The only quibble I have with the album--12 tracks consisting of 10 covers and 2 originals, one by Marvin himself and the other a composition by HK Disneyland musical director Rony Fortich--is the overall tunog of the arrangements. The aural palette tends to sound the same across all tracks; perhaps Viva and the album producers were scrimping on the scoring costs?
The upside of the thin instrumentation is, Marvin's beautiful voice comes through on every single song. And it's apparent that he's much helped by his background in theater. His diction is crystal-clear. He's able to “act out” the song, though never too theatrically. No undisciplined belting here, only a pleasingly assured way with melody. And, at his age, he shows distinctive musicality. He's done the covers a big favor by retooling them, making them sound fresh again--familiar yet new at the same time.
In short, this is one young singer who won't sing plakado-style.
In fact, he seems more at home singing “old” songs--meaning, the radio hits that made their mark when he hadn't been born yet, from a time when melody and lyric mattered more than the beat. There's an intimate quality to his vocals that honors these songs well--such as the Carpenters' I Need to Be in Love (now an exquisite expression of youthful yearning), the 5th Dimension's Worst That Could Happen (which, in the '70s, was translated into Tagalog and became the Hajji Alejandro hit Panakip-Butas, or didn't you know?), even Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons' reworked Hang On.
Marvin was signed by Viva after he played a winning Toby in Repertory Philippines' Sweeney Todd last year. That's winning in a literal sense--early this year he bagged the Philstage Gawad Buhay! trophy for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for that role. The album, and a crack at a career in mainstream music, seems a natural progression from that auspicious start.
If you've been hearing a mellifluous new version of Panaginip on the radio and wondering who the singer is--that's Marvin Ong. Here's a live version, sung during the launch of his album at The Roxy in Tomas Morato, QC, last Monday. Another track he performed was Chicago's Hard to Say I'm Sorry. The original synth-heavy mellow-rock sound has given way to a slower, dewier ballad version.
[The album is available in record bars and sells for P199.]
PLUS: Marvin sings the first bars of I Dreamed a Dream--“actually my first audition piece ever," he reveals. He was 10 years old at the time, auditioning for the role of Edmund in Trumpets' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. He got the part. For his debut album, he wanted the song included but the producers nixed it. Now you can hear his lovely vocals revisit the Les Miz anthem a capella (at 3:27 in the vid below).