Charice’s mesmeric rise in the international music world threatens to see the teenager surpass the Philippine’s musical queen, Lea Salonga, as the nation’s most significant international female artist.
The success that the Laguna-born 18-year-old has enjoyed over the past two years is the source of an immense sense of pride for Filpinos, so much so that Salonga’s 22-year reign as the Philippine’s biggest international music icon seems to be coming to an end.
Journal Online, the online version of the Manila-based People’s Journal newspapers, reported on January 8 that the respective successes of both songstresses are “being used as (a) gauge to compare the two musical artists in an effort to evaluate individual merits.”
“But some say it is like comparing an apple to an orange,” it continued. “So, is it really fair to compare Lea with Charice?”
For those of you not familiar with who Lea Salonga is, she is an actress and singer of notable achievement in her own right who broke onto the scene in 1989, at the age of 18. If you are a fan of Disney animation, then you’ll probably have heard her voice. She was the singing voice of Princess Jasmine in “Aladdin” (1992), and performed at that year’s Oscars ceremony, and sang for Ku Mulan in the movie animation “Mulan” (1998) and its sequel “Mulan II” (2004).
She is also an actress of true stature. In 1989, she set the standard for the role of ‘Kim’ in the international musical hit “Miss Saigon” when she was included in the original cast of the show in London’s West End. Salonga only won the role after a global search for an actress that could fit the character: out of thousands, she got it.
Salonga went on to win the two biggest theatre awards there are for her role in “Miss Saigon”: an Olivier Award for her performances in that original West End production, and a Tony Award for her performances in the show’s subsequent Broadway production in New York. She released her self-titled debut international album in 1993, and sold 3 million copies worldwide.
On the surface it may indeed look like comparing apples and oranges, but there is some weight to the idea that Charice is becoming a by-word for Philippine success. No other Filipino has had the international charts at her mercy, with Charice the first Asian artist to have a solo album in the top 10 of the Billboard charts, and no other Filipino has won over such established global stars. In short, her impact has been one of ‘shock and awe.’
Charice’s achievements have prompted a similar reaction to those that surrounded Salonga’s break-throughs, and in her time the now 39-year-old performer was a major national icon to Filipinos worldwide. Her significance to ‘Pinoy Pride’ was underlined three years ago when the then Philippine president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, awarded her the Order of Lakandula in recognition of her achievements.
Of course, the stage is different for these two stars. Charice is rolling in the media-frenzied pop and RnB worlds at a time when the internet has her face and voice a click away from everyone. In contrast, Salonga’s world is that of the more refined theatre actor, where the popular media drop in from time to time as need arises, and broke through in a time when cellphones still resembled a small car battery.
Salonga is a supporter of Charice, praising the youth for her talent on several occasions. The two have also worked together for charity records and ceremonies. It’s unlikely that she would be overly upset that another 18-year-old is being considered for the mantle she has held for so long.
By Robert Sheen, Charicemania.com