Monday, November 27, 2006

Big Band Night: It's anybody's ball game

With only four finalists remaining in Philippine Idol, it remained to be seen who would give in to a show of nerves on Big Band Night. With nary a guest judge in sight, and a somewhat steamy November air hanging around the Megamall Cinema 3 soundstage, all four finalists delivered performances that we at Philippine Idol Updates think genuinely raised the bar.

The night kicked off with "Hunky Idol" Jan Nieto (this is the last time we're using their nicknames; yes, with one more performance night to go, we'd like to say that these nicknames cheapen our idols). Dressed in a simple tuxedo that allowed people to focus on his singing, this season's arguably most improved Idol finalist sassed out a passable version of Beyond the Sea and a more-than-passable version of The Way You Look Tonight. With more fluid movements than previous episodes and general facial expressions that are light years ahead of constipated (but a few eons short of actual genuine emotion), we'd be hard-pressed not to root for Jan's inclusion in the Final Three. Stellar job.

"Idol Heartthrob" Miguel Mendoza followed Nieto. The youngest contestant in the first season actually delivered performances that belied his age and maturity. His versions of True and I've Got You Under My Skin were spot-on and virtually flawless vocally; we'd disagree with the general consensus of the judges that he looked stiff onstage and lacked a connection, and would venture out on a limb and actually say we liked his performances in an off-red jacket, black pants, and white tie. The song choices suited his range, and allowed him to be a little more limber with his performance-style. On a side-note, Ryan Cayabyab promised Mendoza that he would write a song for him if he did not make it to the Final Three, in our opinion a relatively thinly veiled plea to his voters to not vote him through. Let's see if the voters bite the carrot.

"Soul Idol" Mau Marcelo was a vision in a red gown, red gloves, red flower in her hair, and red shoes. Her lipstick was blue. [That's a joke.] Once again, the sole remaining female in the Top Four delivered a world-class performance, cooing out a breathy and soulful version of Dianne Reeves' My Funny Valentine and a sassy stomp-out of Waray Waray, accredited to Eartha Kitt that we find difficult to believe actually exists. One thing we've really noticed about Marcelo is that she manages to hold the attention of both audience and viewers; last night, she neither belted nor sassed, and her version of Waray Waray was actually off-key at several parts during the number, but she received an off-the-cuff reaction atypical of Mau (i.e., standing ovation). For her not to make Final Three would be supreme injustice personified.

Gian Magdangal (yes, we're not even going to mention his nickname) closed out the show with a risky choice - the mid-tempo They Can’t Take That Away From Me and the languid The Very Thought Of You. With a red vest over a simple white shirt, black pants, and a light spring in his step, Magdangal reminded the judges of a young Frank Sinatra. We, on the other hand, felt the key of the first song was too low for the feisty Magdangal, who really came across with touches of Fred Astaire that hit the bar just right to balance the song.

At this point, we're pretty sure most people following the show are rooting for a Magdangal-Marcelo-Nieto Final Three, but we daresay the unpredictable continues to shine supreme on Philippine Idol. With the tradition of American Idol's voting off strong favorites during the Final Four (read: Tamyra Gray, Latoya London, Anthony Federov, Chris Daughtry), we're not even going to try a fearless forecast. As we said earlier, at this point, it's anyone's game.