After churning out two successful seasons, GMA-7 introduced a new set of celebrity contenders in Celebrity Duets Season 3 last night, August 29.
Who will follow in the footsteps of Tessa Prieto-Valdes (first season's winner) and Bayani Fernando (second season's champ), and donate their winnings to the charity of their choice?
The competition's third installment is expected to be bigger this time, as nine contenders (compared to only eight in the first two seasons) are battle for the crown. Home viewers will still experience the thrill of choosing via text votes who the next champion will be. Every week, the contender(s) with the lowest number of votes will be eliminated, until one grand champion emerges to bring home P1 million for his/her chosen charity.
The pilot episode opened with hosts Ogie Alcasid and Regine Velasquez excitedly announcing the return of the show, introducing each of the nine contenders, and then performing The Temptation's 1966 hit "Get Ready" alternately in groups of male and female contestants and in unison. The contenders singing with their celebrity partners one after the other followed the production number.
Stage and TV director Freddie Santos,TV host-socialite Tessa Prieto-Valdes, and renowned musical composer-arranger-director Danny Tan comprised the panel of judges who gave their positive, constructive and sometimes harsh criticisms on the contestants and their performances.
THE PERFORMANCES. World Boxing Association (WBA) 2009 Super Flyweight Interim World Champion Nonito Donaire Jr. came onstage first. "Nung bata pa ako, gusto kong maging musician, hindi sana ako magbo-boxing," revealed "The Filipino Flash" in his VTR interview shown prior to his performance.
Right after his most recent fight in the boxing ring, Nonito flew back home to the Philippines for an important endeavor he would not want to miss: a battle on the concert stage. "Iba ito sa ring. Ito ‘yung personalidad ko talaga na nag-e-enjoy ako," he said. Nonito sang a well-received Parokya Ni Edgar's hit "Harana" with SOP mainstay Gian Magdangal.
Danny - "Feeling ko, hindi ka lang pang-boxing, pang-singing ka rin. You are a performer. Ang negative comment ko lang is ‘yung hand movement mo, paulit-ulit... Variety lang."
Tessa - "A Celebrity Duets champion? Parang ikaw na rin... Baka! Magaling! Good luck and talagang the three here enjoyed."
Freddie - "Unanimous... Unanimous!"
Beauty maven Mikaela Bilbao came in second. For her, beautifying one's self is one sensible enterprise. "I'm making others feel good about themselves without paying too much. I give quality service, making sure that they get their money's worth, that is very important to me," the salon-spa owner said in her interview.
Notwithstanding her success, singing proves to be a real challenge for Mikaela. "Mikaela that goes to sing in Celebrity Duets can be totally different from the businesswoman Mikaela..." Together with sultry singer Mocha, she sang an initially unsynchronized 1975 LaBelle smash "Lady Marmalade."
Tessa - "Super ganda ng costume... Galing... ng costume! Yeba!"
Freddie - "'Wag kang masyadong self-conscious. Puwede kang mag-enjoy, marami kang dahilan kung bakit ka dapat mag-enjoy sa sarili mo."
Danny - "Kung may nangyayaring hindi maganda, ‘wag mong ipahalata kasi tumingin ka sa band na parang nagtaka ka ‘Tama ba? Tama ba ang pasok ko? Parang hindi ‘ata.' ‘Wag mong ipapahalata ‘yon. And then what you lack in singing, dapat bawiin mo sa performance."
Costume-fashion designer of the stars Maxie Cinco came in third. "Usually, the clothes that we do are mga concept clothes so, more often than not, it's a collaboration between the artist, the director, the choreographer and myself."
In his stint with the singing competition, though, he would have to work with a musical director and a voice coach. "Actually, first love ko is singing. When I learned that I was gonna be a contestant in Celebrity Duets, I always get jitters, parang it's so good to be true. Pipilitin ko sa abot ng aking makakaya na hindi kayo ma-disappoint." He sang the local folk classic "Waray Waray" with Queen of Soul, Jaya.
Freddie - "On a scale of 1 to 10, singko. Singkong pataas, hindi singkong pababa. Kasi naiintindihan mo, e, kailangan lang i-commit mo ang sarili mo doon sa iyong ginagawa."
Tessa - "Nag-enjoy ako. And it's the first one, of the three, so far, na ito ang talagang may essence of duet, ‘yung talagang nag-complement silang dalawa."
Danny - "Sa akin 8. Ten sana eh, kaya lang, nakalimutan ang lyrics. Although, tuloy pa rin ang performance mo, and that's very good."
Actor and concert producer Jomari Yllana admitted: "I love singing, but I never pursued it as parang career. Kadalasan, ang kinakantahan ko lang, mga girlfriend ko, ganyan." Together with Joey Generoso of the Side A band, Jomari sang "Ang Aking Awitin," Joey's own hit with his band, to positive reviews.
Danny - "Nagulat ako. This is the first time I heard him sing, and he can sing! Ang comment ko lang is I think you have to open your mouth a little more para mas klaro ang words, kasi parang nasa loob lahat."
Tessa - "Okay ang singing... And you're so cute. And you blended so well."
Freddie - "Ang ganda ng musical connection nilang dalawa ni Joey G. Lumabas talaga yung pagka-duet."
Top-notch fashion photographer Niccolo Cosme, the fifth contender, has got the magic touch, so to speak when it comes to taking pictures. "I do a lot of magazine and commercial works."
Like photography, one of Niccolo's passions is singing. "Singing is an expression... You can do it anytime, anywhere. This time around, wala po ako sa likod ng camera, ako po'y nasa harap, at ako po ay hindi magsu-shoot, ngunit ako po ay kakanta. I'm sure mag-e-enjoy po kayo," he said in his interview, as if making good a promise to the audience. With Bituin Escalante, Niccolo gave his rendition of Rolling Stones' 1965 hit "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."
Tessa - "Total performer, everything - dances, costumes, voice— kumpleto, with hairstyle... I love it!"
Freddie - "Well, like all good things, it needs time to develop. Pero walang problema as far as ingredients are concerned. You've got the attitude, the musicality. At nagulat din ako sa boses. May tunay na boses!"
Danny - "I think it's the first time na ‘yung contestant nag-second voice. So that's a good job, hindi ka nawala sa tono, minatch mo si Bituin. Medyo malayo lang ‘yung mic mo, so minsan na-o-overpower ka ng boses ni Bituin, so you have to learn how to control the positioning of the mic."
Brazilian-Japanese model Akihiro Sato, sixth in the lineup, has been modeling for four years in different countries before he considered the country to be his second home. "I did lots [of modeling] in Brazil, tapos I went to Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and China."
But the "hero of the runway" is a newbie in singing. "This is my first ever (chuckles), never tried in my life. This is my first time in showbiz, especially in television. With Eat... Bulaga! host Julia Clarete, Akihiro sang the Astrud Gilberto-Stan Getz 1964 Latino classic "The Girl From Ipanema." He notes that he is more comfortable singing this song, because some of the lyrics were in Portuguese, a language that he is familiar with.
Freddie - "That was awful, bad... Okay, you know what? Your voice has a good tone, but you gotta wake up your ears, you gotta make sure about the timing, so that you don't skip the beat. We started out okay, then we saw that ended ‘nokay.'"
Danny - "I think you should learn to exude more self-confidence. You are very conscious, you are at a loss of what to do up the stage."
Tessa - "You can pull me anytime you want. I'm telling you now, you are just eye candy there. Just look good, have fun, smile, open your mouth and pretend to sing whatever! You're just so cute!"
Who doesn't know former beauty queen Janina San Miguel? The 2008 Bb. Pilipinas-World gained notoriety for her rambling response in the pageant's question and answer portion. In her VTR, Janina introduced some of her family members—her grandmother, siblings and father—in their Quezon City home.
"Ngayon magda-drive kami ng jeep, mamamasada kami... Noong maliit pa ako, lagi niya (her father) akong assistant, pero ngayon, malaki na ako, hindi siya makapaniwala na ito ‘yung nakamit ko," she said candidly. "Kita n'yo, love na love ako ng family ko!"
With sexy actress-comedienne Maureen Larrazabal, Janina enthusiastically performed the A.R. Rahman-Pussycat Dolls smash "Jai Ho (You Are My Destiny)" from the soundtrack of the Oscar Best Picture Slumdog Millionaire (2009). When Ogie asked her how she felt after her performance, she replied in her own trademark response: "Well, I feel so confident because I don't feel any pressure right now!"
Danny - "Ang maganda kay Janina, performance level siya, 'tsaka talagang bigay na bigay. Ang ganda ng chemistry nila ni Maureen, bagay na bagay silang mag-partner. Janina, sa kantahan lang, kailangan i-control mo lang ‘yung ano, kasi may times na ‘pag malakas, parang pasigaw na."
Tessa - "Kayong dalawa, grabe, ang ganda ng costumes, again. The singing, puwede na, not too bad. Baka next week, we can have another version of another song para we can see... We really need to hear your voice some time in the contest. But it was perfect!"
Freddie - "So beautiful, so beautiful. Wala akong narinig, wala na akong naisip sa kagandahan mo."
The lord of scents Joel Cruz is the president and chief executive officer of his own company, the Aficionado Germany and Joel Cruz Signatures, so most of his days are spent working. Joel admits that singing in public makes his knees go weak. He said that he's excited and nervous at the same time.
"Pero, teka lang, pakakantahin ako? Parang, ‘oh, my God, mukhang delikado 'to ah!' (laughs) But I hope ‘wag agad akong matanggal, gusto kong tumagal, ‘no (laughs), at gusto kong manalo, siyempre, kaya sumali. ‘Yung televiewers naman, they want to be entertained, so I'll try my best, all my efforts, na sana magustuhan n'yo ‘yung performance ko."
With Jukebox Queen Jessa Zaragosa as his singing partner, Joel sang and danced to Gloria Gaynor's 1979 disco hit "I Will Survive."
Tessa - "This is super... Parang, you're the only one, first day pa lang, grabe na ang fans! You gotta make sure that they're here 'til the end!"
Freddie - "That was really weird. Ngayon ko lang narinig ‘yang kantang ‘yan sa boses na ganon kababa. Ewan ko lang kung ‘yan ang napili mong kanta dahil ka-duet mo si Jessa, pero, may boses ka dude, eh. Ingatan mo ang pagpili ng mga darating mong kanta kasi mai-impress ang mga tao hindi dahil sa gimik o hindi dahil sa galaw, kundi dahil talagang may boses ka."
Danny - "Sa performance mo, ang nakikita ko talaga, you really love performing onstage. You have that passion, you have that love. So, nakikita, natatapon sa amin, sa audience ang aura na ‘yon, and that's very good."
It was indeed a case of saving the best for last, as award-winning actress and director Gina Alajar ended the pilot episode with a rousing number.
"Lingid sa lahat, I was a member of the church choir nung bata pa ako," divulged Gina. But even if she is no longer a choir member, Gina never outgrew her love for singing. "I would call up friends na ‘O, wala na akong gagawin, you want to meet up ba? Gusto kong umawit tonight.' Madalas, binabanatan ko rin ‘yung ‘Turn around...' (laughs) ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart'! Pero, ang aking national anthem is the everlasting ‘Proud Mary.'"
And so, together with TV host-comedian Arnell Ignacio, Gina brought that national anthem of hers to life for a most-applauded stage performance, to rave reviews of the hard-to-please critics.
Freddie - "For the first time tonight, nabitin ako sa number. I wish na it was longer, kasi ang ganda nung energy level nilang dalawa eh."
Danny - "Para sa akin, ‘yun ang best performance of the night. Kinalimutan ko na ‘yung boses eh... And you know what? Every singer, even professional singers, should really watch that number. They will learn a lot from that performance. From beginning to end, hindi bumitaw. You are really a great performer."
Tessa - "I sang that same song, like in a crucial time, na talagang botohan na talaga na intense. Arnell was my partner and we did so well. And I must say, okay, equally magaling! Very well performed, congratulations!"
VOTING STARTS NEXT WEEK. The mechanics of text voting, which will be tabulated by GMA New Media and audited by Punongbayan & Araullo Auditing Firm, will be announced starting next week. One hundred percent text votes will be the basis of the selection of the season's grand champion.
Celebrity Duets Season 3 airs every Saturday after Pinoy Records and before Bitoy's Funniest Videos on GMA-7.