There aresongs that become your guilty pleasure, the kind that you don’t admit you like, just because they’re too pop, or are downright cheesy. Many albums get hidden in the back of your closet, a little secret you keep to yourself, even when you’ve memorized it inside and out.
This is exactly what A.K.A Cassandra, KC Concepcion’s debut CD is. Because truth to tell, there is really nothing spectacular about it. It’s an album that subsists on plenty of remakes of mostly foreign songs (save for “Haring Ibon” by Joey Ayala), and originals that are everything and cheesy (“An Updated Version of Me” comes to mind). Many of the songs remain about love, if not about the universal notions of happiness and going with the flow and relaxing. All of them are pop, in the sense that they are easy to listen to.
And yet A.K.A Cassandra is anything but a run of the mill debut album. This is unlike the usual CDs churned out for singers Concepcion’s age, many of which subsist on love ballads and nothing else (revival and otherwise). In this debut, Concepcion is allowed to play around with various genres. From rock in “Imposible” to new wave in “Melt With You”, from some danceable music such us “DooBeeDoo” to a little techno in “Breathe”. Across the originals and revivals it is Concepcion’s vocals that are highlighted as well, moving as she does from some belting (as in “Imposible” and “Haring Ibon”) to using a stable falsetto in many of her songs (such as in “Umbrella” and “An Updated Version of Me”).
Vocal histrionics are obviously not the point here. Instead Concepcion proves her voice as versatile even without hitting the highest notes possible or screaming her lungs out. What she does well in this album is allow her singing voice to render emotion – from the sad (“It Must Have Been Love”) to the hopeful (“Haring Ibon”) and judgmental (“Imagine”), from the happy (“Melt With You”) to the lighter than air (“Breathe”). She even does some chanting ala Bayang Barrios in “Haring Ibon”.
All of these are allowed of course by the eclectic choice of songs for A.K.A Cassandra, which apparently Concepcion herself can take credit for. And at a time when CDs are created for artists, instead of the artist creating their own CDs, this is extraordinary as well. At least here, Concepcion can claim that she is the central creative force, and not a mere puppet that followed what her producers wanted to create of her as pop star.
Of course there is a thin line drawn between being eclectic and being all over the place. But as far as debut albums go, eclectic is better than a lack of adventure. At least Concepcion didn’t bow to formula here, upping other artists’ revivals by choosing songs that cut across genres (who dares do songs by Roxette, Joey Ayala, Modern English, Ryan Cayabyab, and Raimund Marasigan in one album?), and singing with a voice that reminds us that being the next Regine Velasquez is hardly the point.
What this CD exists on is a simplicity that isn’t simplistic. With A.K.A. Cassandra, Concepcion proves that beyond who her parents are, she is in fact in a league all her own. So many other young singers should want to come up with albums such as hers. Even when these do remain a guilty pleasure.
published in the The Philippine Daily Inquirer, 21 December 2008.