Charm & Clarity
by Kiko Matsing
She stands barely 5 feet tall and won’t be legal for another four years. But when 17-year-old pop singer Charice opens her mouth, out pours a voice as burly and sure as Whitney Houston’s in her “I Will Always Love You” prime.
That surprise twist made this teen singer from the Philippines a YouTube phenom throughout Asia last year and, more recently, led to appearances on “Ellen” and even “Oprah.”
The girl born Charmaine Clarice Relucio Pempengco just released her self-titled debut, featuring a Rihanna-sound-alike single, “Pyramid,” that has already hit the Billboard dance chart’s top five.
When people look at you, no one expects that huge voice to come out. Does this make you the Susan Boyle of teen pop?
Oh, that’s such a compliment. But in the Philippines, it’s not such a big deal because there are a lot of little people there and a lot of them have big voices. It feels weird to me that people are so surprised. But I do think it’s one of the reasons I made it.
The only thing most Americans know about the Philippines is Imelda Marcos’ gigantic shoe collection. What should we know about the place?
The Philippines is a very musical country. If you go there, most everyone sings. And even if they don’t, they know who’s great at it. Also, there are great tourist spots. The weather’s always warm. You should go.
Will Americans take to the refreshing guilelessness of 17-year-old Charice after the oversexed, overwrought stagings of Lady Gaga? The fame monster’s studied artifice–like all things decadent–becomes tiresome after a while. Charice–a portmanteau of Charmaine (charm) and Clarice (clear)–may just lift the sybaritic smog from the air, like Celine Dion once did, with the purity of her voice.