It was undoubtedly poised for flight. Songbird was to be the only musical-variety show in a sea of reality shows, soap operas, asianovelas and the few sitcoms that have local TV’s daily primetime covered. It has as star Regine Velasquez, upon whom the label “Songbird” has been bestowed, and who is known for reinvention and defamiliarization – you think you know her and then she does something extraordinary; you imagine she’s done everything imaginable with her voice, and then she surprises you with CD upon CD of different songs; you buy her CDs, and even the way she looks is different every time.
But when Songbird started out on Thursday evenings, it proved to be easy to forget: its timeslot overlapped with the local evening news on other channels, and we have been conditioned to imagine nothing but cheesy koreanovelas during this timeslot as well. It didn’t help that the first two nights were tributes to Barbara Streisand and Michael Jackson – and while the news was just more exciting than the former, I was excited about the latter show, knowing full well how Regine and her musical directors can reinvent songs like no one else. Case in point: her album Covers Volume 2 had everything from Elvis Presley’s “Blue Suede Shoes” and Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” unbelievably and enjoyably made unfamiliar and new. Suffice it to say that the strange costumes and less experimental versions of Jackson’s songs had me switching channels anyway.
Madonna night was no different, but OPM night, along with the changed timeslot to Saturday evenings (practically nothing else to watch on the local channels), had me and my husband hooked – at least until we realized that Songbird is where non-singers are also made to sing, and where Regine can show off her fabulous gowns and pile-on the make-up – a discomforting sight to say the least.
We understand that Dingdong Dantes is the hot male of the season, but we almost screamed for Chito Miranda to do that duet of the Parokya ni Edgar song “Harana” with Regine anyway – differently guwapo that he is from Dingdong. With a live band and that engaging reinvention of the song that otherwise brinks on novelty, it would’ve been great to see Miranda, its original singer, battling it with Regine’s beautiful falsetto. It would’ve also been a real and true tribute to a singer and songwriter of current OPM – something which the spiels for the evening made a point to highlight.
But more than the too made-up way Regine looked for primetime television, and the need to include GMA 7 artists in its roster of guests even if they aren’t singers, it was really the set of songs chosen for the evening that barely allowed for Songbird to take flight. After starting off with familiar love songs (including “Tell Me” by Joey Albert), it changed gears with an older and unfamiliar song, and then shifted to more contemporary OPM with Parokya ni Edgar. It was disconcerting to say the least. At most, it would’ve been the one reason to change channels.
Elsewhere, it has been said that Songbird was going to be about Regine singing her favorite songs by her composers. It would do well to rethink that, and allow for a more cohesive concept (other than favorites and singers for the week) to tie together every night of song that Songbird promises to treat us to. Local composers and singers might be a good thing to start off with familiar as these are, maybe even full albums by particular singers (if that’s evenpossible), as reinvented by Regine and her musical director.
That I even stayed on the show on OPM night tells you that there remains a chance for this show to soar, it just needs stronger wings in order to fly. The thick make-up and heavy gowns could be weighing down this Songbird and keeping it from flying, too.