by Yolanda Gray
This is the night the top 10 are revealed on TV, and this is where I start watching Naija Sings. Our host, Olisa Adibua tells us what we have long dreamed for our country – from today, the power has been moved solely to the people. We determine who stays and who goes home. However, Naija Sings resident judge, gospel or R&B singer Tosin Martins and soul singer Ibiyemi joins him as a guest judge. They don’t really judge, they make comments just before the show closes. The Top 10 are singing songs that made it to #1 on the Billboard.
So, the show opens with a pretty face, Niniola. She opens her sales pitch with something meant to inspire Africa. She is convinced that she has something to give us. I hope she knows that as long it’s Naija Sings, it better be the ability to sing. When Niniola, who impresses with her personality, hits the stage with a multilayered, short, maternity styled, blue and black dress, with a pouch-like part made of leopard prints, she takes on the picture of a struggling mid-aged singer. She sings a dated song, Give Me Your Unconditional Love (Donna Summers feat Musical Youths).
I was waiting for the song to kick off and sadly it ended just as it started, empty. Somewhere in her 118 second performance, Ninola decides to inject some Muma Gee dance moves. There’s nothing co-ordinated about her movements, it was ‘skanki’ at best, and it only served her by adding at least half a decade to her years.
Next up is Shedrach. He’s not handsome, and neither is he ugly, but there’s something curiously wrong about his facial hair. Throughout his performance of Mario’s Let Me Love You, I couldn’t take my eyes off the “PRO VOG UE9 mine” print on his shirt. I don’t think that shirt was a good idea. His Ne-yo style cap which cast a dark shadow over his eyes didn’t help with things either. Surprisingly, he did put on a good vocal performance and had some moments with the audience. Shedrach has to let go of some of the hip movement, concentrate on his vocals, and let go of the things that add years to him and reduced his height on stage.
Next we see Peace, an unsure and shy girl with a girly hair style and stay-at-home look in her intro. Suddenly, a star hits the stage performing Rihanna’s Umbrella, she is transformed into a confident, aggressive player. What a difference hairstyle and skin tone makes! Her darker skin offers more character. Her performance is all over the place though and there are too many movements on stage, too many hand and facial gestures that don’t help with telling the story. The cheery news is that someone in the audience thought it was off the hook. So, you go girl! Stick to the new hairstyle and work on your vocals.
“Hello, whatsup? It’s your boy Casey.” That’s, you guessed right, Casey introducing himself to us. Casey has potential to make it to the finals based on his model looks. His long white and neat set of teeth is always a winner with the ladies. Casey sings, I Swear (All-4-One). He is dressed modestly and responsibility, he has this R&B thing going for him. However Casey has to wash off the praise and worship mannerism from his act and establish some eye contact with the audience at home. He has strong potential. So, far I would say that Casey is one of the better singers, with a strong video appeal. Casey flashes his white teeth at the end, and Olisa says something that implies that Casey would be leaving the show with a wife.
At this point, I must mention that there’s something itchy about Olisa’s look. Olisa is one of the best TV hosts on African TV, but today, I am terribly distracted from his performance. Maybe it’s the forced buttoning of the jacket, which makes Olisa looks like a seriously v-shaped Michelin Man. I think Olisa should consider his waist size when dressing up for the show next time.
Rasine Brown comes on next. I think she is a young girl with a big voice. She sings a big song, Everything I Do (Bryan Adams). She’s very pretty and dresses nicely and surprisingly the overstated necklace works out for her. Rasine is pitchy. She comes off as unsure of herself. She also appears to be forcing herself into a deeper register. I think her good looks will push her into next week. Rasine has got to grow into herself and quickly too and delete the tummy clasping from her act.
Exuding some serious sex appeal with low v-necked shirt and a well toned body, Ekeng hits the stage with the strongest vocal performance since the show began. Singing Usher’s You Remind Me of a Girl, Ekeng handled the stage with the control that only a professional can bring to the table. He must have won a lot of ladies hearts tonight, especially when he flashed his killer smile at the end. It was awkward that he seemed to be acting like he was singing a love song, instead of a song about a heartbroken guy. But, I don’t think it seemed to matter to anyone.
Boma comes on promising to offer a voice we have never heard before. Dressed rather nicely, singing Big Girls Don’t Cry (Fergie). There’s no doubt, she’s got a big voice, but her performance was laboured and forced and we’ve heard far better. It’s not her voice that may have saved Boma this week, it’s her song choice and the enchantment of her golden sequined dress and empire belt. Boma managed to get a standing ovation from the audience, and in a moment of absolute eeriness, a weirdo in the audience (weirdo because he’s wearing sun glasses in the dark studio) asked Boma not to forget him when she enters into her kingdom (well, he mumbled through it, but that’s what he implied). As far as Naija Sings is concerned, the ‘kingdom’ is reserved for those who get their act together vocally. Boma has got to bring more to this competition.
The only duo on Naija Sings, Da Brothers opened their act with some gaps in synchronization. But they get it together quickl,y and midway into End of the Road (Boyz to Men), they catch the magic and end with a standing ovation from the crowd. The pair, Fred and Jeff, appear decent and respectful – the kind of kids parents like their children to bring home. If they keep up the boys-next-door image, they will go a long way. I would advise that they stop the awkward shoulder bouncing though, and concentrate on the singing.
Next we meet Najite, the girl who did the ghetto African-American finger snapping when it was announced that she had made it to the Lagos finales. She chose I Will Always Love You, perhaps with the intention of showing her strong vocals. She has a big voice but she didn’t capture a moment in the song. I think the Whitney Houston number wasn’t a great song choice. The one armed evening dress and the intense facial expression made her look too dated for the competition and I think she needs to loosen up a bit.
Moses comes on looking like the one we would all adore – everybody’s favourite cousin and so, so lovable. Moses has a great vocal technique which could carry him far if he lets go of some of the theatrics. He opens Timberland’s Apologise with a great falsetto and he gets the audience going with him. He has a friendly smile which can erase some weaknesses. Moses is looking very good, like the one to beat.
Our guest judge, Ibiyemi says that Ekeng was her lowest point because he got carried away with performing. That is pretty unsettling because Ekeng and Najite both had the best stage control and the strongest command of their vocals. Ibiyemi, this is how this judging thing works – you are entitled to give a score and you don’t have to be rational. But when you try to give a reason for your appraisal, give one that holds water. Just before our resident judge gives us his lowest and highest moments, he pats himself on the back for assembling a great Top 10. Tosin Martin’s lowest moment was Rasine and his highest moments were Casey and Moses.
To all contestants – you don’t have to walk around the entire stage during a performance. Concentrate on what counts – your vocals, your looks, your story telling and your connection with the audience. Stop the awkward arm movements – dance is meaningful body movement. It’s an art in itself. If you can’t dance, leave it alone. Don’t get so carried away with what you think is “performing” that you compromise your vocal delivery. Don’t forget that you are performing for the cameras and the cameras are on you, whether you stand still or walk around the stage, you’ll be remembered for your singing more than for your body movements. Your primary audience are those at home. Sing to us. Let us feel you. Show us that you care about us and you’ll be fine.
The boys look stronger than the girls at this point. I won’t be surprised if one of the girls goes home next week.