Tuneful treats, off-kilter tricks from Darren, Kathryn and Aljur
Darren Espanto’s solo album, “Darren,” deserves music lovers’ patronage because, even if a good number of its nine-song repertoire turn out to be melodically unsatisfying and thematically disposable, he manages to rise above the curiously underwhelming tunes he’s tasked to breathe musical life into.
The 13-year-old’s voice sparkles and soars in Vehnee Saturno’s “In Love Ako Sa ‘Yo,” “Ewan Ko” (a showcase for Darren’s scintillating high notes) and “Ah! Basta Gusto Kita,” made more irresistible by its pounding ’80s groove.
Top picks: “The Voice Kids’” runner-up works best when he’s given enough elbow room to show off his prodigious range (the stirring “I Believe In Me”) and inherently R’n’B lilt (in Jessie J’s hard-to-cover “Domino”).
His peerless musicality and pristine pipes can turn lackluster melodies into charming tunes that grow on you after repeated spins on your portable media player.
Unlike Darren and other steel-voiced talent-search alumni, Kathryn Bernardo hasn’t been gifted with the best singing voice in the biz—but, when “guided” properly by a good coaching team and the note-curing innovations of auto-tune technology, the 18-year-old teen queen doesn’t sound as stultifyingly nasal as, say, Daniel Padilla, or as painfully screechy as Anne Curtis during live performances.
But, you can’t sing Sharon Cuneta’s signature hit song, “Mr. DJ”—which Kathryn renders enthusiastically in her debut album, “Kathryn”—and expect the Megastar’s followers to pretend not to notice how either reverentially or shabbily you sing her well-loved ditty!
The recording’s production team works hard to conceal the lovely actress’ dwindling alto with sleek production values that cleverly mask her vocal limitations, which are easier to detect in Edmund Perlas and Jojo Burgos’ complex “Temporary Deja Vu” and Edith Gallardo and Moy Ortiz’s “Pagdating Ng Panahon.”
The result is a collection of appealingly fluffy (Marion Aunor’s “You Don’t Know Me,” Leo Quinitio’s “Love Has Come My Way”), melodically frivolous and carefully “manufactured” tunes (the “Mr. Kupido”-channeling “Ikaw Na Nga Yata,” by Vehnee Saturno, Christine Estabillo and Rox Santos) that bank on their arrangements’ frothy flourishes and Bernardo’s padded vocals.
KathNiel fans have something to cheer about, because Kathryn’s hefty compilation (which includes minus-ones of the tracks) includes Jungee Marcelo’s “Nasa ‘Yo Din Pala,” conceptualized as a companion piece to Padilla’s catchy radio hit, “Nasa ‘Yo Na Ang Lahat.” Then, Daniel sings with his muse in “Got To Believe In Magic” and ABS-CBN’s winsome station ID, “Pinasmile.”
In “Mahal Pa Rin Kita,” the eight-track follow-up to his eponymously titled 2010 debut, Aljur Abrenica sings with more clarity and conviction, and is better equipped vocally to “milk” his covers of jukebox staples.
This time, GMA 7’s prodigal son amps up the degree of difficulty with a repertoire that includes Jeremiah’s “Nanghihinayang,” Father and Son’s “Miss Na Miss Kita” and Men Oppose’s “Kasalanan Ba?”
Best tracks: Lloyd Umali’s “Bakit Kung Sino Pa?” and RockStar’s “Mahal Pa Rin Kita” are right on the money. However, Aljur still teeters between pitchy and sharp (as he did when he sang Michael V’s “Kailan Kaya?” in his debut recording). Besides, there’s only so much that his enthusiasm can do for his gangly, padded vocals.
Can Aljur make a living out of this? Our answer comes with unsolicited advice for the beleaguered actor: Don’t quit your day job!
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