the Mandarins)

Matthew (taking a picture with fans at his concert this morning)

We stayed back to just say thanks to Matthew after the show. My mum wanted to find out where he’s performing these days (in case you too are interested in checking them out, they perform at the Singapore Swimming Club).

One very interesting thing Matthew mentioned: seems a metal band in the US recently recorded his song, Singapore Cowboy!!!  Metal Matthew – could that be a new career path for Matthew? LOL.


Coffee Morning at the Esplanade,
6 April 2009, 10.30 am performance.

(I had to enlist the help of my mum and check the internet with a few I wasn’t sure of):

1. Adelina (George Strait)
2. Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash)
3. Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain (Willie Nelson)
4. The Wayward Wind (Tex Ritter)
5. Hello Darling (Conway Twitty)
6. Half as Much / I Can’t Help It If I’m Still In Love With You (Hank Williams)
7. Mama Tried (Merle Haggard)
8. Look At Us (Vince Gill)
9. El Paso
10. Ghost Riders in the Sky
11. I Can Almost See Houston From Here – Matthew remarked that he learned this song when he was in Nashville in 1976. He went there by himself and this reminded him of home.
12. Branded Man / Sing Me Back Home Before I Die (Merle Haggard)
13. Chattahoochee
14. The Hand that Rocks the Cradle Rules the World – Matthew dedicated this one to his mum.
15. American Trilogy ( a medley of songs)

Encore 1: Don’t Worry About Me (Marty Robbins) – a personal favourite of Matthew’s.
Encore 2:
Singapore Cowboy – their signature song, written by Matthew himself.



Singapore Cowboy (audio recording with Matthew singing the song) I found on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ric1kkzEChA

April 2, 2009

Megan Joy eliminated from American Idol – her “I don’t care” to Simon

Posted in Television tagged , , , , at 8:46 pm by myrlinn

I guess quite a few people will be very critical of Megan Joy for her “I don’t care” to Simon. I wonder though how much of it is bravado that’s a result of knowing that the judges are targetting for her to go next. And of letting the judges’ sudden “hate” get to her.

Honestly, I don’t get the judges’ excessive love for Adam Lambert and Danny Gokey. I may be alone, but Adam always makes me feel like he’s “acting” when he’s singing onstage. A genius on the same level as Mick Jagger? *rolls eyes* If you put Adam next to Mick, I think Adam comes across as a “wannabe” (what they accused Allison Iraheta of this week, just because of the rather OTT rock-chick outfit she had on).

As for Danny Gokey, he has an ease about him onstage which obviously helps him sell any song he’s singing. But to me, he’s just consistently very good, not great. I don’t think he’s done that much better than Matt Giraud or Lil Rounds, yet Matt and Lil Rounds seem to be judged much more harshly, leading them to perhaps overthink their song choices???

I’m just glad that Kris Allen is still able to just do his thing. Really enjoyed his “Ain’t No Sunshine” this week. And I remember enjoying his “Man in the Mirror” in the Top 36 stage. His main weakness, for me, is that his voice is just okay for me. But, if you believe in conventional pop-music wisdom that it’s all about the song, then I can see a situation where given a good song, he’ll improve on it, and be able to release a very good record. (Also, I’ve heard a couple of his studio recordings for Idol, and I do think he sounds better recorded than live). I see him as this season’s Blake Lewis, without the beat-boxing gimmick.

Having said all that, I must say that I find myself looking forward more to the Results week for the guests, than to the performance shows. It was great to see David Cook again this week. And I loved Joss Stone last week.

One of my main thoughts this week about Idol: I think it’s a shame that the show has missed its chance to reshape pop music. Yet, with every season, they seem to be increasingly emphasising to contestants that they have to ‘fit’ into the contemporary pop world. What a waste of an opportunity. American Idol could have striven to become the Motown of this era. But so far all we’ve seen is a massively successful factory in action.