‘X Factor’ winner KZ finds her voiceBy Allan Policarpio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Kristine Zhenie “KZ” Tandingan used to believe that one should have a beautiful face, smooth skin and a powerful set of pipes in order to make it big in the local music industry.
As expected, the 20-year-old band vocalist from Digos City, Davao del Sur, grew up with low self-esteem. She spent most of her high school days trying to belt out the most demanding ballads of Celine Dion and Whitney Houston.
But on Sunday night, the petite, soulful singer proved her own notions wrong after being crowned the “X Factor Philippines” grand winner at the Pagcor Grand Theater in Parañaque City.
“The first thing that came to my mind when I heard my name was, ‘Thank you, Lord!’ I wanted to win badly, but I didn’t expect anything,” she told the Inquirer after her victory, stifling her sobs. “You can be the best singer, but if it’s not meant for you, then you can’t do anything about it. I had prayed and surrendered everything to God.”
A few years back, KZ developed polyps in her throat, which altered her voice and dampened her desire to pursue a singing career. It was then she realized she couldn’t always be a biritera (belter).
The condition turned out to be a blessing in disguise, KZ said. Her now-limited vocal range forced her to develop a unique mode of singing by exploring different music genres and playing up a song’s key and arrangements. She developed a tone and style that lends itself well to jazz, reggae and soul-flavored tunes.
KZ’s audition piece was one of her most memorable performances. Her stylized, acoustic rendition of “Over the Rainbow” showcased her improvisational skills—she even scatted portions of the song.
“Everything happens for a reason. Had I stuck to my old singing style, I probably wouldn’t be here right now. Perhaps I suffered from the condition so I can find who I really am as an artist,” she mused.
“I want to prove that you don’t have to be a belter to be appreciated. You just have to believe in yourself and your capabilities,” she added.
KZ won by a landslide, garnering 54.77 percent of the total text and online votes. She bested 19-year-old balladeer Gabriel Maturan and the all-male vocal harmony group Daddy’s Home, with 32.33 and 12.90 percent, respectively.
Fighting back tears, the first winner of the local franchise of “X Factor” struggled through her encore of The Carpenters’ “Superstar,” her contest piece during Saturday’s performance night.
“It was surreal. I asked Ate KC [Concepcion] to slap me just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming,” said KZ, who almost got eliminated on the show’s ninth week after landing in the bottom two.
KZ shared the touching moment with her mentor and “X Factor” judge Charice, who was equally surprised by the results.
“We were so shocked because we’re already conditioning ourselves for a second place finish,” Charice told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “I feel really proud. She’s such a smart performer.”
The international pop star said that more than being an extremely talented performer, it was KZ’s humility and willingness to learn that helped her win the competition. “I want her to have the right people around her,” she said.
Despite being the same age, KZ fondly calls her more experienced mentor “Madame.” She said that working with Charice boosted her performance on and off the stage.
“She would always tell me to sing because I love doing it, and not just because I need to,” KZ related.
Clad in glittery, rocker chick outfits, KZ and Charice regaled the crowd with a swaying rendition of the American standard, “The Way You Look Tonight.”
Meanwhile, Martin Nievera, “X Factor” judge and mentor to Gabriel Maturan, said that from the moment he heard KZ sing during the auditions, he knew that she was the one to beat.
“We don’t just look for someone who has a beautifully-textured voice. The winner of ‘X Factor’ should also be astig. And that’s what KZ is,” he told the Inquirer.
For the church
As the grand winner, KZ received a check signifying P4 million worth of prizes: P2 million in cash and a P2-million exclusive recording contract with Star Music. Gabriel received P100,000, while Daddy’s Home won P50,000.
Asked what she’s going to do with the prize money, KZ said she would donate P1 million to their local church in Digos City, which was in dire need of repairs. “Our church is in a really poor state. And just this morning, my father called to inform me that a portion of the church had collapsed,” she said. “I’m glad I can honor my commitment to rebuild it.”
Hosted by KC Concepcion, the results night reunited the top three finalists with the rest of this season’s contenders.
They shared the stage with special guests Jovit Baldivino, Angeline Quinto, Jed Madela, Erik Santos, April Boy Regino, Yeng Constantino, Pooh and K Brosas.
“X Factor” judge-mentors Martin Nievera, Pilita Corrales, Gary Valenciano and Charice also delivered rousing performances.
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