This article was previously published in my now defunct website philippinechronicle.com in February 16, 2016. This article was read and shared by KZ herself on her social media page. In light of her new album called “Soul Supremacy,” I have decided to republish it for KZ fanz out there. Enjoy!
There is hardly any article written about Kristine Zhenie Lobrigas Tandingan or most popularly known as KZ Tandingan. And as I browse Google looking for a feature or two about the 22 year old soul and jazz singer (who, for some reason, reminds me so much of one of my favorite performers, the late Amy Winehouse), I have felt a mixed feelings of sadness and excitement. I was saddened because it was already a clear reminder how little recognition this exceptional talent is getting (this is true with some other unrecognized Original Pilipino Music [OPM] talents as well) and excitement because I knew this was an opportunity for me to do it for an artist who deserves more than a feature herself.
At the same time, the pressure was building because no matter how small or big The Philippine Chronicle’s scope of readership is, I knew KZ and her camp would surely read this article one way or another. Listening to her latest hit, “Mahal Ko o Mahal Ako” however, reminded me precisely why I had to do this write-up for her, albeit I wasn’t sure if she would say yay or nay to it. I just had to do this for her as a form of gift for her great contributions to the otherwise, incomplete and dull OPM industry had she didn’t surface.
Just like anybody, I first heard KZ sing during her audition for the first season of the X Factor Philippines in 2012. Now, let me tell you, I am very appreciative of genuine talents especially in singing competitions such as the X Factor. I have to say however, that while I think everyone who joins the contest is armed with a certain amount of talent in them, not everyone possesses that so called “x factor.”
Let me tell you what X Factor means to me. X Factor is for the exceptional, the extraordinary, and the extremely talented. Indeed, KZ Tandingan is a living embodiment of those traits. I almost think she is a direct Pinay reincarnation of Ms. Winehouse although there is, of course a big difference between the two. Before she died, Amy was known for her eclectic mix of genres including soul, rhythm and blues, jazz and reggae. KZ sings in almost the same eclectic mix of musical repertoire that whenever I see her on TV, I see Amy come to life. And who would forget her exceptional rapping skills? This lady is a bomb waiting to explode. A Lana Del Rey waiting to blossom.
The reluctant Digos City (Davao Del Sur) born singer started off by introducing herself as a totally new sounding soul-reggae singer through her own rendition of the classic “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” on the X Factor Philippines. Just as the judges (Charice, Gary V., Martin Nievera and Pilita Corales) would have probably realized at the time they gave her a standing ovation, all four of them, I knew she would win that competition the very first time I heard and saw her perform. That is why when she was hailed as the winner of that show, I wasn’t surprised at all.
Her performance of that Judy Garland song still sends chills through my bones and has made me realize how awfully right she was when she told the judges that someone need not be a “biritera” (a diva or someone who can hit very high notes) in order to win the show. And from that very first moment, I knew she was an exceptional combination of young and yet mature talent, beautiful and yet enigmatic beauty and unique but powerful voice.
In fact, her voice is so powerful that she could make any song she sings her own. Not to mention, she has this rare but very important ability that every singer should have –the ability to act and tell an emotional story through the movement of her eyes and the expressions on her face. It is very important for a singer to not only interpret a good song, but completely give and engage her soul to it; so completely that the audience could connect to whatever story she is trying to convey. KZ has constantly proven that she is capable of this during and after her time in the show.
I remember watching her during her audition when she had very little to no make up at all. She was very Filipina and yet when she sings, she has this certain style and natural ability to enunciate every English word, or every word in any language for that matter, in a magnificent KZ Tandingan way.
After she was declared the winner of the first season of the X Factor Philippines in 2012, I knew she would soon make it to ABS-CBN’s mainstream shows such as ASAP (also called ASAP 19) and so I was following her growth as an artist, safe in the thought that she would start to release major OPM hits judging from the wide of array of supporters she had accumulated from her stint in the singing competition. And she did, of course.
In January 2013, she was chosen to interpret Domingo Rosco’s “Scared to Death”, a song entry to the Himig Handog P-Pop Love Songs. The song finished in fourth place and the next time I saw her, she was acting the song in her very own music video. Not only she was very professional in her performance in the music video but she was good at projecting herself on camera, something that many local singers are lacking despite probably having attended too many workshops. Whereas, KZ who was a neophyte in the industry was showing so much confidence like she has been doing the same thing ever since she was born. I guess “x factor” is something that cannot be fully taught or learned in workshops. Just like class, some people are born with it –so as KZ Tandingan.
Over the course of three years, we have seen the humble singer rise from being a girl who can sing to a woman on fire. She toured the world along with other big names such as Piolo Pascual and Side A. In that very short time, she had given us jazzy soul hits such as “Bakit Lumuluha” (nominated for an Awit Award for Best Performance by a Female Recording Artist in 2014), “Wag Ka Nang Umiyak” (nominated for an Awit Award for Best Performance by a New Female Recording Artist and Best Inspirational/Religious Recording in 2013), and “Darating Din” (nominated for and Awit Award for Best Inspirational/Religious Recording in 2014). In addition, her own remake of another classic “Killing Me Softly,” one of my favorites covers from her self-titled album was a favorite radio smash. She subsequently won an Aliw Awards for Best New Artist, an Awit Awards for Best Jazz Recording and another for Best Ballad Recording.
Prior to making a powerful comeback with her chart-topping single, Edwin Marollano’s “Mahal Ko o Mahal Ako” which also the same song that made her grand winner of the 2014 Himig Handog P-Pop Love Songs, Ms. Tandingan has been a regular mainstay performer on ABS-CBN’s Sunday variety show ASAP 20.
Just recently, she staged her very first Valentine dinner show entitled KZ 4 Uon Feb. 14, 8 p.m. at the Grand Ballroom of Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria. Another sign of her unstoppable rise to rockstardom.
There is something in KZ Tandingan that gets people drawn to her. It is her genuine xfactor that seems to emanate from within her and comes out in the form of her beautiful soul slash jazzy slash reggae sound. A sound that would have otherwise fitted in Europe or Americas but made its way to the OPM mainstream and somehow surviving there because the artist who delivers it is as beautiful as the sound she makes.
And the humble singer says she didn’t see music as a career while growing up. Wow! I wonder if she knows how phenomenal a performer she is with such awesome personality, powerful vocals and nice attitude. Plus, the girl does have a great taste in fashion! And while her latest song is being played repeatedly in radios nationwide, her love life is blossoming as well as she reveals being in a relationship with TJ Monterde, a singer-songwriter from Cagayan de Oro.
KZ is the type of artist who might not get enough recognition than she deserves but will always be successful in the industry and will surely stay there for a long time. If she was in America, she would be like P!nk who is known as far better performer that many others but kept herself grounded nonetheless. KZ is the new superstar on the rise and whether we admit it or not, her success is unstoppable.
And while we still can’t get over the emotional lyrics of “Mahal Ko o Mahal Ako”, we’re anticipating your next OPM hit already!
UPDATE: Look, KZ shared this article on her Facebook page! Aww you’re most welcome dear!