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The first time I heard Jeremy Glinoga sing, it was his audition for The Voice Teens. He came to the stage, took a deep breath, opened his mouth and sang “Ikaw”. For someone born in America, choosing a classic OPM song as an audition piece seemed unusual. Why isn’t he singing a Bieber song? Or maybe even Frank Ocean? He starts a little hesitant but starts doing some pretty good runs and some impressive transitions to his falsetto as he sings. Is someone even going to turn for this guy? All four judges seem ambivalent. Before the end of the song, Sarah and Sharon turn. Lea and Bamboo explain they have reservations – the runs were good but the choice to employ them in a song which required little to none of it was problematic.

I disagree with Lea and Bamboo.

I thought to myself, well, this kid has a lot of potential. I’m a huge fan of R&B influenced singers (quick trivia, Daryl Ong was my bet in Season 2 of The Voice) and out of all those who auditioned, I found Jeremy’s singing to be the closest to the singing I like. Yes, there were others who also “riffed” it out, but they were more gratuitous than musical.

I didn’t get to watch Jeremy’s battle with Heather live. I wasn’t planning to watch The Voice Teens religiously anyway. I didn’t even bother with Season 3 of The Voice Kids. But after reading Nestor Torre’s review of their performance of Sana Maulit Muli, I decided to check it out. Again, I was surprised at the song choice – a Tagalog song for two teenagers who weren’t exactly the most fluent in the language. But like his performance in Ikaw, Jeremy’s accent seems to magically disappear when he’s singing. And sing he did. As Lea explained, there was something beautiful and mesmerizing about the performance. It wasn’t vocally perfect, but the imperfections made the whole duet (yes, it was more of a duet than a battle) so breathtaking: Heather’s breathy, lyric voice; Jeremy’s heady falsettos; the blending at the bridge; the eye contact; the pain; the longing; the oohhs and hums at the end of the song the trailed off in the studio’s air for the viewers to savor. For a moment, I forgot it was a competition. And so when Jeremy won the battle round, it hardly registered.

I did, make it a point however, to anticipate the knockouts. I took the time to listen to Jeremy outside the competition. It turns out he’s been singing for quite some time. There’s Jeremy singing I Believe I Can Fly, and a Wildcat Idol performance of John Legend’s All Of Me. There’s a sound booth recording of Ordinary People, and a duet of Somewhere Only We Know by Keane. He sings One Direction, and Bieber, and Bruno Mars. There are choir performances, and cultural shows, and random home videos too – including a short, random cover of Bieber’s Cold Water where he delivers a really tasteful run which makes you want for more. All of the videos made one thing clear aside from the fact he’s got good taste in music – Jeremy has huge potential. Just like what one of the top comments in his audition video reads, he isn’t even at his best yet.

After losing the title of the The Voice Teens champion last Sunday night, I watched videos from the finals. His final power ballad performance of Roselle Nava’s Dahil Mahal na Mahal Kita drew opinions that he picked the wrong song, that he’s not as good as the winner Jona, or as gifted as Mica, or as unique as Isabela. And of course, these opinions are warranted. Not every person is everyone’s cup of tea.

And indeed, I’d like to think Jona was indeed a deserving winner. She belted her heart out in her performances. She “slayed” on Better Days with coach Sarah. She was the classic Filipino singing contest “kontesara.” She was the best that night.

The other two girls also showed up to win it. Mica’s duet with her coach was equally magical, and her classical singing enabled her to immediately stand out. And Isabela’s unique appeal impressed on viewers a teen beyond her age.

And so where does it leave Jeremy?

I’d like to take up what Sharon said after Jeremy’s final performance – we need SINGERS like Jeremy. Of course, the ladies could belt and trill and showboat with their golden voices – and people will be in awe, and rightfully so. And even some of those eliminated could electrify the studio with some crazy vocals – Emarjhun’s “It’s A Man’s World” for example. But for all the grandness and power of the three ladies in their performance, and for all the excesses (both in antics and vocals) we’ve seen in a great season of the Voice Teens, Jeremy Glinoga stood out with his nuanced, soulful singing – the kind of singing the coaches had been asking all season long – “puso” in storytelling with a song.

Of course, we’ve been so used to watching, both abroad and in the Philippines, singing contestants belt out tunes for a powerhouse performance that we’ve associated guttural, ear-shattering, stratospheric vocals as soulful, great singing. And yet, as most perfectly exemplified in his performances of Sana Maulit Muli and Labyrinth’s Jealous, when Jeremy sings of pain and heartache in his trademark transition between soulful mid-register and a heavenly falsetto, it’s that headiness that you get, that tinkling like the end of the piano, that soft touch on the notes as he curbs a nuanced melisma to a close, that is just as soulful as a F#5 belt, but more intimate, more inviting, and too me, more heartbreaking. I like my belters too, don’t get me wrong – Jed Madela, Mariah Carey, So Hyang. I like my share of “classical singing” too (Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland, and Leontyne Price are my favourites). But I also like it when singers simply do their thing – sing to express.

While all three finalists chose final ballad songs which were predictable or expected of them, here’s Jeremy, the amboy, taking on a Roselle Nava song. While all three aimed to impress, Jeremy expressed. It wasn’t the wrong song choice, as some say. It was the perfect song for someone who didn’t really fit the mold of your typical, powerhouse singing, octave-jumping vocal virtuoso.

And too think Jeremy’s not even at his best yet. Like I said, he’s only beginning to discover his talent. As he grows older, his control over his voice will improve, and his performance will certainly be more refined. He’s not perfect. He’s performance of How Did You Know left much to be desired, and his duet with Sharon was not the finest (most especially for the Diva; props to Sharon for her humility in apologizing). But he did make amends in the semifinals with a rousing performance of Sign of The Times; and strutted on the first finals night to a classic Stevie Wonder song before delivering an emotional performance of Dahil Mahal na Mahal Kita on Sunday.

Now on the aspect that he’s only a handsome face? Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But why should it be taken against him if he’s good looking? We don’t really have much of a choice over our physical appearance, do we? The guy has the looks. He has an appeal – he’s charming, he charismatic, and he can sing. At the end of the day, we’re not just looking for singers. We’re also looking for stars. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks Jeremy has that star quality.

What’s next for Jeremy? I hope he’s given a contract too. And I hope when he does make music, he’s not boxed into cookie-cutter pop. I can see him doing records along the lines of Often by Abhi//Dijon (he needs to do a cover of this!), and even Drake’s Hold On, We’re Going Home. I can definitely hear him doing alternative R&B, with low-key, atmospheric production. He can draw inspiration from Miguel and Frank Ocean too. Jeremy’s falsetto, time and again, is his bread and butter and will surely work well inthe R&B genre. His tone is perfect for these kinds of records. And yes, songs like Signs of the Times would also do wonders. He’s got the charisma to pull of such ballads, and the charm of the matinee idol to sell them. He seems very capable of doing something more contemporary or even alternative. I hope some good producers can give him really good records.

Jeremy may not have won but I’m confident he has the chops to become a star. I trust he’ll remain humble through it all. He’s still just a teen anyway, looking for his voice but one can tell he’s got a great attitude moving forward. I hope that in sharing this, he’ll see what seems like a loss into a gain – a really huge gain.

Best of luck Jeremy! Head up high, feet on the ground, and heart in everything you do.

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