The bets are on a guy winning this year’s One In A Million singing competition, writes Dennis Chua, but the only girl among the finalists might be the one pulling the crowd.
While it was “girl power” the previous year, One In A Million Season 3 (OIAM3) is about “boy power” at its finest. Veteran New Boyz lead singer Shah Indrawan “Tomok” Ismail has emerged as the contest’s most creative and entertaining contestant, and if the RM1 million prize were to end up in a guy’s hands, fans believe it should be his. Almost every week, 25-year-old Tomok of Rembau has made his performances his very own, not unlike American Idol 8’s charismatic Adam Lambert, who coincidentally shares his hairdo.
Strict judges Paul Moss and Syafinaz Selamat loved his performances, most notably in the third week of the competition when he gave his take on Beyonce’s Crazy In Love. Another “alpha male” in the running for RM1 million is Perlis’ very first representative to a Malaysian reality talent show, Aweera Noriyissham, a 19-year-old avowed rock lover. While he is no match for Tomok in the eyes of Moss and Syafinaz — she lambasted one of his performances as “a howling antic” — Aweera of Kangar is known to spring surprises with his “rock-ability” reminiscent of American Idol 4’s Constantine Maroulis. His most praiseworthy performance has been a rock version of Jaclyn Victor’s hit song Gemilang, earning him immunity from elimination courtesy of the judges.
While most of the girls proved no match for the guys — they were the first five to be shown the door — sole female finalist Esther Chin, 21, of Tambunan, Sabah, was one of two exceptions.
Despite getting a tongue-lashing from Moss for what he described as an “over-the-top” rendition of Datuk Sheila Majid’s Lagenda in Week Eight, (guest judge Sheila and Syafinaz, however, loved that performance), Esther generally makes the acerbic New Zealander’s day. She has gained immunity from Moss and Syafinaz twice, not unlike Tomok, with Moss describing her voice as “uniquely soulful”. Both judges enjoyed her rendition of Better In Time by Leona Lewis in Week One, I Don’t Love You by My Chemical Romance in Week Sixth and One Night Only by Jennifer Hudson in Week Nine.
The other female contestant who has made it thus far is Alor Star-born Amylea Azizan, an up-and-coming singer-songwriter best known for finishing third in Akademi Fantasia 3. While she was widely tipped to be among the Top Three, and who also gained immunity once, Amylea sadly ended up finishing fifth.
Tomok, the fourth of six siblings, said he joined OIAM3 to “beef up his singing skills” and progress from teenybopper to adult contemporary artiste. “New Boyz has been around for a decade, and I’m one of the original members who joined at 15. All this while I’ve been a ‘T-shirt singer’ but OIAM3 has matured me into a “coat and vest” crooner,” he said.
Tomok, who acted with his band in two made-for-TV movies Pulau Inspirasi and Meraung in 2002 and 2004 respectively, said he learnt to sing with his elder sister Ismaliza Ismail, currently a Top Five favourite in Akademi Fantasia 7. “Isma and I have been in singing contests together as youngsters. Another of our sisters, Dayang Suri, can sing, too, and she auditioned for the last OIAM season,” he said, adding that his band has six albums to its credit. Tomok is a great fan of The Moffatts, Search, Slam, U2, Bon Jovi and Rod Stewart, and credits his brother-in-law and producer Zulkifli Majid of 2 By 2 fame (Ismaliza’s husband) for introducing him to various local and foreign artistes’ works. “I’ll invest the prize money in my first solo album, and start my studio if I win. It’s always been my dream to be a producer, composer and lyricist in the long run,” he said, adding that he would love to work with Faizal Tahir, Aizat Amdan, Aubrey Suwito and Audi Mok for his album.
Aweera, who made a cameo appearance in the television drama Janji Seorang Ana last year and admires Kangar-born actress Rita Rudaini Mokhtar, is the third of four siblings. “It’s my first major singing contest and I did not expect to come this far. I’d like to thank my supporters for their faith in me,” he said. Aweera said he is a “true blue, old school” rock lover, and cited Search, Wings, U2 and Deep Purple as his idols. His elder brother Affzad, 24, used to be a member of rock group O2. “If I win, I’d definitely work on a rock album with songs in Malay and English. I’d love to collaborate with Aizat and Faizal, who are immensely gifted as singers, composers and songwriters. Aubrey and Audi are great, too,” he said. Aweera said that his biggest fan is his mother, Siti Aishah Abu Bakar. “She has always been a fan of my music, but also my biggest critic,” he said.
Esther, the fifth of eight siblings, is the daughter of veteran Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) musician Applunius Chin of Papar. Her elder brother Chalrossi, 26, once participated in Bintang RTM. “I learnt to sing when I was nine, and while I originally loved pop music, I later learnt to appreciate soul, jazz and R&B,” she said, adding that her heroes were Anita Baker, Leona Lewis, Yuna, Mia Palencia, Jaclyn and Marsha Londoh. At 10, Esther emerged Sabah champion in the RTM singing contest Bintang Kecil. “My parents and siblings supported my passion for music from day one. We’re a musical family — my uncles have a band called D4 Brothers,” she said.
When she was 18, Esther joined various bands in Kota Kinabalu, most notably D’Illusions, and performed in leading hotels in the Sabah capital. She auditioned for Akademi Fantasia last year, but was unsuccessful. “I gave OIAM3 a shot because it demands performance of the highest standards. Paul and Syafinaz are great guides. Being perfectionists, they push us to do better every week,” she said, adding that OIAM3 has also helped improve her command of English. If she wins the RM1 million, Esther plans to further her studies in music. Like Tomok and Aweera, she would love to collaborate with Audi and Aubrey besides rock group Estranged and OIAM1 champion Suki Low for her debut album.
Moss and 8TV chief executive officer Ahmad Izham Omar both described this year’s finalists as the show’s most competitive to date. “All three had their moments in the episodes thus far. The key to winning is to challenge one’s limits and give the audience something to remember,” said Moss.
Ahmad Izham said all three had a good shot at winning with their different strengths. “The fight for the grand prize is going to be tough as there are no clear favourites. Any one of them could win it — it all depends on who will be creating magic that night.” He said the grand finals will see each contestant singing original songs.
Tomok will perform Rindu Terhenti composed by Aubrey and written by Tinta S. Aweera will perform Ku Di Sini composed by Lin Li Zhen and written by Pacha, and Esther will sing Mimpiku composed by Sharon Paul and written by Mable Lew. “Each song is written specifically for each singer,” he said. “The eliminated contestants will also be performing.” Reigning champion Ayu Damit and Bunkface will be the guest artistes.
The grand finals will be televised “live” from Stadium Malawati, Shah Alam today at 8.30pm. The contestant who receives the lowest number of SMS votes for the previous weekly concert will exit the show, leaving two contestants to compete for the grand prize. However, there could be a last-minute surprise — as in the case of OIAM1’s grand finals, when all three finalists battled it out until the end.
Ahmad Izham said 8TV’s website had conducted an opinion poll for viewers to vote for the contestants they
want to hear sing in the finals. The results would be revealed at the concert itself.