Princess in search of a happy endingBy Rito P. Asilo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
IT’S been nine years since Sarah Geronimo began her arduous climb to the pinnacle of pop stardom via “Star for a Night.” So, when we were invited to the July 21 repeat of “24/SG”—Sarah’s sold-out birthday concert at the Big Dome three days before she actually turned 24—we were pleasantly surprised to see how much the so-called Pop Princess had grown as a singer-performer.
In the past, we have written about her albums and the films she starred in—but, a live performance is a sink-or-swim endeavor far removed from the controlled and manipulated environment of a movie set or a recording studio, where a singer’s flats and sharps are cured to conveniently mask his or her vocal imperfections.
Yes, Sarah had an “arduous” climb—we’re not using the word lightly here, because that was how Geronimo’s birit-fueled first singles sounded when she began racking up one gold record after another. We don’t begrudge the hard work she put into her production numbers, of course—but, those performances in her midteens seemed strained and strenuous.
At the time, she struck us like the Energizer bunny that obediently did what she was “programmed” to do, with clockwork precision. She just kept going and going—but, her tireless efforts lacked joie de vivre. These days, her renditions hold promise—that may not be synonymous with “emancipation,” but it nonetheless reverberates with a hopeful vibe.
Time also has a way of refining skills and bringing out the best in people. In “24/SG,” we saw a more confident and polished Sarah! You only need to listen to the soulful and exquisitely rendered new versions of her erstwhile vein-popping arena ballads, like “Forever’s Not Enough” and “To Love You More,” to realize that the eager-to-please teenager has turned into an introspective woman. She’s still giggly when situations get awkward—but, as they say, bad habits (and crutches) are hard to break.
Her songs no longer require vocal bombast and bravado to grab listeners’ attention. In the concert, which was as much a visual feast as it was a musical treat, there was so much power and texture in the songstress’ reimagined covers of Mandy Moore’s “Only Hope,” Whitney Houston’s “I Look to You,” Stephen Bishop’s “It Might Be You,” and Kristina Paner’s soaring “Sana”—and Sarah held her own when she sang “Hanggang Sa Dulo Ng Walang Hanggan” with the formidable Basil Valdez. Another show-stopper was the Pop Princess’ rock version of Freddie Aguilar’s “Anak” and Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain.”
Underscoring the issue of freedom (or lack of it) isn’t without pertinence—because other than a blissful family and an exciting love life, freedom was one of the concert’s recurring themes, collectively referred to as Sarah’s “Three Wishes” for her 24th birthday, wittily strung together in a musical fairy-tale concept by the irreverent Jon Santos.
We don’t know the extent of the “elbow room” Sarah says she wants, but the girl needs more space to decide things for herself, and do things on her own, indeed—unless she and her fans want her to remain dutiful and subservient until she’s way past her 40s!
Still, hope springs eternal. After all, the singer isn’t her mother studio’s princess for nothing—and some princesses have a way of eventually finding the happily-ever-after they deserve!
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