Sunday, September 23, 2012

Charice, Glee Singer - Youtube Star Philippines

Age 20, Charice, Sunshine from "Glee," looks destined to become the best-known Philippine-born musical star.

Charice singing an acoustic version of Billboard hit "Pyramid."

Is there another country where popular music and entertainment are considered such mainstream current events, ice-breaker topics cutting across lines of class and region? In the Philippines, conferences, reunions and celebrations are occasions for participants to break into song or break out an instrument. Filipinos keep up with popular music in the Philippines, United States, the greater Hispanic world and to some extent Southeast Asia. 

Movies are another popular topic. When I was in the Philippines in 2011 during the Oscar awards, of course everyone knew that the little girl in "True Grit" had a Filipina grandmother. I'm glad I read the newspapers sufficiently to know that Filipino-Americans involved behind the camera were also Oscar contenders. 

I don't know if Charice Pempengco, age 20, can yet claim to be the Philippine musician best known outside of her home country. (Although, with her tomboyish new look, she can claim to be the best known Filipino gay musician now.

There is Lea Salonga, of course, and that guy in Black Eyed Peas and Journey's lead singer, Arnel Pineda. But Charice ("Sha-REES") seems to be on her way.  And, thanks to Youtube and her role on the US TV show about a high school singing club, "Glee," many more people all over the world recognize Charice and her voice.

If you happen to be in Manila (or Bangkok) at the moment, a visit to one those sidewalk tables selling pirate DVDs can help you become acquainted. The vendors will probably also tell you that the mother of "Glee" regular Darren Criss was born on the island of Cebu in the Philippines. (He's the half of the gay couple on the show that isn't gay in real life.)

"Pyramid" Biggest Billboard Hit

Charice's 2010 song "Pyramid" is her most popular single, pulling more than 33 million views on Youtube. It went to number 8 on the Billboard dance song chart. She sings together with Iyaz. The official release has a lot of production so that you can't detect the quality of her voice underneath it all. She has a big voice. 

I chose the acoustic video version of "Pyramid" to display above because it conveys a better sense of her range.

Celine Dion is her heroine and others are Whitney Houston, Gloria Gaynor and Mariah Carey. She aspires to diva-hood without the attitude or the addiction drama. She's also very cute but she'll still has to make the transition to be viewed as a fully adult singer with an enduring audience.

"Before it Explodes" Tour and X Factor Judge

In 2011-2012, Charice did a 10-city Asia-Pacific tour, from Japan to Korea to Philippines to Hawaii, promoting her third album, "Before it Explodes." She also served as a judge on the Philippine version of "The X Factor."

You can hear the single "Before it Expodes" here but, like many of her online songs, there's no video or only a video with lyrics. The song was written by Bruno Mars, who is half-Filipino, incidentally. (Did you know that Justin Bieber's backup band, Lagaci, is composed of a group of Fil-Ams, by the way? Also Jessica Sanchez.Other hits are "Louder" and "One Day."

Naturally, there's a Charice Youtube channel for you to explore more.

Charice, the Early Years

Charice's path to stardom is especially heartwarming because she is the child of a single mother of modest means. Charice's mother is a singer herself and taught little Charice some basic techniques. Charice started singing in contests at age seven and appeared in an American Idol-type TV show in the Philippines at 13. She didn't win the top prize and would perhaps have slipped back into obscurity if a fan hadn't posted several of her videos that were embraced by many millions of Youtube viewers. There's a certain resemblance to Zee Avi's discovery tale.

As a result, in 2008 Charice was invited to sing on a Korean TV talent show and on the Ellen DeGeneres talk show in the United States. Others jumped on the bandwagon. She recorded songs in Sweden and performed live in England, Italy and the Netherlands and at the Philippine presidential palace.

In America, on Oprah's recommendation, the music producer David Foster took Charice under his wing, performing with her and other young musicians in Las Vegas, and helping to produce her singles.  She moved to the United States, dueted with Celine Dion, was signed by Reprise and sang in many venues, including at events surrounding Obama's 2008 inaugural. 

Reality Web Series and Ellen Degeneres Video

In 2010 she joined the cast of "Glee" as foreign high school exchange student Sunshine Corazon and sang the national anthem at President Benigno's inauguration. 

The more details of her life and her career are on her websiteWant to know more? Watch the reality Web series called "30 Days with Charice."

I chose the video posted below from Charice's 2008 appearance on the Ellen Degeneres show because there's such a contrast between her shy demeanor talking with Ellen and her confidence as a performer. (Warning: the second song she performs is that Celine Dion one from "The Titanic.")

Contrast that with a videoed interview she did with a Billboard reporter from 2010. Most of her accent has disappeared and she's very articulate and poised as she summarizes her career. That newer video also shows flashbacks to early performances. At 14 or 15, she seemed more like 12 or 13.  She must be about 11 or 12 in this old home video. Apparently in her pajamas, she belts out "And I'm Telling You" from "Dreamgirls" a capella. And here she is more recently, singing "Listen" with Beyonce.

 Copyright +Susan Cunningham. No republication without permission. Contact SoutheastAsiaTraveler @

All Airlines Flying to/from Myanmar (Burma) - International Routes

All Airlines Flying to/from Myanmar (Burma) - International Routes

Here are the 25 airlines that fly to Myanmar (Burma) and their air routes. These airlines fly directly on  regularly scheduled flig...