Much has been said about Search for a Star 2004 Grand Champion Rachelle Ann Go. Her last eight years in showbiz have been filled with the good, the bad and yes, some ugly thrown in too. Yet this lady has remained steadfast in her ways, shrugging off the negative, using all these as the catalyst for her metamorphosis from a young singing champ to a fierce performer. She continues to defy the stereotypes and keeps breaking outside the box as an artist and individual, catapulting her to a class of her own.
Rising above the challenges
Rachelle, or Shin to family and friends, has gone through just about any intrigue and heartache since she joined the business. Her personal life, particularly her love life, has been reaped in shreds despite the unshowbiz life she lives off cam. Yet she was never the type to dwell on the would-haves, could-haves and why-haves. Moping was never her style, opting to channel her efforts into getting better and moving on.
Career-wise, the challenges were oh so many to count. Some proved more difficult to deal with than the others but being the professional that she is, she took everything in stride – and smartly at that. For years she was relegated to that “old reliable singer who was picked to fill in for those who just couldn’t get it right when it counts”. She was a great singer alright but she was set aside as one “who didn’t have what it takes to be a star”. A lot of the respected thespians could see the brilliance despite the dimmed lights but it takes more than the testimonials of the music greats to convince some powers that be that she had what it takes to really soar high.
Enough to probably bring the faint-hearted down and out, she proved to be tougher and more mature than people gave her credit for. After all, she was smart enough to have made good use of her idle time – or her “waiting time” – to build on her talents and evolve into a total performer. She spent a lot of time watching videos of concerts of performers she admired like Beyonce, Janet Jackson and Christina Aguilera, and admired the song and dance prowess of our very own Vina Morales. She got her dancing shoes dusted and ready for some action. She took advantage of the free time to build her stage confidence and nurture that fierceness that later on would prove to be an edge that easily set her apart from the others.
Rising to the occasion
The years of playing second fiddle seem to stretch indefinitely until a network put its efforts into convincing her to cross over. It was a difficult decision for her, knowing full well that the move carries with it the pressure of proving to be worthy of the expectations. Her loyalty can never be questioned for she gave her best any chance she got but there will always come a point when you need to make that choice between being strung along, or believed and relied on. Her debut performance in the Sunday noontime show Party Pilipinas (Click to watch) earned her much respect as she worked the stage in a riveting performance that was devoid of any funfare (no dancers, no tech effects). Just her sheer talent and stage presence were enough to wow the Dagupan crowd.
Although the show then was struggling, Shin remained steadfast in her performances. And with the changing of the guards came the opportunity to really show the kind of artist that she truly is. Her performance in the debut episodes of both the show’s directors set the tone in some ways for the revitalized noontime show. However, it was her singing Empire State of Mind (Click to watch) while hanging upside down without a harness that sent the signal that this artist is no pushover, nor was she meant to play second fiddle anymore. Her gutsy number proved that this smart girl made sure that when her time came, she was more than ready to rise to the occasion.
Rising above mediocrity
Shin was never known to be predictable in her ways. Since winning the coveted competition eight years ago, everyone expected her to fight tooth and nail to snatch that rise to ultimate fame that only a few are able to enjoy. Yet this awesome champ chose the road less taken – that which was paved by patience, hard work and dedication. She continued to define her artistry through the years, taking on challenges that have surprised others who didn’t know better. And whereas other established singers dared not compete in international singing competitions, she was gutsy enough to stake her name in a number of these where there were no guarantees as to the outcome. She was there not just to represent the country but to continue to challenge herself as a singer. And when she was being boxed in as a biritera, she dared to step out of the box and proved her mettle in various genres, stressing that a true singer should not be judged only by how high a note she can reach but how much she can move her audience. She had surprised many as well with how well she moves on the dance floor. Little did people know that she has been honing her terpsichorean skills with the help of the ADDLIB Dancers as she continues to improve herself as a performer.
Needless to say, the one thing that can never be said of Shin is mediocre. There is always that infectious passion in her every performance that either tugs at your heartstrings with those ballads or gets you to smile and move your booty when she goes rock, R&B or upbeat. She strives to put a twist when doing covers and never stops searching for new materials or new approaches to her performances that earned her a couple of standing ovations from the audience. The Ultimate Champion has turned into an awesome performer, and what a delightful turn it was.
Not one to rest on her laurels, Shin looked the other way again and set her sights on theater after a confidence boost following the successful stage play UltraelectromagneticMASKIpop: The Eraserheads Musical, the brainchild of director Rico Gutierrez which was aired live on Party Pilipinas in 2010. The three-act musical was a big hit, and Shin was a revelation.
Her bold and ambitious entrance to the real world of theater was marked by her taking on the title role in the critically acclaimed lavish production of The Little Mermaid. Many doubted that she could pull it off but director Bobby Garcia was all praises when rehearsals started. Theater veteran Jinky Llamanzares, who played Ursula in the play, called her the consummate pro. But probably one of the best compliments came from no less than our very own theater royalty, Ms. Lea Salonga, who wrote in her column, “I don’t know that the superlatives in my vocabulary could cover just how wonderful I thought she was. Bundles of charm oozed from her, as well as an easy sense of humor and adventure. Her voice was also a great mix of that clean and pristine , plus a deep pop sensibility that made this score (and her Ariel) accessible to everyone. She was a perfect Ariel, and her portrayal will only continue to deepen and improve. She blew me away on opening night.”
“To be honest, I was quite surprised with all the great reviews,” says Shin. “I really didn’t expect those especially from theater people like Ms. Lea Salonga. It was really overwhelming. I am thankful because that was a dream come true. Until now I still can’t believe it. I guess the hard work everyday paid off.”
Are we seeing her at her peak performance-wise? I think not. She is the kind of artist who does not set a limit to what she can do but instead constantly steps out of her comfort zone not to reinvent herself, but simply to break free from the confines of being thrown into a stereotyped diva or biritera. She will always be that performer who keeps us enraptured as she does what she does best and yet springs something different any chance she gets. Her gutsy performances have earned her that moniker Fierce Songstress, a more potent description of this Ultimate Champion who has answered the challenge of taking everything to the next level which now has little to do with competition but more on inspiration and making a difference.
Well-respected composer/arranger/music professor Monet Silvestre, who worked with Shin a couple of times including her first major concert at the ALIW Theater and in the making of her live album says that her talent is undeniable. “Her musicality is one thing I’ve always admired in her, maybe because she’s also a musician at heart. The music scene though hasn’t seen the best of what she can offer. There is still so much of her talent that has yet to be explored if she would only be given more support as an ‘artist’ to add to her being an ‘entertainer’. She’s proven to be bold in her desire to offer more than what is expected of her and is willing to take risks —a sign of a true artist.”
Rising above the trappings of showbiz
They say that talent isn’t enough to make it in this business. It takes more than a brilliant voice to win the hearts of the people. True, yes, but up to a point. Talent is what can keep you in the business for the long haul. Quick fixes and media hype may help but in the end, it is the real deal that will last for decades. And Shin’s accomplishments are no fluke. She earned each and every accolade through blood, sweat and tears. She does not just accede to what people want to short-circuit the road to success but would rather focus on what she can do better to be worthy of her audience’s time and money. She treats each performance as a gift of giving back to everyone who had loved her through the years rather than a production number to prove that she is better than the rest. She has set herself apart from most of her peers with the ease by which she delivers a performance. She keeps us guessing, and people love and appreciate that in an artist. People have learned to expect more from her because they know she’s got it – and no compliment can top that for an artist. And I’d say she can and has given us more than what we wanted or expected from her. She can be her worst critique though, chastising herself when she finds her performance lacking by her standards but she is also quick to put it down to experience and build on that rather than wallow.
Despite the stature she has reached as an artist, she remains steadfast in her professionalism. She never fails to attend rehearsals (unless she is physically unable to be there), still believes in the power of learning from your peers and mentors, and has instilled that self-discipline to come prepared before any show no matter what. She makes sure everything is how it should be before the show starts, right down to making sure her mic is mixed well to avert possible audio problems during the performance. Nope, she isn’t the type to get into a fit during or after a badly executed performance. She would rather make adjustments to save the number and make sure that people get entertained despite the fact.
Her generosity as an artist has been instrumental too in taking the performances of her co-artists a notch higher. Not only does she present them a challenge to perform as well but she is quick to offer support to any artist who needs her. She turned out to be the one behind the dance classes of fellow artists who are now reaping the benefits of such a generous act. She is also quick to give credit to the people who had helped her either in a performance or in her career. More importantly, she has earned the admiration and respect of her colleagues by simply being the way she is.
“What I also appreciate about Shin is that once you’ve met her and worked with her, she will always be warm and friendly the next time you meet. That says a lot about a person,” says Monet. “Being a musician, I only run into Shin during concerts, and they were few and far between. Shin is one of the few whose warmth is sincere and unaffected by her celebrity status. I have spent more and more of my time teaching in the past few years and the only time I see her is on TV. But I know that when I do run into her, it will be like the last time I played for her in 19 East.”
Shin also recognizes the importance of her supporters and makes sure she shows her love and appreciation by devoting time for them as much as she can. She makes herself available for even a quick chitchat session with them after every show even if all she wanted to do was head home and rest. She also comes up with impromptu Q&As on Twitter (I call this Twitmisan) where she invites people to ask her questions. Lasting for sometimes an hour or so, she tries to answer each and every tweet with much wit, gratitude and humor. It may just be a little gesture to engage them in small talk for a while but it meant the world to them to be tweeted back by an artist they admire. She also believes in treating them well, not wanting to turn down requests to pose for pictures or autographs as much as possible, and is quick to put an arm around a fan who requests for one with her.
She may not be the most popular singer by showbiz standards, with endorsements left and right, but she is one fierce performer whose passion for her craft and whose humility and generosity as a person has endeared her to avid fans as well as those who can recognize a great artist when they see one. Whereas popularity can be precariously fragile as your last performance, talent and a good heart keep people hooked and wanting for more. Popularity makes you a timely star. Talent and heart make you a timeless artist.
Rising against gravity
Shin has learned to rise against that gravity that can pull you down just when the stakes are getting high. The challenges, the mediocrity, the competitiveness and the fickleness of the audience – these are just some of the forces that can pull you down. And when the heat is on, it takes a solid artist armed with talent, experience, wisdom and humility not only to make it through but handle fame as well without losing one’s self.
“God, family and friends, which include those who support me…they keep me grounded,” Shin enthused. “I never forget where I came from. I guess the failures that I’ve gone through have molded me. I have learned to be strong and not listen to detractors who have nothing constructive to say. I have also learned to humble myself and handle things that come my way gracefully…and to just surrender whatever it is that I couldn’t handle to God.”
This grace is what led her to share the story of her life through songs and dances in a concert that she is producing herself. Joining her are prolific Rico Gutierrez as director and brilliant Marc Lopez as musical director. To make it more meaningful, she has invited Regine Velasquez, Sarah Geronimo, Christian Bautista, the ADDLIB Dancers and hopefully a very special person to her (fingers crossed that he gets here in time) to share this special night with her. “I want to share my success and failures to the people. I’ve been through so many things. I believe I’m doing this for a purpose, and that is to touch people’s lives,” she said.
The show will definitely unravel another level in performing for Shin. “No holds barred!” as she puts it. And I expect nothing less from someone whose artistry is not just a work of art…it is a work of heart. “I want them to know that I just don’t entertain but reach out and inspire people with my music,” she said. And to those who continue to support her, particularly those who dream to follow in her footsteps, this she has to say: “Have faith! Be positive and enthusiastic in everything that you do. The journey won’t be easy but if you really want something just do the best that you can do. Never cease pursuing your dreams. Pray…God listens.”
And that, my fellow music aficionados, is the winning attitude of a truly blessed artist and person. On that note, let me remind you then to go and buy yourself a ticket now and treat yourself to an inspiring night of music. Rachelle Ann Go: Rise Against Gravity takes center stage at the Music Museum on October 26 at 8pm. Call Ticketworld at 891-9999.