NEW local reality talent competition, The BAND, has been under considerable scrutiny since it hit the small screen this year. In part, that’s due to its unique format – one that is expected to challenge the more conventional mechanics of its peers.

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Crunch time: Ten of the remaining 20 finalists of The BAND. Only six boys and girls each will make it into the two ‘super groups’ the show aims to put together.

The BAND, in its pilot season, has an incongruous mix of America’s Next Top Model, The Voice and American Idol’s essence in its recipe, with a dash of K-pop thrown in for good measure.

The local production, which is in its final episode, aims to discover the region’s first international boy and girl “super groups”. Each will walk away with RM100,000, a recording contract and album deal under Astro.

Feedback so far, however, has been mixed. Comments have poked on the show’s apparent lack of talent, even though it kicked off with 31 contestants (or Recruits) from around the region, including Singapore and Indonesia, in April. But that’s just it – talent was never a prerequisite.

“The Recruits all come from different genres. Some even have zero knowledge on singing harmony and being in a group,” Damian Mikhail, the show’s music director and vocal coach, pointed out.

The premise of the show, he said, is about finding everyday people with or without the makings of a star.

Through vocal, dancing and even image enhancement lessons, six boys and girls each will then make up two super groups, with “selling power” also taken into consideration.

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The Recruits practise, live and compete for over two months under one roof, a space specifically built for the competition.

Finalist Jen Shukri, was one such Recruit when she signed up for the show. In fact, the 21-year-old Malaysian only has experience in dance.

“I had to learn singing from scratch when I got here. I was shaking the first time I held the mic!” she admitted.

“But being able to work with better vocalists makes you better as well.”

It’s not a problem if the show includes weak vocalists, according to Damian, who has produced for local artistes such as Datuk Siti Nurhaliza and Too Phat. In fact, he believes a group should include a well-rounded mix of individuals.

“Most importantly, a group must have chemistry,” he said. “There may only be three strong vocalists in the group, but the other three can still contribute to the group in other ways. Even N’Sync didn’t have all lead vocalists.”

Another Malaysian contestant, Daniel Lim, 24, agreed. Although already armed with a background as an independent underground singer and rapper, hooking up with a bunch of guys was a completely different challenge.

“Part of the learning here is to study each other. We had to learn how to approach everyone with a different mindset, given the various cultural backgrounds,” he said.

Finding the right talents to join a new show like The BAND was also a hurdle. With YouTube only a click away, local talents weren’t always interested in reality competitions, Damian concedes.

“Finding The BAND is an ongoing process. Maybe we’ll only find the ultimate version in the third or fourth season,” he added. “Who knows, this might even create better concepts for what’s to come.”

Catch the finale of The BAND on Sunday on Astro Ria or Astro Mustika HD (Astro Ch 104 and 134) live at 10pm.

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