by Jaclyn Victor, pop (2004)
BMG, ISBN 2876667872

For a rushed job with really cheap-sounding production values, first Malaysian Idol winner Jaclyn Victor's debut CD Gemilang could be worse, I guess. It could have sounded as awful as the first Akademi Fantasia winner Vince's debut CD, for example. With six Malay songs and four English songs making up this CD, Victor displays the same flair as she did on the local version of the Idol franchise. Which is to say, she is at home in easy-listening adult contemporary songs and this CD wisely capitalizes on that. Much credit has to go to the producers, a motley crew of familiar local names like Aidit Alfian, Jenny Chin, and the Indonesian guru Aubrey Suwito, because the tracks on Gemilang are actually the finger-snapping, singalong type.

Victor's English-accented enunciation in Malay takes a while to get used to but otherwise, tracks like Di Bawah Pohon Asmara (Under The Passion Tree and yes, I'm sure something gets lost in translation) and Love are cheeky and funky while predictable ballads like Tiada Lagi Indah (No Longer Beautiful) and Bring Out The Best Of Me won't be the most exciting things I've heard but they are catchy enough without driving me to sleep or irritating me the way some Big, Weepy Ballads tend to do (see: Diane Warren). Victor also has her studio version of the P Ramlee classic Tunggu Sekejap (Please Wait Awhile) here, which I find more enjoyable than her Idol performance as there is less oversinging here, and her version of When I Fall In Love, an ordinary jazzed-up version of an already overcovered song.

The weak point of this CD is the Malaysian Idol first season winner track, Gemilang (Spectacular) (included here as both a studio and live version), an overwrought soppy ballad sounding a little too much like Fantasia's I Believe for comfort. Victor isn't as good as Fantasia when it comes to selling horribly oversentimental songs. Also, can someone tell me why Impian (Dreams), nearly a carbon copy of Gemilang, is included here?

If she is born in, say, the USA, she would have made a decent if not successful career in music because Victor has the pipes and the performance skills to sell to her audience. As it is, I don't think Gemilang will give her the numbers she is hoping for, starting with the timing of the release of this CD and the zero publicity given for the CD release as well as the fact that in Malaysia, most of the time local artists (especially artists performing in English) really have to starve for their art. Still, I am glad to be given a chance to listen to what Jaclyn Victor can do and this collection of pleasant adult contemporary pop tunes, while not earthshattering in any way, is a good effort. I find this CD better than the recent efforts of some of the supposedly more established US and UK acts I listened to so yes, in the case of Jaclyn Victor, Malaysia can sometimes deliver. Once in a blue moon, perhaps, but that blue moon is right now illuminating Jaclyn Victor.

Rating: 75

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