JR Aquino: Our new American ‘Voice’?
MANILA, Philippines - He’s from Anchorage, Alaska, but his folks are from the Philippines.
He himself would look less of an outsider here than in that chilly North American municipality.
And he just might become the next Pinoy-ish icon in the global singing arena given his rousing debut in the ongoing 3rd season of the US show The Voice.
JR Aquino is his name and little is known so far of his background. But that would change soon as he has passed the first phase, the so-called blind audition round, of The Voice — an American Idol clone sans any William Hung to bang, to bang for the judges’ and viewers’ attention. (sic)
If you did not get what that last sentence meant, watch Hung's 2004 AI 3rd season audition here:
The Voice — a television program whose coincidental initials are TV — is a Johnny-come-lately in the reality- and talent-show circuits.
It kicked off only last year but its producers — which include reality-show golden boy Mark “Survivor” Burnett — have upped the ante by having two seasons this year, for a 3-season total so far. (Technically, The Voice dates back to the debut of the mother series The Voice of Holland in September 2010.)
By contrast, the more popular and longer-running American Idol, itself a phenomenal spawn of the UK show Pop Idol, has been around since 2002 or 11 seasons in all.
AI’s massive global audience and continued (but decreasing) popularity have made it the gold standard that The Voice aims to both replicate and surpass.
Like AI, The Voice’s basic goal is to produce a potential singing star from among its amateur entrants after a grueling succession of vocal-straining, energy-draining and sanity-testing challenges. It’s Survivor without the insect bites.
At the same time, The Voice has an array of details that attempt to make mainstream viewers fugged about AI — many of them crammed in the aforesaid blind audition round alone.
For starters, The Voice’s judges are actual recording artists: Adam Levine of recent Manila re-visitors Maroon 5, Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green of “F*** You” infamy and country crooner Blake Shelton. This is as opposed to American Idol’s mix that has included music managers such as Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson, who had never had on-camera fame prior to AI.
Then there are The Voice’s rotatable, high-back judges’ seats, that AI “dawg” Randy Jackson, in a Hollywood Reporter interview, had referred to as “gimmicky chairs.” (Those chairs are actually reminiscent of Dr. Evil’s own “possessed” seat in Austin Powers and the Spy Who Shagged Me.)
Funny looking as those bum-rests are, the end purpose is interesting: The contestants audition on the strength of their vocal skills alone, and they don’t see the seated judges and vice-versa until them sonic stars decide to push their respective red buttons to make their mechanized seat take a 360-degree turn, for them to face the aspiring Voice talent at hand.
Not only is this first stage of every season of The Voice done in front of a live studio audience, as opposed to Idol’s judges-eyes’-only early elimination round, TV’s judges are contenders and each other’s competitors as well, as they woo the blind-audition “passers” into joining their team (i.e. Team Adam, Team Christina, et al.) for the succeeding “battle” round.
The auditioning hopefuls themselves need not be below age 30 — a Season 3 applicant is all of 52 years old — but they need to be genuine, promising contenders. No-talent jokers — an AI staple — need not apply.
What is being touted as The Voice’s biggest distinguishing mark is its to-the-hilt use of social media.
Hashtags and flash announcements are frequently seen on the screen, cajoling viewers to take to Twitter or Facebook to send real-time shout-outs to the contestants (and in later episodes, to vote), and drop by iTunes if they fancy downloading the contestants’ pre-recorded performance of their audition piece. (A countermeasure against music piracy or a brazen moneymaking scheme? You decide.)
Anyone who has not yet sat through The Voice would find more antitheses to American Idol as the newest season progresses into the “battle” and final rounds, especially if Season 3’s part-Filipino participant makes it far enough.
For now, here’s some icing for the younger show’s cake: At the 2012 Primetime Emmy Awards, The Voice got nominated for Outstanding Reality Series, American Idol did not.
And here’s a postscript: ABS-CBN is said to have acquired the local rights to the show, with its ensuing program (The Voice of Manila?) slated for a 2013 debut.
Second time’s the charm for this Aquino?
This much Wikipedia and a few other resources can tell about JR Aquino: he is either 25 or 26 years of age; he is a member of a vocal group named YTF Legacy (nee YTF a.k.a., shucks, Yesterday, Today, Forever) that has toured the US and Canada; he had been in the Top 44 of American Idol Season 2 (back in 2003, when Ruben Studdard emerged victorious); and he is mum about his real name. (A Pinoy Exchange commenter had claimed that JR’s first name is Oswald.)
Even before his The Voice audition got uploaded to YouTube, Aquino has already been utilizing the video-sharing website to showcase his passion for music, his personal footage finding him either covering other artists’ songs or crooning while acoustic-strumming to his original compositions such as “By Chance (You and I).” (He even has a ubiquitous, name-playing hashtag: #TheKeenos.)
A cult of web habitués has thus been familiar to the young man even before he set foot on the Voice stage last September 17. (The show is seen locally through AXN Asia.)
His Voice audition, where he took a stab at Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are,” was memorable, though for two reasons not directly related to his vocal prowess:
One, Levine and Aguilera almost simultaneously pushed their red buttons early on as Aquino hit the song’s raised-pitch refrain, while Cee Lo hit his own button about a fraction of a second before Aquino’s minute-and-a-half was up.
Two, the Fil-Am’s parents, who were backstage with show host Carson Daly, were on-fire cheerers throughout, his mother particularly evincing Eat Bulaga!-type hysteria.
Watch Aquino's "The Voice" blind audition here:
Compared to many of The Voice’s Season 3 entrants so far, Aquino was not as solid as can be at his tryout. But he did and deserved to make it through and, despite that millisecond close call, opted to be on Team Cee Lo.
From what I can tell, singer-songwriter-producer Cee Lo Green (real name: Thomas DeCarlo Callaway, so no relation to soul legend Al Green) is the best of the 4 Voice judges, so Aquino made the right choice, notwithstanding groupies’ predilection for the tattooed Levine.
Coupled with a breezy demeanor and overall presence that suggests a friendlier counterpart to South Korean sensation and Gangnam Style godfather Psy, Aquino can likewise easily win the affection of his sort-of-kababayans on our shores and elsewhere.
All told, The Voice has, by chance, provided a new fix for those who had a virtual or direct hand in propelling Filipina-by-blood Jessica Sanchez to the finale of this year’s American Idol.
Will JR Aquino, the newest apple of Twitter’s #PinoyPride eye, make it as far, if not further?
Netizens can make their own, um, voice heard online as the rest of The Voice Season 3 and 2012 itself hum by. - Rappler.com