THERE?S MORE restraint and a lot of heart in ?My Inspiration,? Charice?s latest album for Star Records that pays musical tribute to the 16-going-on-17-year-old performer?s relationship with her mother.
Many local singers spice up their pop-flavored releases with a mishmash of oft-recorded revivals that don?t share a common theme, but nevertheless draw instant recall from music buffs for their familiar melodies. Charice?s 12-track collection enjoys an advantage over other Pinoy-produced recordings in this regard: Her album achieves a sleek and unified sound by following a central motif, and features an age-appropriate lineup of inspired covers and one radio-friendly OPM tune:
Jonathan Manalo?s ?Always You? recalls the catchy melodic patterns and tricky vocal dynamics of Whitney Houston?s crowd-pleasing but eardrum-pummeling power ballads. Fortunately, arranger Arnold Buena knows exactly how to take full advantage of Charice?s performing bravado to boost the carrier single?s hit-making potential.
Singing with conviction (?Wind Beneath My Wings?) has never been a weak point for Charice. In the new album, however, she adds a welcome dimension to her crowd-pleasing renditions by practising restraint where it?s needed: In her revival of Josh Groban?s ?You Raise Me Up,? her voice soothes like a musical caress devoid of the original song?s tendency toward maudlin sentimentality, with a lot of help from arranger Homer Flores.
She also holds back on the birit in her remake of the Spice Girls? ?Mama.? In ?You And Me Against The World,? she dutifully provides the backup and counterpointing chores to complement her mother Raquel?s sinewy pipes.
As the track listing suggests, Charice is partial to Houston and Mariah Carey?s syrupy songs and soul-tinged singing skills: In fact, one of the album?s best tracks is her cover of Carey?s 1992 collaboration with Trey Lorenz, ?I?ll Be There,? which showcases Manalo?s tricky but brilliantly engineered vocal arrangement of the Michael Jackson original. She manages to deliver a rousing, must-hear interpretation that doesn?t sound self-indulgent.
In contrast, the young singer also remakes Houston?s urban chart-topping ballad, ?You?ll Never Stand Alone??but, the result is less than flattering, because she opts to mime the American diva?s characteristic ?oh, yes, I do? ad libs and guttural vocal affectations. At this point in her Oprah-backed, globe-trotting career, being relegated to an impersonator isn?t something that would help boost her musical stock. (Moreover, it doesn?t help that some narrow-minded sectors of her growing fan base are more onion-skinned than Charice herself, and do more harm than good for their idol. Sometimes, a well-meaning critique would send them off the wall like predatory coyotes thirsting for blood.)
Few and far between
This time around, the diction slipups (?For Mama,? ?Wind Beneath My Wings? and, most glaringly, in ?You And Me Against The World?) are few and far between, and are no longer as jarring as those in previous recordings. We feel strongly about this because this technical wrinkle isn?t something a studio can?t fix, unless Charice and the producers don?t mind getting those errant long e?s and i?s immortalized in her recordings.
We look forward to seeing what Charice?s US handlers have in store for her. Of course, she can continue singing standards and power ballads to make hay with the current interest on her steely vocal prowess, but she?ll have a hard time extending her musical shelf-life and carving an indelible and sustainable niche if she continues to rely solely on revivals to drive her repertoire.