Friday, 31 December 2010

Countdown to DEWA: My top 35 favourite songs by the diva Ning Baizura (Part 3: 10-1)

Here we are at the climax, the final ten in my three series countdown. Hope you enjoy this review as much as i enjoy writing it. Feel free to comment if you agree or not with the selection and rankings.

Ps: Happy new year 2011 peeps! May the new year bring you success in your career, love and live


#10 BEBASKAN This song, a personal favourite of mine from the ERTI PERTEMUAN album, is the very definition of understated elegance. First performed live for the very first time at the 2003 Anugerah Era awards, this Audi Mok produced ballad, with lyrics by exudes a certain degree of sophistication and adult contemporariness that I consider quite rare amongst the many songs in Ning’s repertoire. Her vocal performance of  Shah Shamsiri’s lyrics is subdued and unrushed, yet belies great warmth. The song also is available in two other versions. The serene Quiet Storm Mix is an acoustic presentation highlighting Ning’s vocals to great effect. But the greatest surprise is epic 7-minute Classic Club Mix. Here Audi Mok lets loose by turning the song on its head at transforming it into an all out clubbers anthem! Also , Ning recorded fresh vocals for the the remix, adding the necessary sass, and backing vocals and a diva moment bridge, imploring you to be free on the dance floor!

Bebaskan [Classic Club Mix] (Fan Video)

#09 IZINKAN You may be intrigued as to how this obscure track, dating all way back from the NING album managed to make its way to the Top 10? Well, I am going to answer that with an even potentially controversial and divisive statement: Best. Vocal. Ever! Yes folks, say what you may of my choice but me this gentile ballad by Johari Teh is the canvass to which Ning put use her god’s given talent in the most sublime manner. In this one song (and perhaps unbeknownst to herself), she displayed her classically trained vocal range and all inherent singing techniques at her disposal, giving it colours, energy and soul. A triumph!

#08 TEGUH The title song produced by Hari Kish Menon from the album of the same name is an inspiring modern pop-ballad with the now famous line ‘Bersama, berdua… Cita-cita dan cinta kan teguh untuk selamanya’. With themes of reaching for your dreams, rising above and never looking back, Ning voice soars over the synth strings. The dynamics of the song is upwards, reaching a climactic bridge and ever-scaling chorus. 

#07 ANTARA MUNGKIN DAN CURIGA Like all good trilogies, there should be a prologue, interlude and an end. Just like Curiga casts doubt on the sincerity of love, and Mungkin opens up of the possibility of reciprocating love… comes the knock-out track that debates between the two: do you give in to chance or forever remain a cynic? A beautiful dilemma indeed. The song is another epic ballad by Ross Ariffin and Johari Teh, whereby Ning’s voice is soulful and strong. Meanwhile the bridge features some of her most legendary, thrilling, and accomplished adlibs. Again try and imitate the ‘to-toots’ and a fan will precisely know which song you are referring too. It still send me to blissful shivers whenever I hear the song. 

#06 SELAGI ADA… (CINTA) from the comeback album comes the comeback ballad that truly cemented her return to the Malaysian music industry. This power ballad written by then husband and wife team Nurul and Ajai was judged Song Of The Year at AIM12. The song also made the finals of Anugerah Juara Lagu (AJL) under the Best Ballad category.

Selagi Ada Cinta [Live Performance at Anugerah Jura Lagu 2004]

#05 PASTI Considered a signature song of Ning, the sunny and carefree love song by Jari serves as the lead single to the NING album. The sparse and sparkly production makes the perfect base to which Ning displays her vocals with amazing clarity. Of course, who wouldn't remember that the song features her now classic and legendary yell of ‘Passtiiiii!’. The song is still sounds fresh all this years and simply a joy to listen to

Pasti [Music Video]

#04 CURIGA The song that started it all. The one that made people stand up and listen. The one that entirely brought about an exciting new chapter in the Malaysian music industry. Hearing it back after all this years does indeed makes one nostalgic of how far her carrier has come. This song is unique at the time because there is no other song like it. In a sea of rock and rap, comes this classically inclined ballad by Jari and lyrics by Mahzan B with the unmistakable crisp soprano voice by the rising starlet. Ning’s maiden appearance at the Anugerah Juara Lagu competition yielded her the Best Ballad award and exposed here talent furthere to the masses, with here simple yet elegant performance (not forgetting the backing singers… hmm speaking of which where are they and what are they doing now eh?), earning her a thunderous applause from the audience. The track was also nominated for Song Of The Year at AIM '93. The music video was nominated for Best Music Video at AIM '93

Curiga [Live Performance]

#03 AWAN YANG TERPILU This special ballad written by Lin Li Zhen is near and dear to many hearts, but perhaps none more so than Ning herself. As this could be the theme of her entire life: the story of an estranged relationship between father and daughter, brought apart by the choices in life to pursue in what you believe. The tale is told beautifully by master class lyrics by the late Loloq, considered by many as the most poetic, meaningful of all his works. Even Loloq himself considers it his most accomplished piece of writing. Consider the opening stanza: Kerana cinta, aku kembara… Bagai camar, melintas laut, mencari pohon untuk berteduh and immediately you can imagine how the words mirrors Ning’s own meandering journey. The tale is also brought to life vividly by Virginia Kennedys heart-wrenching and poignant music video. The song struck a nerve with general audience and took home awards for Song Of The Year and Best Music Video in the 2004 AIM awards. The song also participated in the Anugerah Juara Lagu 20 finale (to this day, I still feel it is the most deserving winner) where Ning chose simplicity over extravagance in her performance.

Awan Yang Terpilu [Live Performance at Anugerah Juara Lagu 20]

#02 IN ANOTHER LIFE If there is ever a song that forever embellished on our minds that Ning has the credibility to make it in the international stage it is this one. Written by Sam Lorber, Greg Pretipino and Andrew Gold, the ballad is said to have been originally intended for Mariah Carey. Story has it that upon Ning’s rendition of the track, Mariah gave here seal of approval. But whether this is more rumour than fact is immaterial, for indeed Ning’s vocal delivery is this otherworldly and diction impeccable. The song itself is sublime, I especially like the ‘waves crashing and seagulls chirping’ sound effects sampled at the beginning, very typical of the time but so appropriate to sere as an intro to the glorious voice that proceeds. So successful is this track that it broke new ground by topping radio charts in both Malaysia and Singapore. Moreover, it spent an amazing 11 weeks atop Singapore radio charts. Amazingly this song has been covered by several international singers, most notably American actress/singer Jennifer Love Hewitt and Hong Kong chanteuse Sandy Lam. But of course, none can ever match the truly mesmerising original by the diva.

In Another Life [Music Video]

#01 KE SAYUP BINTANG We have come to the peak to what I consider the quintessential and finest track of her career. The title track of the same named album is simply perfection. In my opinion, no other song in her vast catalogue culminates perfectly the elements of writing, production, lyrics and of course Ning’s voice, delivery and rendition. Fauzi Marzuki produced a dreamlike and heavenly ballad, adding it a sense of drama and mystery with a steady percussive beat serving as the undercurrent amidst an ambient synth arrangement. Meanwhile, Ning’s vocal performance of Amran Omar’s wonderful lyrics is yearning and heartfelt, again serves as an example of understated elegance. I remember reading the reviews of this ballad at that time even comparing her phrasing and nuances to that of Anita Baker. The music video, which features Ning in a short haircut is simple, yet bursting with a kaleidoscope of colours, befitting the starry universe the song imagines. With all elements combined, this track stands to this day as my all time personal favourite.

Ke Sayup Bintang [Music Video]

This concludes the journey through Ning’s vast catalogue. With the launch of DEWA in the new year, I am hoping to be surprised and amazed once again that the list would reshuffle. Already there are potential tracks such as ‘Mama Papa’ and ‘Raksasa’ and I believe the rest of the songs would be equally as exciting and ground breaking. Stay tuned for my review of her 11th studio album in the near future.


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