Heartfelt, with ‘Open Arms’

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Breaking grounds in Southeast Asia especially in Singapore, Aiza Seguerra‘s third solo album Open Arms contains revivals of hit songs of the days not-so-old. Some of the songs in the album produced by S2S, a recording label in Singapore, may have been probably written way before Aiza was even conceived but you’ll be amazed with her interpretations. It’s just heartfelt. And smooth. Soothing.

I’m not really a fan of Aiza, well as an actor, though I may have watched almost all of her movies when she was still that ‘cutesie’ Little Miss Philippines prodigy in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Whatever she may have become, she proved to be a very good singer (since Pagdating ng Panahon) whose voice will just warm your heart.

When it comes to OPM, I get so picky and would rarely purchase their albums. I only listen to my favorite Filipino singers. With Aiza, I just became curious about the raves she was receiving from her latest and international album release. Topping the charts of Singapore and staying there for a considerable period of time may have been just one of her lucky days but when I got hold of a copy of the said album last weekend, my curiosity transformed into a fan-like fascination.

The tracks are well-chosen. I bet these are some of the favorites of Aiza herself. Some of them are cheesy ballads but definitely were brought to a different level and balanced with Aiza’s low key interpretations and acoustic flavor.

Opening with Vincent (by Don McLean, 1971) that was originally written as a tribute to Vincent van Gogh and his works, I could hear Aiza’s own soliloquy as a recording artist. “They would not listen / they did not know how / perhaps they’ll listen now…For they could not love you, but still your love was true.” You can just read between the lines there. The arrangement is straightforward which allowed Aiza to really project like she is talking to someone (or maybe to her self). The piano accompaniment is a little bit dreamy but the overall effect is graciously affective.

From a starry, starry song, Aiza proceeded to take Time After Time (Cyndi Lauper, 1984). This is another simple yet poignant song and is originally bouncy. I like the smooth guitar plucking but I don’t like how the song was ended. The same mode was projected in one of my favorites, Home (Michael Buble, 2005). This third track may have been lifted (or a copy cat) from the country version of the song by Blake Shelton (2008) but can be well-taken as the first cover of the song by a female singer. Well, I have not heard of a female version yet.

The title track and the first single out of the album is Open Arms, a power rock ballad original from the band Journey (1982). The song is emotional and I think it is one of the more emotional interpretations in the album. Moreso, it is followed by the sad I Can’t Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt, 1991).

Over The Rainbow, a classic and a Judy Garland signature song (1939), was sung a little bit babyish (maybe because of the mixing?) and lacks that hopeful attitude looking forward to a brighter life ‘over the rainbow’. It struck me as a very sad song. I never regard that song that way. Well, I may be prejudiced in dismissing it the way it was presented in the album since I have heard a significant number of other covers of that song. And the arrangement did not start with that famous rising octave.

Persistent Rain is nice and the arrangement is recognizably jazzy despite the poppish melody. Again, Aiza let out that whispering voice. And I am reminded of my ‘Martin Nievera’ days with I’ll Be There For You (1994). I used to sing this at weddings, back when I could still belt out Martin songs. Aiza’s interpretation is soothing but I guess the song is better sung with a higher pitch.

As far as Aiza’s album is concerned, I think Longer (Dan Fogelberg, 1979) is the best cover that she did. The song is well-suited for her voice and consistent with her style. I would love to listen to this track over and over again. Likewise, it’s nice to hear for the first time in it’s entirety the (Christian?) song Journey (Corrinne May, 2001).

Aiza manifests her desire to find that love she longs for in At Last (Etta James, 1961). This is interesting since with the track following it,Smooth Operator (Sade, 1984), it seems that that love was ‘for sale’. “A license to love, insurance to hold / Melts all your memories and change into gold / His eyes are like angels but his heart is cold / No need to ask / He’s a smooth operator…” Hmnnnn….reality bites.

The last track Para Lang Sa’Yo (2007) is an original and, as I understand it, is a bonus track. The song was the theme song for the romantic soap opera Ysabella over at ABS-CBN.

The whole album is an easy listening treat that will not necessarily put you to sleep. It is a good alternative to the covers made by the big names in the music industry trying to outdo the original. Despite some flaws in the arrangement of some of the songs as I pointed out and the occasionally irritating hissing of the letter “s”, Aiza remained true to her genre and the basic melody of the songs.

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